Saturday, June 14, 2008


I saw this on deadspin. Too great not to share.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Practice Does Not Equal Perfect. . . yet

If you are taking BarBri, you know that they give out an outline of all the assignments plus homework that you should be completing as you go. I am sure that everyone has tweaked it to suit their own tastes and study habits. This is how I tweaked it.

In my opinion, doing a bunch of practice problems is an inefficient time waster (and a little redundant too). I have always believed this to be the case, with the exception of math problems (i.e. testing a process rather than rote learning). In law school, I may have looked at one or two prior exams, but only to get the tenor of the questions rather than what was being tested or to "practice." For a final exam, one has only a day or two to learn a semester worth of material. That time is too precious to be spent doing busy work. The better approach is focus on the material and keep reinforcing it, by writing the elements out, re-re-reading an outline, etc. Why focus on application of one narrow portion of the material when that time is better spent knowing all the portions.

But, because Conviser has been teaching this longer than I have been alive, I initially deferred to his methodology. I did some of the first set of Torts problems, the so-called easy ones. And I got three wrong. Hooray for me. But what does this do for me? I can answer the easy tort questions. But the thing that bothered me was that when I was answering the questions, I knew my grasp of the material was shaky. I had to think through the problems. I had to close my eyes and visualize the elements for whatever tort the question was asking about.

That is not how I want to take a test. I want to get to the point where I read the question and I know the answer. If it is a torts questions, everything tort related flies through my mind, I see it as an old computer that ran on punch cards, and I go through all the punch cards in a second, know what I need, and go back to that punch card in the next second.

I am not going to get to that point by doing a bunch of practice questions, then having to read the analytical answer to see how I got it right. I do not want to have to read the analytical answer. I want to just know it.

That does not mean that I will not do any practice questions. I will do them, but not until I feel ready. Then I will spend four hours on some near-future Saturday doing nothing but Torts questions. That way, I can really tell that I know the material inside and out, because that sort of testing process will tell me that either, i) yes, I know all the material, even the material that the questions did not address simply because of the number of questions done; or ii) that I am screwed.

The same rings true for the essays. Same thing for the essays. I knew the answers for the practice essay I did, but again, my superficial knowledge made it difficult to effectively answer the question in the way that is required when one poor soul is grading a hundred of these things a day. So forget practice essays too.

Knowing the material is the most important thing. Each essay is worth an incapacious five points. And I would think that at least two of those points are going to be awarded for a black letter law recitation. And with a point or two for analysis (the easy part of the bar exam, unlike with a law school exam), that is the magic 3 you need for bar passage.

However, the essays have a distinct difference from the MBE, which will make practice a necessity. Issue-Spotting. Thus, when I finish my four hour tort exam, I will crack open a book of essays, and just pick out the issues, think in my head what I would write about, then check to make sure I am right. Of course, the key with issue spotting is that you have to know the law to understand what the issues.

So, study now, practice later, like in a month. Shit, this is going to be a lot of work. Back to it . . .

. . . Or am I just trying to justify my own laziness?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pete and Repete are standing on a bridge. Pete falls off. Who is left?

In trying to figure out ways to amplify my bar study process, I thought of Ryan Holiday's post on Meditative Isolation (though he might say that I have no idea how to achieve my goals). Ryan talks about methods of isolating the right and left side of the brain by listening to the same song on repeat dozens of time. This helps with concentration and inspiration, and in a larger sense, creativity.*

I am not too concerned with inspiration or creativity. All I care about is concentration and memorization. Read the outline. Know the outline. Memorize the outline. Seems easy enough. But with 21 areas of substantive law [possibly] tested, the task is about as hard as it sounds. I need every edge I can get. A more recent post by Ryan clued me in to what I needed. He stated, "From a glance I can feel what song I listened to as I read [each book I have], if I was stable or depressed or excited or hopeful."

With my Holmes-like powers of deduction (Ollie, not Sherlock of course), I deduced that Association is the key. For instance, when I read It, the only CD I listened to was Soul Asylum's Let Your Dim Light Shine (forgive me, I was 14, my musical tastes had not matured). Now whenever I listen to that CD I think back to the plot of It (though in looking back on it, there was a lot I did not understand. Stupid underfunded sex-ed class). It is an odd feeling to hear a song and think back to the part where Bev remembers the time she and the six boys experiment with sex to solidify their bond and Ben (the fat one), goes further than the others, because as Bev remembers, "she felt sticky inside." (Not sure if I remember that because of the music or because I was whacked out on junior high hormones at the time. Nah, probably the later, but still, I have only read the book the once). It seems obvious to me in retrospect that the album should be associated with that book, what with lines like: "But she saw the world through the eyes of a child / And remembers how good it was, and how good it felt"; "No one told me people could be so cruel / Nobody told me about any of this in school / Still nobody understands the things that I don't understand"; " She walks into the evening air / She disappears in the darkness / All that's left's the faint smell of her hair / She's done wondering what it's like to be liked by everyone." To give only a couple examples.

So, it begs the question, can this really work for learning black letter law? It is still reading, it is still knowing, but hell, it does not have to be understanding. There is a masturbation scene in It that I would not understand until a couple years later. But still, 13 years later, I remember what happened in the book (though, in addition to the reasons stated above, it may have been because I was reading a King novel, an action my mother was not too particularly keen on my doing at 14).

Understanding is most likely essential to answer a multiple choice question in 1.8 minutes. Everyone has to be a micro-Will Hunting. Regardless, everyone has to understand, so that requirement is a nullity. Understanding has to happen.

Recall is the major issue. With that, I think that music can be a huge help. Specifically, listening to the same album over and over for each. Ryan listens to the same song, but I hardly have the patience for that. For me, the music is not about isolating myself, I am already isolated, it is about the constant, the moor (yes, I realize that the way I used moor is only a verb, not a noun. I am trying to say that the music is mooring me to the material; keeping me in it, tied to it, removing distractions, preventing cavitation).

Deciding that yes, one CD per subject would be a good idea, I went about finding the 21 albums that I would utilize. At the outset, I was unsure if this would be an easy or difficult task. With as near as I can guesstimate (6000 songs / 15 songs per album; horribly rough) I have 400 albums to choose from. However, I quickly decided that I was going to have to limit the albums I chose to the most recent ones I have purchased. For instance, Panic! at the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out already has a nice association with a vacation I took to Michigan, and The Who's Tommy, while a great album, has negative associations in mind (fucking slut (hmmm, that is redundant)). I decide to eliminate the vast majority of my collection based solely on the fact that I may already have some mental association with it (easier than spending 15 days listing to all those songs).

So with those parameters in mind, I quickly "cover flow"-ed through my albums on my iPod and came up with 23 albums. I was not keeping track, but 23 turns out to be a pretty good number. From there, I took away two albums to total 21. Then came the tough part. Finding the proper album for Real Property (three days according to BarBri) and Contracts (also three days). The first was easy, Say Anything's In Defense of the Genre, simply because it is a double album. Contracts was much tougher. My only other double albums are Garth Brooks Live (yeah I know, but Garth was a great (the greatest?) entertainer of his day, his live album is worthy of owning), Meloncollie and the Infinite Sadness, All Points BUlletin, O.A.R. Live, The White Album, Beethoven concertos, Beethoven symphonies, and probably a couple more I cannot think of right now. They are all old and failed to meet the first requirement. So I picked an album, but feel that the two auxiliary albums might come into play here. We shall see.

Shit. I got distracted and completely forgot how I was going to conclude. Whatever; Graham Colton,** you and Criminal Law are on the clock.

* He also states that silence is most conducive to concentration and inspiration. I cannot study in silence, my mind wanders to easily; or more accurately, goes off on irrelevant tangents. There is a relationship between where my mind goes and what I am trying to learn, but studying for the bar is not the proper time for this activity. Hence, when part of my brain can focus on the music and the other part can focus on the black letter law, I can stay on task (unless I have had four hours of sleep the last two days. Then I cut my losses and blog).

**Had no idea he was associated with American Idol until I looked up that wikipedia page.