Migrating to another platform

Hi all,

I’m migrating over from Blogger to another platform.

When I first started writing regularly in 2013, I put my thoughts up on Facebook. Facebook has a huge reach, but there’s no easy way to catalog posts. I started this Blogger account to have a repository for my Facebook posts.

But now, I’d like to up my blogging game. Blogger has been OK, but I’m not really happy with how the blog looks. I’m sure I could put in a lot of effort to make it look nicer, but I’d rather focus on writing. I’m going to give Ghost a try and see how things go.

You can find the new blog over at joelshinkim.com, although I won’t be deleting this Blogger account. Maybe I’ll come back in the future.

Edit: I decided to give up the Ghost and go with WordPress. The link will take you to my WordPress site.

Getting to know my classmates

To my law school classmates,

Now that law school is over, I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

To be sure, I’ve gotten to know a bit about you. I’ve heard about your hometowns and your undergrad schools. I’ve heard about what you’ve done before law school. I’ve even heard about some of your hobbies, like the conversations I had with Samuel Jahangir about comic books or with Haley Barton about soccer.

But most of our conversations these past three years have been about school. How many pages did you write for your memo? What classes are you taking this quarter? How many finals do you have? Stress, stress, stress.

It makes sense. These were three challenging years. We got through a lot. And we helped each other through it.

Law school is what brought us together. And law school is what we talked about. But it’ll be nice to talk about other things. And we’ll all be doing such amazing things, there’ll be plenty to talk about the next time that we meet. To hear about the interesting cases you’re working on, or the research that you’re doing, or all the people that you’ve met and the places that you’ve gone and the thoughts you’ve thought.

So I guess what I mean is that while I’ll miss you, I’m looking forward to getting to know the real world you, not just the law school you.

We did it!

Congrats, Class of 2016!

Yesterday, the school had a get together for all the graduating students and their families. I was meeting Krista Perry‘s family and telling them about my future plans to help people get housing. Krista’s sister Katie said “Wow, all the people that I’ve met here are so impressive and doing such amazing things.”
Earlier that day, I had lunch with Barry Alberts, my legal ethics teacher. He graduated from the law school in 1971. Just this past April, he had his 45th law school reunion. He said that it was such a joy to see all the amazing things that his classmates have done in the practice of law, academia, politics, and other areas.
So congrats, class of 2016. You’re an impressive bunch, who have done amazing things, and will go on to do amazing things. Kudos.
Oh, and, uh, speaking of legal ethics, please don’t do anything unethical. Not that you need me to tell you, but still.

A Cautionary Tale

Let me share what happened last night, so you will not make the same mistake I did.

I was washing the dishes last night. I have this neat Ninja blender that David and Meg Suell left for me. It has a set of removable blades, which are attached to a plastic shaft that attaches to the motor. I was also washing a plastic measuring cup. I put the blade in the cup and started washing the bowls.

When I returned to the blade in the cup, I discovered that the blades had lodged inside the cup. The more I tried to pull the blades out, the more they got embedded in the cup.

Eventually, I took a lighter and melted the outside of the plastic measuring cup, until I could break the cup and free the blades. I threw the measuring cup away.

So don’t do what I just did.

Another note on the Stanford case: Compassion

Another note regarding the Stanford case:

Some of my friends have pointed out that part of the outcry against the lenient sentence is because of how the case fits into the greater justice system. As one friend put it, “For me it’s not a problem that the judge exercised compassion for the perpetrator; the problem is that the same compassion is not extended to people who aren’t talented white men.”

For Brock Turner, his race and class status may not have caused his light sentence. I doubt that Judge Persky was intentionally weighing these factors in his mind. Maybe if Turner was black and poor, he would have received the same sentence. Who knows. But we cannot deny that a pattern emerges across the entire criminal justice system. The criminal justice system treats you better if you’re guilty, white, and rich, than if you’re innocent, poor, and black.

Judge Persky looked at the humanity of Brock Turner. He saw a young man who did not belong in prison. I hope and pray that we become a society that extends that same compassion to all.

Regarding the Stanford rape case

Regarding the Stanford rape case: First, if you haven’t read the victim’s moving and powerful statement, please do so. We would all do well to reflect on her words. What happened to her is absolutely horrible, and I am inspired by her strength in composing this letter and reading it in court.

The case has received considerable attention not just because of the victim’s statement, but also because of the light sentence given to Brock Turner, the perpetrator. He received six months in county jail and probation, along with registering as a lifetime sex offender. There has been a great outcry in response, and a petition to recall Judge Aaron Persky over the ruling.

But I would like to hear people’s responses to this article from a public defender in the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office. Sajid Khan defends the sentence of six months jail and probation as appropriate.

One consequence of the heavy media attention to this case is that more people are talking about sexual assault, which is important. But I am concerned that popular outrage to recall the judge may be misguided. It’s noteworthy that both Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Santa Clara County public defenders Gary Goodman and Molly O’Neal both believe that Judge Persky should not be recalled.

Lastly, there is the question of whether popular control of judges in the form of recalls or judicial elections may actually have a negative effect on judicial independence. Judges may be less willing to exercise discretion, even if the circumstances warrant a more lenient sentence, because of concern of popular backlash.

In the end, it’s unlikely that Judge Persky will be recalled, as the process for a recall is incredibly complex. But I hope that people will continue to engage with issues of sexual assault. Regardless of what happens in this case, we all need to take steps to stop sexual assault, both on our college campuses and in our communities.

My experience with counseling

A couple weeks ago, I went to see a counselor with the Student Counseling Service.

At the time, I was experiencing some distress. Some of that had to do with the physical pain I was feeling in my shoulders and wrists. But I also had some issues that I wanted to work through. I figured that since I was paying for the SCS through my Student Life Fee, I should make use of the service.

Now, some folks may be surprised that I was experiencing distress. They may say that I always seem positive and upbeat. And while that may be true, I certainly have my share of self-destructive thoughts. These thoughts tend to focus on my relationships with peers. For example, I used to believe that conversation with me was wasted time, since I have nothing of interest to offer; people would be better off doing anything else than talking to me. In fact, it was selfish for me to try to connect with others, as I was draining them of their precious time. The fact that this mindset meant that I would always feel lonely didn’t matter, since my feelings didn’t matter.

Fortunately, I don’t believe this about myself anymore, and I know that it’s just not true. But old habits die hard, and in the stress of law school, it’s easy to slip into a pit of painful thoughts.

And while I have friends and community both here in Chicago and elsewhere, it’s nice to have a neutral expert observer who will simply listen. That said, I know that I was hesitant to reach out to friends. I believed that my mental health was not worth other people’s time. But that’s wrong! In the future, when I feel distress, I want to be quicker to reach out to the people that I know care about me.

So how did the talk with the counselor go? He was very encouraging and thoughtful. He helped me think through certain issues to explore further. He also reminded me that law school is a stressful time, and that many law students use the counseling service.

Now, I feel much better. It helps that my physical pain is pretty much gone (I heartily recommend the physical therapists with Athletico).

So if you’re feeling distressed and would like additional support besides friends and family, think about seeing a counselor. We all go through bumps and difficulties, and it’s helpful to get some outside perspective.

Lessons from social work: self-care

Last fall, I took a class at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, our university’s social work school. I was in a class of about 30 people. Besides myself and three Divinity School students, everyone else was a social work student.

The class was titled “Dying, Death and Loss.” The class was taught by a former hospice social worker. We focused on how to help individuals who are going through the dying process. Although we talked about bereavement and caring for those in grief, our primary focus was on how to care for the dying individual.

When I told people that I was taking a class on death, many responded by saying “wow, that sounds depressing.” But honestly, I didn’t feel that way. Once we acknowledge that death will happen and that it is sad, we can learn how to care for people. Sometimes, when someone is going through hard times, they don’t need the problem fixed or their emotions changed. They just need someone to sit with them for a while.

One thing I found noteworthy about the class was the focus on self-care. We had an entire session on how social workers need to take care of themselves. We talked about secondary trauma, in which a caregiver may experience emotional duress while listening to the trauma of someone else. We talked about how to avoid being burnt out. I wish lawyers talked about self-care more often.

On another note, when I told Amy, my instructor, that I was a law student, she said “Do you know Lior Strahilevitz?” Professor Strahilevitz is one of my favorite professors. It turns out that his wife, Joanna, was the medical director at the hospice where Amy used to work. I later brought this up with Professor Strahilevitz, and he said that having a wife who does hospice care has helped him feel more comfortable talking about death (my classmates in his 1L property class can attest to that). He also said “I tell people that my wife is a terrible doctor, because all her patients die.”

Also, I’m pretty sure that my anonymous crush was in that class, although I have no idea who it could be.

Law school isn’t normal life

Talking to Suky Longfield yesterday helped me remember something.

Law school Joel is not normal Joel.

Final exams are not normal life. Worrying about readings, outlines, practice exams: that’s not normal life.

So the anxiety and loneliness and worries that I experienced in law school: that’s not normal life. I’m not an anxious or lonely or worrisome person. But law school (and grad school in general) is an intense experience. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. And I’m glad that I’m done.

Summer smoke

Cigarette smoke in the summer heat
Evokes memories of:
Small neighborhood arcades, where machines eat up coin after coin,
Strikers 1945, Gunbird, Metal Slug.
Ha! Flamethrower! Take that, mummies!

Memories of:
Spicy fermented cabbage and buckwheat noodles,
Bean paste stew and broiled fish.
Soups, stews, and casseroles aren’t just a Midwest thing,
Although there’s less tater tots and more bean sprouts.

Banana milk and walnut ice cream,
Pepero and fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste,
Dried squid and shrimp crackers,
Seaweed and Chilsung Cider.

Conversations over seafood pancakes and rice liquor
With your aunts and uncles,
Telling you how your parents met
At a group hang out where your dad was supposed to meet your mom’s friend
But he saw your mom and never looked back.

And then asking when you will meet a nice Korean girl.

Cigarette smoke in the summer heat
Evokes memories of a place that
Isn’t quite home,
Isn’t quite foreign,
But an elsewhere to which I belong, somehow.

Seriously, Korean men smoke a lot. It’s a significant public health concern.