Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Laptop: What I'm Installing for Law School

I am writing this post on my new laptop. It arrived on Monday and I have spent all week un-installing and installing and moving files and generally making it my own. Since this laptop is primarily for school I have been looking for software that will help me be more efficient and productive once school starts. I am going to do several posts on software that I think will work well for law school. First up -- note taking software. I know there are a lot of different options out there, but these are two that I think will work well for me:

  • Microsoft OneNote -- Actually I got Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. I mentioned before the good deals on software from the Academic Superstore, but Amazon had the better price on this. Anyway, I have heard lots of good things about OneNote from other law student blogs, so I am going to try it out. I like the tabbed notebooks and the fact that you can type anywhere and include clippings from the web or wherever.

  • ZuluPad -- This is a free text editor that works kind of like a wiki. You can create lots of pages that link to each other. What I like best is that this software creates links automatically when you type the name of a page. I was imagining using this for taking notes in class: say I have briefed a case and have a page with the case name as the title, then when I type that case name in my notes a link to my brief is automatically created, I could then click on the link to look at my brief in case I get called on, or just have it linked for reference when I am reviewing my notes. The main drawback to ZuluPad is that it is pretty much just a plain text editor. The $15 pro version has bold, italic and underline and lets you change the font (but it has to be the same font for the whole document), but I think that I am going to need more features than that.

In my next post I'll tell you what I've installed for time and task management.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Laptop is on its way!

I emailed ExamSoft again this week and found out that they are now compatible with Vista, so I went ahead and ordered my laptop for school. I chose a Dell Inspiron E1405 because it's relatively small without being overly expensive, because Consumer Reports said that it has better battery life than the equivalent HP laptop, and because I've heard a lot of complaints about HP's service, not to mention my own hubby's negative experience with them. I didn't really consider anything other than Dell or HP, I don't know why -- I guess those are the brands I am most familiar with.

So, anyway, I got notice today that the laptop is now on its way and should arrive on Monday. I am really excited to have my own computer again. I have been using hubby's desktop for the last six months since we haven't really had space for two computers. This will be almost the first PC I have owned (I did briefly own a PC laptop that I got used about 9 years ago. I don't know what happened to it). I am a mac person. But I am comfortable with Windows too, and Vista looks pretty cool. I can't wait to get it all set up and make it my own!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's Official ...

I am going to uptown school. I paid my deposit and I withdrew from downtown school. Uptown school ended up not giving me any financial aid either, but I had already resigned myself to the large loans I will have to take out. As you might have noticed, I added a little countdown widget to the column on the right of the page and was surprised to see how close law school really is. Yikes! And I still have to find daycare!

Friday, April 13, 2007

One book down, twenty-three to go

So, it looks like my eyes are bigger than my brain, or something like that. I bought all these books, but at this point I rather doubt I will get to read them all before law school. In the last three months I have started five books and finished one. Of course the move and unpacking put a temporary halt to all reading, but now that we are pretty well settled I have been getting a little reading done in the evenings.

The one book I finished is Getting To Maybe. Although I won't truly be able to attest to the utility of this book until after my first exams in the fall, I think this was a good book to read before law school. The book demystifies law school exams, making them less intimidating. I think that alone is reason enough to read it before school starts. Another reason I think it was good to read it now is that, by understanding how law school exams work, I can know what to pay attention to in class and can study more effectively throughout the semester. Also, the book not only explains in great detail the kinds of questions you will see on law school exams and how to deal with them, it has good tips for taking notes, outlining and studying. I will definitely need to look at this book again as exams approach, because there was a lot of useful information in there.

I am currently reading The Lost Children of Wilder: the epic struggle to change foster care. The story of the little girl is heartbreaking, but the author's style is getting on my nerves. She starts in the middle, then jumps back in time to give background on the people involved, which I guess in itself isn't bad, but the way she does it just seems so formulaic, like somebody made a rule that you're not allowed to tell stories from beginning to end, instead you have to start with the characters in a car on their way to some important event, so that you create a drama and suspense immediately, then you go back and tell the whole story of how they got there. Anyway, the reason I am reading this book is that I was thinking it might get me excited about the end result of law school -- becoming a lawyer -- which is something I haven't been spending much time thinking about lately. But I might abandon this book and go back to something more practical. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Baby Tracking Software

This is exactly what I wanted a few months ago: a way to represent my babies sleep visually. I love that you can record when you put the baby down and when he actually fell asleep, and I love the sleep probability distribution! Too bad I didn't search lifehacker for "babies" a long time ago.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I see large loans in my future

Last week I received notice from downtown school that, not only did they not think I was cool enough to be a finalist for the scholarship I applied for, they also do not think I am needy enough to qualify for any aid whatsoever. So, since money was the only thing that was going to change my mind at this point, that pretty much seals the deal for me -- I will be going to uptown school. I attended an admitted student event there a week and a half ago, and I definitely think I will be happiest there. I haven't received anything from them about financial aid yet, but I don't really expect them to give me anything either (although I am hoping for a little something anyway).

So, obviously, I will be taking out loans. My husband's current salary is sufficient to pay our living expenses, and for the first 9 months of school I will be getting GI Bill money (I've already used a lot of it and only have 9 months of benefits left), which will help pay for daycare, but I am probably going to have to take out loans to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees, etc. We have some money from the sale of our house, but we would rather save that for a down payment on another house after I graduate than spend it all on tuition. In any case, if we change our minds we can just use the money to pay down the loans after I graduate. So, I guess I am looking at $120,000 or so in loans. Luckily my school has a pretty good LRAP, so if I enter public interest law, as I plan to, making the loan payments shouldn't be a problem. So, I am not particularly worried about having to take out these large loans. Even if for some reason I don't qualify for the LRAP, student loans tend to be pretty flexible in how you pay them off.

I haven't really started thinking of myself as decided on uptown school yet, even though I can't think of anything that will change my mind. I guess it is because I feel like things are still pending, or maybe because I am not ready to start doing all the things that I will need to do once the decision is made, the most difficult of which will be finding daycare.