Mar 012013

As long as I’m reposting items from the blog I kept while I was a law student, I should include this one because there has been an important update.

For some context, I did a semester of my 3L year in Hamburg at Bucerius Law School. The first private law school in Germany, it funded itself in part through the sponsorship of large law firms.

The Clifford Chance Napping Room

The other day some German students were discussing how Bucerius really needs to build a “napping room,” perhaps with an LCD screen that should easily show new nappers which beds were available. In case of high demand, they could also be put on a timing mechanism, kind of like the showers in train stations. (I used one once in Copenhagen: you get 30 minutes for your shower, and when the time’s up, the door is going to open whether you’re ready or not…)

One student then suggested that perhaps Clifford Chance could sponsor the “napping room.” After all, other rooms in the school had been sponsored by leading law firms, like Linklaters and White and Case. But Clifford Chance does not (yet) have a room of its own, and the students thought this might provide the perfect sponsorship opportunity.

“Do you have napping rooms at your schools in the US?” the students asked me.

“Yeah, but we call them libraries.”

Anyway, the upshot is, apparently Bucerius does indeed now have a napping room. I’m not sure if Clifford Chance sponsored it, but if it would like the opportunity to, every law school everywhere could certainly use their own…

 Posted by at 6:15 am
Feb 272013

In walking through the Frankfurt Airport yesterday I was struck by how difficult it was to tell that I was in Germany. The only hallmarks seemed to be the volume of Lufthansa flights boarding and the proliferation of pretzels at various eating establishments. Otherwise there was very little to indicate it was a German airport. For instance, English was not only ubiquitous, but at times it was the default language (ie, the airport even refers to itself as the “Frankfurt Airport,” and not the Frankfurt “Flughafen,” and some advertisements lining its corridors were written entirely in English with no German whatsoever – like the one for Avis car rentals…). Meanwhile the currency is all the same as many of its neighbors, cell phones roam easily from one country’s carrier to another, and traveling between countries is a simple matter of walking on and off a quick flight and then right out the door.

I don’t describe all this as a complaint, per se, but it did prompt a “kids these days” sort of reaction as I recalled my own first serious backpacking trips traversing Europe. Back then (1995 and 1996) Europe had already just changed rather drastically in that the Iron Curtain had just fallen, which opened up areas and cultures that had previously been walled off (often literally) from the rest of the continent. But even in western Europe passports still needed to be shown at country borders, money changed in each one, and separate phrase books consulted. Each country seemed very far away from every other one, and each retained a very different language, culture, food, coinage, telephony, and general aesthetic from its neighbors. Half the point of a European travel adventure then was to have to get to and cope with each one throughout the journey.

Which, as one must now imagine, was often difficult. Pan-European travel is undeniably much easier today, and certainly MUCH easier than it has been for so much of history. And in many ways the new status quo is definitely a good thing. The more separate and distinct each European nation was, the more likely it was to war with its neighbors. Having a common sense of European community is tremendously important to the overall success and stability of the entire region.

But how much needed to be overcome in order to reach this point is an important lesson of history, and one that can so easily be forgotten as the challenges, and with them even some of the charms, of a more localized Europe fade so quickly into the past.

Sep 062012

A conversation today reminded me of this post from my old blog, so I decided to clean it up a bit and repost it here:

I’ve always loved baseball. I can’t quite explain why, and it seems a little odd that I would like it at all given that my interest has received such little encouragement. My parents themselves are lukewarm about the sport, although they did sign me up for softball when I was 8. Not a naturally gifted athlete, I had to compensate with enthusiasm and a solid work ethic, which met with only limited success seeing as I was not quite popular enough to avoid benchwarming, as certain coaches only played their daughters and their daughters’ friends, of whom I was rarely one.

But I stuck with the sport because I really really really wanted to play. However, what I really wanted was to play was baseball, like the Yankee players I idolized did. For years I harbored the standard childhood fantasy of growing up to be a major league ballplayer. As it is for most people, limited athleticism proved to be an obstacle to making this dream a reality. But it was not the only obstacle.

The most significant obstacle to improving my baseball skills was that I didn’t get to play baseball. I only got to play softball. Now, I like softball. It does contain many of the same elements that baseball has: hitting a ball with a stick, throwing, catching, etc. But it contains several differences, including the tempo of the game, the size of the ball, the throwing style, et al. It’s a fun game of its own, yes, but it’s not baseball. However, because I was a girl, that’s all I got to play.

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 Posted by at 4:31 pm
Jul 052012

I’d forgotten I’d written this guide to the Tour de France until someone emailed me this morning to thank me for having explained the complexities of the race. Like I say in this guide, it’s more than guys riding bikes really fast… There are plenty of intricacies to note about this seminal and nearly month-long competition.

As you will see, I wrote it during Armstrong’s heyday, using him as an example, but despite the scandal that has cast a pall on those results, the analysis is still fair. The race dynamics are still the race dynamics, and even if you think “le dopage” was rampant, it still wouldn’t completely explain why he did so well. Remember, the Tour de France is about a lot more than guys going fast on bikes; to win you need a lot more in terms of competitive advantage than just an artificial enhancement.

Also for your Tour de France reading pleasure, I have a travelogue that describes what it was like to see it in person. Shortly before going to law school I did a summer school program in Provence to work on my French skills. A portion of that experience is described here, which includes the weekend some classmates and I set out to see a stage on the infamous le Mont Ventoux. Enjoy!

 Posted by at 6:18 am
Feb 082012

I found myself tweeting extensively in disgust over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening programs going forward. “Politicizing women’s health makes me sick,” I tweeted at one point. “Literally. Because I’m a woman, and it undermines my healthcare.”

A friend wrote back to me at some point during the fracas that he never would have advised the Komen Foundation from ending its alliance with Planned Parenthood — but he also never would have advised them to enter it in the first place. It’s just too controversial an organization.

I had to disagree. “If you are an organization dedicated to women’s health looking to find partners on the ground who can do hands-on fulfillment of that mission in the community, there’s probably few better than PP to partner with, and from a health-services-provision standpoint there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t.

“The ONLY reason one would think twice about it is if one thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to politicize women’s health. And if Komen is such an organization, it doesn’t deserve to be funded. At least not by people who recognize the deleterious effect politicization of women’s health actually has on women’s health.”

The reason the Komen Foundation found itself in such a hornets nest, I continued, was because everyone thought Komen was the first type of organization and was now shocked to discover it was really the second.

The real problem is that we’re not seeing the issue for what it is. It’s not anti-abortion v. pro-abortion. We’re not talking about two sides of the same coin. We’re not even talking about the same coin. One side believes in supporting women’s health; the other side has a completely different agenda. The other side may claim it supports women’s health, but it is simply not possible to support women’s health by only supporting some of her health. Nor would it be possible to support only some of men’s health either, for that matter. No man can claim to be healthy if he has, for instance, a healthy digestive system but an unhealthy circulatory system. Health requires all the systems to be looked after. But some mistakenly seem to think that women can be healthy if they only get care for some of their parts and some of their conditions.

Which is not to say that everyone has to look after everything. It’s perfectly fine for programs like the Komen Foundation to only focus on certain aspects of women’s health. Specialization isn’t a problem. But that’s not what the move to end Planned Parentood funding was about. They didn’t decide to pledge that money to an organization more focused on breast health. They decided not to fund it because they didn’t like all the aspects of women’s health Planned Parenthood cares for. That animus politicized the delivery of healthcare and undermined not only the health of everyone Planned Parenthood cares for in any way, but also women who have or ever will have breast cancer. Because now, instead of The Susan G. Komen Foundation being regarded as a benefactor of women’s health, it is now regarded as an organization who thinks it appropriate to undermine it. And few who value women’s healthcare will want to fund that.

 Posted by at 1:01 pm
Jun 112011

Did you know that last year I rode my bike from Sacramento to Reno? It’s true! I did! And, as per usual with my other longish bike rides, in order to see a Huey Lewis and the News concert… In previous years I’d ridden 65 miles from Sausalito to their shows in Saratoga. But last year that ride did not appear to be possible. So instead I made other plans…

The following is an adaptation of what I’d posted on the Huey Lewis and the News fan board. Had my blog been working at the time I also would have liked to have posted about it here then. But better late than never? Especially since I’m starting to think about doing another ride this year…

It started with a throwaway comment:

Saratoga on a Wednesday??? How am I supposed to bike there then? Or am I expected to bike to Reno this year instead?

At the time I wrote it, I was just being silly. I had been fully expecting to bike to Saratoga again (after all, after having ridden to it three times I wasn’t sure I was even ALLOWED to drive to it…) and was truly disappointed to see that last year’s Saratoga stint was but a single date on a Wednesday. Somehow that immediately disqualified it for biking purposes. But, hey! The Reno concert was on a SATURDAY. Surely that would be better, right?

Ha ha, who are we kidding? On what planet is a three-day bike trip to Reno an improvement over a one-day trip to Saratoga? And yet…

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 Posted by at 1:35 pm
May 282011

It was one of the games I only got to play when I visited my grandparents, but I always enjoyed Boom or Bust. Like in Monopoly, players circled the board, landing on properties to either buy or pay rent on if they were already owned. What made it different from Monopoly, however, is that the relative prices were variable — not because of how much they’d been developed, but because of the prevailing economic climate. The square board contained a removable and reversible centerpiece. Without it, the prices were normal. But as soon as someone landed on the operative corner space, the centerpiece was placed on the middle of the board to raise all the prices to “boom” levels. And just as soon as that happened, it seemed, someone would land on the operative space causing the centerpiece to be flipped over to “bust” prices. Eventually the prices would of course return to normal, and the cycle would continue.

The game was won or lost based on when and how people spent their money. Buy high and hope to collect quick, high rents? Or try to wait for bargains and hope all the good properties haven’t been snatched up?

It was a fun game, and an educational one. Not only because it necessarily taught how to spend money effectively, but because it taught that everything was cyclical. This was the most important lesson, that one should never presume the good times would last forever and, just as importantly, that one could be sure that after the bad times, better days would be ahead.

It’s an important lesson, and one more people should heed. It would restrain the irrational exuberance that can have devastating economic consequences for both individuals and society, and it would restore needed faith that even in the darkest economic hour, someday the sun will shine again.

With this thought in mind I read with some appalled bemusement Dan Harris’s post marveling about all the people denying there is a China real estate “bubble.” I put it in quotes, because according to his post, a considerable number of people seem to think we’re not currently seeing one, despite the unflagging stream of construction in China’s urban centers. Sure there’s a lot of vacant apartments right now, the thinking of many apparently goes, but China is sure to have massive urban migration who will need it. Whether that assumption is true, and whether the cost of the massive investment in building housing is rationally proportional to the population’s ability to afford it are fair questions, but they’re ones which many seem not to be asking. Everything is fine, they say. It will all work out. There is no bubble; things really are supposed to be this good.

To which I posted something that I think applies to any situation where people seem equally oblivious to economic reality, beyond just the China real estate one:

I think it’s axiomatic that the more people deny there’s a bubble, the more there is one. Everything is cyclical, even in China, and it’s the denial of this reality that causes the biggest and most painful pops. This doesn’t mean that arguments can’t be made that China is in a good position to absorb the ebbs and flows of supply and demand, but, as with anything else, the more people protest that it is IMMUNE to these ebbs and flows the more likely it will be devastated by them, as nothing will have been done to try to minimize their inevitable consequences.

Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it, they say. History tells us that the game always changes. And as a result there can be an awful lot of losers.

 Posted by at 6:19 pm
Apr 302010

There’s a lot we can learn about Flash from French, including why Apple is misguided in banning it from its devices. Steve Jobs complains Flash is old and it’s closed, which, at least to some extent, is true on both counts. Of course, we could also say the same about the French language, but our world would be a lot poorer if we were to ban it too.

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 Posted by at 8:52 am
Apr 042010

It’s difficult, as a non-Russian speaker, to fully educate myself about Yuri Shevchuk and his music. My inability to even type in Cyrillic makes the Internet searches particularly fraught. Fortunately I can at least read basic Cyrillic, and with cutting-and-pasting I can enter names and titles into search engines. (“Юрий Шевчук” = Yuri Shevchuk; “ДДТ” = DDT.) As for fully understanding what I get back, GoogleTranslate is often helpful, if not 100% accurate, in getting the gist of what was being said or sung. Plus I have a year of college Russian to fall back on. In fact, it’s been interesting: doing all this Internet spelunking to find out more about the man and his music has caused me to dust off my textbook and dig out long-buried memories of grammar and vocabulary. Indeed, so enthralled and engaged am I by what I’ve found so far, it’s even motivating me to renew my Russian studies, just so I can understand what he’s been saying!
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