Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It is with some trepidation that I note April in my near future. Tomorrow, in fact. We all know April is the cruelest month, etc. (thanks for the enlightenment T.S.!) and more often than not I find that apart from the start of baseball season a lot of bad things happen in April and all I do is wait for the May flowers to show up. What can you say about a month that is ushered in with the only occasion that really gives Valentine's Day a run for its stupidity money? ("Today let's all lie to one another and then laugh about it!") June actually tends to suck, too. Boo, April and June, but yay for March and May. So it's sad that today is the last day of March.

However, that does also bring me reeeeeeeally close to the end of this semester and the end of my law school experience. Approaching the end of the law school experience gives me a lot to contemplate. For example, the fact that I seriously have to return to Long Island only a dozen or so more times EVER is pretty damn great. Also, the fact that I will be able to read read read novels novels novels again, without even the tiniest hint of a suggestion that I should consider feeling guilty about not reading for school instead. Recently, of course, I have pretty much said "oh well" to the guilt and started reading whatever I want again, and I suppose I was always doing more leisure reading (1-3 books per semester on average) than my fellow law students. But that's probably the most awesome thing about law school being almost over.

Coming soon, I'll share my thoughts on the bar exam or lack thereof.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hipsters tossing coasters

Well, needless to say, when the Trojans and Spartans finally meet after all these centuries, only one team can walk away victorious. Sadly, this time it was Brian's MSU Spartans. On the bright side, that means they advanced to the next round, which means we'll watch another of their games at Blondie's, which means I get another meltdown. The Blondie's meltdown is pretty much my favorite sandwich in the world. It is totally a big part of why I continue to be a lapsed vegetarian in New York, too.

Speaking of half-assed vegetarians, there's another bar in which we have enjoyed ourselves a couple of times, this one in Williamsburg. I can never remember the name of it. Maracuja is the name of it. I just had to ask Brian. Anyway, so the last time we were at Maracuja was a couple of weeks ago for a friend's birthday. As the night wore on, it came time for Brian and me to stroll over to the jukebox. While we were selecting our songs -- don't gloss over that clause, it's important, here, I'll repeat it -- while we were selecting our songs, I felt something hit my leg but I ignored it in the way you might ignore anything short of a major touch when you are in a crowded bar. Then I felt a distinctly similar something hit my leg distinctly similarly. I'm not sure if it was after the third time, or after I turned and saw two people at the bar specifically not looking at me, or after I said, "What was that?" or after Brian felt something hit him too, but at some point in that chain of events, we realized there were coasters on the floor around us, which had fallen there shortly after hitting our legs, having been tossed at said legs, frisbee style.

Next, we did what any normal person selecting songs on a jukebox would do when s/he suspects some childish drunk person s/he doesn't know has tossed a coaster at her/him: we ignored them, because we weren't sure what was going on. Then, another coaster hit us. And the jig was up.

Really? You're throwing cheap, cardboard-paper like round bar coasters at me? Number one, why? Number two, who the hell do you think you are? Who does that? It's the kind of thing that would make me want to get in someone's face and tell them how stupid I think they are, if only it were worth my time to do so.

At some point, the Ms Thang half of the Ms Thang-Douchebag hipster couple came over to us and said something to the effect of "no Britney" songs. Britney had been playing earlier, and she didn't want to hear any more.

Now, I was really intrigued. First of all, I was wondering precisely which part of me looks like a Britney Spears fan. I imagine that Britney fans come in all shapes and sizes, as she has sold many, many albums, but I am terribly curious as to which aspect of me seemed to coalesce in the addled hipster brain to make it say, "Ahh! That girl there! She is going to play Britney!" (Especially seeing as I don't think I could even tell you the name of any Britney song since the "Oops..." or "Hit Me..." days.)

Secondly, even if one hated what was playing in a bar, and even if for some unknown reason one felt entitled to tell someone else what to put/not put on the jukebox, how does it become OK to THROW THINGS at that someone else to deliver this message?

And finally, HELLO DUMB-ASS!!! If I am now selecting songs, that means that MY SONGS AREN'T PLAYING YET. You stupid, self-centered, idiotic, reactionary, pitiful fool, you have no idea what I am playing. Don't lay your Britney issues on me!

Usually in our little Brooklyn lifestyle it's Brian who bags on the hipsters and I tend to defend them, but not this time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Final two (months)

Less than two months! Why, until I graduate of course. That is, assuming that I pass at least five-sixths of my classes this final semester. I will probably do that. But one never knows. Speaking of never knowing, it's bracket time! Already let down by the Mormons (BYU lost its first-round game to Texas A&M. Eww), I nevertheless am looking forward to a fun-filled weekend of basketball, even with a bracket that is flawed right off the bat.

The best part is that if both USC and Michigan State win their first-round games they will play each other on Sunday! Brian and I are super stoked about that one. We've been waiting for our teams to meet up here or in the Rose Bowl or SOMEwhere ever since we started dating. And now's our chance, as long as we don't do anything stupid Friday night. (Which, both of our teams have been known to do -- something stupid.) "Our" game is really fun, because it's the Trojans versus the Spartans. Get it?! Fun and historic(al).

So, two months away from the graduation moment I'm just, you know, doing some reading, procrastinating writing papers, running here and there (but kind of slacking on the 5-6 days a week requested by the 25K training schedule), watching Lost on Wednesdays (seriously: who does not watch that show? And just - why not?) That's about the size of it. We made it up to Boston this past weekend and I finally got the last few lingering items of mine that were at my old house with the girls. (Only one girl of whom still lives there.) The whole weekend I pretty much thought I should still live in Boston/Somerville. Like, why-not-take-the-bar-exam-in-Massachusetts-this-summer? style, even. But I'll tell you why not: I have even fewer reasons to take the bar exam in Massachusetts than I do to take the bar exam in New York. So, inertia it is. Ugh. Another summer of paying thousands in rent. Boring. So over it. The idea of taking a gigantic mammoth exam is at least a little stimulating, however.

On the literary supplement front, I'm getting close to the end of The Satanic Verses and remain unimpressed -- but mostly I cannot think of words strong enough with which to mock the vile, hateful killers who declared/attempted the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. What losers.

Part of the problem with this whole semester is that our spring break is ridiculously late. Good ol' Hofstra -- they "have to" have spring break coincide with Passover and Good Friday, or else they would "have to" give extra days off for those religious holidays, in which case they would "have to" have fewer reading days (which, hello -- we have, like, one) or else we would "have to" start the semester earlier because we "have to" give the professors enough time to get in the grades and such because we "have to" finish everything by May 17, the day Hofstra the actual university tells the law school it "has to" have graduation. Uh-huh. Bunch of nonsense if you ask me. Ugh.

That's about all around here. Here's to dramatic finishes, preferably with overtime!
(Uh...I'm talking about the basketball.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Octomom thoughts

So the latest publicist for the octuplets' mother Nadya Suleman has quit. Ha ha ha ha ha was my first response. The woman's total freakdom shows no signs of abating, so who's surprised, really?

But my second thought is, this is really even more pathetic than we have acknowledged. I mean, we are talking about publicists! In Southern California. How self-serving and shallow do you have to be to push them to the point of just saying "I quit"?!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Stockard, irrational human behavior, and me

So. Then. This has been a doozy of a last few days, only I just realized it today. For those who don't know this about me (uh--is there anyone?), I like to think about things. And I also like to think about myself and how I relate to things. This would explain why figuring out what to do with my life is for me more of a hobby than any sort of finite goal. Anyway, in reading for my Negotiation Seminar today (I love that class) I was confronted with a clear demonstration of the sort of eternal puzzle that is human interaction.

First, the weekend. Well, specifically Sunday: Jenn, Brian, and I attended a Broadway show, Pal Joey, starring Stockard Channing and Martha Plimpton. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought they were both amazing, as was the star Matthew Risch, who played Joey. He was an understudy, who took over during previews when the star was injured! How amazing for him! Anyway, fyi, Martha Plimpton can SING. And Stockard Channing, well, she is just fantastic all the time and I was so excited after we got seriously cheap theater tickets to find out I'd be seeing her show.

Probably the most famous song from Pal Joey is "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," although I hereby confess I did not even know it was from this musical, or any musical. It made so much more sense to us in context. In the playbill profile of Stockard Channing she talks about what it was like to sing this famous song that everybody knows as "just a song," whether sung by Doris Day or Rosemary Clooney or whoever, and she talks about approaching it as her character, Vera's, monologue, and that the audience should be following her every line and seeing the conflict in her. Boy, does she pull it off. She is in bed with this man and she knows, she knows, that he is no good and she mustn't fall for him, and even going in with eyes wide open, as it were, she still falls for him and, specifically, mistakenly, lets him get to her.

Good drama. Back to Negotiation: we study in this seminar the ways in which people bargain, get what they want, and try to resolve conflict. I have a million interesting stories from the readings in there, but I'll stick to just one today. In a study people were presented with the question of an impending disease outbreak, let's say an Asian bird flu type of thing, that is expected to kill 600 people. Which of these two alternative programs would you favor? If Program A is adopted, 200 will be saved. If Program B is adopted, there's a one-third probability all will be saved and a two-thirds probability none will be saved.

Well, 76% chose Program A, and 24% chose Program B. In other words, saving 200 lives for certain was more highly valued than taking a risk, even though the risk has the same "expected value" (I often loathe those economics terms, but meaning that the value of a 1/3 chance of saving all = 1/3 of all = 200 out of 600, that is, the same as the definite # in A. The subjects of the study did not want to take a risk.

But here's the good part! Ready? They also asked a group of subjects the same premise, with the following two options: If Program A is adopted, 400 people will die. If Program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability no one will die and a two-thirds probability all will die. And this time, only 13% chose A and 87% chose B! These subjects chose the risk-taking alternative.

Why? Objectively they are the same. But when it is framed differently, in terms of lives saved (gains) or lives lost (losses), it was enough to shift the majority of the people from risk-averse to risk-taking. Why?

So then I thought about this in terms of myself. Negotiation professor is always encouraging us to look at the negotiations in our lives that happen every day, from "Where are we going for dinner?" to hiring someone to do the flowers at your wedding. Today when I read that story, I thought about myself, my rational/irrational behavior, and whether I take risks. When I read the choices the first time around, I -- unlike apparently 76% of people -- was inclined to choose Program B, and take the risk. Does that make me risk-seeking? Irrational? Is there any difference for me between my willingness to risk when there are losses and not gains at stake?

Personalizing, let's say my student loan is running out, Brian is unemployed, and we've got to do amazing feats of budgeting in order to be able to pay rent for the rest of the semester. Meanwhile, my spring break is coming up and I really want to be able to go on a trip for my last spring break of law school, and I want Brian to come with me. It upsets me greatly to have to cover more than my share of the rent, but I am perfectly OK with paying for Brian's "share" of a spring break trip so that we can go.

Is this irrational? I didn't think it was, and I said as much: my wanting Brian to come on the trip is selfish, not just paying "for" him. I want us to go a-traveling. So, even the economists should be pleased: it's my rational self-interest. But who "wants" to pay the rent, any share of it? Except to avoid the alternative: not having a place to live.

So today while I read, I tried to fit my behavior into this risk-averse/risk-taking analysis. Is it because I am in the minority? That I'll gamble on something and spend big when I see there's something to gain, no problem, but when it's something to lose (i.e. our abode) I kick and scream and fight against it?

And what would Stockard Channing-as-Vera say...

I'm wild again
Beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I...

But then at the end of the show, in the reprise, after she has seen the light or come to her senses or stopped this irrational affair, she sings:

Burned a lot
But learned a lot
And now you are broke though you earned a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more

Interesting. And I can't even tell you how interesting I find it every week when we talk about so-called rational human behavior in our Negotiation Seminar. One is supposed to stop behaving like that simpering, whimpering child. And yet, in order to please the economists, who like to describe rational behavior, one is supposed to act in one's self-interest. Economists hate it when people don't act in their own rational self-interest. But I propose that it's all the same, and it doesn't have to be pegged as rational or irrational: we are trying to get what we want.

Or maybe I just like how my Girls put it best:

But now you feel that you've got nothing left.
If there's nothing to lose babe,
Ah babe, don't you know by now?
Then there's nothing to gain.

--indigo girls, 'walk away'