Back To School

My second year has begun, and here at UVa, this means that I have essentially graduated from Jr. High and moved up to plain-ole regular High. And by this I mean that we are no longer herded around from class to predetermined class with the same set of fellow students, but get the chance to strike out on our own and create a unique schedule. So yes, Section J and I have to now part ways, but not without the fond memories to remember each other by. As of now, I'd say it was a fairly easy break-up, and we are definitely still going to be friends (its not even weird when we see each other in the hallway, or, say at the Section J Welcome Back BBQ). Hopefully our relations will stay congenial, and that I will not have to sometime in the future throw myself a pity-party and dump all of my Section J pictures into a garbage can of flames. But I digress. As of now, my 2L classes are quite satisfactory, but with my courses in Criminal Investigation and Evidence, an outside observer might think that I am on the track to a fulfilling carrier in Criminal Law rather than my previously stated aims at Life Sciences (at least my patent class is on course).

And speaking of Life Sciences, us at the Health Law Association experienced a very pleasing turn out at this year's Activities Fair where we, as well as every other club here at UVa, took a note from the firms attending OGIs and gave away candy and other paraphernalia to lure unsuspecting students to our booth. Unfortunately, our budget did not allow us to purchase those HLA-branded flash drives I wanted and those light up pens we ordered did not come in on time. So we just had to stick to the basics of sun-melted mini-chocolate bars, in the hope that our unhealthy treats will further fuel this nation's obesity epidemic an insure us health lawyers plenty of work for years to come


Trick or Treat?!

We are in the middle of a severe drought. And yet it rained quite heavily last night. In fact, there has been a couple of rain storms this week, and some the previous as well, whose occurrences, along with my observations that Virginia’s plentiful vegetation are green and the soil is still a little damp, has served to teach me a little more about my adopted home: apparently, it doesn’t actually have to be dry for there to be a drought in Virginia. But maybe the problem isn’t so much the lack of rain as much of it being that the moisture comes in discrete bursts; you know – when it rains it pours.

And speaking of a sudden deluge after weeks of relatively little activity, on grounds interviews have begun here at UVa Law. And for those of you who don’t know what this it about, what happens is that hundreds of Law firms come to the school from all over the country to interview us second and third year students in 20 minute intervals for summer positions. This humble author will have at least 23 interviews by the time this week is done, with as many as 8 occurring on the same day. But I, for one, will not join my similarly situated classmates in complaining of the long hours and numerous firms to keep straight, because really, if you look at it in the right way, OGIs can be fun. Yes, I know you may be shocked to read the phrase “OGIs can be fun,” probably for the first time in your life, but hear me out:

OGIs are a lot like Halloween. Although I have previously compared law school interviews to speed dating (and I do not retract this metaphor) this time around I have come to the shocking realization that OGIs bear a striking resemblance to everyone’s favorite pagan celebration. I make this comparison because, just like on the 31st of October, us interviewing students get all dressed up and go from door to door collecting treats from people who we do our very best to win over without making fools of ourselves in the process. That’s right, as far as I can see it, the main objective of these short meetings of forced geniality is to give us students on last chance to collect treats, which include in this case, handfuls of branded trinkets of varying usefulness: highlighters, mini-staplers, flash drives, decks of cards, key chains, note pads, pens, light-up bouncy balls, and of course, candy (the most halloweenish of all promotional items). And at the end of the day, I come home and dump out my computer bag so that Theresa and I can check out my loot and add it to the growing pile. Now if only there was a crotchety old firm (who would probably represent the dental lobby) giving out toothbrushes instead of candy, my Halloween memories would be completely reenacted. All that will be left is for a group of frustrated Law students to attack a particularly unpopular firm’s interview room with eggs and toilet paper. And being at UVa, this wouldn’t even be too surprising.


No, You're a Geeky Baby!

It seems that, based on the number of times that I have taken my relatives - who have all chosen August as the time to visit 'ol sunny Virginia - around the main grounds and through the law school, that I should update my resume to include "full time UVa tour guide." And of course, this being interview time, anything that can give my resume a little boost will be more than welcome.

But anyway, Theresa and I had a second opportunity to visit with Brent and Jodie's kids, however, this time, the parents were also in attendance. On Saturday the whole gang, as well as Grandma and Grandpa, came up to C-ville for a picnic and a tour of our little town. And for Theresa and I, this meant another energy-filled afternoon with Addy, Ben and Matt - and this meant, as any of my relatives could probably guess, hours and hours (and hours) at the pool. I am surprised that those kids have not grown gills due to all of the time they spend in the water. Highlights include Matt's Nirvana-baby-dive (he he always jumps into the pool belly first and sprawled out like the baby on Nirvana's Nevermind album cover), Ben's shockingly loud screams (it turns out that both Theresa and I are, in fact, geeky babies) and Addy's utter enthrallment of a Japanese game show that we flipped to in the hotel last week. We did find that, although we have received condolences from other relatives that we had to actually look after that wild bunch all by ourselves, the kids were not nearly as bad as their reputation. Sure, they had energy to spare, but they really aren't bad kids at all. That being said, I think Theresa and I would be happy to go on a little bit more without children of our own.


One of Those Horrible Clip Shows, But in Blog Form

Seeing how this blog called “Adventures in a Strange and Distant Land,” I feel it appropriate to announce that I have been in this weird and far-off place for an entire year. It seems hard to believe that it has been twelve whole months since I was hanging out in our less-than-luxurious apartment just off of 99th Street in Edmonton, listening to the non-stop roar of that busy street’s traffic and trying to finish off that large sack full of corn that Thersesa’s parents had so graciously brought us up from Taber, the Corn Capital of Canada. And me, not being one to shy away from nostalgia, would like to proceed with a brief month-to-month summary of this intrepid adventurer’s journey that has led me to where I am now.

Aug: the night immediately following a Wolf Parde/Frog eyes concert with my good friend and ex-roommate, Petey, our hero and his wife set of on a cross-continent trip that was very shortly interrupted by the hard-working Montana port officials who thought the Canadian wife of a duel-citizen student was much to suspicious of a character to allow across the border without a visa. So, this adventurer was left on his own to face the crushing boredom of Montana and North Dakota, the demoralizing gridlock of Chicago and the suffocating humidity of the mid-Atlantic. And then school began.

Sept-Oct: This adventurer spent probably the loneliest days of his short life holed up in his half-furnished apartment, trying to gain control of that freight train called Law School, wrestling with the immigration department (thanks to the vastly appreciated help of UVa’s international students office and his uncle Roger), and speaking to his dear sweet wife, who had been forced back home, husbandless, years after moving away, every night. Feeling uncomfortable with the couples in his ward, these months also introduced our hero to the frat-like lifestyle of his fellow students, complete with football tailgates, beer-pong, and, of course, softball.

Nov: Finally marshalling enough resources to make another run for the border, Theresa made a daring trip to Toronto, on the hope that the border patrol in this part of the country would be kinder than their Montana brethren, not having any assurance of success and without any concrete plans in case of failure. Fortunately, she proved to be just as valiant as husband and was able to complete her journey to Charlottesville and spend the next month as a visitor to this great capitalist nation.

Dec-Jan: After (barely) surviving his first round of Law School exams, our hero and his wife traveled back to the blistering Alberta winter for a relaxing Christmas break, happy to visit with their families and see many old friends from their college days.

Feb: Having to stay behind once again because of various immigration details that had to be completed in Canada, Theresa set about preparing for her upcoming interview while our hero makes his triumphant return to UVa Law and begins his 1L job search, landing early the position he was most wanted to score: researching for professor Riley in the field of biotech law and bioethics. Meanwhile, Theresa is off to the east once more, this time braving more than one horrendous blizzard in order to attend her Visa interview in Montreal (that lasted no more than 5 minutes – yeah 7 months of waiting for a 5 minute interview) and then continue on to her new home in the Old Dominion as an official US Permanent Resident.

Mar-May: The newly reunited family finally acquaintances themselves with the other couples in the ward and sets about beginning a normal life together, which, for our hero, means actually purchasing such items as a bed and garbage cans etc and finding time amidst the hours that he spends with his wife to actually finish his first year of law school.

Jun-Aug: With Theresa working at the student health center and our hero neck deep in the latest articles on synthetic biology and animal transgenesis, the new family enjoys a relaxing summer visiting their grandparents, exploring Virginia and welcoming their parents and other extended families. And of course, preparing to begin all over again…


consume consume CONSUME!

One interesting result of only watching TV on very limited occasions (ie. in the laundry room) is that the ads seem to have become more salient to me. And by this I mean that I am noticing how incredibly contrived and obnoxious they are. At first I thought that there is this parallel universe out there were people just care so much about their stuff, like their possessions are the most important things to these people, who just can't get enough of talking about their newest lawn mower or fast food hamburger. Upon further reflection, I realize that these commercials don't really depict an alternate universe - just the United States. (OK sure, Canada is pretty much just as materialistic as the US, but the point I am trying to make here is that in the States, they take their consumption culture just a little bit further than their northern neighbors. For example, they seem to commodify everything - even health care and education).

But anyways, to further my newfound distaste for all things advertising, I ran across a couple of interesting articles. The first details a study that found children like food better if it comes in a McDonald's wrapper and the second discusses a new trend of designing ads that have nothing to do with the product offered, but are rather psychologically designed to capture people's attention (such as the dancing alien that is often used to advertise mortgage rates). And then there is this whole Baby Einstein case, where the ads a pretty much flat-out lies. I just think it is kind of sad that much of our academic studies in psychology are being put to use to sell the latest tennis show, which is 95% identical to its competitor.

But good news! There is a personal cure to such rampant commercialism: DON'T BUY CRAP THAT YOU DON'T NEED (and by this I include probably 3/4 of the stuff most Americans buy).

Whoah, got a little preachy there for a second. Sorry about that - I just get a little annoyed with society sometimes.


Rides Slides and Waves

Having had such a delightful few days this past weekend, it would be a shame for our adventures to not be trumpeted accross the electronic superhiway via this very blog. You see, Theresa and I, knowing that the dog days of summer are nearly past, took it upon ourselves to skip work for a day and head out onto the open road for an end-o-the-summer mini-vacation.

The first stop on said outing was not in fact coordinated by us. For my Uncle and Aunt has come to the old dominion for their own vacation, and subsequently took off to New York, leaving their three kids in the care of their and my grandparents. So then, what is there for my Grandparents to do, but continue the time-honored tradition of spoiling their grandkids - in this case, by taking them to King's Dominion, a amusment/waterpark just North of Richmond. And since I am a grandchild of said grandparents, and because they needed back-up from a couple who is willing to brave the larger rollar-coasters with the elder of the children, Theresa and I were invited to come along. And let me tell you, I don't know if Addy Ben and Matt even had as much fun as Theresa and I did running from ride to ride, and even snapping a quick photo of Dora the Explorer to be used in impressing Theresa's 3 year old neice (much to the embarrasment of our 11 year old cousin, who is much too cool to be seen with Dora). In all, we spent over 10 hours, split between the rides and the slides (waterslides that is).

The next day, setting out from a Richmond hotel the we shared with our cousins, Theresa and I next travelled to Virginia Beach for a day of relaxation following that rollar-coaster of a Friday the day previous. Now, Virginia Beach is a nice beach with good sand and warm water, and Theresa particularly enjoyed not only setting eyes on the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, but jumping right in and playing in its waves. All and all, we had a good time, especially walking along the shore, hand-in-hand, watching the multitude of visitors there to enjoy the sun and surf. It was particularly interesting (in a saddening yet amusing way), watching the little kids at the edge of the tide-line building their sand castles, only to have them come crashing down when the waves reach the point where they had originally deemed safe enough for construction and while the constructors desperatly, and ultimatly vainly, trying to sheild their creations from the ever-encroaching onslaught of the unstoppable forces of nature. And, as another, unrealated observation, I can confindintly say that the Canadian Girls were definatly the most attractive of any in Virginia Beach, at least judging from the one whose nationality I could difinatively accertain.

So yeah, we had a great weekend - so much so that we did something that we have never done before and I thought we would never do on our many trips on this side of continent and the other: We bought a souvenir. That's right, it was a spiral sea shell that cost under $3.00, designed to be the crown jewel in our shell collection that we collected on the beach of Vancouver Island on our honeymoon and currently have proudly displayed in our living room. So come over and check it out sometime.


A Boatload of Fun

Any of you who have had the pleasure of signing up of On-Grounds Interviews with Law Firms could join with me in attesting that it is not always the most enjoyable experience. Especially when you are searching the NALP directory for Law Firms' hiring policies and you see the yet another standard listing that says something like this:

"The application process for [name any law firm] is very competitive... superior academic credentials, particularly with respect to law school grades and class rank, and excellent written and oral communication skills, are required... demonstrated leadership skill, strong motivation, good judgment, the ability to work well with others, an interest in community involvement... etc etc."

This is, of course, particularly troubling if, like me, you are a born follower, completely lack motivation of any kind, have terrible judgment, always end up fighting with your co-workers and absolutely detest the community. (Note to Legal Employers: the above self-description was merely made for comedic purposes, and does not reflect in any way the true dispositions of its author).

But every once and a while, even the most desperate Law Student gets a breath of fresh air. Mine came when I read the following hiring criteria from an actual Law Firm:

Able to leap tall buildings in a... no wait, that is for our superhero opening. For lawyers, you must be smart (but not talk about it all the time), hardworking, energetic, motivated (that is not a code word for "cut-throat"), have lots of interests, enthusiastic, and have no significant enemies. If you do have enemies, we would prefer it if they are not armed. Celebrity status a plus unless you are the loser in the Who-Wore-It-Best feature of a tabloid magazine

Now, I don't know about you, but this looks like the place for me, especially since I will probably be able to eliminate my top enemies by the end of the year and I defiantly wore that Dolce & Gabbana top better than Jenifer Aniston. And besides, any Firm who openly describes themselves as "a boatload of fun" just seems like my kind of place.


Lies, Lies, And More Lies, And Records

Just the other day, during my daily perusal of CNN.com, I discovered, much to my shock and disappointment, the that lonelygirl15, the popular video-blog about the life of an average 16 year-old, was in fact (get this) fake! Yeah, I know, this is old news, but it came as a shock to me to find out that good 'ol lonelygirl, which whom I'd shared the last year of my life, laughing and crying at her adventures with school plays and dating, was all just an elaborate lie. I couldn't be more outraged. To think a bunch of actors would stoop to such lows as to fooling us sentimental youtube watchers just to get a bit of publicity! But... this news has prompted me to make a confession myself. Let it now be known that this blog you are now reading is also completely contrived. That's right, I don't love "Sunset Rubdown," I've never eaten at "Aqui es Mexico," and I don't even actually go to "Law School." In fact, there is not even such a place as "The University of Virginia." I hope this news does not influence you all to stop reading, for even though my adventures may be fake, they come from the heart. And so, to continue on my quest to gain international fame and glory, I bring to you this next post on a topic, which I am quite confident that not even a single one of my readers cares much about at all:

This weekend, Theresa and I happened upon which soon proved to be another find in this great town of ours. This find is none other than a small little record store just off the downtown mall called Sidetracks (218 W Water). It is owned and operated by a helpful guy who still listens to his turntable but is up on the new scene (he happened to be playing Spoon that day). He taught me a little about caring for my own record player and chatted a bit about some new indie bands. All and all, a much more pleasant experience than going into larger music stores like Plan 9, which are staffed by a bunch of apathetic kids or iTunes, which is staffed by no one at all. Now, I know that unauthorized downloading and online music retailers have all but consigned the record store to distant memory, but let me assure you that there are ample reasons to check out your neighborhood music shop, especially an independently owned one like Sidetracks (Or if you're in Edmonton, Blackbyrd Myoozik, 10442 82 Ave):
1.) Vinyl Records have a (much) better sound quality than MP3s and will, if properly cared for, last forever
2.)CDs also boast a better sound quality than MP3s and are DRM-free (their prices are also falling)
3.) Most (good) albums are designed to be listened to as an entire entity, not just as randomized singles.
4.) Visiting iTunes just doesn't have the same charm as going to a little store and flipping through album covers
5.) Vinyls are collectors items
6.) You'll be supporting a local business


It will be difficult for me to write an objective review of the new Sunset Rubdown Record Random Spirit Lover because I absolutely love everything the band has done. Imagine trying to get an unbiased opinion about the Boston Red Sox from a die-hard fan. But I will try:

Sunset Rubdown: Random Spirit Lover
Sunset Rubdown's music is like a runaway stage coach widely careening from one bizarre soundscape to another, all with Spencer Krug's manic, Bowie-esque vocals at the helm, and this new album is no exception. In the case of Random Spirit Lover, Krug takes us on an adventure reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland, but set in the eighties and lit exclusively by neon lights (the album art does a wonderful job of capturing this mood). This record takes Sunset Rubdown another step towards full-band maturity, since it includes not only wild tunes that would fit nicely on a Frog Eyes record, but some nice ballads and a greater presence of Camilla Wynne Ing. Overall, I loved it (could I have possibly said anything else) and highly recommend it to anyone willing leave reality behind and plunge into the rabbit-hole. 5/5 (naturally)

T: I think the new sunset rubdown record... well I like it just about as much as I like old sunset rubdown. I have to admit that it can be too much for me at times, but for the most part listening to the new album has been pleasant. There is one song on the album that I quite enjoy, mostly because it reminds me of my childhood love for David Bowie. This song [Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns] immediately conjures up a nightmarish image of David Bowie, dressed as the Goblin King [from The Labyrinth], chasing me through an old timey house of mirrors, trying to steal my poor baby brother. To conclude, I thought the album was good. 3.83/7 [2.76/5]

Check out this new song, Up On Your Lepord, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days, which captures the album's essence quite well.


Thousands of Lives!

In what appears to now be a series of posts outlining ridiculous movies which claim to be, at least loosely, based on the genetic revolution, I bring to your attention the latest: Repo! The Genetic Opera. (I am not making this up). This motion piture (dare I dignify it with such a title) is said to be a thriller set in 2056, where an organ failure epidemic forces people to buy expensive genetically modified organs from the evil biotech company Geneco. The director, Darren Lynn Bousman of the last two Saw movies, said this: "The idea is that everybody is buying up organs, and they cannot afford to pay for these organs. Thus, legalized organ repo-men come into the picture. Murder becomes sanctioned by law. So, if you buy a heart and can't afford it, someone can burst through the door and take your heart out and they don't get in trouble for it." Sounds like a winner.

Now, my point in bringing up this movie, which you may have already read about in the gossip mags, is not to highlight Paris Hilton's role in the film, but to give another example of how society, demonstrated through its pop culture, has developed an irrational and greatly exaggerated fear of genetics. OK sure, those biotech companies who refuse to relax their patents for needy third world countries are kind of evil, but Genetically engineered organs can save tens of thousands of lives! (There are over 90,000 people on the organ transplant list in the USA). Biotech has tremendous promise, and it's sad to see this important industry be slandered through associating with such a cheesy film.