dal niente

Month: June, 2014

“Sign Here.”

I scribbled my name on the final Corporate & Commercial Practice exam attendance sheet at about 19:15, which was about half an hour before the time limit.  It was pretty easy, which was surprising— I basically taught myself everything I needed for the CCP exam between 08:00 and 17:30, to start the exam at 18:00.

And in signing my name on that attendance sheet, leaving my papers with them, and walking out, that’s it, it’s done, c’est fini: I’ve finished my last exam for College of Law.  I have also finished all my assessments for my postgrad degree.

I am done with school.


It’s a huge step, obviously– I just feel great that I can finally get back to being on the workforce.  It’s been about almost three years since I worked full-time– now with all my schooling out of my way, it’s time to start hacking at those debts, right in the face.

It’s not all about debts, mind you.  I’ve changed a lot over the past 2.5 years being in Australia with [CM]… I’ve learned to worry a lot less about money, actually, and take things a bit easier.

It’s mostly about coming home at the end of the day and not having to worry about homework or readings– where I can punch out at the end of the day and know that, for the most part, my time will be my own.

Professional Responsibility and Sex Discrimination in the Workplace

The song stuck in my head, although I have no music playing, is Closing Time. Mostly because it’s way past closing time (it now being 4AM) but I’m still awake.  Unfortunately, no, I’m not drinking– I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, so here I am doing prep work for my role-playing exam tomorrow, where I have to act as a professional responsibility consultant and as an employment lawyer.

Thing is, after you read enough cases, even when you get a ridiculously outlandish scenario which is supposed to be hypothetical, you know deep down that it’s actually based on real cases and, not only that, but that these things happen more often than is caught on by authorities.

For example, the scenarios I’ll be examined on tomorrow involve situations where bad lawyers are overcharing clients, lying about the law, and strong-arming members of the publics with threats of jail time which are essentially untrue. Another scenario deals with employers who discriminate against women returning after maternity leave, refusing to reinstate their former responsibilities, positions, and pay.

All of this stuff seems obvious. And clear cut.  Yet people do bad things all the time– probably simply because they can, and they don’t think they’ll get caught, or they simply don’t even think about getting caught.  Perhaps the default position for a person’s mentality is that they have the liberty to do whatever they want unless they feel their own personal moral compass nagging.



The professional responsibility and employment law exams tomorrow are my last role-play examinations.  Thursday, I’ll have a normal final exam for Corporate law, and then that’s it– assuming I pass everything, I’ll be eligible to apply for practicing license in August.

Yes, black people talk about climate change


Last week in the Root, an African American news outlet that’s part of the Slate Group, Charles Ellison asked where the political conversation around climate change was among African Americans. “President Barack Obama might be the only black person on the planet who cares about climate change,” he wrote.

Tracie Powell at All Digitocracy opened the conversation wider yesterday by placing some of the blame on outlets like the Root: “[A] reason for the relative silence is that hardly any news organizations, local or otherwise, are reporting on how climate change is specifically impacting ethnic communities; ethnic news media aren’t making the connections either.”

I’ve worked at a number of outlets — black, “white,” and otherwise — so I have a few observations here.

First, I’m not sure why black people and the media that serve them are picked on as if they are uniquely ill-informed on the topic. Why…

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Watch your Six

I started watching The Walking Dead recently.  I’m now on season 2.  I know this show has been out for a long time, but I never got around to watching it even though I’ve read most of the comic books.

The thing that annoys the shit out of me with this series is how dumb characters are– but I’m not sure if it’s the series itself, or it’s simply indicative of how dumb people are in general.

First of all– if you’re aware that there are flesh eating zombies, not just around, but everywhere, maybe you should pay more attention to your surroundings?  The number of people who get bitten by surprise because they’re not watching their blindspots is ludicrous– but probably believable.


I was just thinking about how many people stand so close to the edge of sidewalks here in Sydney, and then don’t keep their eye on oncoming traffic.  You won’t see people in Montreal doing that, because Montrealers probably know to some extent that cars slipping on black ice can and have run into curbs, and injured people in the process.  People have also been knocked in the face by buses’ side-view mirrors.

Sydney though? I don’t get it– why people here just turn their backs on things and have no practical appreciation for safety.

Night Shift

[CM] is going to be doing her first night shift tonight.  Should be interesting for her.

When I used to work overnights in Montreal for the Emergency department, nights were a completely different place.  Substantively, medicine is medicine whether it’s night or day– but for administrators like what I used to be, the main difference is logistics and operations.  Most departments are closed at night, so the name of the game is you use what you’ve got.  It also tends to be a smaller department, because given that hospitals at the time were understaffed during the day even, it’s no wonder that it would operate by  a skeleton crew at night.  That was nice in it’s own way– it means that you work more closely with the overnight staff and get to know people better.  There’s also a lot more time to be taught the tricks of the trade.


CM isn’t working in Emergency tonight, but rather, obstetrics and gynecology. Apparently, it’s one of the departments that never slows down– mostly because you never know when someone is going to pop a baby out.  Those babies don’t wait for anyone, apparently.

She has been telling me lately how she wants to have kids someday, which is fine by me– originally, I was the one who wanted kids and she was super hesitant.  It’s totally beyond me what exactly made her change her mind– she’s been assisting at deliveries for about a week now and all you hear from her is like “it tears THIS MUCH and there is so much blood!!!” And she’s talking about both vaginal and Caesarian births.  I mean, I’ve got a strong stomach and I’ve seen a lot of gory things before, so these kinds of stories don’t bother me. But I’m just rather surprised that after going through a week of that department so far that she would start leaning towards having children (plural) rather than totally be put off by it.

Women fundamentally are illogical.

The Way of Gentleness

“No! Not like this! PULL YOUR ELBOWS OUT!” yells [Sensei-K].  “You must scissor his head until it pops off!”

Sensei-K is a beast of a man– he is over 50, but still competes internationally in Masters (a division for older people, like Masters in tennis) judo competitions and as recently as last year, stole Gold at Kodokan.  Kodokan is the judo headquarters in japan, or as he likes to call it, the “tiger’s mouth.”


I remember when I first started doing judo, there was this technique which I never thought I could own– it’s called an ucchi-mata, which translates roughly to an inner thigh throw.  You can look it up on youtube– it’s a pretty spectacular throw.  Never used in movies or anything for some reason, but in real life, this is one of those throws that really hurts if your opponent wants to hurt you with it.

I was never really good at a lot of throws– and even now, my repetoire is pretty thin.  But there are moments when I do things and it feels like throwing people is just so easy.


For the past couple of months, I’ve been training only sporadically. Mostly due to the thesis, and a slew of commitments to work and the licensing course.  Lately though, with at least the thesis out of the way, I have a lot of simple free time after working hours– no more homework has it’s advantages.

The problem with training over the past few months has been that I haven’t had much time to begin with, and secondly, I keep on getting paired with people who are lighter or same size as me (yes, there are people in my weight class now!).  Also, people who are newer to the sport than I am.  That means that for the amount of time I do spend at the dojo, I’m not learning very much.

Worst of all, one of the white belts did something which hurt my left illiotibial band (ITB), which is basically exactly the same knee injury I got on my right side about six months ago.  And I just 90% recovered on the right side.  This is what happens when you don’t train with people better than you.


Regardless, things at judo have been working out recently.  I don’t think Sensei-K liked me very much when I first started– but I think he’s coming around to realising that I’m taking judo seriously, and I’m not afraid of people getting rough– which is the way he likes it.

In the past, the best I could get out of him was silence. If I was doing something wrong, he would say so, and that would be it.

But lately, he’s been spending more time tweaking my techniques.  Including uchi-mata– with some pretty wicked results.


After slamming some people who were significantly heavier than me using uchi-matta, Sensei-K actually told me: “Yes! This is the competition throw that I teach! You hear the difference when he hits the ground?  He is nothing to you with this throw!”

He is nothing to you.

You’ll have to understand that he says all this with a very heavy polish accent, as if he was some villain out of a James Bond flic.




People ask me why I do martial arts.

For all the philosophical things that I could say, the easiest reason is because because I enjoy dropping people who are bigger than me.

Results May Vary

Now that I’m done university and am soon to be done with the College of Law work that will make me eligible to obtaining my solicitor’s practicing certificate, things are really looking up for me.  (The situation is still really tricky for [CM], but that’s another post in itself.)

Truth be told, I think I really lucked out when I was offered a job by my employment law professor.  At first, I only worked a few days for her back in December 2013– I basically did some legal research, and then it was over.  I didn’t hear anything from her ever since, and since I was engaged on a casual basis, no work means no hours.  She sent me a message asking if I was still available, months later, probably around April 2014– which was surprising, but I was hungry for work.  So I agreed to come in and get things done.


Since then, I’ve been working on and off.  I’ve now got a bit more of a genuine part-time status, being scheduled twice a week to come in regardless of whether there is any major client work to be done. Pretty often, I go in 4 or 5 times a week, and some of it is work I can do from home.

So how have I lucked out?  Well, even if you put aside the fact that I have a complicated perspective of “luck,” there are just so many things out of my control that at least for now, just seemed to align right.

First of all, when my boss was my professor, I didn’t really like that class.  Employment law was notionally interesting, but my professor was clearly not an organised teacher and the course’s structure and coverage was all over the place.  Further more, the grading scheme was kind of nuts, inviting the entire class to basically get a crazy amount of good grades without any means of actually filtering out the people who were truly lazy or incompetent.  For me, who is all about gaming law school grades to help me in long term career, this class’s organisation was a total nightmare.

When my prof initially approached me to offer me a casual office-help position, I was hesitant mostly because I didn’t have all that great an impression from the way she ran her class.  I was used to working in offices of all different sorts.  I worked in public hospital administration for about 7 years, across two hospitals, and in about 4 different departments.  I worked law jobs in community legal centres, I worked in a firm that specialises in German and Swiss commercial clients doing business with Australia, I worked in Hong Kong where culture is about as corporate as it gets.  My impression of my prof could probably not be further from what I imagine a boss to be like.

Turns out she’s pretty cool as a boss.  She’s a sole practitioner, which means that she is a lawyer who for the most part works solo.  That means that on a daily basis, I am working with the person in charge of the business– it means that there’s a lot more control over the nature of my work environment. The workplace has proven to be ultra flexible– I start and finish roughly when I want, my days are flexible.  Work wise, it’s challenging stuff.  My work varies a lot– some days, I’m doing the job of an IT guy, setting up remote access for the network for us so we can use the systems from home. Another day, I was going through student emails, evaluating their class participation.  Another day, I was writing a lesson plan for her.  And last week, I doing some research and drafting for clients.

A varied workload is the way to go I think.  At the moment, I think my one gripe is that I don’t get a lot of feedback on my work– the boss is so busy doing one thing after another that there isn’t much time for her to train me or give me much feedback.  A lot of what’s ending up on my plate, I’m learning on the fly through self study of government website and legislation.  But I suppose that’s what a lawyer’s work is like, and that’s what all the schooling up until now has been about anyway– learning to survive and think for myself, for lack of guidance.


I think it’s something that can be improved though.  Getting feedback and training, I mean.  The boss is open minded– we’re just figuring out a way to work together still.


All this is to say that I’m pretty lucky to have landed this gig in the first place, so I’m going to give it my all.  The market for lawyers in Sydney is really shit right now– it’s apparently the worst year for hiring in a decade.  To end up at a place like this?  Well, it’s not a big firm–  but I only wanted big firms because it would have been the most likely way to get a job.


I’ll take it from here.

University 2.0

… is over! I handed in my final thesis on friday, and man, was that difficult.  It wasn’t difficult because the work itself was difficult– I was just suffering a major bout of burnout from all the work I’ve been doing lately for my postgrad, the college of law, and full time work hours.  If you’re interested in the math, that’s literally 225% the normal workload of a normal person– and I was doing that for about a month.  Before that, I was only doing about 175% the normal workload.

With university out of the way, I’m down to about 200% the normal workload, which is basically working almost full time as a paralegal, a one weekend-day per week job, and the full time college of law licensing course.

That sounds a lot worse than it is, but it’s actually not too bad because the college of law work is a pass/fail sort of thing.




I’ve learned a few things about myself in the process.  The first thing is that I’m unbreakable.  I can be paralyzed with laziness and apathy, but I’m not going to lose my mind– when things get really overwealming, I just lie down and sleep– but this is very different from when I was younger and I would rage about it.

I also learned that I’m nothing if I’m not motivated.  If I am motivated, I can produce really great work– but it is really difficult for me to work on things that I’m not interested in, or which I can’t justify as an indirect contribution to some other goal.  The more indirect the work is towards achieving longer term goals, the more difficult it is to justify an energy expenditure.

The thesis was a case and point, unfortunately.  The only reason why I wanted to do reasonably well on that was to keep up my average– with a current weighted-average-mark of 77%-ish, I’m on my way to graduating with first class honours.  The cutoff is something really close like 76.5%, so if I do get that title, I’m going to get it by a hair.  However, that average is only considering all my grades up to the thesis– the thesis could still drag me under.

Why do I care about getting honours? That goes under one of those indirect things that is actually for a longer term goal.  First class honours, like many other pretentious titles, is just something nice to have on my resume when applying for jobs.  How much does an employer actually look at these sorts of things? I don’t know.

The thing about a thesis is that, really, I spent so much time on it. It’s not the world’s longest thesis, since it was only for 4-credits– however, at 16 pages long, that took me over a hundred hours of writing and redrafting, nevermind how much time it took to do all the research.  And I’m still not sure I’ll be able to keep my 77% average, because I literally submit it via email 1 minute before the deadline.  2 minutes before the deadline, I was still checking my footnotes.

I know that a real quality piece of work is never left to the last minute, which is why I’m pretty certain I’m going to lose a lot of points in stupid ways here and there.  But frankly, the motivation couldn’t let me prioritise that much higher than I did.  The situation was what it was– I’m only human, and I can’t love everything or everyone.

As someone who wants to be a professional, I still gave it my best go though.


It was especially difficult because, as of late, I’d been working more and more.  I’ve been really lucky to be hired by a former professor who is a sole practitioner running her own employment law practice– It has been very interesting work.  Paid work. Once you start getting paid for wracking your brain, you feel that there’s a reward.  Thesis, on the other hand? Over a hundred hours of, not only unpaid work, but me paying the school to make me do that work? That’s really quite hard to swallow.  What I get out of it is a number, and a few words of feedback.  If I conver the amount of work I spent on that thesis into paid work at my usual rate, I should have been paid about $4000 US/CAD/AUD, instead of instead paying the university a thousand backs to supervise my work.


Anyway, we’ll see how the grades come back.



So exhausted.

Thesis, redux

Thesis is due in a little over 32 hours from now. This will be challenging.