29 June 2005

Captain Obvious

While on my commute to class this morning (which, at about 4 miles, lasts all of ten blissful minutes), I actually listened to a couple of the radio DJs who do this segment called "Captain Obvious," where they tell about research published in real scientific journals that is painfully idiotic. Today was especially funny (and painful):

From the Journal of Economics & Psychology: researchers found that those who gave considerable thought to what kind of job they would take were more likely to experience job satisfaction than those who took jobs on a whim.

From some random health journal: college students are more likely than people in other age groups to drink more alcohol than they realize

From an Internal Medicine Journal: Patients who report unusual side effects to medications are more likely to be treated for these problems.

And, my favorite, in the Journal of Psychonomics (at least, I think that's what they said), a study revealing that it's easier to identify someone standing close to you than someone standing 450 feet away.

And now that the humor is done, time for my two cents. Research is important. I like doing research, and I think that intellectual curiosity is, obviously, very important. Many of my older relatives--who came from an era when you left home at 18, got a job or joined the army, got married if you weren't already, and didn't give much thought to college--can't understand why anyone would get a doctorate. They can sort of appreciate the idea of becoming a lawyer or doctor (the physician kind), simply because they know that (1) it makes a lot of money (2) they've needed doctors and lawyers for their own needs, so the comfort level is there (to the extent any non-lawyer can be comfortable around a lawyer) and (3) it makes a lot of money. Or, maybe the money thing isn't that important, since they're all pretty well off. Maybe it's more tied to reputation. But the few times I've mentioned a PhD to anyone in my extended family, they all get this look, as if PhDs are reserved for odd eccentrics who live out their lives as half-cracked bohemians and die of starvation. I try to point out that only English PhDs wind up like this (sorry Sarah :)), but to no avail. Given that I was this close (imagine me holding thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart) to trying an Economics PhD, that I have many friends who took the plunge, and that good professors are always in short supply (my relatives seemed to ahve forgotten about this), I feel the need to defend the honor of pursuing a doctorate.

So, being intellectually curious is good, and getting a doctorate can be very good for certain people, as well as benefiting society, yada yada. However, I think the above research, while funny, is also kind of sad. Granted, I haven't read these studies (I'll have to put that on my list of things to do, definitely), and they may be marginally useful, or even highly useful in unexpected ways in the future. Everything builds on everything else, or, as my 1L Contracts prof loved to say, "it's all a seamless web" as he interlaced his fingers (just to complete the image, he reminds me a little of Paul Giamatti, but thinner and more outlandish). Still, it seems that some of the "duh" projects, like those above, could be incorporated into more substantial work. Or maybe we should just all agree that some things--especially that distance-perception thing above--are simply givens, especially in this day and age. Now, if someone wants to examine why college students don't realize how much they're drinking (I doubt the explanation is too deep), then I suppose that's more justifiable. Maybe the litmus test should be that if you can tell people who respect academic pursuits with a straight face what you're working on and not be intellectually embarrassed for yourself, then what you're doing is respectable. And in the end, I guess my biggest concern is that for every research project done like those above, the kind that elicit a smirk from the casual observer, society's view of the worth of people who devote five to ten years of their life to a single-minded pursuit will diminish. So the next time you're considering researching why fewer swimsuits are sold in northern states, or something equally compelling, perhaps take a moment and reconsider.

[This would probably be better suited to a blog whose readers are grad students, but oh well.]

One of those days...

Have you ever had one of those days when you start out in a good mood only to have one thing after another go wrong? Today was one of those days, and normally that wouldn't be very interesting to write about, but for some reason it didn't get to me like it normally would. Work was rough the last two days, not in terms of efficiency, but in terms of me getting a lot of constructive criticism (read: blame) from a lot of people for various things. Class was rough on Monday, when we had an actual pop quiz (that isn't supposed to happen in law school!). We've had eight point quizzes or take home quizzes every week, and this time he nails us with this awful 15 point, four part question on a Monday instead. Nice guy. And this afternoon was pretty much the final straw, when I went to a meeting with a Professor for whom I'm doing some research (who himself is doing the research for a big wig at our college). Let's just say that I had made a fatal assumption that caused me to look at the problem in the totally wrong way. This became evident exactly one minute into our meeting, at which point I was screwed and proceeded to really flounder. FLOUNDER. I never fully grasped the meaning of that word until now. I don't like being in that situation. In fact, I don't recall ever actually being in that situation, at least not to that degree. At one point I actually said "I'm really sorry for wasting your time like this." That was about as coherent as I got, too. Obviously, I'll be better prepared at our next tete a tete. Hopefully.

But back to my main point. Despite all this unpleasant stuff (added to a bunch of other minor annoyances), I felt okay. After swearing a few times in the elevator (I only had a three floor ride, so not much time for that), I was eerily calm. In fact, I can't remember a time when I haven't let things like this quietly eat away at me for some time. I'm a perfectionist, and one who doesn't quickly forget his shortcomings/mistakes. Luckily I'm only like this with myself, not the people around me, or I might be really unbearable to be around. Today, though, I seemed to have this perspective, that none of it was a big deal. Maybe this is a fluke, or maybe it means I'm growing up a little. I remember my Mom saying, quite often, that someday I'd be old enough that I'd realize the only thing that matters is making other people happy and being around people who make me happy, and that I wouldn't care about all the other random stuff that happens. She said it in Mom lingo of course, so it sounded much more profound. But I think I've captured the basic idea, and so have a lot of other philosophical types. I used to think all those things she said were just a panacea for my wounded pride, but more and more of them are starting to be true. Scary :)

27 June 2005

Random observation at work: you know the number pad on keyboards off on the right side? Why don't they shorten the "Enter" key or "+" key and add a comma? Last time I checked, we don't use the European method of periods instead of commas, and frankly my efficiency is being seriously cut down. I'm entering numbers in the thousands and millions here people. This is the big time, and I deserve a conveniently placed comma key.


 

26 June 2005

Hmmmm....

So, a little advice here. I got some mailing address labels the other day. You know, how an organization sends you some in the hopes that you'll donate some money. I'm assuming this is a good tactic for fundraising, because it seems to happen frequently. Not all the time, but enough that whenever I'm running out of one set, I usually get another one. Right on time, too, but always from another organization. It's as if there's some umbrella agency whose sole function is to monitor when people run out of free address labels. This really wouldn't surprise me--I can almost imagine what the workplace is like. "Diane, check sector 12. We have a Bob Smith in Chicago who decided to send out all his bills this month instead of using online bill-pay. He's running dangerously low; hit him up with those Mothers Against Drunk Driving labels, the ones with the little gold foil broken martini glass on the side." Or something like that.

Normally, I don't feel obliged to donate. I take the labels, check the name of the charity to make sure it's not one I'm giving to already or anything, and then I'm done. Okay, so I don't always check who sent it. I'm just that bad. I figure they're getting enough return to more than cover the labels and shipping costs. If not, then I've helped them learn a valuable economic lesson for the future. But these labels usually aren't that great anyways. Usually, they have something very feminine (cats! tulips! cats with tulips!), so that I'm forced to use them only on bills from places I don't like (I don't like most places I get bills from, of course). And then I hope I'm not being entered into some database: look, he used a label with pink lace, we'd better his name on the watch list. I don't know what the watch list would be for, but I'm sure there is one.

But these most recent labels present a problem: they're nice. Really nice. We're talking loads of metallic, full color embossing. And so much detail. One shows the Mackinac Bridge (in gold) against a waving American flag, the next has Mount Rushmore (in gold), the next a simple S for Skuzinski in one of those rich gothic fonts (and surrounded by...gold), etc., etc. Eight styles, and only one dud (a disembodied eagle head--with, you guessed it, a big gold beak...I'll be paying bills with that one). These are beautiful labels. Exquisite labels. When I hold them up to the light, and see their shiny wonderfulness, I almost get choked up. So here's the problem. I feel compelled to give something now, but on the other hand I feel like it's wrong somehow to give because I got the labels. And I feel like I'm not upholding my principles. Honestly, I wouldn't have given to the Disabled American Veterans. I mean, I would, but I wouldn't have taken the initiative. So isn't this succumbing to being cajoled?

I tell myself that this is what they wanted. That they splurged a little on these labels because they knew the impact it would have. Heck, these labels could have garnered a contribution to the Pig Roaster's Society of America, or something equally mundane. You really should see these labels, if you haven't already realized it.

I guess I should just stop writing now and get out my checkbook. 

21 June 2005

Yesterday, I discovered that the Scottish were worth more than poems about the moors and assorted amusing stereotypes. Assuming that the Mesopotamians didn't hit a tiny ball with a stick at some point (yeah, that's not likely), I guess we owe the fourth American pasttime (after baseball, football, and basketball--sorry to all you swimmers) to our brrrrethrrren across the Atlantic. And what a good pasttime it is. Aside from providing more euphemisms than any other sport, watching a tiny ball soar through the air as the result of a swing--your swing--is just very, very cool. I discovered this coolness two days ago at the driving range, playing for the first time since going through what I affectionately refer to as my second puberty. Or whatever it was that resulted in my chest and shoulders finally filling out (yes! all those trips to GNC for mega-triple-X-super-ripped-my-clothes-sorry finally paid off).

As a tribute to my new love for golf, which I expect to last until I try my hand at the short game, I've decided to inform my readers of the history of the game, so that they, too, can grow to love it. I found some FAQs online that were most helpful for this purpose, so I kept the questions (they are all real, surprisingly), but the answers were boring, so I felt I should make it more interesting (if marginally less true):

When and where did golf begin?

Contrary to popular belief, golf began in North America. One day in the late 1500s, a group of conquistadors approached members of one of the tribes with an assortment of clubs of varying sizes. After all the killing, they decided to try a game one of them thought of called "gulf." The word embodied the concern about the growing generation gap between the older and younger generations, and the mistaken belief that the game would help bridge that "gulf." Clearly, the Spanish were abstract thinkers well before Picasso arrived. Several of the more enterprising men started a resort in the land they had referred to as "Maxico," which was the name of the large multinational conglomerate started near the present day Yucatan Peninsula that made "feminine napkins." The resort was called "Gulf of Maxico," and is still known by the name today with a minor spelling change. Of course, it is now a body of water because of the large meteor that struck a few years later. This was the same meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The insurance policy on the resort funded the Spanish empire for the next century. The Flintstones provides a surprisingly accurate record of how the game was played in those days.

Why are golf courses 18 holes in length?

Interesting question. Golf was originally designed as a rite of passage for men, and a quote from two ancient letters discussing the game which state that "a real man can get it up and down and into the hole 18 times without losing stamina." Another states that "18 makes it legal." However, scholars still debate if either source had anything to do with golf, though they aren't sure what else the quotes could possible refer to.

What is the oldest public golf course in the U.S.?

Probably a parking lot by now.

Why do golfers yell "fore" to warn others of an errant shot?

Because it's less incriminating than yelling "hey, dodge this."

What is the origin of the term "Mulligan"?

It's a phonetic shortening of the phrase used by golfers when playing very poorly: "This sucks. Mall again? Sure, let's go. I hear there's a sale at Abercrombie."

When was the first golf tournament televised?

Sometime after television was invented, I think.

Why is the golf hole the size that it is?

You're kidding, right? Maybe you need to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears again. By the way, the real answer, in short, according to this website is: "But it was almost certainly a completely arbitrary thing..." Gee, thanks.

When were the first rules written, and what were they?

The first rules were written A Long Time Ago, and were called the Ten Commandments. As far as I know, they had little to do with golf, unless, for example, you kill someone on the 15th green, which is a big no-no (wait for the 16th). Or if you're doing anything covetous out there.

What is the origin of the Big Bertha brand of drivers?

Let's just say someone slept on the couch that night.

15 June 2005

Is 343 email messages too many? I think it probably is, so today, when I could have been doing something much more productive, I decided to see if pages two through seven of my inbox and the multitude of folders I have (which were supposed to help me become organized, imagine that) actually had anything useful worth saving. As expected, most of it was stuff that was really relevant at one time, but now just serves as a useful reminder of things that occurred during the past year. As in, "hmmm, I forgot just how often [random person] bugged me with questions and requests."

But the freaky thing was the last email I found from someone who I considered a very good friend. She wasn't someone I'd consider a best friend--I think it's kind of hard to be best friends with someone of the opposite sex, but that's for another blog post. We had known eachother a while though, and talked freely about most things. I even, at one time, had thought she would be fun to date. Fortunately, we seemed to have this silent agreement not to broach that subject (or maybe it was just a unilateral thing going on in only my head, who knows) , and, honestly, I'm glad we never did. It would have just been too weird. Besides, she's married now.

The email was dated over six months ago. Six months! It hadn't seemed that long at all, but it was. And since that email, we haven't communicated at all. There was no sense of closure in that email, no hint of finality. Frankly, it was just one of our generic back-and-forths, discussing innocuous daily life stuff. I know I wrote back, but I don't go through the trouble of logging every email sent and received (that would be a lot of emails). I'm assuming it was more generic stuff, totally random, the kind sent between friends every day.

Now, you're probably thinking that my impulse was to send an email to her at that very moment, to make an attempt to resume our dormant friendship. Maybe that should have been my impulse, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. We're in different places now, and I think we were both realizing that some sort of gap was developing. Still, I'm bothered that someone who was basically a consistent fixture in my life suddenly dropped out of it. Granted, only six months have passed, but "dropped" seems like the right word. And I realize it was only email, but we had known eachother in "real" life before that. Besides, I've known a couple of people solely by email who I can honestly say I think I have more of a friendship with than some of my friends at law school, even if it is electronic.

As I thought about this one instance, I realized that relationships are never black and white. Perhaps this is a late age to realize something so fundamental, but I never gave it much thought before. Relationships never really start or finish. Just today, an email exchange that started for purely business reasons morphed in just a few sentences to something surprisingly friendly and familiar. It wasn't planned. These things never are. It's like the party you attend out of obligation to someone else, where some random exchange of pleasantries evolves into something more. I never really feel like such occurrences are a "start," though. I mean, obviously, you're meeting someone for the first time, but when you really "click" with someone, part of you feels like you must have known him or her already, in some weird sense. An odd notion, but that's how it always seems to me, and it's one of the things that makes life cool.

On the other end, though, relationships never seem to finish with any sense of finality, or with any sense of regularity. Goodbyes, as final as they might seem at the time, really don't mean anything. You can think that people you didn't really miss are out of your life, only to have them reappear unexpectedly, as if they were never really gone. Or, you can suddenly have the people who you think will be in your life forever simply fade away, without rhyme or reason. And as much as you try to get them back in your life, your efforts seem pointless. Maybe this is just the way things are supposed to work. Maybe we're simply meant to have certain people at certain times, because of where we are in life. I believe God guides us, or at least nudges us, in a certain direction, of course, and I'm sure that our relationships play a large role in this. But at the same time, it seems cold, even a little inhuman, to think that our relationships are so functional. Surely some of our most important relationships are just meant to exist for their own sake, for that unique whatever-it-is that exists when two people have a good vibe.

The only conclusion I can draw is that sometimes, when it comes to people, we're simply wrong. Sometimes we think that the person we can talk for hours with will always be there for those wonderfully meaningless conversations. And sometimes, that insignificant minute chatting on the elevator with a complete stranger becomes something much more months later. I expected that this all would become more predictable as I got older, but I'm slowly learning that growing up means more uncertainty, more gray areas, more time spent trying to figure out confusion. I guess relationships aren't so much something we actively cultivate, as they are something that life brings to us. If we're lucky, the good ones grow into something and last. Maybe this isn't the most proactive view to take, and maybe I could have more control if I tried a little harder. In the end, though, I'm not sure I would want it.

11 June 2005

Making Some Decisions

Scheduling classes should not be difficult. Find what's required and take it, then fill in the gaps with whatever will be heavily tested on the bar or looks good on a resume. Yup, easy stuff. And that's exactly what I did a week ago. Had some tax classes, because I'm working in tax this summer, and tax classes seem to be easy A's for me. Added a couple ULWR (i.e. "big senior paper") classes since I didn't want too many exams. Enrolled in the required Professional Responsibility class (aka, the "(1) don't screw with clients in any sense of the word (2) be very communicative (3) keep finances in order" class). And finished things off with Decedent's Estates and Trusts, because it's on the bar a lot.

I can't say that I was excited about any of my classes except for International Taxation, mainly because as an economics major I did a ton of stuff dealing with globalization but haven't had that kind of exposure yet in law school. As for the rest, I was just neutral. My classes met at good times, the profs were decent as far as I knew, and I didn't really hate the idea of any of them. But I was talking to one of my professors the other day, and telling her my Fall schedule. Her response to at least two of the classes was, and this is pretty much accurate: "Oh gawwwd, that sounds so terribly boring." Except, she has this way of talking that makes a statement like that have even more zing than I could possibly express in type. I managed a few weak protests as to why I was taking these classes, how each one met some sort of requirement or other, etc. Until, finally, I talked myself into a wall (that's a familiar occurrence for me) and realized that she was right. Here I was, my last year in law school, with the vast majority of all my graduation requirements already met, and I was already grooming my transcripts for a career that I didn't even really want to enter and a bar exam that I knew I'd probably study for enough to pass regardless of my curricular background.

So, I decided that a change was necessary, and this morning I revamped my schedule. I dropped Corporate Income Tax and replaced it with Copyright Law, and I swapped a Licensing IP class for Decedents. That, and I plan to do a directed study of some kind. Not huge changes, but they feel important somehow. I might not even like soft IP, but I figure it at least is the closest I can come to somehow meshing my creative impulses with the legal world. Maybe I'll work for a publishing company or something.

I hope it's fun....

Check This Out

Hey people. I know there aren't many of you reading this, but those who are, check out http://jdjanelle.blogspot.com. One of my law school buds (a very cool lady who is working for the summer in a prosecutor's office in Newark--and is clearly ready to conquer the world, but do it the right way) started it recently, and it's got my recommendation, whatever that's worth. Any of you thinking of going into crim law should definitely read it. I'll have a permanent link on the right column very soon, too.

10 June 2005


Puppies are cool Posted by Hello

09 June 2005

Super quick update

My blog posting has somehow become less frequent, even though it's summer. Even though I feel less busy now that Spring semester is over, I guess in reality I have just as much stuff to do. I'll do this list-style since that's easier:

(1) I turned in my revised decision to the Judge (the one I've been referring to in many blog posts). I guess I did something right, because ten minutes later he comes to my cubicle, says nice job, asks for a bigger space for his signature and that was it. No real feedback, but I'll take a "nice job" anyday. He said it a couple times, actually. It was very unreal, watching a real judge sign something I wrote and knowing that this would be going out into the real world and having a real impact.

(2) As it turns out, the day I missed work was a day that a hot shot attorney came in to argue a mega-huge case (these are actual lawyer terms I'm using, of course--it's a closely guarded secret of the profession that we all talk like surfers). The one guy at work who never has an ill thing to say about anyone actually described him with a word that begins with "a" and ends with "hole," and it was supplemented by adjectives. My jaw almost hit the floor, because I just didn't even think the guy was capable of swearing. The consensus was the same from the others in the office. Clearly, the lawyer must have really bad to elicit this kind of reaction. Wish I had been there.

(3) The papers are done!! All 43 are done!! Despite all my complaints about many of the papers (and they were warranted more often than not), there were a couple students who really improved on this last assignment. I felt good about this, even though I had minimal influence (if any) on how the students do. I've only met a handful of them, and I doubt they read the comments I put on their papers. But, I still like seeing someone work hard and then having a breakthrough moment, where you can tell they turned a corner in their level of understanding or ability. I guess this is what must motivate people to become professors and then stick with it so long, at least the ones who seem to actually care about pedagogy as much as research.

(4) I finally got over being sick. Everyone I know in Michigan (and I'm not exaggerating) has had or currently has the same thing. And it's awful, whatever it is. You'll think you have really bad allergies at first, then a really bad head cold, then a sort of flu-like thing, and then a delirious night of fever and aches and general yuck, and then feel relatively good the next day, except that you could swear you were beaten with a hammer. I think at some point there was a baseball behind my nose. It sure felt that way.

(5) Construction has gripped downtown Lansing. Actually, it's always under construction, but it's especially bad lately. Not really newsworthy, but getting to work when your building is in the middle of all the torn up streets and now torn up sidewalks is really enjoyable.

(6) This mortgages class I'm in has some classic sound bites. I've been writing them down, and hopefully I won't forget to post a long list of them in a couple weeks. Which reminds me, the exam for my summer class is in about two weeks. It's always fun to realize something like that....

(7) My sister and her [insert relationship word here because they don't "label" it--special friends or something, I don't know] from Texas are going to Chicago for a fun and festive three days around the Fourth of July. Her blog should be very fun over the next two months leading up to this and following it. Elvira would have been very useful in the days of yore when oral tradition was critical--she still talks about her trip to France from when she was in high school. So read her blog, it should be interesting. Lots more interesting than mine over that time frame, I assure you.

(8) The power went out an hour or two ago (after five days of 90 degree stickiness, a huge storm finally rolled through--and there was a very frightened deer about thirty feet--really!--from my front door, but my digital camera wasn't charged, darnit). Anyways, my laptop battery is dying, so I must cut short this riveting entry.....

07 June 2005

By the way...

...the Detroit Pistons are awesome, in case you didn't know. Especially for beating a Florida team (yes, I have an intense dislike for all teams from Florida). They remind you of what a good team plays like, rather than just a random collection of superstars. The remind you of how sweet it is to witness a superb defensive performance. They make the NBA worthwhile. Heck, they even make the city of Detroit redeemable (and that's saying a lot, trust me).

As much as I don't have anything against the Spurs, I'm betting on a repeat championship. Sorry to all my friends from San Antonio, but all y'all's boys are goin' down.

Random sidenote: only ten papers left to grade! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel...

06 June 2005

Wow, an incredibly dull three days...

I was sick all weekend, and I'm still sick today, and the forecast for tomorrow is mildly sick with a chance of thunderstorms and lingering body aches. And it's been unusually warm outside (it hit 90 on Sunday! 90!! In Michigan in early June!). As anyone knows, being not well when it's freakin' gorgeous outside is torture. I had to call in sick to the Tribunal today (all at once now: awwww, too bad). I wonder if I'm missed at all after only being there three weeks. The warped part of me imagines that the cubicles fall down and a pool table and dart boards appear, and a big bin of koosh balls is wheeled out. At least, I'm assuming all the fun happens when I'm not there, because it certainly doesn't happen when I am there, and no place can be unfun for eight hours straight every day. Can it? Should it?

That, and I'm enjoying the fruits of my procrastination. By failing to consistently work on grading papers (my TA job) I've managed to leave myself with, quite literally, exactly enough hours to finish them by the deadline for grades being due. Each paper takes an hour. And each is about exactly the same thing, dealing with the same cases, making the same arguments. I think I age more quickly when grading papers. But the really sick part is that the perfectionist proofreader part of me kind of gets off on the whole process. Figuratively, I mean.

Meanwhile, TV is conspiring to slow me down: specifically, the French Open finals, and a collection of entertaining action films, like The Matrix and The Mummy and--yes--Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (her lips are huge!!! but I guess it's all relative....). To be honest, Ron Popeil infomercials could distract me in my current frame of mind ("set it, and forget it!"). Let's just say I got the most grading done during Tomb Raider, can't imagine why. Spider-Man is on tonight--maybe I can dwell on the upside-down kiss scene for a few minutes. I'll have to put that on my to-do list....

Did a lot of cooking this weekend, but it was one of those stretches where stuff just didn't taste good, to the extent I could taste it. I did go to class this morning, which I consider a real example of my burgeoning maturity (or an ability to ignore my common sense--they might be the same thing). It was funny, mainly because I swear the prof was speaking another language most of the time. And all the grades are in now from Spring semester. I will simply say that my ability to pull a 4.0 clearly died in undergrad. The L in law school must mean "lowered expectations" or "looney grading system," since I got the same grade in a class I thought I almost failed as I did in a class that I thought I might have a chance of getting the high score in, proving once again that I have no ability to predict how I will do in any class, regardless of my effort or my level of class participation. Which is oh so satisfying. I have also come to the conclusion that four credit classes are not my friend, and have proceeded to drop such classes from my schedule next year. Even though they will be heavily tested on the bar, I've decided I'd rather just take "fun" classes (using the term very loosely) and study the other stuff on my own. I'll have to see how smart that decision is. Maybe someone out there can advise...

Clearly, there is nothing exciting to share, so I'll end this. Please, something happen to me so that I can write about it (something not bad, of course).

01 June 2005

Tennis Rocks

I love tennis. Far and away, this is my favorite spectator sport. And, if I was athletically inclined, it would probably be my favorite to play. I generally like individual sports anyways--something is exciting about knowing someone is out there with just whatever is going on between their ears. This is why I like kickers so much in football. You can just tell they're not really part of the team, that they're a breed apart from the rest. You need cojones to go it alone. Then again, relying on the other guys in a team can be scary, as can facing them in the locker room if you monumentally screwed up somehow. But still, the stakes just don't seem as high as in the solo sports. Underdog victories feel bigger, the true champions seem even more stratospheric, and the heartbreaking losses seem to linger even more.

The French Open is the big event du jour (note the (incorrect) use of a French phrase to describe something French--wasn't that subtle?). In that spirit, I thought I'd give some reasons for why I've grown to love this major, and I'll try to be mostly sincere, because I really do like it, and so should you:

(10) The candid people shots are filled with French people looking very fashionably French and doing things like feeding custard to their incredibly tiny dogs.

(9) Unlike the stringent Wimbledon rules (as white as possible with very little color! oh, and that goes for the clothing, too), the French (they are fashionable) encourage designer tennis duds. Bright cheerful colors are the order of the day, and previously unseen portions of tennis players will be exposed daily. Um, on the court, of course, and very tastefully...I mean, respectfully. Nevermind.

(8) The surface is clay! Add really hot temps and a lot of sweat, and you basically have as close to a tennis mud-wrestling match as you'll ever get.

(7) A couple years ago, I would have said this major event was your best chance to not see the Williams sisters play eachother in the final. Now, your best chance to not see them play in a final is basically whenever Venus devotes too much time to her fashion career (she's very fashionable, too, so I'm guessing she's part French), which is pretty much always.

(6) You can discover that John McEnroe is physically incapable of pronouncing any name that (a) is not "American" (b) has more than three syllables (c) has the letter "x" or "z." You will also discover that he seems to have very little to say when the more "obscure" (i.e. not American) players are playing.

(5) You get to repeatedly hear that the French crowd is very "tough" and "partisan," because sports should not be about caring who wins or loses. Unless the French crowd goes for an American (if there is an American who can actually make it into the second week anymore), which is okay because it serves as reparations for whatever the French have done wrong this year.

(4) You'll no longer have to imagine what it would look like for a giant, fuzzy yellow ball to fly around the Eiffel Tower. And I know it's been keeping you up at nights, trying to imagine it. What will those special effects wizards dream-up next!

(3) The injury treatments just seem sexier at the French Open. Maybe because it's late springtime, and love is in the air. Or maybe it's just me....

(2) Spain is the winter training ground of all Europe. Spain has clay courts. Therefore, all European players are adept at clay. Florida is the winter training ground for Americans. It does not have clay courts. Therefore, American players with few exceptions drop like flies (very sexy, fashionable flies) at Roland Garros. Therefore, you get to learn about the rest of the tennis world, which is basically Spain for the men and Russia for the women. Therefore, you'll feel a little smarter at the country club this weekend. But then you realize you don't belong to a country club. And then you're not happy. But then you see the yellow ball fly around the Eiffel Tower, and hear McEnroe butcher another name, and all is right in the world.

and the number one reason to watch the French Open:
(1) All the season finales are done, and watching that "Dancing with the Stars" reality show isn't cutting it.

I really like that Howie Day song "Collide." I realize this isn't exactly novel considering it's in the Top 10 on Billboard, but I figured I'd share it anyway.

Although I’m a generally tidy person, I’ve tended to let my room go while in law school. Random piles of random stuff have merged together into random mountains of paper, and the chair that would have been perfectly good lounging has become the perfect receptacle for t-shirts and sweatshirts and jeans. Every few months, though, I manage to wake up with enough extra gusto to really clean my room—more than changing the bed sheets and clearing a small patch in the middle of my desk, in other words. Basically, I try to give everything some semblance of organization, somehow. The highlight of this operation, of course, is sorting through my desk and bookshelves. I’m amazed at what I find. Projects that I never finished, things that I printed for a very important reason I can no longer recall, work done for various people that in the end was not needed—all completely useless, except to drum up memories good and bad (which is, actually, rather useful). Occasionally, I find something that actually deserves being kept.

A few days ago, during one of my cleaning days, I found an old Cambridge graph pad, filled to the last page with various sketches and blueprints and ideas. I have no idea how old I would have been when these were done, or why I had it in my room at all. But I remember with startling clarity how much fun it was to do some of those blueprints. And then I found some of the rough drafts of the newsletter I was supposed to get off the ground at my previous “job” during my undergrad years. These were two things I really enjoyed. Even today, the best way I can think of to spend my free time is to design something or write something. It means being creative, and for me that’s something essential to my happiness.

Unfortunately, I always figured that these were simply hobbies—happy diversions away from the “real world” version of me. The “me” who would be a lawyer or doctor or researcher. These are all things I enjoy, but would I choose to spend the rest of my days writing briefs and browsing Westlaw? Probably not. But if I follow the typical path, I’ll spend at least eight hours a day over the next several years doing things that I’ll find a little mundane, while my supposed “hobbies” will be relegated to the sidelines.

Why is it so hard to find and pursue our dreams? As children, we have these big, uninhibited imaginings. We don’t care about the how or why or what, we just have this inner faith that we can do anything. Practicality be damned. Even the shy and timid among us are relatively fearless, at least compared with the adults we become later.

Maybe being an adult isn’t some grand event or wonderful evolution. Maybe it’s just the grudging acceptance that practicality itself is actually a thing—and an increasingly heavy thing—to be balanced in whatever calculus we use when making decisions. It happens when we first say to ourselves “that’s just not practical.” This is why some fourteen year olds seem regrettably very much like adults, and why some forty year olds are maddeningly childish (as opposed to childlike): it’s simply a function of how much they’ve been forced into the practical way of thinking. Perhaps being realistic is good sometimes, but I think most of the time it can be damaging. It causes us to take a path of least resistance, a path that will be efficient and sensible and smart for us and everyone involved with us.

But as much as practicality is used to define adulthood, I think that more weight should be accorded to how vigorously we pursue our crazy dreams. I’m not advocating bringing down the people around us in pursuit of self-serving goals, or a total abandonment of responsibility. Obligation and constraint tempers us and makes us stronger, and helps ensure that we are running toward something rather than away from life itself.

And this is where I have a confession to make: I think that I’ve spent too much time over the past few years being terribly practical, but running away from myself all the time. I can give a great canned answer when asked why I’ve done the things I’ve done, but the honest answer, too often, would be simply: “because that’s what I was supposed to do….” I’m not even sure where I came up with this set of expectations. I guess it’s some weird blend of what I think my parents want (even though they’re both big believers in being a dreamer) and what I see everyone around me doing. Maybe—probably—I’m expecting too much of myself. Maybe I’ve made the obstacles seem bigger than they actually are.

I think for most of us lost dreamers, though, the answer is simply that we’ve forgotten how to recognize what we love and what brings us happiness. We’ve forgotten how to distinguish between what makes us interested, and what makes us passionate. In my case, I can think of only a handful of subjects or activities that I would definitely say I strongly dislike, toward which I have zero curiosity. Everything else—most of the known universe, it seems—is fair game. Obviously, I’m blessed to have had so much opportunity to wait and think about what makes me tick. But, once again, I’ve managed to overthink. And, even worse, I’ve lost my once unquestioning faith that I would be guided along somehow toward where I was supposed to be in life. Instead, I’ve done so much steering and maneuvering that I’ve managed to get lost.

So when I was looking at my old blueprints and magazine layouts, I was confronted with the old dilemma of how to get myself back to a place that feels more true without completely rocking the boat and knocking apart everything I’ve done in the last four years. Basically, I was confronted with the problem of taking the “adult” approach to reworking my life. Honestly, it’s a problem without an easy solution, and I don’t have it all figured out. Perhaps no one does. Perhaps this is what we all have to slowly figure out in order to have a good and meaningful life, whatever that might be. But for as frustrating as it can be to feel “lost,” there is something to be said for admitting that we’re not on the right path. Despite the cliché, I guess admitting there’s a problem, and having the willingness to fix it, really is an important first step. Who knows—that just might be the meaning of becoming an adult.