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Archived Posts for November 2008

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30
Nov 08
Sun

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Lovely.

  11:51am (GMT -8.00)  •  Travel  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
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Nov 08
Sat

An update on campus life

It’s been a while since I wrote something substantive on here. Almost four months in, and this place continues to amaze me. I’m dreading the day it all finishes.

After an afternoon of study today, I played squash with a group of LLMs and got my ass majorly kicked. I grabbed dinner afterwards with a friend, an eighth year lawyer from Brazil, during which we jointly commiserated over the painful depreciation of our respective currencies (the Brazilian Real has gone down more than the Aussie Dollar!). I then headed over to a neighborhood “dessert night”. I stay in Escondido Village, which is a large on-campus residential area for graduate students, and each section of the village regularly runs community events. I only intended to drop by for a half hour to gorge myself on some ice cream before returning to hit the books but unfortunately I was late and the ice cream had run out by the time I arrived. I got involved in a conversation instead. It was one of those conversations that was so engrossing that everyone ended up standing around talking for three hours despite the presence of perfectly good couches only a couple of metres away. We were six people who grew up on six different continents, and the spark which initiated everything was when one of us admitted to being a conservative and was lamenting about four years of Democrat rule. A Republican, much less a Republican who is willing to admit it, in this part of the country, is a rare thing. But diversity of views is always good – when everyone shares the same views, there is too much self-congratulatory back-patting and agreement which, while potentially therapeutic, isn’t so interesting. Reasonable disagreement is that much more stimulating and productive. The conversation lurched from topic to topic – universal healthcare, economic bailouts, Detroit, fiscal management, feminism, the Presidential campaigns, the role of languages in a multicultural society, voting in California, differing notions of democracy around the world, oil and alternative energy, the drinking age, and so on. We all had different academic backgrounds and upbringings, so even among the liberals, there were widely differing worldviews (I, for one, am economically more to the right than I am on other issues). But what made it work was that people were not rabid supporters of their personal views (ie, in the same way that support is shown by the nuts in the Republican party base whose reflexive instinct on hearing the word “Obama” is to boo). There was always intelligent give and take, and while you can’t expect a conversation like that to make people switch sides, you do expect it to bring people closer to the centre. These comments may be trite, and my wonderment quaint, but I can’t say I’ve ever been in an environment like this before. I would certainly be hard pressed to find one in Australia.

And here’s what I did on a day earlier this week.

Woke up about twenty minutes before a 10am contract drafting class and dashed off to make it. We spent the hour dissecting a Stock Purchase Agreement. I then biked over to the b-school to meet a couple MBAs to discuss a very interesting business idea they had. There’s a b-school course which teaches about starting up a start-up and they were looking for a law student to join their team. Then I rode back to the law school for lunch with Larry Lessig. Various faculty Professors make themselves available throughout the semester to a small group of students for a talk with them over lunch on a first-rsvp first-served basis. Since Professor Lessig is not teaching any cyberlaw courses this year, I jumped on the opportunity. He took questions from all of us and answered them one by one. As expected, he was extremely eloquent in expressing his thoughts which recently have been turning to examining corruption in democracies (not so much overt corruption, but conflicts of interest and competing influences on decision makers).

After a thought-provoking lunch, I moved to the library to work on a case study presentation for an International Deal Making class (involving an LBO of several Taiwanese companies by, coincidentally, an Australian conglomerate). Spoke with a friend about the status of the job market and our expectations of US work culture. I typically think of New York as being the most intense place to work in the world. However, she used to work in the Cairo office of a US law firm – as a lawyer in an understaffed office, in an emerging market economy, and in a culture where clients don’t understand the concept of personal time, the hours she pulled were very scary.

Then I rode to the b-school again to meet with an MBA who was interested in an idea I have about an IT application for streamlining administrative tasks that lawyers always complain about in law firms. I was planning on attending a talk about microfinance initiatives in Africa afterwards, but our discussion ran overtime. I instead attended a presentation by Professor Frans De Waal, a famous biologist known for his work on primates, who spoke about whether animals have the capacity for empathy. It was a fascinating presentation. (The evidence is pretty strong that apes do have empathy which extends to an inter-species level.)

I went home to cook dinner, do some study, and then went over to a wine and cheese night that the French Student Association was hosting (a friend is the President of the association, which is where the connection lies). I don’t normally attend wine functions for reasons that are obvious to those that know me, but I needed to get out and do something social. The French seem to have a mansion called La Maison Française all to themselves in which they can host events. I’m not sure, but it was probably bought by some French alumnus or alumna who wanted to donate something back to the university. I was told that ze Germans have their own house as well.

I think I was the only one drinking coke there, but it fooled more than a few people into thinking it was a glass of red wine. I walked up to a person with a jacket that had “Australia” written on it, only to find out he was actually Swedish. We spoke for a while and I found out he was involved in a funded startup which provides a service that converts bitmap images to vector images. A group of us then adjourned to a bar in Palo Alto where we ended the night bitching about how much work we had to do. (The line of the night was that one of us had applied to Stanford for the sole reason that it was on the West Coast. He thought it would be chilled, laid back, and a good place to have a holiday from work, only to find, much to his chagrin, that he was working harder here than he was at the Magic Circle firm he used to work at.) I arrived home at about 2.00am, put in a couple more hours of work and then went to sleep. We have exams in two weeks.

  2:42am (GMT -8.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
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My election night experience

This has been excerpted from my Backbench article.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA — November 4, 2008. The student lounge began filling up at 3.00pm, as the first polls around the country began to close on the East Coast. The flyers advertising the event said that no alcohol would be provided, but nonetheless, cases of beer and bottles of wine had been procured — though hopefully they would be used to toast to victory rather than drown our sorrows.

The mood was light and positive. Whenever CNN, or MSNBC called a state for Obama, people would cheer. When states were called for McCain there was silence, but, most notably, never were they any jeers or booing.

East Coast counting was well underway when I had to go to class just after 4.00pm, with some toss-up states shaping up to be a close battle. There was a large amount of distraction during a normally engrossing class on international deal making.

In class, I kept refreshing the New York Times’ “Big Board” summary page and various liveblogs and saw Obama’s EV count edge slowly up past 100, 150, and then 200. It hovered there for a while, with states such as Indiana, Missouri, Florida and North Carolina still hanging in the balance. Iowa fell to Obama. By 6.45pm, I was crawling up the walls as class ran overtime.

I got back in time for the 7.00pm round of polls to close to find that the student lounge was standing-room only. It was relatively uneventful for that hour, but we were kept entertained, not least of all by reporters appearing “via hologram” on CNN. There was the occasional cheer as various other less-crucial states were called, but the real lead up came just before 8.00pm, when the West Coast polls were due to close. Obama was still about 60 EVs short of hitting 270 and anticipation was growing in the atmosphere.

As CNN counted down the seconds to 8.00pm, the crowd joined in.

Five. Four. Three. Two

The projector screen went blank. A second of confusion, then the first boos of the night. The television feed had been lost.

Continue reading this article on the Backbench.

  6:48pm (GMT -8.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
4
Nov 08
Tue

Change has come

Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States of America. Pause a while and consider that. Absolutely amazing. What a country.

The mood around campus is incredible — euphoric is how I’d describe it.


Euphoria, as CNN calls the election for Obama. At 8.00pm PST tonight, the west coast polls closed. The television networks immediately called California, Oregon and Washington for Obama, catapulting him from the low 200s, straight past the magic 270 vote mark.

  9:56pm (GMT -8.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Election liveblog

10:05:42pm: Residual counts: Indiana might actually go for Obama. Missouri is pretty damn close too. Dems won’t get 60 in the senate. Montana is surprisingly close.

8:03:50pm: over! CNN just called

7:05:58pm: Looks like a foregone conclusion. Of course, the networks aren’t calling it yet.

6:33:15pm: I notice that Ohio has been called for Obama. That’s big. 15 minutes of class left.

5:47:35pm: Stuck in a class, but it looks like things are going without too many surprises…

3:53:40pm: The Kentucky gap seems to be closing…

3:30:59pm: Indiana with about 20k votes counted in is 55%-44%. Kentucky is 36-62 (5.5k).

3:20:45pm: First election results are coming in. Kentucky, for example, is starting to report.

1:30:56pm: A series of proposals on state law are also being voted upon today. Massachusetts is actually voting for whether they want to abolish income tax by 2010. (That’s right, zero income tax in Massachusetts!)

1:27:56pm: FiveThirtyEight.com writes:

“Andrew Gelman of Columbia University has taken a recent set of our simulations to look at what may happen conditional on the outcomes of the first states to close their polls at 6 and 7 PM [EST]. The bottom line? If those states go roughly as expected (meaning, say, an Obama win in Virginia and a close race in Indiana), we can conclude with almost literal 100 percent certainty that Obama will win the election”.

Annoying, I have a class at 4.15pm PST, but if this is any indication, we could have a very clear idea of how things are going to go down by then.

1:18:18pm: The consensus among the students here is that an Obama victory is a foregone conclusion. I have heard from one or two people back in Australia who are not so certain.

Here’s the GCC – sorry about the quality, the iPhone camera is crap. It looks like the lines earlier in the day have cleared out. There are some Obama placards around, but no McCain advertising.

12:51:41pm: The Graduate Student Center is a polling location and apparently there’s a long line outside it. I’m going to swing by and check it out when I pick something up from home.

11:37:30am: Intrade is currently showing that traders expect a 93.1% chance of an Obama victory and a 7.5% chance of a McCain victory. Their real time election tracking page is calling the EVs 364-174.

9:45:48pm: To start us off, this summary video is a great New York Times feature summarizing the lead up to today. For live election coverage online, here is a good list of resources.

9:42:26am: I’m making this post a liveblog and will attempt to update it throughout the day. The law school here has set up the student lounge for election viewing with a big projector screen from 3-10pm and are keeping it supplied with food and drinks, so it sounds like a good place to camp out for the day.

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Nov 08
Mon
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Nov 08
Sun

Prediction for the US Elections

My call: 364-174, Obama-McCain. Optimistic? Maybe, but I called the Rudd-Howard election optimistically as well, and look how that turned out. Also at issue is whether the Dems will get the 60 seats to avoid filibusters.

Click for full sized image

  3:38pm (GMT -8.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 


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