Saturday, May 27, 2006

The summer that can't be beat

Today I finally got it into my head that it's the summer. After a week of being sick with the flu, I was taking a break from writing my paper and smoking a cigarette on my balcony, listening Derek and the Dominos for the first time since 1998, my feet up, ashtray next to me. And it hit me - this will be the summer that can't be beat.

Being in Ann Arbor this time of year brings back lots and lots of memories - several happy summers were mostly spent in Ann Arbor while I was in college - working, taking classes, hanging out with friends. Summers were blissful here - an idyllic college town, emptied of the majority of the teeming masses, suddenly become much more chill than before. Even the work was sweet - being a labrat, performing experiments with lots of downtime.

We were young - 19, 20, 21...and correspondingly immature. Drama flared, passions burned and nothing seemed impossible. At the same time, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life - I knew I didn't want to do science - but what else?

This is why this summer will be the unbeatable one. I'm 25 now. I'm doing what I want to be doing, I'm sure of that. The work I'm doing this summer as a research assistant for my favorite prof is going to be on my favorite subjects - international trade and energy. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing than doing research. I'm finishing up a really interesting (at least to me) paper. I've got some great friends in town to hang out with. I've got my own place for when I need alone time. I've got the world's coolest cat. I've got a car to do my great trip with my best friend here up to the UP with this summer. And at the end of this very chill and wonderfully intellectual summer, I'm going to Florence, Italy to study at EUI for a semester, focused on a semester-long research project on the EU-Russia energy partnership and how to make it less aspiration (and whether that is actually feasible, why it would be desireable, etc.). I'm so happy at the moment, it's almost scary.

And everyday I thank myself for choosing Michigan Law School over any other the moment, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, May 22, 2006


My neighbor plays the drums. Poorly. My other neighbor has a dog. The dog, much like me, doesn't much appreciate the drum playing. As a result, I am caught in the middle of a cacophanous dialogue which makes me wish I had X-men-like telekinetic powers. In my mind, things would then go a bit like this:

Guy on drums: ba-dum-dum-dum-dum. ba-dum-dum-dum-clash! ba-dum.
Dog: Arf! Arf!
Guy on drums: dum-dum-dum-clash-clash-clash. ba-dum-dum-dum-clash!
Dog: Arrrrooooooooooooooo!
Guy on drums: ba-dum-dum-dum-dum. clash-clash-ba-dum!
Dog: Arrrrooooooo0000000!
Me (using my mental powers): *ommmmmm*
Drum set: KA-BOOM!
Guy on drums: (silence)
Dog: (silence, tail wagging)

I can only wish...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sin City madness

As I write this, I am going slightly mad, sitting in the Las Vegas airport, listening to the sound of slot machines. If I see another flashing light, I think I will have a seizure.

Three days, many headaches, and a bit of lost cash later, I can safely say that I am not a gambler. Nor am I someone who would ever go back to Vegas. I'm glad I went. I'm glad I saw it. But it is not me - no part of the Vegas experience is really reflective of my scene.

I'm not sure what I expected. I think I thought it would be a bit more kitsch, more like Niagara Falls, kind of old school Americana (or Canadiana, as the case may be). Instead, it's grandiose tackiness, expensive, lavish and utterly tasteless.

It's sad to say that Niagara Falls is more "my scene" than Vegas, but it is. Heart-shaped hot tubs, cheesy little wax museums, and colored lights on waterfalls are more me than Vegas.

Vegas gives me a headache. It's really really really big. The hotels and casinos are the size of small cities. Everyone is out to get your money. After spending three days here, I'm ready to sleep for weeks. I'm exhausted, overwhelmed by the shininess of it all.

The nice thing about Vegas is that it's close to Arizona. I love Arizona, and it was wonderful to make it out to the Grand Canyon, and drive down Route 66 at 95 mph with no one around. But Vegas was almost too much for me. If you're not into big money, gambling, fat midwesterners, drunken obnoxious young adults, people pretending to be something they're not and lots of flashing lights, Vegas isn't for you.

Give me a quiet corner of the desert any time. I realized as people slept in the car while I drove towards Vegas that the desert is a place for epiphanies. Next time, I'm doing a solo road-trip around Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and equally deserted desert places. Maybe I'll see Jesus, or perhaps Hunter S. Thompson. Depends on what I ingest on my trip...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

One down, one to go

Earlier this evening, I finally finished my EU law paper. It was surprisingly fun to write, and although I wasn't originally keen on the topic, I made it my own and ended up learning and understanding more about the EU and how it works than I did in the whole course.

This is a product of my science background. As a biologist, I looked at the microscopic and extrapolated to the big picture. To this day, for me to really understand something, I need to look at a tiny sub-section of that thing and analyze how it works. Now, I finally have created my own big picture - and it is that action of making something my own that really means comprehension to me.

Now I'm embarking on paper 2 - the one I've been waiting to write all semester: EC-Biotech - a case study of how scientific evidence is misunderstood by the dispute settlement bodies of the WTO. To be able to focus my attention exclusively on this subject makes me ridiculously happy.

And on that note, I'm going to be ridiculously happy and get back to doing research.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I'm loving it

I'm ten pages into writing my research paper on the EU. When I'm feeling like this, I could write forever. All my research material is at hand. Where I can't remember where I saw something that backs up my point, I write "Cite" in the footnotes and highlight it so that I can come back to it later. Formatting of footnotes also comes later. Right now, I'm giddy with the rush of writing. After so much rumination and research, it's a relief to watch the words spill onto the page.

I love writing papers.

If you're going to use databases, make sure they work - or why I hate the EU

Although the school year is over, and many of my friends are gone, I am sitting in the law school library on a Sunday afternoon, slaving away on my research papers.

I wouldn't say "slaving" normally to describe working on research papers - I find writing papers fun. However, I have come to feel such hatred and resentment towards the EU that this has become akin to slave labor.

Why do I hate the EU? No, it's not because of its over-ambitious integration goals. No, it's not because it diminishes national sovereignty, and in my heart I'm a nationalist. No, it's not because harmonization of various areas undermines the very being of the precautionary principle. It's because the EU's database for case law sucks.

It's very nice of the EU to make everything available for free to people around the world - I commend them for their efforts at transparency. But if you're going to make such material available, how about having a database that functions most of the time and doesn't return clearly bogus errors? Transparency isn't transparency unless you can actually get to the necessary cases.

Sometimes I have to search for a single case in many different ways until I get what I'm looking for. Sometimes I just can't find it at a given moment - but 15 minutes later, the exact same search that landed me with no results gets me what I want.

The EU websites are abominable. They are designed to be user-friendly and appeal to the lowest common denominator, but in so doing, they are made nearly unmanageable. If you're going to make something user-friendly, please keep a non-user-friendly version for dorks like me, who find it much more intuitive to navigate un-user-friendly websites.

I'm done bitching. A few minutes have elapsed. Maybe finally that elusive Pfizer case will be within my grasp...