Sunday, April 29, 2007

Economics? From Me?

Well, not instigated by me, at least. I was just reading one of TS O'Rama' posts, this time contemplating the relationship between monetary and soteriological (I like big words) economies. He points out that CS Lewis prayed for relief for his wife's pain and experienced more pain just as hers was lessening. I've heard similar stories from others I know personally, and TS rightly notes how this can be confusing: if we say that pain seems to be zero-sum, is that an argument that God isn't all-powerful and able to simply take away pain without a 1:1 compensation?

At first I thought that perhaps this would imply that the penalty for literally every sin committed by mankind was borne by Christ, and that this seemed very implausible as each of us (probably) sins every day and there have been billions of people, while Jesus only had 33 years. As much as He suffered, there's still not a 1:1 payment of pain. However, the wages of sin isn't pain, but death, and thus it could be argued that Christ's one innocent death was worth billions of guilty deaths (although I'm sympathetic to Lewis's and Wesley's views of a more governmental nature of atonement). I feel as though I'm writing very densely and not really connecting the dots for anyone reading this; I'll try and do better.

It seems to me that at least some pain is transferable, at least indirectly. When Jesus cast out the "Legion" demons from the possessed man, they asked to be allowed a specific other place to dwell. While not all pain is due to demons, at least some seems to be. Perhaps some is also the payment (or consequence or due) for something, and simply must be suffered by someone. If this is the case, like the penalty for sin, then it would seem that it could be transferred, especially by request of someone sympathetic. As for other pain, which is simply the consequence of living in a fallen world, I don't know that there's any reason why it should be able to be transferred, although perhaps it could be removed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Computer Shopping

I'm realizing that I'll need some new things for law school. My cell phone plan ends soon and so I need to consider plans. I had Verizon while at Tech because it was the only carrier to get decent service, but Williamsburg is likely to be much better covered. My parents and one of my sisters have been using Cingular and they seem to really like that, in addition to having racked up more rollover minutes than they could possibly hope to use (I think I figured that it would take them talking nonstop for over five weeks (not counting nights and weekends) to get through them all. I'm also not sure what to do for a phone. I have the Audiovox CDM-8940 which has been okay but not stellar (the power jack on the phone is getting finicky, but the sound from the phone has always been excellent), and I'm wondering if I should get another basic phone, one of the ones with the fold-out QWERTY keyboard, or something like a Palm Treo. I don't want overkill, but it would be great to be able to browse the internet from whererever I am.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about computers, not cell phones. Due to a variety of issues, starting with human rights but also including quality, I'm unwilling to buy a computer made in China (and yes, I know that components of all computers are probably made do what you can). That leaves me with Fujitsu (Japan), Dell (USA), and Acer (Taiwan)(possibly Asus, too, but I don't know anything about them). I'm also looking for a small, portable computer. The Toshiba A75-S229 is nice when it runs, although it often doesn't, and at 8lbs is a little heavy for a daily commute. Toshiba's tech support has also been abysmal, as has Best Buy's. At this point I've narrowed it down to two computers. They're both subcompact notebooks with 12.1" screens. I'd hook each of them up to a dock with a monitor and full-sized keyboard (and perhaps external hard drive) at home, so physical size isn't so important (I may implement this bit-by-bit as, and if, needed). Both are somewhat pricey, but I think you get what you pay for. I want something that will last me through the three years of law school and having to buy a replacement after two years would negate the price difference and would add a lot of hassle. Both computers have metal cases and are reputed to be relatively durable.

The first option is the Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010. It's really, really sleek-looking and at 2.2lbs sounds amazingly light. On the other hand, it's really, really expensive and has only so-so RAM. If the RAM can be upgraded then things are looking a lot better. One of the things I like most about it is that it's made in Japan. Obviously things have changed from the times of my parents and grandparents when "Made in Japan" is an august sign of quality. The "2010" in the name also seems somewhat auspicious, although not several-hundred-dollars-extra-auspicious if everything else is comparable.

The second option is the Dell XPS M1210. It's a bit heavier at 4.5lbs and requires some customizing before it's really comparable with the Q2010, but even with that it's several hundred dollars cheaper. "Made in USA" can be a mixed endorsement, and Dell's tech support has been called "Dell Hell" before. It does, however, have an integrated optical drive, even if it's about twice as thick as the Fujitsu.

I think it pretty much boils down to this: do I want something sleek and probably dependable yet expensive, or take a gamble on something that's probably fine, but is heavier and if it's not fine will be a major pain? What would a lawyer do?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thanks for the Support

I've been amazed and humbled by the support directed my way in the wake of Monday's shootings. Mark Byron, TS O'Rama and the anonymous commenter two posts below each immediately thought of me when they heard the news, even though they've never met me and only know me through my online scribblings at HokiePundit, the blog to which this is a sequel. The folks at Dean's World have been supportive as well, and a number of people I know from working at Kids Across America called, texted, or emailed to see if I was okay and if I needed any prayer. You don't think about how much it means to have people thousands of miles away, sometimes whom you've never met in person, care about you and want to help.

I simply sat in shock for most of Monday, watching the news and doing some online commenting (if anyone was offended, I ask for your forgiveness and patience). Tuesday I still didn't really know what to do, and spent some hours in nearby Roanoke just to be out of Blacksburg for a bit. I'm pretty much just letting things sink in and wash over me. I'm trying not to make any rash decisions, but just to be still and know that God is there, was there, and always will be there. Pray as often as you feel led, but don't feel obligated. We're making it through, and our God is a god of healing and redemption and He will bring some good from this.

"We Are Virginia Tech. We Will Prevail."

That's what the sign in front of the Comfort Inn in Blacksburg reads right now. I'll upload a picture once I can. It's striking, and the reason for that is because there are several streams of thought regarding the tragedy that happened here at Tech on Monday. The first is prayerfulness for those affected. People from all over have been letting me know that they're praying for the situation here, and I appreciate those prayers. Please keep them coming as long as you feel led to do so. If you're not the praying type, keep us in your thoughts. God can use and honor that, even if you don't know it. I personally haven't been very directly affected, as I was never in any danger. Of those killed or wounded, there's only one I even knew in passing. Ryan "Stack" Clark was the RA in West Ambler Johnston who was killed, and he had been a member of the 'Tones section of the Marching Virginians, in addition to holding some leadership posts. By all accounts and from my very limited experience, he was a great guy and it's a huge loss that he's gone. He will be missed.

The second stream I've noticed is that of unity and defiance in the face of evil, because in honesty that's what happened: evil intruded on our community. The enemy wasn't the killer, or guns, or mental instability, or any of those other things; it was the Enemy. We're fooling ourselves if we think there will be peace in this life apart from knowing God in Christ. This was a perfect example of that. Virginia Tech is an interesting mixture of the idyllic and the academic. It's a good school, and it's a good place to send your kids or to attend yourself. There's a sense of community and school spirit that seems alien to folks from almost every other college and university I've ever met. They're amazed at how nearly all of us have VT stickers on our cars, how we proudly wear our orange and maroon, and how we'll tell everyone who asks that we think that our school is great (and without putting their school down...unless it's UVA or Miami or something like that, and even that's done in something of an over-the-top way). We'll trace the "flying VT" logo (the one the sports teams use, and used in the post below this) in dust and doodle it on handouts. We're regarded as ever-so-slightly-not-quite-right-in-the-head, and that's fine with us. The first thing you see when you come here are cows and cornfields, followed by the stadium and a huge set of maroon bushes in the shape of a flying VT.

We have a certain, and good, reputation within the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the region. Often mocked as a "cow college," we're known as a place that produces solid, dependable, down-to-earth graduates. UVA is very highly ranked and William & Mary is indisputably the top school in the Commonwealth (at least for liberal arts), but it's Virginia Tech that, if mentioned, will elicit a reply along the lines of "Tech? My husband/daughter/cousin/neighbor went/goes there!" as opposed to a mere "Huh. Good school." Our motto, "Ut Prosim," is different from most other schools'. Whereas most places seem to have mottoes along the lines of "Knowlege, Brotherhood, Justice" and the like, ours means "That I May Serve." It's right, too: Virginia Tech Hokies are servant-leaders. Maybe it's because we have two mascots (the other is the Fighting Gobbler) and we're not precisely sure what a Hokie actually is (although we're sure it could whup your mascot), or because we have to drive through miles and hours of mountains to get to campus or because we're unique in believing that orange and maroon go together (and, gosh darn it, they do, or why else would the leaves turn those colors in the fall?), but there's a community spirit here and among alumni that's second to none.

That's why this was such a shocking, heartbreaking thing: evil inserted itself into our lives and attacked something we hold dear. I'd be shocked and sympathetic if it had happened in the town of Blacksburg or at nearby Radford University, but it happened at my alma mater. What I just said really does describe how I feel: not scared, a little sad, a little angry, but mostly heartbroken. At the same time, though, defiant. Go back and look at the pictures of students this week: there's some black for mourning, but there's a lot, a lot of orange and maroon. Everywhere you look people are wearing the school colors. At the convocation and vigil defiant chants of "Let's go Hokies!" were started and continued for several minutes. This community isn't going to fold or mope or sulk, although there have been tears and there will be many more.

Virginia Tech is a good school. Send your kids here if you want them to gain an ethos of community spirit and of service to others. They'll pick up a pretty decent education along the way. Blacksburg and the New River Valley are beautiful, and both Blacksburg and nearby Roanoke provide access to high culture, with the surrounding area, especially Floyd County, showcasing the best of Appalachian life. You can go to the opera in Roanoke, hike at the Cascades and Dragon's Tooth, see major bands in concert, eat country cookin' at the Homeplace, watch us demolish our athletic opponents, or just enjoy a quiet moment at the Duck Pond (and amaze your friends at the stepping stones).

We are Virginia Tech, and we will prevail.

Monday, April 16, 2007

April 16th, 2007

I live in Blacksburg, having gotten my BA from Virginia Tech in 2004 and my MAEd in 2006. For anyone reading this, please pray for the health of those in the hospital, the community, and for the souls of the victims (and the shooter).

I'm kind of shellshocked right now. I'll post some thoughts tomorrow, or maybe a few days from now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Computers or Paper in the Classroom?

There've been a lot of posts on legal blogs about the use (and banning) of laptop computers in the classroom for law school. This recent blogstorm started with this Washington Post article by Georgetown Law professor David Cole, and I heard about it through The Volokh Conspiracy. Reading the comments and following the links has been very useful to me, as people have very different takes on the issue.

Personally, I'm looking to buy a new laptop for when I start classes this August. I have a "desktop replacement" by Toshiba which is great when it works but is also pretty finicky. It's failed on me several times since I got it, including times during grad school when I really, really could have used it. It's not reliable enough to use as my main computer. However, I could use it as my "home" computer at my apartment and use the new one for research and in class. I went to Virginia Tech and technology was obviously stressed and implemented into many of my courses. At the same time, though, I only ever used my laptop in class once throughout my bachelor's and master's degrees, and that was to look up a picture of something we were discussing in class to explain the concept. I always took notes by hand, and I always made my outlines by hand on unlined paper before typing them up into a paper.

Actually, that's not quite true. I had a Palm Pilot with a full-sized keyboard my Freshman year, and not only did it make me look like a dork, but it also severely restricted my ability to take notes. I'm also told that in most professional schools (and colleges!) you can't have your laptop in front of you. If you can't use it in the courtroom, either, then it would seem that relying on it in the classroom might prevent you from developing and maintaining your notetaking by hand skills, to the detriment of your courtroom performance. Your computer hacking skills might get better, although I doubt there'd be an effect on your bowhunting or nunchuck skills.

Don't get me wrong: a wizard presentation using available technology could be really useful in the courtroom, although at the same time I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of using eye candy to convince a judge or jury unless the other side is doing so as well, as it seems kind of unfair. I know I'm naive and inexperienced, but I don't want justice to be subverted just because someone has l337 skillz (is good with computers). I like the idea of being able to instantly look up information, and having a computer with me in class as a reference sounds pretty useful, but as a notetaking medium I'm not so sure.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Why Not Apply Everywhere?

Okay, so here were my basic stats:
UGPA: 2.97 (Virginia Tech)
LSAT: 166

Those are the two most easily quantified factors. As for my "intangibles" :
-bachelor's degree in Political Science from a science & technology school, albeit a major state university with a positive reputation
-master's degree in education with a GPA of 3.47
-one semester of academic probation
-Virginia resident
-"legacy" connections at Richmond and William & Mary
-several instances of community service with continued interest (doing the same thing several times)
-solid extracurriculars (band, campus ministry)
-leadership positions in extracurriculars and community service
-good letters of recommendation
-good writing sample on LSAT
-good personal statement

I decided that I wasn't interested in attending any large programs, such as those with more than 250 students per class. I also wasn't really interested in schools outside the Southeast. I visited American, Emory, George Mason, Georgia, Richmond, Tennessee, Wake Forest, and Villanova and realized that I didn't really like private schools and eliminated all but Richmond from my list. I also learned very early from Richmond that I had been accepted and so there was no reason for me to apply to any safety schools, as Richmond is a good school. I narrowed my list to George Mason, Georgia, Richmond, Tennessee, and William & Mary (although I only applied to W&M because my parents wanted me to, as I considered it such a reach that I figured that I was simply throwing away my $50). This small list, especially as most were public schools, saved me several hundred dollars in application fees.

Let me stress for a moment how important it is to visit the schools. If you're not comfortable at the school you're not going to do well. You need to know if you're okay with an urban campus, with a place surrounded by miles and miles of nothingness, and even if you like the architecture. The first four of the schools where I applied each had advantages and disadvantages, but it was William & Mary where everything just clicked for me. There were areas where each school rivalled W&M, but there was no other school in my list that beat it in any category, let alone rivalled it in every way. It has a wonderful faculty, a gorgeous and relaxed setting, a solid reputation, and I would pay in-state tuition.

Not everyone will see my criteria as important. For some law school is simply a springboard, and the place with the most prestige and highest-paid job prospects is where they want to be. Others are tied to a specific area or need scholarships to be able to attend. Know what you want, and go for it.


There are a lot of ideas on how best to prepare for the LSATs, including spending hundreds of dollars on prep classes by groups such as Kaplan. I'm pretty good at taking standardized tests and, furthermore, I didn't want to spend $500+ on the type of preparation that doesn't usually work for me. Instead, I went to the LSAC's website and ordered their actual past LSAT tests and practiced on those for several weeks before the December administration of the test.

If you're going to take the LSAT, my advice is simply to take actual former LSATs. Skip everything else, especially practice LSATs that were simply made up and aren't authentic. Time yourself, but give yourself a little less time than you will actually get (I used 30 minutes when I knew I'd actually have 35). For each section I recorded how much time it took me and how many of the questions I got right, plus when it was taken. This taught me that it was very important to my abilities to take the test after a good night's rest, to eat right, and to stay in practice, as my scores after staying up late, eating a lot of junk food, or not practicing for a few days were always lower. It also gave me a realistic understanding of what I'd get, as my scores consistently were between 160 and 169 (not absolutely amazing but still very good). The Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections were easy for me, but remember to read the questions carefully. From timing my sections I came to realize that I would have plenty of time to read each question carefully, and doing so helped bump up my score by a handful of points. It was the Analytical Reasoning ("logic games") section which gave me trouble.

For the Analytical Reasoning section, I didn't even finish it within the time limit for the first several practice tests I took. There were two main reasons for this. The first was that I was trying to diagram out every part of the question, rather than simply trying to find the answer to what was being asked. The second was that I wasn't recognizing patterns. The AR section tends to have four sets of questions, with six or seven per set. The first question in each set can usually be figured out without even creating a rudimentary diagram, as four of the five options can be eliminated directly (for instance, knowing that "Amy" can't be the answer for who is present on Wednesday because you are given the condition "Amy must only work on Monday"). In case you missed it, the names are usually one per letter, such as Amy, Betty, Carol, Denise, Emily, and so on, which means that you can simply identify them by letter when you diagram (each second is valuable). Remember that the questions in each set get harder and that each set is harder than the one before it. Don't spend too long on each question; if you can eliminate two answers but are stuck, guess. There's no penalty. You may also want to bring an analog watch (no danger of beeping) with you to the test. At about a minute or even just thirty seconds before the end of the section, guess on any questions you haven't already answered. If you've got five left the odds are you'll guess at least one right, and that could be a whole point on your final score. Again, there's no penalty, so even getting them all wrong doesn't hurt you.

It's very important to keep your mind in shape. Take at least one practice test a day in the weeks before the test, and take two if possible. You want to do the entire test in one sitting and you want to shut out all distractions such as TV or your phone (although taking one or two with distractions may be helpful to help you learn how to shut out noises like someone with a sniffly nose, the person who taps their pencil as they think, or a creaky air conditioner).

If you prepare then there's no reason not to be confident when you go in, so long as you're realistic. I knew I'd prepared and that I'd done well on standardized tests in the past, and so I was relaxed. I'd already printed out my LSAT admission ticket and laid out my clothes for that day the night before and I had three mechanical #2 pencils. I didn't expect to get a 180, but I also knew that even if my mind completely went blank I would probably get at least a 155 (my lowest practice score was a 157 taken under terrible conditions). Don't concentrate on wanting a certain score so as to get into a specific score; do your best and take it from there.

Why Would I Want to Go to Law School?

Well, I originally didn't. I entered Virginia Tech as a biology major with the intent of becoming a veterinarian or physician. Although both of my parents attended law school, I simply wasn't interested. I graduated with a degree in Political Science, but having had taken classes focusing more on theory and international politics, along with a minor in history. I had it in my head that I wanted to teach social studies, and so I went on to earn my M.A.Ed from VT. For a variety of reasons, including No Child Left Behind and the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, I decided not to pursue teaching. I substitute taught in the local public schools, and during one day when I did not have a job I, out of boredom, took a practice LSAT from a book my roommate had. Having had no preparation, I did very, very well on it and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, my skills, talents, and interests would best be satisfied by studying and practicing law. I also considered eventually trying to pursue a Ph.D or Th.D down the line, but I finally came to decide that a JD would give me both the academic background to pursue further studies and write and also the ability to better act and help others. In my next post I'll discuss my applications process.

An Introduction

My name is Robert Bauer, and this is my new blog. I formerly ran the blog HokiePundit, but that eventually collapsed in on itself. I will be attending law school at William & Mary this fall (2007), and this blog is for that time. Why not just restart HokiePundit? I felt as though a fresh start would be best, while not disowning what I've written before. My first set of posts will be about my decision to attend law school and the application process.