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Dan (drs9p)'s blog of doom
Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:54 am
I added the "of doom" to get more people to read. Did it work? Anyway, I've been wanting to post my personal statement on here in case anyone could benefit from it. I'm not sure the subject I chose is necessarily a "safe" way to go, but I am an avid writer and huge grammar natzi, so it should at least help in this regard. It's also a nice way to introduce myself. Here you go:
People of faith are often told to “be in the world, but not of the world.” Unfortunately, no one ever specifies which world. For me, there have always been two. The Mormon world and the world outside seem ever in conflict, and I’ve lived caught between them. My fight to inhabit both worlds without being defined by either has made me who I am today and set me on the path to law school.
My struggle with the Mormon world began on my first Friday in kindergarten with five words from a particularly reverent six-year-old named Matt Hansen. My dad was finally taking me to the zoo’s new shark exhibit that weekend, and I just couldn’t hold in the news. “I’m going to the see the sharks,” I practically shouted as my class gathered in a circle for large group. My teacher asked when I’d be going, and I enthusiastically replied, “The day after tomorrow!” Enter Matt Hansen, sitting cross-legged at the opposite end of a circle that included nearly every acquaintance I’d made in my short life. As a now familiar look of dismay played slowly across his face, he offered his five-word condemnation: “But Daniel, that’s a Sunday.”
So began my alienation from and struggle with the Mormon world. I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in name but not necessarily in spirit. My mother raised me in the church, while my agnostic but supportive father encouraged me to form my own beliefs. My beliefs did not prohibit me from visiting the zoo with him on the Sabbath, while my classmates’ fathers--both heavenly and earthly--forbade it.
My actions clashed with those of more devout Utahns many more times in my childhood. Sometimes these clashes were humorous, as when I found myself defending Darwin’s theory of evolution against widespread ridicule from a lunch table full of high school classmates who subscribed only to the six-day theory. More often, they were tragic.
The most harrowing experience I’ve ever endured was explaining to my ecclesiastical leader who was also my Grandfather that I would not be serving a mission for his church (as all 19 year-old Mormon males are expected to do), but would instead be continuing my education at the University of Virginia. After years of struggling against a culture that desperately wanted me to share its beliefs, I had finally decided to take my father’s advice and seek out my own. Knowing I couldn’t do this in Bountiful (yes, it’s really called “Bountiful”) under constant pressure to fully convert, I disappointed my friends, my congregation, my grandfather/bishop, and half of my family by forgoing a mission and leaving Utah in search of what we used to call the “real” world.
I came face to face with that world on my first Friday of college as I watched my particularly irreverent roommate named Robert Gregory Kingston III pour three beers down his throat through a funnel. An impressive feat, to be sure, but not one I hoped to emulate. I had left Utah in search of a place where one’s faith need not define him and where differences are embraced. As I became ever more immersed in college’s culture of celebrated cretinism, I realized that such places don’t really exist.
I was as much at odds with the “real world” as I had been with the Mormon world. I didn’t drink or smoke, I thought it was a good idea to stave off sex until marriage, and my idea of a “party” was viewing all three Back to the Future movies in a row while a rousing game of Scrabble raged on in another room. Though the University preached a message of understanding and acceptance, my personal mores were as much under fire there as my doctrinal edicts had been in Bountiful. Making the difficult daily decisions to forgo alcohol and resist the hook-up culture, I once again found myself estranged from the world I inhabited.
This Friday, as I sit in my Charlottesville law office, overlooking the colonial outpost’s historic downtown, I realize that it’s only thanks to my struggles against those two worlds that I am now able to live in my own. The obviousness of my differing values forced me to maintain them without apology. Others eventually came to respect that, and, while I never truly felt a part of either culture, I learned to thrive in both. I graduated Bountiful High School as a popular student body vice president with good friends who had stopped trying to convert me. I finished college (after just three years of identity crises!) with good grades, a strong sense of self, and a core group of friends who understand and respect my beliefs. Though difficult at times, my perpetual isolation from a cultural identity forced me to form my own and taught me to stay true to it.
It also made me fall in love with law for the most visceral of reasons. In law, my problems do not exist. There are no Mormons and no agnostics in law. There is no culture and no doctrine. Law concerns itself only with blind justice and the maintenance of a fair system. As someone who had always been defined by his faith or lack thereof, I’ve longed to work in a field where it is not an issue. More importantly, my social alienation has taught me what it’s like to be the one against many. I know how it feels to defend a harmless zoo trip to a room full of hostile kindergartners, to espouse Darwin against fundamentalist teenagers, and to be the only guy holding a root beer at a frat party. I know what it’s like to stand alone against an unfriendly system, and I find it truly inspiring that Americans are never forced to do so. Instead, the accused faces the system with an advocate legally bound to be as infinitely trustworthy as he is loyal. I can think of nothing nobler or for which my life has better prepared me than to spend my career as that advocate, against whatever world my client and I face next.
Posted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 12:27 pm
Thanks to everyone who read my PS and those who posted comments on it in Corsair's thread in the main forum. I'm very critical of my own writing, and I'm rarely open enough with it to gain any exterior perspective. I should definitely do more of that. Now, more bloggy goodness:
The waiting is the hardest part. It was true for Tom Petty, and it's true for me. Is anyone else getting pretty bugged by the fact that you've not heard back from schools that you applied to in November? Every day I scedule an important meeting with my mailbox during lunchtime. I get so mad when I find it empty that I think it's grown afraid of me. I mean how long does this really take? Yeah, I know it's a "complex process" and there are "many factors" and bla bla bla, but I half suspect the real reason for the delay is that I am in a pile marked "good, but let's see if anyone better comes along." I guess that's ok. It's not a rejection. I'm just tired of waiting.
The really interesting thing is how much a school can benefit just from releasing their decisions early. Example: Georgetown is a great school and I would be thrilled to go there, but, honestly, it was nowhere near one of my top choices before I got an acceptance letter in December. Now it's all but alone up there simply because it's literally the only T14 (and very nearly the only thing) that's been on my mind for the last two months. I'm visiting tomorrow, and I can't wait! I'm sure I'll get into some other exciting schools, and I'll seriously consider all of them, but none will have the kind of one-on-one alone time with Dan's brain that Georgetown has had. That's a huge advantage for them.
As for the rest, I hope I hear soon. I can deal with a few rejections. I just want to know what my options are.
Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 5:53 pm
Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 4:38 pm
Ah, the sweet smell of rejection! I got an envelope from Columbia today. It was small. But it was also beige, and for some reason I remember someone here saying that acceptances were beige and rejections white. That's kind of ridiculous, but I bought it! Anyway, opened 'er up to be informed that they "were not able to take favorable action," which is really the nicest (and longest) way you can say "thanks, but no thanks."
I have to say, I was sort of relieved in a way. I am so sick of waiting on these letters, biding my time until I have enough information to even begin making a decision about where I'm going to spend the next three years of my life. This brings me one step closer to knowing all of my options, and I'm grateful for it. It also gives me some sense of my limits. You start getting accepted to some reach schools, you start thinking you just might get into all of them. This is, of course, ridiculous (unless you're lety). It's good to get snapped back to reality again.
See? See how mature I am about being rejected? Are you paying attention, ex-girlfriends? I learned something
Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:50 pm
Mostly off-topic blog, continue at your own limited risk:
Well there's one way to take my mind off of my mailbox! I just got back from the UVA/Maryland game at Maryland. We came up with a huge win, after hanging on against a MD rally in the last five minutes. This puts the Cavs in sole possession of the #1 spot in the ACC (at least until BC plays again or UNC beats Duke tonight). This is HUGE for us! I spent four years in college watching subpar basketball/football teams, and they finally step it up the year that I graduate! Figures. Oh well, definitely not complaining.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about how glad I am to have such distractions in my life. Most of the people I've met who are applying for law school are great. Honestly, some of my favorite people ever, and I absolutely cannot wait to spend the next three years with folks like y'all. I have noticed, however, a degree of lopsidedness in a few of the people I met at schools I've visited. I'd say a greater than average number of people in law school, though by no means a majority, take themselves and perhaps their early career way too seriously. They focus so hard on school or law review or whatever, that they forget to also have a life.
Now I'm the first to admit that I went into "the zone" for about two months before the LSAT. It was pretty much all I talked or thought about. It paid off, I suppose, but I still shudder to think of those times. I sincerely hope 1L is not a year-long repeat of that kind of effort.
Even if it is, breaks are essential. Every once in a while, and at least once a week, you need to step back and just do something really distracting. When I visited Georgetown, I spent the whole weekend agonizing over whether I'd love it there or somewhere else more. But on Saturday night, I drove to Baltimore to see Wicked with my mom at the Hippodrome theater. When you're watching something like a great broadway musical or a close basketball game, everything else melts away. All that matters is who has the ball, or who's under the spotlight. You can't put a price on that kind of solace.
As I get ever more anxious for what awaits in my little tin mailbox of destiny, I'm going to need UVA basketball, and plays, and great films, and good music. I'll need all of that to remind myself of who I am outside of all this, and that what I may find in that box at 1:30 each day is really not the only thing that matters.
Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:26 pm
I got a nice thin envelope from UCLA in the mail. I know they call for acceptances, so I was planning on reading a really well composed, "Actually, we don't like you that much." (Un?)Fortunately, this was not the case. I'm on the bleeding waitlist. I could be on there until August 20th, when classes start. Considering that UCLA is one of my top 3 choices, this means that there is absolutely no way I'll have complete peace of mind until next fall. Yes, it's nice that the option is still (kind of) open. But I am so tired of waiting, of not knowing what I'm going to do next year. I thought that would be over by March. Mixed feelings much.
Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 9:37 am
Just a quick update for those who didn't check the "who has REALLY" thread yesterday:
I got into Boalt, and I am excited to the point of spontaneous nudity.
It's still gonna be a tough call, Boalt vs. Georgetown. They're totally different in so many ways, not the least of which being that they're on opposite ends of the country. Boalt is closer to home, it's back West which is home, the weather's nicer, and it's nearer to better sports teams. But...Georgetown is in DC, and ending up in policymaking somewhere has always been a dream of mine. A pipe dream, maybe, but a dream nonetheless.
So yeah, big decision time. It's a good problem to have though. PM me if y'all have any advice.
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:40 am
Wow, I'm reviving the blog of doom from Page 2! It's been a while.
I just got back from my trip to Berkeley, and I thought I'd give a report. Here's the brief: I basically loved it, and I think I'll be going there next year.
In greater detail:
The campus is the most beautiful I've ever seen with the possible exception of UVa. I guess I'm lucky to have the option of attending both! It's high up in the Berkeley hills, overlooking Oakland, San Francisco, and the bay. There are all kinds of trees sprinkled throughout, including Pines/Evergreens, which remind me that I'm back west in my homeland. Gotta love that. There are also streams and fountains all around, which is a nice change from UVa, where there is strangely no water.
While I was entrhalled with the campus itself, the buildings therein are not all that impressive. Keep in mind I'm coming from some of the most beautiful architecture in the country, but I felt that most of the buildings at Berkeley looked like they were put up in a day, probably a day in the 1960s, and haven't changed much since. There's not a lot of uniformity in architectural style either. I saw everything from modern to Egyptian Revival in just a few acres.
My issues with the buildings goes double for the law school. The facilities themselves are by far the biggest drawback of Boalt. Everything's housed in one building that, again, was built in the 60s and hasn't been updated much since. It has, however, been added to repeatedly, which makes for a confusing labrynth of winding hallways that lead nowhere, elevators that don't go to every floor, and classrooms/assembly halls that simply feel rundown. Someone brought up the state of the building during a Q and A, and the dean assured us that a new buiding was one the way "sometime," but that state funding is limited and they prefer to spend their funds on the students instead of the building (which may be true, when you consider that 300+ people attended this admit day and airfare averaging $300 was paid for for all of them, that's $90,000 people!). Regardless, I don't think spending on new facilities and spending on the students are mutually exclusive by any stretch.
The building may be rundown, but when you consider how beautiful the outdoors are, it's easy to get over the indoors. Not only was the campus breathtaking, but the town of Berkeley has a lot to offer. I took a looong walk around town on Thursday, and I think I was able to take in most of downtown and the campus-area. Both are really fun. Up near campus, there's a street called Telegraph Avenue that looks exactly like what you'd picture in Berkeley. Protestors and street performers line the campus gates, and as you descend down Telegraph from there, you pass art vendors, sidewalk cafes, and a number of top-notch music stores (including Amoeba Music, which is simply the BEST record shop I've ever seen, and I've seen many).
Downtown Berkeley is a little more down to earth, but offers everything you need to live. Shattuck Avenue seems to be the hub of the city. There are pubs, restaurants, movie theaters, clothing stores, book stores, video stores, and even a comic shop (!) within just a few city blocks on Shattuck. And all this is just about a 5 minute walk from central campus. Best of all, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, basically a subway system) stops right on Shattuck, and it's very easy to hop a train to downtown San Francisco. You'll be there in about 15-20 minutes. I'll spare you the description of the city itself, since I'm sure descriptions of San Fran are readily available, but I took the BART to both the Pier and Union Square, and both were fantastic. Truly one of America's great cities, and it's very easily accessible from Berkeley.
Enough about my walking tour. I suppose I should describe admit day itself. It started early on Friday morning, with a nice breakfast (great bagles!) and meet and greet. I met so many great people there. Everyone was really easy to talk to, and I found myself immediately liking almost everyone I met. This is different from a few other schools I've visited, where I sensed an aire of pretentiousness in a good portion of the crowd. Berkeley strives to eliminate this in their incoming classes (more on this later), and I really think they succeeded. I'm not saying that Berkeley invites "better" students or "better" people. It just seemed to me that the people at Berkeley were more like me than people at other schools, and that's important.
Breakfast was followed by a reception where Dean Tom (admissions), the Dean Edley (dean of Boalt Hall), and Dean Ortiz (the dean of Berkeley) all spoke to us. I was quite impressed with both Dean Tom and Dean Edley. Edley is simply a hilarious man, but also very intelligent and real. He delivered the best line of the morning: "I don't know how the admissions committee does it, but each year they seem to weed out all the assholes! If a few of you slipped through, please do us a favor and enroll somewhere else!" Each dean expressed a similar (though less blunt) sentiment about the atmosphere at Berkeley. They stressed the friendliness, drive, and charisma of the student body, repeatedly stating that "the students are what makes this a great law school." It got a little grating to hear that over and over, but it really did seem to ring true with what I experienced there and the people I met. Everyone was as laid back, helpful, and cheerful as you can reasonably expect at a T14 law school. Also, the administration involves students in every aspect of decision-making at Berkeley, even admissions. Students review a number of applications and have a say in who gets in. This respect is further evidenced by the fact that Boalt is the ONLY school I know of that requires no deposit to secure a seat in the class. They are willing to take the word of their applicants, and that speaks volumes.
This reception ceremony was followed by a panel discussion with five current students about life at Boalt. Surprise, they all love it and dismiss any potential criticisms! I wasn't real impressed with the panel, but I suppose it was the same as at any of these things. One difference is that the deans and teachers didn't leave the room for the discussion, which suggested to me that the students may not have been speaking compeltely candidly. A few did complain about the building, right in front of the dean, who responded with the claim that the building is "like an old slipper, really ratty and ugly but extremely comfortable once you wear it in" or whatever. All of the students spoke about the comraderie and community of students at Boalt. Because of the unorthodox grading system (read about it in Ken's Boalt profile), there is no competitiveness at Berkeley, and everyone's really helpful to each other. Students mentioned that there are outlines to every course online, posted by other students. One guy said that he missed a few lectures one day, and received notes from the class in his locker the next day before even asking for them. Kinda nice. That was about the gist of the student Q and A.
Finally, we had a mock class with one of the crim law professors. She was really a fun teacher, but I felt that the discussion derailed pretty early since no one there really knew what they were talking about, but everyone seemed pretty thrilled to be talking! The case we studied involved cannibals on a boat lost at sea. I guess they wanted to entice us with the juicy stuff! It was pretty intereting, but, like I said, I doubt it was much like how a real class feels. I'd have preferred to sit in on an actual lecture.
After that we had breakout sessions, which I didn't attend because my dad was in town and wanted to take me to lunch. Hopefully someone else can expand on those.
Finally, they had a little reception in the lobby with delicious mexican food and desserts. They have food everywhere at Boalt! Students say that you can generally bum lunch for free off of the various receptions, etc, in the hallways every day, and oftentimes take-out lunch is explicity provided near the library for anyone who wants it. Kinda great. On top of that, there is a Keg in the main courtyard every friday, provided by a different student group.
After the reception, I went to happy hour hosted by the Criminal Law Journal. I met even more great people there, both admitted students and current. One guy there recognized me from this site! He said, hey are you on TLS? I said, yeah I'm the guy who does this, opening my mouth wide and pointing my finger angrily. He goes, "Oh, drs!" Yeah. Just a lurker though, never posts. Anyway, the happy hour was fun. I think I'll end up doing crim law journal and enjoying it!
Friday night I went to A's vs Yankees at the A's Stadium in Oakland. It was a great game, with the As pulling it out after 11 innings! The game reminded me that not only is Berkeley a nice community and college, but it's situated near a thriving metropolis with two baseball and two fooball teams, not to mention the college sports! Fantastic.
Saturday I hung out around campus for a while, checked out the bookstore and more of Telegraph avenue. My little brother and I scoured the town in search of Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream from Ben and Jerry's. Everywhere was sold out of it, which pretty much forced us to see much of the area. We finally found some at Fred's Market, near campus. He looked sold out, but when we asked he said "hold on" and went to the back. He came out with two pints! It was like a drug deal or something.
Anyway, I guess I've derailed from the point of this post, which is that Berkeley is a really great city, college, and community. The only downsides I could see are the grading system and the building, both of which the students there dismissed as negligible concerns. The single best thing about the trip was the people I met. I'm excited to spend more time with them next fall. That about does it!
My thoughts on TLS's "commencement"
Posted: Thu May 03, 2007 11:50 am
It seems a lot of people are leaving these days. I understand and respect those decisions, and I'll miss all of you who leave. Especially alf and andyroberts, because you guys are hilarious. Anyway, I posted my thoughts on these depatures in another thread, but it ended up feeling more like a blog, so I'll repost it here:
I don't really get the whole "leaving" movement. Ok, the two people we know who had troubles with adcomms a) were very unanonymous and b) made negative comments about a specific school (which they had withdrawn from anyway) or admitted to wrongdoing with seat deposits.
The trouble katkins had seems to be different, though we'll prob never know the details. It does seem to be somthing katkins-specifc though, and not something we all need to worry about. So I don't really understand the mass freakout.
I understand cutting back on posts. I think a lot of us who have been here a while (britt, erin, me, others I'm forgtetting) have posted steadily less since back in September. But we're still around to answer relevant questions, post a blog, review a PS, or start a thread that gets people talking. I thought about leaving recently, but then I realized that such an all-or-nothing mentality really runs counter to the purpose of this board. Instead, I've decided to devote my limited time to helping new people by answering the same questions we've heard 100 times, or writing on a school visit, or encouraging someone who needs it. I'm probably not doing as good a job of this as I should be, but I'm trying.
We're here to help people and help each other with the law school application process. That's why TLS exists. While a nice little online community has sprung up here, that was never really the point. So when the community has problems like infighting or infiltration, it really shouldn't affect the entire board, and it'd be a real shame if it deflated the mission of TLS.
I understand that alf and slash can't keep up with the commitment required to be a regular poster here. I've certainly always been an ancillary member for that reason. I also understand people who don't want to get too involved with the board for security reasons. I just hope that those of us who want to leave the community of TLS will not abondon its mission, to help people who need it. Adcomms have never punished anyone for this, and, to my knowledge, it's never lead to stalking.
We're going to have another wave of applicants here soon, and they'll have questions. They'll have the same questions we all had. With all that we've learned over the last year or so, we could make this site a tremendous resource for these newbies. I really hope that we're able to do that.
Still here, more or less
Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:52 am
Hey people. Remember me? I know I haven't been around for a while. Apologies to anyone who has missed me!
In any case, my departure was not intended to be some grandiose statement about the decline of the site or risks of boarding. I simply moved home, got a crappier computer, and have less time. On top of that, I've now chosen my school and, selfishly, there's not a lot left for me to learn by browsing the admissions forums.
That's not how I want to go out though. My last blog talked about the need for us veterans to keep helping anyone who needs it in the coming application cycles. I still believe very strongly in that mission for this site, and I'd like to contribute in whatever small way I can.
A few people have PMed me for application advice since I left, and I've answered each of you. To the rest of you, if you need help with anything, I'm available. Just PM me and I promise to get back to you ASAP. My strength, if I may be so bold, is writing. You can read my PS at the beginning of this blog or in the admissions forum. I am quite proud of it, and I'm convinced it's what got me into Boalt. I've helped quite a few TLSers with their PS, and I think most have benefited from this.
So to anyone reading this who needs help in that area, PM me. To the rest of you who will be on this site more often than I, feel free to drop my name to anyone looking for an editor or something. I promise to do as much as I can.
Thanks for all the good times. Hopefully I'll be able to check in more frequently once I get to law school.[/list]