Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How to avoid being cold-called in class.

Category: Humor, Law School.
This article was originally published in the Georgetown Law Weekly on April 11, 2006.

This is Georgetown, and Georgetown has a lot of professors. By “a lot”, I mean like Wu-Tang Clan size numbers. There are so many professors here that, as a demographic, associate professors lag behind only Ethiopians and Salvadorans in the District of Columbia. Interestingly, Amharic and Spanish are easier to understand than Legalese, and allow you to order tasty food, to boot.

Given the number of professors here, there is an equivalent amount of styles when it comes to cold-calling. Some professors assign specific people to specific days, thus guaranteeing a minimum amount of delinquency per class. If you are a professor and you worry about class size, just assign specific people to be on call. The classroom will empty out. Other professors assign students to specific subjects, which is the reason I know all about fee tails but absolutely nothing about anything else about porperty, including spelling. Finally, there are those professors who continue to just cold-call in an old-fashion way. These professors are normally fall into one or two categories. One, they are old. Like, Magna-Carta old. These are the professors that actually studied under Charles Langdell, and still remember how Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. used to tip. These guys still cold-call because that is how they’re wired, and believe that absolute terror is the proper condition for a law student. These are the guys that have someone else check their email. I use the term guys because they are all men. The grim specter of the “emeritus” label is breathing down their throats. The second group of professors who cold call are what I will label “turtles”, because they are hard. They tend to be adjunct professors or newly-minted full time professors freshly released into academia. The student surveys about them typically have the terms “hard-ass”, “mean”, “tough”, and “knows their stuff”. You hate taking this professor, but you love asking him or her for a recommendation.

At any rate, there are going to be times in law school when you will be cold-called. I therefore present to you the following:

Avoiding a cold-calling is easy to do if you do it right. The most important thing about any of these methods is to act with confidence. Professors can smell weakness, and so can gunners. If either detects a lack of confidence in you, you will be demolished. Try supplementing your confidence with whiskey ahead of time.

1) DON’T ANSWER - This method is the simplest, but only works early in the semester or with a befuddled prof. Simply wait when your name is called, and pretend that nothing is happening. The prof will call your name again, then move on. Caveats: Make sure you only do this for a class that actually cold-calls, and NEVER for a class where the readings are assigned. Also, warn your friends ahead of time that you will be doing this, because otherwise they will all turn and look at you, or, ever worse, visibly elbow you thinking that you’re not paying attention.

2) ESTABLISH A REPUTATION FOR UNHELPFUL, POSSIBLY UPSETTING COMMENTS. This one requires some preparation. First, volunteer often early in the semester with stunted, profanity-laden comments. Through in some low-level racism or accusations of racism. Use the word “disestablishmentarianism” as often as possible. Spit when you talk. After, say, a half-dozen of these in the first few weeks, you should be relatively cold-call free the rest of the semester. It helps to establish a particular nutty persona, so that you are not only unhelpful but also repetitive. In International Law I related everything I said early on to the injustice of the lack of full U.N. recognition of the Knights of the Order of Malta. Caveat: Make sure ahead of time that you pick a persona of craziness that is NOT in line with your professor’s own views. For example, do not be the right wing psychopath if your professor is a right-wing psychopath, and do not be the crazy left-wing radical if you are in Section 3.

3) FEIGN ILLNESS. Carry a box of tissues into class, then blow your nose often. Make hacking throat noises while the professor is trying to lecture. Moan and pretend like you can’t tell you’re moaning. Close you eyes and sign during the class break. This should prevent the prof from wanting to hear any noises that come out of your mouth at all. Caveat: Do not just pretend to be hung over. Professors like to call on drunks, as it reminds them of their own law school days.


A friend of mine here in law school recently started dating a medical student. My buddy tells me that he is dating her because she is brilliant, gorgeous, and is willing to date him. This was a dumb idea on her part for the following reasons:

(1) As a medical student, she will, eventually, blame him for the horrendous malpractice insurance costs she will be paying.
(2) The relationship leaves them open to Cosby Show/Huxtables jokes, and those are never funny. Unless you’re Bill Cosby, and even then they’re funny only before the introduction of Olivia.
(3) My friend is really ugly.

No, I’m just kidding. My friend (hereafter referred to as “Chuck”) is a guy, and, as far as I know, just fine attractiveness-wise. I’m not sure, though, because thus far in my life I am a heterosexual male, and as such am physically unable to correctly evaluate the attractiveness of men in general and my friends in particular. Is this because there is anything wrong with being able to say another man is attractive? Of course not. I am just incapable of doing so. I would love to be able to tell if other men are attractive; it really impresses the ladies. It’s like a party trick, and you guys should try it sometime. Just frankly pretend to have an opinion about how handsome and/or hot some other dude is at a party and watch all your lady friends gasp in surprise. Soon, they will ask you to evaluate the other men there, and you can bask in the glory of female attention for at least 20 or 25 minutes.

Ostensibly platonic female friend: “Mark! Mark! Would guys think that the guy in the corner is hot?”

Me: “Uh… yes. Lean in closer and I will tell you why.”

Basically, I assume that Chuck is somewhat attractive, or is at the very least not grotesquely squid-hideous, because the med student, “Diane”, is dating him. Good on him. I cannot tell when other men are attractive, but I’m happy for them when they find a woman they can trick into dating them. That said, I want to show support for my fellow males who ARE able to evaluate honestly other men’s attractiveness, and you should too. On Wednesday the 12th there will be an Anti-Discrimination keg on the Quad (is there one every dang week?) sponsored by Outlaw and other groups. It is not just a gay-lesbian-bi-trans event, but that’s how I heard about it. I told them they should call it “Queer Beer: The Queg on the Quad” but nobody seemed to want my suggestion. Anyway, come out and have a beer.

Editor’s Note: We looked up “Order of Malta” in Wikipedia, and would not call on the author, either.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Poker, Batman and nerds. Who needs a title after that?

Category: Humor, Law School

This article was originally published in the Georgetown Law Weekly on March 21, 2006.

There is a sense I get when I sit in class that people behind me do not approve of what I do on my computer during class. Don’t get uncomfortable: I do not view pornography, overtly violent pictures or Quicktime versions of Knight Rider. Nothing obscene. What I DO do is play online poker almost nonstop.

I will pause for a moment because I realize I just typed “do do” in a newspaper column and am currently laughing uncontrollably.

Ok, back to the story. I play solitaire, and it is almost an addiction. I choose to play poker because it is less committed than, say, World of Warcraft. I can play a hand when someone makes an asinine comment and finish well before he stops droning on and on.

I will pause for another moment and say that I am speaking specifically to the guy in my anti-trust class. Dude, shut up. You’re not a 1L anymore, you’ve got a job, stop it. The professor doesn’t care, no one else in class cares, the IM chat rooms talk about you and you make my soul tired. There is a reason we have call lists, and the fact that you speak every day may in fact show mastery of the subject on your part, but the only people who thank you for that are the people who are actually on call. Actually, now that I think I about it, keep talking. Especially next Monday; talk as much as you want then. In fact, I’ll give you a topic: the current system is antiquated and could be improved by you… discuss.

Anyway, online poker is great because I can actually stay better focused on class because I’m playing it. By injecting a sense of urgency at all times, my notes become more and more succinct, almost to the point of non-existence. Remember: brevity is the soul of wit, and me and my two-pages-of-notes-since-the-beginning-of-the-semester are witty to the tenth power. Here are the actual cut and pasted notes I took today:

I. Shareholder Suits.

A. Derivative
B. Direct

II. Recall: Pillsbury

A. 10Q clubs
B. All in

III. Deference to BoD decision

e.g. [some said by the tool man I hate that guy]
ii) GMU in Sw16 WTF?

In case you’re worried, I don’t play with real money. It is just loan money. If worst comes to worst and I don’t get a job, I’ll just fake my own death at graduation. I have the perfect plan: I’ll just go hunting with Dick Cheney. I’m not saying he would shoot me; those jokes are just plain old lame. Instead, one of my hippie-liberal friends will pretend to kill me out of disgust that I would go hunting with Cheney. We would then collect on the life insurance, because if there is one thing liberals like to do it is to stick it to the man. Speaking of sticking it to the man, one thing lost in all the Brokeback Mountain v. Crash furor is that Batman Begins got jobbed. I don’t think I’ve reacted as emotionally to a movie in recent memory as I have to that film. Best line from the movie?

Bad guy: “That’s all I know, I swear to God!”
Batman: “Swear to me!”

I think Chief Justice Robert should use that line when he swears in the next president.

Anyway, faking my own death has a lot of benefits. For example, my false death will allow to me turn into a traveling seer, akin to Ibn Battuta or Marco Polo, and I will wander the Mid-Atlantic seaboard dispensing poor legal advice to anyone who would be willing to risk the shoddiness of my work. I will be able to do this because I will take the California bar, which, as I understand it, allows you to take the bar even if you’ve never been to law school, even if you’ve never been to college, and even if you can’t actually produce a photo ID. I’m just kidding; those are just the qualifications to sit on the ninth circuit bench.

I realize that the last joke makes it seem like I am have something against the ninth circuit, but I don’t. What I would normally do right now to bolster my progressive-voter cred is to make fun of President Bush, but I gave that up for Lent. I was going to give up candy, but since last week’s column, people keep leaving me candy in my mailbox.

Falsifying my death will also give me a brief, beautiful respite from spam email and tele-marketers for at least three or four days. I can actually check my email account without having to hear about a Nigerian who needs help stashing $14 million or the Information Systems Broadcast.

By the way, I’ve decided to stop playing online poker for the next weeks. I tried to balance juggling poker with following the NCAA tournament last week, and it didn’t work out. I can only have so many windows open on my computer before the internet connection starts to slow down, and that is beginning to affect my ability to bid on Ebay items (again, loan money is fake money). The connection is only part of the story; the girl behind me keeps making angry noises when she sees me playing poker during class, as I mentioned at the beginning of this rambling, disorganized, pointless article (kinda reminds you of customary international law, huh?). Anyway, she sits behind me in Corporations and gets really irritated when I’m playing. For privacy’s sake I’ll call her Aurenlay. I thought she was mad because my playing was distracting her from class, but then I realized that she gets annoyed because I play so badly. I had misread a guy’s betting pattern after the flop and ended up losing a hand that I should have totally cleaned up on. For those of you who don’t know what any of that means, let me translate: I’m as incompetent in a virtual poker room as I am in Evidence. Both the cards and the judges are unforgiving.


I have been polling my friends and so far, there is only one person I know who has beaten me at The Nerd Test. I swore to her that, at the very least, there is no one around that can beat me at the Law Center, as it is heavily weighted towards science nerds. In the interests of proving that, I offer this challenge: anyone who can beat my high score of 94 in the Nerd Test (available here) will have receive an ice cream or sorbet from HaaaaagenDaz from me. You are on your honor to take it honestly. If you send me your scores, and nobody beats me, I’ll pick a lesser-nerd at random to receive the ice cream. Nerd on!

Note: the nerd ice cream contest has ended. T.S.