Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday Poet: Robert Creeley

I can't explain the past week's absence.

It was a good week, full of surprises (good, bad, just relieving) and heady uncertainties. New challenges, and either beginnings or ends: at this point in the middle I'm at a loss to say for certain.

Poems for a particular mood:


For No Clear Reason

I dreamt last night
the fright was over, that
the dust came, and then water,
and women and men, together
again, and all was quiet
in the dim moon’s light.

A paean of such patience—
laughing, laughing at me,
and the days extend over
the earth’s great cover,
grass, trees, and flower-
ing season, for no clear reason.


For Love

Yesterday I wanted to
speak of it, that sense above
the others to me
important because all

that I know derives
from what it teaches me.
Today, what is it that
is finally so helpless,

different, despairs of its own
statement, wants to
turn away, endlessly
to turn away.

If the moon did not ...
no, if you did not
I wouldn’t either, but
what would I not

do, what prevention, what
thing so quickly stopped.
That is love yesterday
or tomorrow, not

now. Can I eat
what you give me. I
have not earned it. Must
I think of everything

as earned. Now love also
becomes a reward so
remote from me I have
only made it with my mind.

Here is tedium,
despair, a painful
sense of isolation and
whimsical if pompous

self-regard. But that image
is only of the mind’s
vague structure, vague to me
because it is my own.

Love, what do I think
to say. I cannot say it.
What have you become to ask,
what have I made you into,

companion, good company,
crossed legs with skirt, or
soft body under
the bones of the bed.

Nothing says anything
but that which it wishes
would come true, fears
what else might happen in

some other place, some
other time not this one.
A voice in my place, an
echo of that only in yours.

Let me stumble into
not the confession but
the obsession I begin with
now. For you

also (also)
some time beyond place, or
place beyond time, no
mind left to

say anything at all,
that face gone, now.
Into the company of love
it all returns.


Rain Poems

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

the never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent
-am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be, for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Early Everywhere, The Waking

Well, at least in my time zone, and if you consider yourself a night owl and have a generally unscripted summer schedule.

I love the summer as an unemployed student/"aspiring academic." Doing anything before mid-morning is an accomplishment.


The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

-- Theodore Roethke

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In Which Belle Does Something Against Her Better Judgment

I should be working in anticipation of doing a lovely amount of nothing when I visit my parents, and I have to figure out how to get around my self-imposed blogger code of conduct about not writing about my current personal life or romantic status, but here goes:

WTF of the Day, Courtesy of the New York Times:

"My Virginity Went From Choice to Burden":

When you are a young woman of childbearing years, most visits to the doctor inspire some form of inquiry about the state of your uterus. At my college health clinic, it didn’t matter what you went in for: pinkeye, sprained ankle, heavy drinking. Anything seemed to be a potential symptom of pregnancy.

At 19, seeking a Z-Pak or Robitussin with codeine, I was able to laugh the question off easily. “I’m still a virgin,” I’d say to the doctor, nurse practitioner, receptionist — whoever it was who asked. My virginity seemed so utterly normal to me at the time, and it was. Many of my friends were still virgins then, too. I was a late bloomer; I was choosy. And anyway, who wants to have sex in a twin bed?

As the sexless years ticked by, though, I became less forthcoming with the details of my virginity.

By that point, if I was to keep the promise I made to myself at 21 (to lose my virginity by the time I turned 25), I had only one more year. Four years had once seemed impossibly far away. But as that birthday loomed ever larger on my mental calendar, my lingering virginity began to loom larger as well, until I entered a state of near panic and told myself it was time to meet someone, anyone, and get it over with.

So I looked — in bars and at friends’ parties, on the subway, in coffee shops. And I met a lot of perfectly decent men. But I remained a virgin. I never actually made the choice to no longer be. (Belle: last sentence grammatically strange to you? Did she not make the choice to stop existing?)

I hadn’t waited all this time just to lose it to a random guy for the sake of getting it over with.Unfortunately, this realization did little to stem my anxiety. When my friends told me to chill out, that I was attractive and great and that it would happen when the time was right, I freaked out even more. Why had the right time not shown up yet? And what if it never did?

Eventually I began to view my entire reproductive system as a personal
affront. Every month, my period, which had been cloyingly regular since the day
it started, served as nothing more than a reminder that there was no possible
way I might be pregnant. I was sure I could hear mean giggles coming from inside
the box of tampons as I opened it.

Still, the possibility of conception (and perhaps the fear that accompanies it) is part of womanhood. Without it, I wondered, imagining the lonely eggs floating inside me without even the potential of fertilization, was I fully a woman?

I know, I know: sex and conception aren’t even linked for many women, whether because of their sexuality or their fertility or their personal choices, and I would never question the legitimacy of their womanhood. A woman is so much
more than her ability to bear children. I know this, I believe it, and yet I
wanted that possibility.

My virginity had trapped me in childhood, and by 25 I was willing to lie to appear as if I was out of it, if only for a moment, if only to one person. I was willing to lie, even pay, for the illusion of normalcy.

[I] wanted to bring the fantasy as close to reality as possible. To this end, I paid a $24 monthly co-pay on the prescription and pumped my body full of hormones I didn’t really need. Crazy, I know. But before I had been on the pill even three months, as if those little white tablets tricked my body in more ways than one (and I should add, at the very moment that I made the choice to stop worrying about it), I lost my virginity.


First off, let me establish that I'm not wholly unsympathetic to this young woman. I too, wanted to wait till marriage. I didn't, but that's because I thought I was going to get married to the guy I lost my virginity to. I was young and naive and then not a sex-positive (which includes being sex-negative) feminist. After three years of believing I would be the future Mrs. Molecular Biologist Dude (sorry, can't come up with a snarky pseudonym), we broke off the engagement and broke up. But I was still wedded (pun) to the idea of waiting for the right one. I'm no longer wedded to that idea, but it persisted for a while.

Then, after two quasi-relationships from my last year of college to the first half of my 1L year, I decided to be alone. On purpose. I decided to try to learn how to live with myself and focus on school, family, friends and self. And it was awesome. I was single and celibate for most of law school, and if you go to law school it's not that weird to be single. There are plenty of couples who met prior to law school, a smattering who met in law school, and a chunk of people who wisely choose to date outside--but at any given point, to be single is nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of people I knew were. It's a lot of work, a high pressure environment, and the perfect excuse to be every bit the selfish, workaholic, type-A person you had to be to get into law school in the first place. So I thought of myself as normal.

But tell that to the lady at the health clinic! If you read the full article on the NYT, past the age of 20 the author's assertion of her virginity is met with incredulity by medical staff. That was pretty much the reaction I got a few years ago (I call it The Worst Gynecological Exam Ever, and by capitalizing each word I think I drive in the not-excessive hyperbole), when I put "2+ years ago" the date of my last sexual experience. I think the joke I got back was "re-virginized."

So I sympathize with the author, I do. I know what it's like to want to wait for something "special," to have humiliating exams in which the nurse asks, incredulously, "but you do date, don't you?!", and what it's like to be essentialized with my bodily functions and childbearing capacity.

I have sympathy. I also have some major beef.

I could launch into the "you feminists take it too seriously" double standard tirade with the whole "men are confirmed bachelors but women are spinsters thing." Heck, why not? I'm not above that.

My twist is that an relatively attractive, semi-gainfully employed (or educated at least) guy could not date casually or seriously and pass off the excuse of being a "workaholic," "too busy," or "ambitious," etc. Women are "too choosy," or "just not attractive enough." I could almost understand why the doctor questioned my lack of sexual activity at that exam--it could, in theory, be due to hormonal reasons suppressing my sex drive. I might give her that. But to ask if I date? What, was I at some slumber party? Why couldn't I just use the excuse every law student uses for a slump in personal life: I'm busy! I have different priorities! It's the excuse we use when we neglect our parents (who call me sometimes wondering if I've forgotten the phone number), significant others, plants, pets, etc. It's a great excuse not to go through the insufferable process of dating. Meeting someone, playing phone/email tag, trying to reach some uneasy detente about where you stand, having more State of the Unions than are expected during a presidential administration--it's not something that jives with being career focused. And I like my work. So if men can reject all that rigamorole and be waved off with a tag of "non-committal" or "workaholic," why can't I? There's just something wrong with a girl who hates the dating process--as if we invented the "three day rule."

I like to magically appear in relationships at the midway point, where it's less fussy and just comfortable and good. Where there's a nice, lovely kind of love but not that messy initial period of uncertain, hormonally based animalistic and immolating passion (I'm Buddhist, the Dalai Lama says that passion doesn't last and isn't the basis of an enduring bond, I believe him).

I like to miraculously segue between friendship and girlfriendhood, where the relationship is solid enough for me to not feel anxious about needing to work during the week, limiting time with The Dude to weekends and once or twice during the week; monogamous (for sexual health reasons) and emotionally attached enough to be publicly declared (none of that junior high stuff of wondering if I can be called the "girlfriend"), but not one that would hold me back from moving to another state for a job or impair my work and independent life. If I can't meet my scholarly obligations or keep up my contact with my friends and family, it's probably not going to work for me, and I would be too loathe to give up an independence that took me three years of law school to find. If I can't be myself in a relationship, I'd rather "not be" as the author says.

In writing this, I think "I sound like a guy." Which is precisely my point about how ridiculous this all is and how many gendered constructions are in the article and in my own encounters with people who don't understand why you would be a virgin by choice (or default) or single by choice (or default). And no, I'm not making any admission to where I am now on this spectrum--it could go either way, couldn't it, now that I'm out of law school and not required to visit my aging parents every weekend? All I will say is that at present, I'm pretty happy, and happily myself.

In the theory of choice, there is both positive and negative liberty. I can do something or I can not do it. I wonder how many men are questioned for their choices so aggressively or incredulously (or intimately) as women, how much they are probed (physically, emotionally) for the reasons behind their choices, and how much they are essentialized by their body functions. I can't imagine a guy thinking he should take some unnecessary hormone to feel like a part of the sexually active community. Maybe there are guys out there who buy condoms and just display them artfully and casually, even if they are unnecessary.

Still, I'd like to think that I have the freedom to choose between having sex (without being called a whore) and to not have sex (without being called asexual); to choose between the right to have an abortion and the freedom to not have one and admit that it's a difficult choice in any case; the freedom to date a lot without being called a "wild girl" and the freedom to not date without being asked "what's wrong with you;" and the ability to remain ambivalent about marriage and children without being questioned about my femininity or marriageability (or procreative abilities).

Just write me off as an anti-dating, pro-choice, pro-celibacy, non-committal, ambitious workaholic who nevertheless likes diversion, sex, relationships, monogamy, and children. Now there's a bundle of satisfying contradictions.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Precis of the Day: Vicki Schultz, The Sanitized Workplace

Looking through my folders, I figure--why not post some abstracts or precises, if others may find them useful?

I'll try to keep doing it for the sake of an online repository of quick lit reviews.

Vicki Schultz, The Sanitized Workplace, 112 Yale L.J. 2061.

Abstract:

One of American society's most cherished beliefs is that the workplace is, or should be, asexual. This ethic is a legacy of our historic commitment to a conception of organizational rationality that treats sexuality as irrational and unproductive - a conception that had come under challenge until sexual harassment law gave it a new lease on life. Using a historical and sociological analysis, Professor Schultz shows that the law's focus on eliminating unwanted sexual conduct has provided added incentive and increased legitimacy for a managerial project of suppressing sexuality in the workplace. In the name of preventing sexual harassment, many employers are prohibiting potentially benign forms of sexual conduct, without attending to the larger structures of sex segregation and inequality in which genuine sex harassment flourishes. Employers have begun to impose strict disciplinary measures, costing many people their jobs or reputations and threatening employees' ability to form their own work cultures. Employers also increasingly ban or discourage employee romance, chilling intimacy and solidarity among workers of both a sexual and nonsexual variety. Evidence also suggests that employers sometimes use sexual harassment charges as a pretext for punishing employees for discriminatory or other suspect reasons, and employees are quicker to accuse coworkers of a different race, sexual orientation, or class whose sexuality threatens or offends them. Worst of all, employers are punishing sexual conduct without examining whether it is linked to sex discrimination in purpose or effect. Contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy, Professor Schultz argues, workplace sexuality is not always discriminatory or disruptive: Sexual conduct takes its shape and meaning from the larger organizational context. Sociological research shows that women who work in well-integrated, egalitarian settings often participate and take pleasure in sexual interactions - probably because their numerical strength gives them the power to help shape sexual norms to their own liking. Thus, rather than encouraging employers to desexualize, we should encourage employers to desegregate. To create the incentive to do so, the law should make sex harassment easier to prove in significantly segregated and unequal work settings, and harder to prove in fully integrated and equal ones. At an even more basic level, legal actors and reformers must abandon the traditional definition of harassment as sexual conduct in favor of a broader focus on discriminatory conduct, because the emphasis on sexual conduct as harmful has given the law a "cultural tilt" that meshes well with the preexisting managerial view of sexuality and motivates managers to extend the law's reach within organizations. By the same token, the fact that managers can justify their actions with reference to a feminist-inspired body of law has facilitated their ability to implement zealous policies that extend the law. Thus, Professor Schultz's account of the development of sexual harassment law teaches that law makes a difference, but the difference it makes depends on how it interacts with larger institutional and cultural forces that will shape it in everyday life. Ultimately, she argues, those who seek to halt sanitization must offer a new vision in which sexuality can coexist with, and even enhance, gender equality and organizational rationality.


Thesis:

The excessive regulation of sexuality in the workplace under sexual harassment law has “sanitized” the workplace of natural, even beneficial articulations of human sexual behavior while obscuring other non-sexual forms of sex discrimination and structural gender inequality. That is, the obsession in both organizational environments and among feminist lawyers with sexuality-based employment discrimination may in fact be a retrenchment of the original goal of Title VII to combat sex-based job segregation, at least in effect. More over, such legal and organizational hyper-regulation leads to undesirable outcomes: rather than consider whether sexual behavior on the job in fact leads to sex-based discrimination, employers and lawyers tend to police human relationships, use sexual harassment law as a pretext for other forms of employment discrimination (age, sexual orientation), or simply shield themselves from liability rather than pursue the goal of gender integrated and equitable work. Although sexual harassment law is limited by such legal tests as “unwelcome, severe and pervasive” sufficient to create a hostile work environment (HWE), in real life much sex-based discrimination is of an non-sexual nature, or is the more pervasive problem of which sexuality-based behavior is but a symptom. Moreover, there are many examples of gender-integrated work environments in which human intimacy and sexual conduct and conversation are healthy and beneficial to both individuals and the environment in which they work.

Schultz’s conclusion is that “in a pluralistic society, we should neither encourage nor cede to management the unilateral power to censor sexual conduct. Instead, we should strive to create structurally egalitarian work settings in which employees can work with management to forge their own norms about sexual conduct.” Schultz then articulates a two-paradigm test, one set of more stringent liability rules for sexually offensive behavior that would attach to less gender-integrated environments, and one set of more lenient rules that would attach to better integrated, more structurally egalitarian workplaces.

Methodology, Findings

Schultz sums up some current developments in sexual harassment law using some examples from the lower courts, and many anecdotal examples from employment lawyers and managers. This is probably the weakest part of her article, as she rfers to “available empirical research” but doesn’t use it to flesh out her argument about how companies excessively regulate sexual conduct. It’s kind of vague, this reference to how “many companies” have draconian sexual harassment policies—a table with some identifiable N would be better.

Her anecdotal evidence does support her thesis, although without more detailed case studies it’s hard to say whether the “healthy” sexual banter at Company X is demonstrable of the need to change the Title VII case law.

Comments

I found this article very interesting, but a bit troublesome. As one who self-identifies as a feminist and who writes in the area of employment discrimination law, I generally support changes in the case law and EEOC guidelines if the current legal standards and guidelines do little to effectuate the goal of gender-equity. However, with respect to sexual harassment law, I am generally in favor of “keeping sex out of the workplace,” despite being aware of libertarian and First Amendment arguments against such stringent policing of human behavior. I admit that the legal justification for such regulation—the “but for this person’s gender, this unwelcome behavior would not have happened” because-of-sex test is a bit shaky. I agree with Schultz’s findings even if I don’t totally agree with her proposed changes in the law. It is true that the workplace has been sanitized of sex, even healthy sexual behavior. But is her proposed cure any better, or even tenable? Does reintroducing sex into the workplace and creating a sliding scale of liability do much better to advance gender equity? I agree with Schultz that we should not focus obsessively on sexual harassment to the near exclusion of other non-sexuality based forms of gender discrimination or the ultimate goal of gender equity and integration. I am just not sure that reintroducing sex into the workplace is the way to go about it. I would not ignore the actual benefits of removing sex from the workplace, e.g. the establishment of the norm that supervisor-employee relationships should be considered seriously in light of the imbalance of power, and that it may be considered a serious offense to put up pornography if it makes your female coworkers uncomfortable or undermining their job authority.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Sweet Cacophony

I'm not very chatty with my family--our phone calls usually last no longer than five minutes, enough to determine that school is going okay, I'm eating well, and don't need money. But then they pass on the phone to the kids. And that is when the cell phone bill takes a hit.

I usually catch only two at a time, but on Saturday evenings there is the equivalent of Vietnamesse Shabbas at the Lettre Household. Without me, that means my five siblings, three spouses, two grandparents, and yes, a partridge in a pear tree. Not to mention nine kids ranging from 16 years to 6 months. The oldest one could beat me up, the littlest one I haven't seen since the week after he was born.

Because of work and other personal travel obligations (maid of honor business, conferences) I haven't been home since Christmas. And I usually see them every three months. But it's been a while, and they're excited to see me next weekend. I'm putting in some good time, two weeks. Enough to take my aging mom on her daily walks (think 10 times around the block), enough to do a lot of sitting on babies. I don't see friends during this time--this is family time.

And so while I try to be good and call each batch of kids every week or two, it was sweetly disorienting and overwhelming to hear so many voices at once. Natalie can now say "Nat-ah-lee," whereas previously she called herself "Nana." Noelle can babble incomprehensibly. It took me a good twenty minutes to get off the phone, even though most of it was "I love you" and "Are you being a good boy/girl" and the last five minutes "I love you! Bye! I love you! Bye!"

I've spent far too much of my life taking care of my siblings' children to seriously consider the prospect myself at present, which is the same ambivalent attitude I have towards marriage (there is the matter of wanting tenure and "geographic flexibility"...). And having worked a year in college in a day care center and another year after law school as an Unpaid Nanny and every weekend for the last 16 years as an American Au Pair, I know how much work it takes to care for a child. I take the job as seriously as any parent, and don't kid around when I call them "my kids." Even if I'm not sure any little Belles will be running around any time within the next decade, I'm sure that I have at least nine kids waiting to see me now, so excited that they run into walls whenever they see me (seriously, which means the next step is to hug them for an hour and ice down the bump).

The sweet cacophony of voices reminds me that I am loved. It is a lovely sound, a sound that would make the ovaries sing. In a few days my cheeks will be smeared with wet kisses and tons of germs, and little hands will be curled around my fingers. But for now, I'm just pleased to hear lots of "I love you's!" and "bah bah blpphht!"

And, alas, it is back to work on a lovely Saturday. But by next Saturday I'll be baking brownies for my babies.

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Saturday Gift: Nerd Love



What the heck.

Reverse the image using MS Paint, and make it into an iron-on t-shirt.


In the photo: Matt Hale of Aqualung.

Nerd touch: Using MS Photoeditor to turn it into a graphic pen sketch.

Flaming Nerd? Yes I am!

(yes, I like glasses, and I own a very similar pair).

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Unmoored

Unmoored is how I'm feeling, and that's was the working title of a short story I'm curently working on. This would be my first short story in about 7 years. But something in me wants to write again, and not just law review articles.

Maybe it's the feeling of gratitude I have at feeling somewhat safe again, so now I have to try something risky. It was a 22 hour ordeal coming back from Con Law Camp, but the past couple of days have been nice. I came back to The Nicest Roomie, and to new (very cool, smart, and funny) friends and my most comfortable (newish) home. I read a novel (The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster). I slept, cleaned house, cooked a lot and hardly left the house except to go for quick runs. After 10 days adrift in another state, it is nice to be in one place, especially in so nice a place. It is nice to be in your own home.

Which I will leave again next Thursday to visit my parents in Sunny Suburb. For another 10 days, but this time much more mundane adventures, nothing to blog about--and so I'll probably blog on other things and be a much regular blogger.

I would love to post on the Misadventures of the (Slightly) Creepy Landlord (and my--justified--overreaction to it and how watching Law and Order is a bad/good thing); a book review; restart the Saturday Poet series; and give a final recap of my academic adventures this summer. But I have to do some real work this weekend, since these past few days have been relaxing, and the 12 days preceding it a flurry of non-editing related work for Con Law Camp.

So until Monday, I will leave you with a vignette of a project I can share because I'm not sure I'll ever finish/publish it. I know, not a promising introduction.

During my daily email (it's like IMing but stretched out over the course of 5 hours) correspondence with my friend Hipster Law Prof, I shared with him this poem by Margaret Atwood. It's a thing writers do. We read, and nudge others to congratulate us on our good taste:


Postcards

I'm thinking about you.
What else can I say?
The palm trees on the reverse
are a delusion; so is the pink sand.
What we have are the usual
fractured coke bottles and the smell
of backed-up drains, too sweet, like a mango on the verge
of rot, which we have also.
The air clear sweat, mosquitoes
& their tracks; birds & elusive.

Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one
day after the other rolling on;
I move up, it's called
awake, then down into the uneasy
nights but neverforward. The roosters crow
for hours before dawn, and a prodded
child howls & howls
on the pocked road to school.
In the hold with the baggage
there are two prisoners,
their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates
of queasy chicks. Each spring
there's race of cripples, from the store to the church.
This is the sort of junk
I carry with me; and a clipping
about democracy from the local paper.

Outside the window
they're building the damn hotel,
nail by nail, someone's
crumbling dream. A universe that includes you
can't be all bad, butdoes it? At this distance
you're a mirage, a glossy image fixed in the posture
of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there's the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on& on,
a hollow cave
in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.

--Margaret Atwood


We both liked and were inspired by the last few lines:

Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on& on,
a hollow cave
in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.


How to turn this sentiment (not too original, the waves of emotion thing) into prose?

My free-exercise attempt:

Adam's body conveyed an awkward restiveness. It could not be charitably described as a "coiled spring," as if his body was always ready for action and his life exciting enough to demand it. It was more that his body conveyed impatience and waiting, like the plank of a see-saw--awkwardly tipped, but suggestive of motion. Adam was perched on the edge of the bench: his legs stiffly stretched out before him, his shoulders hunched and his hands grasping his knees. Other commuters walked around his too-large feet in irritation, but Adam took no notice of them.

He was thinking of Laura, and of the last time he had seen her. They had gone to the beach on a surprisingly warm day in the late fall. She had wanted, she told him, "one last swim, Adam, please."

Adam hated the sea. It reminded him of his exasperating parents, and their belief
that the sea air would cure any one of the many ailments that had marked his childhood with derision and disappointment. The sea was medicinal, and ineffective. The sea reminded Adam of his own deficiencies--his weak and sickly body, and his inability to enjoy certain things that delighted others. But he acquiesced to her wishes, the way he always did. He had been in love.

He remembered that her hair was crunchy with salt, and her skin dry and powdery with the sand that was as fine as sugar. The smell of the sea made Adam sick; he thought perhaps it was the smell of decaying seaweed that made his stomach turn. But the smell of the sea on Laura was strangely intoxicating. Kissing her made him feel at once sick and excited.

Love had come over him in a wave of nausea, filling his mouth with her undulating tongue and her dreadful scent. He remembered that he heard the waves in the background, and he remembered feeling himself unmoored and unable to stand without difficulty. He had felt lightheaded, and strangely hollow. His every orifice filled with the sound and smell of the sea, and the sea was Laura. His senses
were overwhelmed with the intensity of everything that he loved and hated in one breath, coming again and again.


Now all I have to do is figure out a plot--how Adam and Laura arrived here, or where they will go. Or both. Something has to happen, right? Plot was never my strong point, this is why I have never really finished a story to my satisfaction, and why I think I will never be able to write a novel. But I have the sentiment I want to convey, the moment in time. I have a new working title. I think I can build something from here. I think this will be how the story ends. Now I have to find how the story begins, and where it will take the reader.

As the writer, I am curious myself.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

I'm a Grownup and I Read Comics

And not just those hoity toity "graphic novels," although that's my current medium of choice. I actually like a few of the strips (who doesn't love Bloom County, Outland, Calvin and Hobbes, Get Fuzzy, The Boondocks, and For Better or Worse?), and have a vague nostalgia for flipping through my brothers' superhero comic books as a kid (Spiderman, Batman, X-Men).

I read the strips only occasionally (don't subscribe to a local paper, and am trying to reduce the number of things I read online), and satisfy my nostalgia with the usually disappointing summer blockbusters. But yes, I am waiting for The Dark Knight. Beats waiting for the White Knight, and I'm too post-colonial for that. But I do like coming up with loser superhero names (Anti-Climatic Man!) and reading about failed superheroes.

A few (obvious) graphic novel loves for a girl who loves the nerdy underdog and such sad-sack narratives:

Chris Ware: Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Adrian Tomine: Summer Blonde.

Daniel Clowes: Ghost World.

The graphic version of Paul Auster's City of Glass.

There are many others, and I have some good collections, but I'll save that for another day. You know, after I have some more money to buy some more books and more time to write the book reviews.

Until then, here's excerpts an article from Salon, that makes me feel abashed at my high falutin', prissy elitist, bordering-on-hipster poseur proclaimed love for "graphic novels" (but really, I like the strips and books too!):

Comic Fans, Grow Up!

The class implications of "graphic novel" almost instantly led to the term's thorough debasement. As a ten-dollar phrase, it implies that the graphic novel is serious in a way that the lowly comic book isn't. That, of course, leaves it open to being co-opted by anybody who wants to dress up their inept little drawings in a jacket and tie, which is why shitty forty-eight-page superhero stories started to be sold as "graphic novels" within a few years of the appearance of "A Contract with God" -- 1983's "Super Boxers" could have killed off the prestige of any term attached to the form.

Even so, to this day, people talk about "graphic novels" instead of comics when they're trying to be deferential or trying to imply that they're being serious. There's always a bit of a wince and stammer about the term; it plays into comics culture's slightly miserable striving for "acknowledgment" and "respect." It's hard to imagine what kind of cultural capital the American comics industry (and its readership) is convinced that it's due and doesn't already have. Perhaps the comics world has spent so long hating itself that it can't imagine it's not still an underdog. But demanding (or wishing for) a place at the table of high culture is an admission that you don't have one; the way you get a place at the table of high culture is to pull up a chair and say something interesting.

What's actually happening in culture at large is more like everyone trying to jump on the comics bandwagon -- as a 2004 New Yorker cartoon's caption put it, "Now I have to pretend to like graphic novels, too?" The medium's new enemies are internal: the much less casual snobbery of the commercial mainstream and the art-comics world toward each other, and cartoonists' nostalgic yearning for the badness of the bad old days. Reading only auteurist art comics is like being a filmgoer who watches only auteurist art cinema, but more than a few art-comics enthusiasts wouldn't dream of picking up a mainstream comic book, even as entertainment. Likewise, plenty of superhero buffs can't imagine being interested in some actionless black-and-white independent comic.


Go to your nearest comic bookstore today! Mine is only a block away. Man, I love living in Liberal College City in Awesome Part of the Country.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Sucks To Be Me




US Airways SUCKS.

Between "no crew" (pilots did not show up) and "unfortunately delayed" (by two hours), I'm misconnecting and getting ready to board a flight to Random Desert State--where I will have to spend the night. I have never had any inclination to go to Random Desert State. Sucks to be me.


I had many awesome experiences this past week that I will have to recount to you later. This is NOT awesome. This is the ANTITHESIS of awesome. So for now, I will try to figure out if there is some existential point to me going to a place so hot that eggs fry, unasked, and the infirm wilt, wither and die.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Con Law Camp Rocks

I presented today. I rocked. My presentation was clear (enough) and I had some interesting questions and ideas that sparked a good deal of discussion. My colleagues gave me excellent feedback, drawing on their many different disciplines and levels of experience. And the more I do these things, the more confident I become about my own scholarly abilities. I used to have insomnia and nausea before presenting. Now I am much more zen about the entire process. I find that with each conference, I get less freaked out about the things that used to plague me: presenting ideas clearly, presenting arguments cogently, and most importantly--speaking slowly. When I speak in public, I speak at a relatively normal, slow-to-me pace. This may surprise people who know me and who have spoken to me for more than one minute. No one said "huh?" the way they usually do when talking to me casually.

I wish I could say more about this, but this is all I can say: Con Law Camp is a very fun and worthwhile experience. It is especially helpful in the early writing stages. Workshops are generally for "works-in-progress" in which you want to refine your paper and get some editorial constructive criticism before you submit to a journal. That's when you want more "eyes." If you are in the early stages and want some feedback about "ideas" and "pick some brains," then a more conversational, roundtable workshop is much better.

Moreover, you get feedback that is much more useful, and this is due to the conversational nature of the conference. I can't think of a person here who "lectured" his or her paper. It was very much more dialogic, with idea presentment-response-re-response. That to me is much more valuable than the traditional way of presenting a paper and taking questions that might not give you much new direction. Most conferences are more about networking than workshopping, being one or at most, one and a half day affairs with more happy hours and dinners than actual session time. Moreover, most conferences are big, drift-in-and-out things where you can pick and choose which panels to attend, and so there isn't a sustained conversation. When you have more than a few days, it's a very nice pace of conversation--ideas presented in the beginning are able to be further developed by the end. Having a few more days also lets you have a more deeper collegial interaction. I think that's important for scholars--not just to meet-and-greet their colleagues in the field, but to have a deeper intellectual interaction with them.

If you write in the area, email me and if I trust your non-outing bona fides, I'll tell you which summer camp I attended and how to apply.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Difficulty of Holding One's Tongue

Sometimes in Blogging Across America, you meet fellow bloggers who are so cool you want to shout from the rooftops and compose Horatian (or Pindaric) odes to their supreme coolness.

But you can't.

Because that would reveal your geographic location and thus identity.

Damn this pseudonymity.

My lunch date was very cool--funny, kind, very smart and most interesting to talk to about intellectual development and legal scholarship. But with all due respect to his coolness, my dinner date was WAY cooler.

She is, as I was telling Hipster Law Prof Dude, the type of person I would marry if only I had such a predilection. Damn my heteronormativity.

I will not say what we talked about. But I will say that I am a huge fan of awesomeness, dudishness, and oversharing cheap drunks who don't even need alcohol to overshare.

In other words, I am having a fabulous time, and am not looking forward to going home--for reasons I'll write in a later post about The Creepy Landlord.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

I Wish That I Could Live-Blog This

No pictures...yet.

I will say this:

1. Visiting The Best Friend is very nice. As I predicted, visiting Mrs. Dude is no different than when she was Ms. Dudette. Also, this is one of my favorite cities in America. Best combination of liveability and metropolitanness.

2. Constitutional law conferences are FUN. Almost as fun as employment law conferences. Mabye a little more because there is a larger community of scholars than I thought--and a few of them international. What I like at this conference is the mix of disclipinary backgrounds and perspectives. We have a few comparativists, a couple of international scholars, and a few graduate students in political science and law. Everyone here is enthusiastic, engaged, and very interesting.

3. Larry Solum's Blog is how most people here found out about the conference. One did find out by way of Ann Bartow's blog. Larry and Ann: keep on blogging!

4. When they offer "free housing" almost everyone takes it, even though I imagine it's depressing, if you have a "real job" and a "real house" to stay in an undergrad dorm in an old (but externally, nice) building in which each tiny unit resembles a hospital ward. Even I, the graduate student who not too long ago lived in The Shoebox, find it depressing and weird.

5. So far, that maxim "Every Conference Has a Weirdo" hasn't held true in my experiences. Then again, the conferences/workshops I've participated in have been small affairs organized by and for junior scholars. It's best when there's a mix of junior scholars and a smattering of senior scholars--this is great for effective feedback and for idea sharing. So the spirit of collegiality and helpfulness suffuses each interaction. Everyone is very mentoring, sharing and sympathetic. These are great experiences, and I highly encourage aspiring or junior academics to participate in these workshops.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Travelogues, Travelblogs



A clarification:

For the next ten days, I'm traveling for both business and pleasure--The Best Friend is conveniently located nearish the conference city/state, and so I can have 5 days of work and 5 days of fun. Not necessarily in that order or so neatly divvied up. Today (or 5 hours from now) is devoted exclusively to traveling, as I was a cheap bastard and got some ridiculous deal on Expedia that forces me to have a 4 hour layover in Huge Airport in Hotter Than Hell City. That won't count as another state in the Union I've visited. Airports are like embassies--you have to step outside to really say you've set foot in a different country/jurisdiction. And I'm such a nervous traveler about making connecting flights that I hardly ever step out of the airport, much less out of the secured zone (missing many a duty free shop). Likely, if you ever see me in an airport, I am the tool who's working rather than reading some guilty pleasure of a novel or chatting up a passenger. I'm the type that wears fake wedding rings just so that no one bothers me. Yes, this is part of my genius plan to die alone.

I'll write about my experiences in a travelogish way, and might be tempted to take pictures of a random bit of non-obvious scenery. Say, five different doors. Or door knockers. I have always dreamed of going to someplace overrun with different types of steeples. And I have a particular fondness for such uncelebrated architectural details as interesting brackets and supporting beams. I love shutters.

I'm going to stick with the ridiculous and cumbersome pseudonyms to make sure I don't say something as obvious as "ooh, the Louvre" or "wow, I saw the Liberty Bell." Actually I can't imagine how that could be made non-obvious like "I saw the Big Bell of Freedom today." But I'll try to accurately and representationally depict the sights, sounds and smells without resorting to obvious giveaways. When I hear "chestnuts" I think of Paris; "Spanish moss" makes me think of Louisiana; "cherry blossoms" = D.C. (or Japan); bamboo = China; starfruit/papaya = Vietnam; redwoods = anywhere in the Pacific Northwest; etc. etc. So no names of characteristic flora or fauna or bodies of water. Fortunately this is the time of year when the weather is same almost anywhere in the U.S.--the difference being one of "degree" and intensity: hot or hotter, slightly painful or truly miserable. No, I don't like hot weather.

And when I said "points for guessing where I am," I meant, you can shoot me an email. Comments will likely not be approved, unless they're so funny and wildly inaccurate that I couldn't resist.
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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Things I Won't Ever Blog About



I will never blog about my dating habits, romantic life, sex life (except if there's some sort of feminist/women's health spin), or if and on whom I have intellectual/real life crushes.

Why?

Comments I made to my friend, Hipster Law Prof Dude:

The funny thing about law school is that there are few professors under the age of 40 at most schools (there may be more at lower ranked institutions) who may be considered moderately attractive. Hardly any can be considered objectively attractive. I remember there were two at Bourgie Law School, who got excessive fawning over. Their joint "Night of Exotic Cuisine and Exquisite Conversation" dinner at the annual public interest auction would go for $600+, as divided by 10 or so people--mostly women. A cabin for a week in Vail, CO would go for $300-400. Yes I was one of those girls. The point is, much of this type of schoolgirl behavior occurs because law school is it's own weird environment, a sort of Gilligan's Island where if you had to choose between Thurston Howell III, The Skipper, Gilligan, or The Professor, you'd go for The Professor--because he's the most attractive of the bunch, but by no means the most attractive of the entire population of men (just on your island).

I go for intelligence first, but I admit that there must be a level of attraction. I wonder how the men handle the schoolboy aspect At Bourgie Law School, there were two female profs under 40, but they were not crushed on (I don't know why, but they weren't). Instead, guys chatted animatedly (I was there) about Prof. Deneuve, who is almost 60--but with a killer figure and great bone structure. You could tell that she was even more beautiful when she started teaching at 27. It's weird, isn't it, being on Gilligan's Island. That's like going for Mrs. Howell if Ginger and Mary Anne were considered plain.



I fear sounding frivolous, violating a certain zone of privacy, and being the diary-keeping fluffernutter of the blogosphere. But more than that, it is much more fun talking about such things in the abstract and analyzing them from a sociological perspective (with tie-ins to pop culture) than it is actually talking about the underlying behavior. I don't think my personal life is very interesting. But abstracting from the mundane lived experience to the more pneumatic "universal" is a lot more fun. It is more fun writing about a bad date or ended relationship (ongoing/current is off limits in the interest of The Dude's privacy) than actually going through one. (Although I always thought "Dude du Jour" was a great pseudonym, I think "The Dude," with the definite article, is the way to go.) But there shall be no blogging about Dudes other than Platonic Dudes--friends are bloggable (the stories tend to be less dramatic or intensely private), romantic entanglements (and enemies) are not (potential for hysterical drama). It's this self-imposed blogger code of ethics--there is a certain zone of privacy I have to keep, and there's things I can't do from under the veil of pseudonymity. Much as I and my classic oversharer nature would like to.

But anyway, back to the original point: academic crushes happen, but the mere fact of their existence (like blog crushes) is less interesting than examining why they happen in the first place. Greil Marcus once compared every great living or dead musician/band to a television show. "M*A*S*H is like U2, because both got preachy in the end." The more I think of it, the more I think law school is like Gilligan's Island. A bunch of people who signed up for one thing (a 3 hour tour) and ending up in a situation they are desperate to away from (completely cut off from the real world).

Hang in there, Little Buddy.

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On the Road Again



Yes, that's a picture of me, and look, it's not distorted into a graphic pen sketch. That's me from a kneecap's eye view. This is what happens when you're trying to combine work with Spring Break pleasure. This is me trying to schlep a (pretty) tote full of (regulation of child porn) files to Beautiful Baroque Library while also taking touristic snapshots of really cool places you don't have time to set (your prettily shod) foot inside.

I'm on the road again tomorrow--early, with too long a layover in a gigantic airport in neighboring-but-never-visited state. Spotty internet connection until the weekend, spottier blog breaks next week. I'll be trying once again to combine work with pleasure, a little touring in addition to a lot of reading and writing. And a few lunch and dinner dates with some Friends of Belle, as I Blog Across America. One week research conferences/workshops are great, but more work than you'd imagine. I feel like I'm in summer school. In fact, looking at my hardly touched reading list, I think I am.

So while I can't really say what/where I'm doing/going, I will try to cryptically write a travelblog. Let's see how that goes. Points if you can guess where I am.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Should you do an LL.M?

My thoughts for American-trained U.S. aspiring academics: only if you know what you want to write about and will use that year to write and publish.

It's room to stretch and grow. But otherwise, a glorified 4L year--with attendant law school pitfalls (you know what they are). I liked mine for what it was (and hated it for what it wasn't)--and decided on this alternate route into the academy rather than a Ph.D for personal and professional reasons. But I've seen enough entry-level hires with advanced legal degrees to think it's still a viable alternate route to Top 5 + Law Review + Top Clerkship. Generally, focus on writing, publishing, and consider a Visiting Assistant Professorship or Fellowship--the catch is that VAPs are easier to get if you've already published and have some time out of law school. Which is what an LL.M helps you with. A self-reinforcing loop. I'll probably go on the market before I finish my dissertation, and if you're prolific enough (and not too young or newly out of school) you could probably go on the market your LL.M year.

But I'll refrain from further developing these thoughts until the end of the summer. I'm too busy thinking about the upcoming conference and trying to find something clever to say about the federalization of criminal law. And it's too recent for me to seriously think about and effectively answer "was it worth it?"

But I'll let Prof. Greg Bowman of Mississippi College of Law answer some questions you may have. His series of posts is an excellent resource. Too much to quote, so I'll just give links:

Pros and Cons of LL.Ms

LL.M Redux

LL.M Part 3



And here's some old-but-still-relevant advice for international lawyers considering LL.Ms, since it's time to take the TOEFL and start working on those applications:

LL.M Guide

David Caron

Read this: Matthew Edwards, Teaching Foreign LL.M. Students About U.S. Legal Scholarship, 51 Journal of Legal Education 520-532(2001).


Maya Steinitz:

* The LL.M. is not treated by law schools or by the market as an advanced law degree, the way an M.A. in law is considered in most countries. Rather, it’s considered a short program for lawyers looking for a career change – non-Americans looking to enter the US market, or wanting to take a break from work at home; Americans looking to further specialize, or to transition into a new field of law.

* Generally, the schools (at least the private ones), though they’re technically not-for-profits, are run in the same way as corporations are run; they try to maximize income and minimize expenses (with some allowances made here and there to the fact that the “good” they are trading in is education). (The spill-over of corporate America culture into legal education is actually a fascinating topic that warrants a separate posting).* LL.M. programs are a huge money-maker for the schools and are regarded as such. The considerations for the number of LL.M.s admitted may be influenced by the amount of revenue expected rather than by purely scholarly concerns.

* One consequence of this treatment of LL.M. programs is that law schools (professors, administrators and JD students) and prospective employers often look at the LL.M.s as second-rate students whose (advanced!) law degree from law school X carries far less weight than a JD from the same law schools.

* A well known cultural fact, that often stuns non-Americans, is that tuition really pays as much for the placement services schools offer as it does for the education itself (a cynic would say: more so for the placement services). But despite paying the same tuition, LL.M.s are generally not offered the same services by the placement offices as do the JDs. And because the level of placement assistance available in the U.S. is unheard of in most other countries, foreign students don’t know to ask for it; literally, they don’t know what they’re missing. Some examples brought to my attention include: main on-campus interviewing programs that are usually JD-only with LL.M.s having segregate events, if at all, competing for a minority of the job slots that JDs have not filled earlier in the year; placement counselors who simply do not know how to advise LL.M.s; no lawyering skills trainings, of the kind that first year JDs get, make it de facto impossible to compete for jobs.

* Over the years, I have seen LL.M.s from some regions have a relatively high degree of success finding a job (the Commonwealth and West Europe); some with “seasonal” success (e.g., Latin America or Eastern Europe, when there’s legal work that stems from a political change in the region); some with moderate success (East Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East) and; some with no success (Africa). That these correspond with biases we are generally familiar with comes, I am sure, as no surprise.

All that said - and I mean this with full sincerity - an LL.M. is a great experience. Just realize what it is and what it is not.

From Hanno Kaiser:

Of those foreign LL.M.s whose academic records are comparable to or better than those of their US peers, many seek only temporary employment in the US, that is, “a couple of years in New York with a top law firm.” At starting salaries north of $130,000, temporary employment — with all the added costs, e.g., for visa applications, and diminished incentives that go along with it — is an expensive proposition for any employer. That leaves us with the (much smaller!) group of highly qualified LL.M.s who want to stay and practice law in the US more or less permanently. For those, in my view, the greatest risk is to get lumped in with the less qualified or committed, so that stepping outside the traditional hiring channels might be essential for a successful job search. That involves:


Explaining one’s foreign credentials.

  • Explaining one's foreign credentials. (For example, German law students get graded on a scale from 1 to 18, with 18 being the top score. What, without further explanation, would you do with a 13.5 candidate? Reject him if you lack context. Invite her for an interview immediately if you know that she must be among the top 0.1% of all graduates.)
  • Early networking
  • Reaching out to potential employers well in advance of the fall interview frenzy
  • Letters of recommendation.

I cannot overemphasize the significance of serious and meaningful letters of recommendation from a respected scholar, lawyer, or judge from the applicant’s home country and, ideally in addition, from his or her US professors. The fight for talent at the leading law firms is fierce, and no firm can afford to lose top talent — LL.M or not — to the competition. But the task of identifying oneself as top talent falls pretty much entirely on the LL.M. applicant. In that sense, he or she does in fact carry a burden unknown to the JDs.

Hope this helps!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cutting Social Network Ties

I have an scholarly interest in social network theory and organizational theory. And sadly, too much personal experience with the power and pitfalls of social networks.

From Orgtheory.net:

"The Cost of Ending Relationships":

The study is interesting because it demonstrates the tangible costs of terminating relationships. In this case, the relationship is purely a market relationship (i.e. an arms-length tie), but even a tie of this type has real value. Just because you don’t spend weekday afternoons playing golf or don’t exchange Christmas cards doesn’t mean that the relationship (if repeated over time) will not develop some of the same predictable qualities of embedded ties. Repeated interaction creates reliability and forms a source of stability for markets that are needed to make the market work efficiently. The finding seems to support Wayne Baker’s (1984) study that showed that as options markets increased in size, they actually became more volatile. Given that there is a positive correlation between volatility and trading costs (demonstrated empirically in this paper), it’s possible that this may be one microexplanation for the observed phenomenon. Markets characterized by repeated exchange among a small group of actors may actually be more cost-efficient than the large, anonymous masses of the efficient markets hypothesis.

The study also demonstrates, rather nicely, that social networks help people lower the costs of doing business. Most network studies focus on the revenue side (i.e. getting a job), but as Joel Podolny maintains, the gains associated with certain structural properties like status or reputation may be mostly due to cost-cutting. High status investment banks hire the best employees at a lower cost than their low status competitors. Securities specialists with good reputations have lower trading costs.

The study also points to an important reason why social networks are so sticky. Actors simply can’t afford to find new acquaintances whenever they grow unhappy with their old ones. Cutting old ties and forming new relationships is costly. Of course, you probably have that figured out already.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Brief Update

I just finished unpacking yesterday. The House of Awesomeness is, well...awesome. It is quite cold in the mornings, being on the first floor built on top of a concrete slab. And it's a relatively old house, and I now know why double pane windows are important--especially if you have bay windows. And old houses have interesting quirks like separate taps. Renovated old houses, not originally made to be separate units have oddities like the tiniest shower in the world. But I do love the new HoA. It's three times as big as The Shoebox. Heck, my new bedroom is almost as big as the shoebox. The Roomie is lovely, and it's nice to think that almost a year ago we met on my very first day in Liberal College City. She was at the elevator. Yes, you may make Sliding Doors remarks now.



Living with someone involves huge compromise. Moving is quite an undertaking. This is my first experiment in truly living with someone and integrating households. In college I lived at home with my parents, and in law school I had a separate room in a large university owned house. This is a large space that makes me feel at home and free to roam about, and there is even a (tiny) bit of garden. Living an urban life warps you into feeling happy about a 3' x 5' spot of grass that you can dig up to plant something. This is definitely not a dorm, and she is more than a roomate to me. I've had housemates in the past, but I can't say I actually spent time with them or shared much living space. And so this is a big leap for me, back into a past I never had, and a preview of a future I will likely have soon.



I wonder what it will be like when I get my first house and start a family--I imagine that will be another adventure. And now I realize what these adventures in adulthood are: initial big ordeals and anxiety-inducing first leaps that settle into something lovely, calm, and comfortingly sedentary. I quite like that, realizing that rough starts have lovely, long middles. And hopefully, not too bitter ends. That is the hope. But it's hard to see the end from this point of view at the tip of the journey.



There are always hiccups. Our pipes leak. There is a much larger surface area to clean. There is always something to take a wrench to. There is the matter of coordinating eating times if we wish to dine together, and a likely eventual realization that we will probably not be doing much of that. But we will have dinner parties. And movie nights. We will figure things out, this living together thing.



A little, mundane, trivial update. Pics to follow later when my Crate and Barrel order arrives (along with my Early American desk that I got off of Craigslist from a lovely old couple). Right now I'm preparing to leave town again for a conference, but will blog shortly on a series of great posts by Frank Pasquale on Concurring Opinions.

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