Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Half way through the half way point.

Well, I had two finals the first day of the test period. The school offers the opportunity to reschedule finals if you have such a conflict, but the optional day to take the test was the last Friday before X-Mas so I decided to suck it up and take them both. Well, if I could go back and rethink my decisions, I would change my mind. Ugh. It was a rough day.

Anyway, no time to complain, have to climb right back on the horse, two finals left to go. These ones are doosies too; Constitutional Law and Business Entities. Someone was telling me that the B. Entities test made someone cry last year! Unfortunately, I just can't seem to focus on school today and haven't gotten past Agency yet...alas, perhaps I should have stayed a corporate drone.

Well, after these next two tests I'll be officially half way to a Juris Doctor (not that the world needs another one...) I'll check back in before x-mas.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Winter

Apt, on this first day of December, truly a winter month, that Seattle gets a snow fall. I am currently on the fourth floor of the law school in the Justice James Dolliver reading room watching the snow blow around the building. The flakes are large, like bits of shredded paper caught in a fast breeze. It doesn't seem to be sticking, the pavement and the plants at the base of the law school are merely wet and seem snow free. Snow doesn't come often to Seattle. When it does it causes havoc. Schools close, freeways clog up, and people loose power. Generally the citizens take on a weird hysteria, half excitement and half dread. The mindset is spurred by the weather reports as suit clad weatherman tell us they have spotted doomsday on the Doppler radar, stay tuned.

In the bowels of the school young students are taking the LSAT, the qualifying test needed to apply to law school. There must be a two hundred or more taking the test. I am always surprised that so many people want to come to law school, then again, I'm here aren't I.

Anyway, I'm putting of writing a paper for my constitutional law class. The topic is simple and vague, discuss the political processes' role in the light of the constitutional topics we've discussed. Sure, why not, it seems like an easy task but I'm feeling somewhat rudderless sifting through my notes for the past semester trying to create a persuasive argument of the various flotsam commentary on politics by the Supreme Court overtime. I'm sure I'll survive the task …

It is knee deep time, where I have to wade through all the notes I've taken, re-read all the cases I've read thus far, and open to study guides and treatises in preparation for finals. So, as you can tell by my posting frequency as of late, it might be a while before I post again, or it might be tomorrow if I desperately need to procrastinate some more. I just can't ever tell.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Where are all the engineers?

Once again, Bill Gates, laments that the sky is about to fall over the national economy if we don't start churning out engineers soon. Yet, we've heard this for years and nothing is changing in the education system.

Here's a suggestion. How about a new post-graduate education program to educate non engineers into engineers. As it is now, if you graduated with a non-engineering degree you are locked out of any higher education for engineers. Why? Why can't engineering be more like med or law school that will look for aptitude and then train? Perhaps there could be a new engineering masters or doctorate degree that takes people with policy sci degrees; fast tracks them and reteaches them math and physics and engineering principles so that they can be engineers. You might not be able to do it in two years, but perhaps a three program? Perhaps, instead of lamenting that not enough people have chosen the established path to engineering jobs, we should blaze a new one?

Grey Drizzle

I a pretty bleak day here in Seattle, the sky is gray and the nice fine northwest drizzle is soaking the earth. A perfect day to be in the library, which is exactly where I am.

Finals are rapidly approaching and I'm trying to get a leg up on studying before Thanksgiving break as I have family coming and studying might take a back seat. This explains the lack of posting lately as well. I was two kids shy of making it into the top 10% of my class last year, and this year I've committed myself to doing a little better and edging my way up in class rank. As they say, "Good is the Enemy of Great" and I'm trying to prevent myself from settling, one of my worst character flaws. this translates into more hours with the books at less on the computer. So, if you like this blog, I apologize.

Anyway, not much has been going on. The only personal news of note was a conference I went to the other day on the Pakistani Constitutional crisis. It was essentially a panel discussion between a bunch of SU law professors; 2 constitutional scholars (1 of which is Indian) and one mid-east law expert; a Pakistani who is also a professor at Evergreen College; and a Pakistani Lawyer. The talk was informative and helped put the coup into perspective. There is nothing new about military coups like this, there have been 4 in Pakistan in the last 70 years, however, this is the first time a coup has ever been directed at the Judiciary. The crowd was pretty sparse, which prompted one of the professors to lament that it was too bad no one "gives a damn". Most of the crowd was professors and a few students.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Seattle University, oh, where's that?

Caution: this post tends to ramble more than others and I don’t have time to edit, you’ve been forewarned.

There was an article in the PI today about Seattle U's (SU) basketball team playing Kentucky today in an exhibition/celebration game for their national championship battle 50 years ago. The article dropped a few tidbits about Seattle U plans to move into Div I sport and a return to a more traditional collegiate atmosphere after an experiment at being a commuter campus in the 70-90s.

To be honest, I am not very connected to Seattle U. It is, merely, the school where my law school is located. I don't feel that connected to SU that I do to the U of Idaho, the campus isn't my home like Moscow's was, and I don't really know much about the school aside from the quadrant where the law school is. So, I decided to ponder SU a little more than I normally do and wonder what it is like to be an undergrad here.

As the article states, the school is moving back toward a traditional, residential campus. The campus itself, is truly urban. No other major institution in Seattle has a similar city feel. The U of Washington (UW) and Seattle Pacific University (SPU) are both "classified" as urban schools, but it isn't the same setting as SU. The UW sits on a sprawling, wooded campus on the shores of Lake Washington. While still in the city, UW's large and park-like setting make it quite possible for student to stay on campus and completely ignore the city if they chose to. Similarly, SPU, while technically within the city limits, sits in a quite neighborhood nestled between the Lake Union ship canal placid waters and the base of Queen Anne hill (quickly becoming one of Seattle poshest neighborhoods).

SU, however, is located in between First Hill (also know as Pill Hill for all the Hospitals or formely as Curse Hill) and Capitol Hill (home to Seattle oldest neighborhoods) and surround by the various Hospitals (which help explain the school stellar nursing program) that dominate the Eastern half of Seattle skyline. Yesterday, I went downtown for a haircut and it was a quick 10 minute walk to the heart of the Seattle business district and the base of the city's tallest skyscrapers. From here, I could walk ten more minutes to the shopping district or climb aboard a bus in the the city's ride free zone and move about the interior of the city with ease. It is impossible, from here, to not realize you are in one of America’s major cities.

For college freshmen, who live on campus, this must be an exciting place to be an 18 year old. At U of Idaho, a large campus in the middle of nowhere, the school is the city of Moscow. Everything in Moscow revolves around the school and it is impossible to ever leave the fact that you are a student, the you at University. Even if you leave campus the city still feels like an extension of campus, if you drive a few miles to Pullman you are still on another college campus (WSU). Thus, a student who leaves home to spend for four of five years in Moscow will have a brief respite from the rest of the world while they focus on their studies, the classmates, and the University. I don’t think that is the same experience here. A young student here basically lives in a beautiful garden in the middle of a city. A city, unlike Moscow, does not revolve around anyone institution but bustles with continuous activity. A student can simply take a step of the campus and forget their studies, their classes, and their university troubles.

I’m not sure which setting is better, I don’t really think that either is better, rather, they are different. Had I a second choice, I’m pretty sure I would choose another rural school but there are definite advantages for the urban setting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You know you've been in law school too long when...

You start dreaming about lectures you never attended and arguing with professors who you never had. I won't go into the gory detail but I had a very vivid dream of sitting in a class and arguing with Professor Skover about, of all things, the subject of creativity. Wierd.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tidbit: sore glutes and achy thighs

It was a pretty busy weekend involving a visit by a fraternity brother currently living in California and a super-half marathon.

The visit from the fraternity brother resulted in two late nights and a realization of how old we are, or conversely, how young we once were. Anyway, it was a great break from the doldrums that normally define my weekends and involved drinking, Guitar Hero, and a trip to Cowgirl Inc (a bar whose concept I don't get - if you have seen the movie Coyote Ugly than you have a pretty good idea of the place: packed, full of men staring at women dancing on the bar, and bouncers pushing you around. Some of my friend love the place but I just don't get it.)

Despite late nights on Friday and Saturday, I woke up at 5:45 Sunday morning so that I could run a half marathon at 7 AM. It was an experiment by Nike to allow users of their Nike+ technology (their partnership device with the Apple Ipod) to run a marathon in conjunction with the Women's Marathon in San Francisco. The event was coordinated by the great running store, Road Runner Sports. The store staff hosted the event, mapped out a course, provided us with aid/water stations on the course, and made the marathon seem like more than just a training run. The event, however, wasn't very well publicized and only 6 or 7 people showed up to run Sunday morning. The store manager has said 20 or so signed up. Despite the attendance issue, it was a great event with one little caveat.

I called it a super half marathon because of a mistake by the course planner that made the 13.1 mile course into a 15.1 mile course. So, it was a half marathon plus 2 miles. I had thought something was wrong when I realized before the turn around that I had already ran 6 miles and I still would have to do 6 miles back and run a 2+ miles loop around Greenlake. Regardless, I ran the whole course (I came in 1st by the way) and mentioned to the store manager that I thought the course seemed long. He cheerfully admitted to me the mistake. It was a pretty funny in retrospect. In the end, I managed to do it a little over 2 hours and averaged a 8.25 min/mile pace. Not to bad for my first super half marathon and it came with a Nike t-shirt and Tiffany key chain for my wife.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

.com.bust

There was another article in the NYTimes about the resurgence of cash flowing through Silicon Valley (and other location of the high tech economy) flooding over internet start ups that don’t have revenue models to speak of. It poses two possibilities, one a return to the irrational exuberance of the late ‘90s before the .com bust or a sensible investment strategy as capitalists position themselves to be part of the largest market ever known to man.

I for one am an internet optimist. I use this media everyday from blogging here, to researching, to reading the news, or engaging in debate on various forums. The massive amounts of content generated everyday by users in mind boggling. Surely, there has never been a time in our history where the volume of human creation was higher then now with the advent of video, blogs, podcasts, news articles online and the terabytes of data being generated daily. (The quality of these human creations, however, is another topic that I will address later.) The capitalists are right to see this burgeoning phenomenon and recognize the force it has on the economy. To ignore it would be negligent.

The fundamental technology and infrastructure is different then it was in the ‘90s. The speed and capacity of the internet has grown exponentially since the turn of the millennia. Businesses now have the ability to push and pull amazing amounts of data around the net allowing for more and more sophisticated applications that can assist us in enumerable ways. Further, the reach of the net is expanding so that we are no longer tethered to our desks or laptops but can access the net from an increasing variety of advanced and increasing portable devices. Thus, the internet, as the market for information and customers is, indeed, the future.

Despite the existence of this new technology, however, commerce is still, and always will be, the same. Goods and services will always be exchanged for some price and that price economically, remembering back to Econ 101, will be set where the supply and demand curves intersect. I find the concept of commerce, however, best explained in the psychological term of “value perception”. Commerce will always be fueled by perceptions of value. For example, early on in man’s existence, I assume, that someone who had meat but not shelter would value shelter higher than meat. They would search until they came across a person with excess shelter but a grumbling stomach. Then, given the value placed on each good by the other party, they would make an exchange; meat for shelter, shelter for meat. This exchange of value still persists today although facilitated with the exchange of money. For example, I go into McDonald’s with a number of dollars in my pocket. McDonalds has a number of McChicken sandwiches on their shelves. They value the dollar in my pocket more than the McChicken sandwiches on their heat rack and I value the McChicken more than dollar in my pocket and so we make an exchange. If these values were ever equal or switched, we would never engage in commerce. Thus, commerce still depends upon value perceptions (There are a lot of economics behind how value is created and earned and distributed and takes up thousands upon thousands of pages, but for moment I’ll just focus on the high level concept).

The basic problem with the internet is that most of the content is pretty worthless, aka lacking value. When I think of all the sites generating content that I go to on a daily basis; Google, HBO, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, various podcasting services, etc… I have to question if anything they produce has much value.

In aggregate, I think they do. I go to these sites almost daily and I would not do so if I didn’t enjoy them, if I didn’t place some value on their content. But, if I had to pay for it, would I, what price would I place, where would the supply and demand curve intersect? If Google charged me to blog I would probably stop. If HBO charged me to read and comment I would spend more time studying for law school. If MySpace charged, well, I would just have human interaction again. If I did pay, I would probably only give pennies and thus, if I were the source of income, they would need billions of me to make any sort of profit. Yet, in an increasing bifurcated consumption model generating significant volume is the biggest challenge of all. End the end, all these sites do is generate viewer-ship, they produce hits, and the only consumers who values viewers more than the dollars in it’s pocket are advertisers.

Which is why the revolution of commerce some have promised with the internet has failed to occur. The internet, thus far, has only managed to provide an audience for advertisers, this is not revolutionary* (*the internet has also done great things at providing a new forum for traditional transactions – think Ebay or Costco.com, a new sales channel, yes, but hardly a great new economic society). Ultimately, this just means that customers who were previously spending money on traditional sources of viewers like television, radio and print are just moving to this money to new, more profitable forums. More profitable, yes; more efficient, perhaps; larger markets, possibly; yet, in a rational world this does not explain why Google is a $600 stock with revenues 1/36th of IBMs or why Facebook should be a billion dollar acquisition.

The resurgence of companies without revenue models and the millions pouring into them is and is not troubling. The internet is a powerful media that will be the most important marketplace during my lifetime. Companies involved in creating and expanding this new market need to grow and foster new capabilities and if investors ignore them is at their and our own collective peril. Yet, commerce is still commerce. It will always be driven by value exchanges and so far the only value the current crop of internet companies seems to know how to create is for advertisers. I have no doubt, that somewhere, there is a revolutionary who will un-tap a new source of value from the internet, but I also have some fear that if this current bubble of exuberance bursts that this revolutionary might crushed by the stampeding investors out of the marketplace.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The $2000 bag of saline.

Over on HBO, like other places in cyberspace or the local coffee shop, there is a good deal of discussion around the issue of health care. Between the unveiling on Hilary-Care redux bringing the topic back into the presidential race or the recent veto by President Bush of S-CHIP, it seems to be forefront in our collective minds right now. The debate rages between those who believe that our system of health care is the greatest in the world and the intrusion of government will only ruin it to those that believe that we are mired in some sort of dark age of humor treatments and leeching and that we need government to swoop in and safe us all. The truth is, we are somewhere in between. Our medical system is still the best in the world in some respects, high end surgery and expensive cancer treatment, and bottom of the pack in others, ER care and primary care services.

Of course, this debate is rather remote for most of us who have insurance and are healthy. It isn’t until you get sick and have to interact with health care system that you can see that there truly is a problem.

Recently, my wife got sick. Nothing life threatening, just a simple flu that had her bed ridden for a week where she was unable to go to work, eat much of anything, and left her in a general state of misery. After about 6 or 7 days of dealing with it, she finally gave in and decided to seek assistance from our much vaunted medical establishment. We made an appointment and went to see a doctor at one of the various Swedish operated medical centers around Seattle. Having insurance, we went to the upstairs clinic with an expansive waiting room littered with the latest magazines and a separate play area for the tykes. We didn’t wait long before we saw a fresh young doctor who, after 10 minutes, decided that the case might be serious and he sent us down the ER for tests. We left the posh upper floor of the hospital where the clinic resided next to a state-of the-art heart institute with plush leather chairs, new carpet smell, and crisp metal signage to the bowel of the hospital. The ER was quite the contrast. It was old, dingy, there was a faint smell of urine in the waiting room, and the all the signs were simple printed pieces of paper. Here in the ER, we waited for three hours before being seen by a nurse and subsequently, a few hours later, a doctor. The treatment cumulated in a saline IV, a couple tablets of potassium, and a prescription.

The whole ordeal took about 8 hours. Of course, about 20 minutes of that was spent with doctors, about 30 minutes with a nurse, and the rest was just waiting. So, over 7 hours of waiting for 50 minutes of healthcare. We recently got our bill and before insurance that total was over $2,000. Of course we pay only a fraction of that, around $600, but I’m puzzled by those that say that our system of healthcare is okay when it takes 8 hours and $2000 to administer an IV of saline. I ask how much lower could their standards be? Do they really fear government that much that they would choose this over upsetting the status quo?

Of course, I’m sure there is a lot more to this $2,000 bill than simply the IV and the 50 minutes of labor we saw. There are behind the scenes tests, administration, and the Dr and staffs do work on patient files, etc… And, as we were setting in a bed in the hallway since all the rooms were full, we could see that nurses and doctors spent a lot of time dealing with a computer problem as they all stared puzzled at the digital board (a 60 inch plasma on the wall that listed all the patients in the ER, etc.) and said, “Can someone call the EPIC people, the system isn’t working right.” Of course, the computer isn’t a patent, but I’m sure the patients were charged for the time. And then, of course, there are overhead expenses baked into the bill and the fact that bill is marked up to cover non-payments and shortcoming from the Medicare system. In fact, that $2,000 bill probably really doesn’t have any connection to cost realities of treatment at all.

Regardless of how academic the $2000 bill is, it doesn’t really matter because the hospital knew it would probably never see that much anyway when it created the invoice. It knows that when it sends it to my insurance carrier or to Medicare that the bill will be negotiated down (usually subject to previous negotiated terms between the carriers) to a lower amount. In fact, the only person who would ever have to pay the full $2000 is someone who had no coverage at all and, in all likelihood, would be the person in the system the least likely to be able to afford it. As it was, the insurance company paid their portion, the hospital reduced the total bill by a similar portion, and we were charged the difference, the $600 bucks.

Now, for us, $600 bucks isn’t pocket change, but we can pay it without any change in our daily lives, but what about those who are not so fortunate. I can only imagine someone who lives pay check to pay check that probably doesn’t get sick day and how they would be in a similar situation (if she had health insurance). They might be faced with a $600 dollar bills in addition to a week from work without pay and now they have to make a choice between the mortgage and their hospital bill. Something as simple as a bag of saline could throw a life, already on the edge, into havoc. This is our vaunted health care system, should something not be done?

Friday, September 28, 2007

And now for a random though on law school.

This might be a sacrilegious statement amongst my peers, but, the law doctorate, of all the doctorate degrees, is they easiest one to get.

When I think about my graduate schooling compared to what it takes to get a PhD or an MD, I am a little ashamed of that we get a doctorate too. We don’t have the research projects or advanced theses to pen, no, the heart of our education is simply reading and talking about what we’ve read. Sure, we have a testing period twice a year and there are memos and briefs to learn how to write and it you are a research assistant or member of law review you have to churn out a volume or two, but, compared with the rigors of anatomy or trying to isolate the DNA of microphages, this law stuff is cake.

It is, however, the most stressful of the doctorate degrees to get. The source of the stress is one simple item – competition. Every year law school admits thousands more students that the profession could possible need. This means that if you don’t come out of law school on top it will be a long hard slog to climb the ranks of the profession. For example, take the pay difference between recent graduates. A person graduating in the top 10% in Seattle could expect to earn 115-120K to start if they choose a big firm, the next 20-30% will probably take jobs at middle sized firm for 65-85K, this is could be a 55K difference for people with the very similar academic profiles. If you are in the bottom quartile it can sometimes take months, if ever, to find a foothold in the legal profession. Add on top to this the cost of going to law school and you can imagine the grade hungry feeding frenzy atmosphere at exam time.

Of course, it is possible to succeed without good grades. Every once and a while you will here of someone who graduated at the bottom of their class or from some 4th tier rinky-dink law school and went on to be one of the country’s best litigator’s, but I’m pretty sure this is just a local wives-tale cocked up by the administration to keep the bottom quartile enrolled and paying their tuition.

Even without the costs and the competition the very structure of law school instruction is stress inducing. The core of a legal education is reading cases and struggling to comprehend the rational and reason behind the court's decisions. In order to ensure that this largely solo activity, sitting at a desk pouring over pages and pages of legalese each day, is accomplished, law school is taught in the Socratic method. Although this method takes various form, it basically consists of an interchange between a student and the teacher with the teacher grilling the student about the material and their understanding of it. This exchange can some be between one student and the professor for the entire class period with the rest of the class simply listening and taking notes. Or it can be between the teacher and several student or, on the rare occasion, it may just be the professor having a conversation with themselves. Research has shown the Socratic method is an ineffective method for actual instruction for the majority of the students. But, instruction really isn’t the point of the Socratic method. Instruction in law school is the self taught kind, the Socratic method, instead, is designed to ensure you've read by introducing the possibility that you will have to prove your comprehension in front of the class at random times and to prepare you for the future verbal encounters you will have in practice. Therefore, the law school classroom’s primary purpose is not to serve as a setting for instruction, but rather, a stage for future performance.

A second source of stress in law school is the way we are evaluated. We have one instance, generally, for each class to prove ourselves. We have one test to earn a grade. So, if you have a bad day come test day all the time spent in class, all the reading, all the struggling with concepts could be for naught as there are no second chances. You can’t try again, there are no opportunities for redemption. On top of this, we have grading curves. Unlike a science subject, there are no right answers. There are wrong answer of course, there are misstatement of the law or complete misunderstandings, but there is not absolute right answers. There are popular right answers, there are right answers the professors tend to favor, there are right answers with or without justification, and there are even right answers that no one agrees with. Therefore, in grading, the law professors have to take all these answers that are right in their own way, as they represent knowledge of the law and might persuade a court, and choose the best ones. To do this, almost every law school imposes a stringent curve that the teachers must sort into. So, the difference between an A or a B is based not only upon how much you know but also, to some extent, upon the ability of your peers. This is a factor that can’t be controlled (unless you try to sabotage your classmates, which is known to happen from time to time, but that is another post).

So, is law school hard? No, understanding the properties of the Type B Histone Acetyltransferase Hat1: h4 tail interaction, site preference, and involvement in DNA repair is hard, understanding Chief Justice Marshall’s logic in the federal bank case is not. Is Law school stressful? Yes, realizing that if you don’t get a grade better then the kid sitting next to you that you won’t be able to pay off your student loans it enough to make your heart start beating and for you mind to question your every decision in life. I write this so that the next time a kid sits down next to me and starts complaining about how hard law school I’ll be able to explain to them that what they are feeling is an apprehension of stress, not difficulty.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blogger

I've been meaning to post, but lately due to work and school I haven't had much energy left over for this thing. I went to a Ron Paul (R-Texas) rally the other day just for kicks and to see the man speak. I'll try to post a run down in a few days.

BTW - happy belated Constitution Day. Yesterday I went to a debate on the recent Supreme Court decision that found Seattle public schools use of race in school choice was unconstitutional. It was an interesting discussion and it deserves a blog post of it's own, but that probably won't happen.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Lamest Couple in Seattle

Well, I think I can safely assert that my wife and I are the lamest two people in Seattle. A glorious sun filled weekend in the Puget Sound and what did we do with it. Nothing. Bring on the rain.

I did go for a 13 mile run on Saturday through the neighborhood; through the UW campus and greek row, to greenlake which I lapped twice and back. On my trip I ran through a sea of men, women and children garbed in orange and blue all over campus and the neighborhood streets. The Boise State Broncos were in town. Bronco fans sure do show up in force, you have to give 'em credit for that. They still lost though, proving that despite all their bravado they are still merely a mid-major, not a national player. A program that hasn't beaten a BCS team on the road in 13 games can not call itself a national caliber program. True, they are better than in-state rival Idaho, and they are one of the better mid-majors in the nation, but they still have a long, long way to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as Ohio, Florida or hell, even, Washington State. They still bring credit to the WAC though and for that I'll give them praise, but I don't see their domination of the WAC or Idaho for that matter lasting more than a year or two.

It did make me thankful to live in a college neighborhood though. I love living so close to the UW when the fall changes the colors on the trees and the campus comes to life. Not sure what it is but I wouldn't ever want to live in a town without a college.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Of Wal-Mart, Lower Prices, and Toy Safety

The Toy Industry is asking the fed to issue some tighter regulations after the recent spat of toy recalls. They industry claims that this is to restore customer faith in their products, the customer, as the toy industry argues, will see that the government is acting and be reassured in their future purchases. I don’t think, however, that this is the only reason that the toy industry wants tighter regulations, they want the government to help protect their customers from the market, a market that the toy industry is powerless to standup to on their own.

Protecting customer from the market, you ask? Shouldn’t they be doing that, isn’t this the toymakers fault, how can you blame the market? Easy. Think Wal-Mart.

I’ve been surprised that Wal-Mart has escaped any press in latest toy scandal. The toy market is dominated by Wal-Mart, if you don’t believe me, just ask Toys-R-Us. And in toys, just like anything Wal-Mart does, it has one relentless pursuit, lower prices. I imagine the conversation in Bentonville goes something like this:

Wal-Mart to the toy industry: We need lower prices?
Mattel: How?
Wal-Mart: We don’t care, just find a way if you want to sell to us.
Mattel: Okay.

Mattel to supplier in china: We need lower costs?
Supplier: How?
Mattel: We don’t care, just find a way if you want to sell to us.
Supplier: Okay

Apparently, in China cutting cost means lead paint and shoddy parts. But this is nothing new, remember the dog food scare. If you went into a Wal-Mart during the crisis did you notice the dog food shelves, empty? Thus, we have the biggest buyer forcing the lowest production costs possible and the market responding, should we be surprised at the results. In a market obsessed with price and no regulatory enforcement, safety is apparently the first to go.

I’m not a huge Wal-Mart basher, I know there are those who rail against everything the store stands for. I will admit that Wal-Mart has a place in our economy as a growth engine and has brought a new level of efficiency to the consumer markets. These are things that the company should be lauded for. And I’m not really certain that we can place the blame on Wal-Mart for these recalls, Wal-Mart didn’t make the decision to hire these suppliers or use shoddy production materials. However, I think I’m safe in concluding that Wal-Mart is the strongest source of market pressure that resulted in the shoddy decision making at Mattel.

So, to bring this short diatribe full circle. Mattel should be seeking regulation. When there is one force in the market bringing so much pressure to bear that these type of cost cutting measure are the result, the only tool they have is regulation to rebut this force and level the playing field against a powerful, one sided consumer. This fact, coupled with the chance that regulation might help restore customer confidence a little, would make regulation worth it to save their struggling company. But, yet in this discussion we must not loose track of a bigger point. This is, nothing is free. Prices can not be reduced infinitum, something must give, and if market pressures are left to batter companies and consumers for the sake of profit than often consumer safety is that thing which gives.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I Live But I Do Not Blog

For some reason I just haven't been up to blogging since I left on vacation. Since returning back from southern Idaho, the fall semester of law school has started, I've been busy applying for a new clerkship next summer, and I just haven't cared about put endless amount of bullshit on this here computer screen. I'm sure it's just a phase, though, I'll be back to various diatribe before long.

Anyway, the the trip was okay, went to Yellowstone, saw some bison and some hot, stinky water jetting out of the ground, super. Here's some pics




Friday, August 17, 2007

Undergraduate Rankism

The US News and World Report college issue came out just in time to put those new freshmen into a state of apprehension over choosing the wrong school as they head off to campus at the end of this month. Thanks guys.

Anyway, I took the time this morning (while putting off editing some contract language) to sift through the data and give you a ranking of major schools in the West (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, & Utah). I haven't ranked every school and if I didn't get to yours, tough.
Anyway, I have created a ranking based on the nat'l ranking and where school tied, I used selectivity (on the assumption that the more selective a school is the larger the applicant pool it has and therefore the market has endorsed it) and endowment size (as a larger endowment = more resources per student and a better ability to invest in the core mission of the school.) So, without further adieu, here are the rankings:

Group 1 - Nat'l Universities or the school that have a national research impact and produce Doctoral degrees. The only surprises in this group was the size of UW's endowment, over a billion, wow; and that Portland State is the biggest school in Oregon surpassing both U of O and OSU.


Forge Rankings School Enrollment Selectivity Endowment (M) Student Body Endowment/Student Ranking
1 U of Wash. More Selective $ 1,786.594 27,836 $ 64,182.86 Nat'l - #42
2 BYU More Selective - 30,480 Nat'l - #79
3 U of Colorado More Selective $ 290.700 26,165 $ 11,110.26 Nat'l - #79
4 U of Ore. Selective $ 454.873 16,529 $ 27,519.69 Nat'l - #112
5 Wash. State More Selective $ 351.162 19,554 $ 17,958.58 Nat'l - #118
6 Colorado State Selective $ 161.316 21,283 $ 7,579.57 Nat'l - #124
7 Ore. State Selective $ 440.042 15,829 $ 27,799.73 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
8 U of Utah More Selective $ 425.319 22,155 $ 19,197.43 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
9 U of Idaho Selective $ 177.774 9,127 $ 19,477.81 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
10 U of Hawaii Selective $ 142.000 14,037 $ 10,116.12 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
11 Utah State More Selective $ 110.072 12,779 $ 8,613.51 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
12 Montana State Selective $ 72.893 10,832 $ 6,729.41 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
13 U of Montana Selective $ 17.134 10,357 $ 1,654.34 Nat'l - 3rd Tier
14 Idaho State Selective $ 28.306 10,640 $ 2,660.34 Nat'l - 4th Tier
15 Portland State Less Selective $ 34.508 17,998 $ 1,917.32 Nat'l - 4th Tier


The next group is of Master's School, these are school that provide, for the most part, education that is regionally based with limited research and doctoral programs. (yes, despite BSU's prowess on the fball field, this is still where it lives). The surprise here, who knew BSU would be tied with EWU, probably not all those Broncos down in Boise. Also, I thought U of Alaska would be higher.


Forge Rankings School Enrollment Selectivity Endowment (M) Student Body Endowment/Student Ranking
1 Gonzaga U. More Selective $ 128.881 4,275 $ 30,147.60 Master's West - #3
2 U of Portland More Selective $ 81.212 2,907 $ 27,936.70 Master's West - #5
3 Seattle U. More Selective $ 182.290 4,160 $ 43,819.71 Master's West - #6
4 Boise State Selective $ 64.763 17,042 $ 3,800.20 Master's West - #43
5 E. Wash. Less Selective $ 6.376 9,838 $ 648.10 Master's West - #43
6 U. Of Alaska Less Selective $ 14.880 16,242 $ 916.14 Master's West - 3rd Tier


Finally, is Whitman, in the lonely liberal arts group. What was surprising here is the size of the endowment for this tiny school, over 200K per student!!! Makes you wonder why they have to charge 40K+ a year?


Forge Rankings School Enrollment Selectivity Endowment (M) Student Body Endowment/Student Ranking
1 Whitman More Selective $ 340.802 1,455 $ 234,228.18 Liberal Arts - #37


BTW - I'm heading off for vacation to see the fam in Pocatello Idaho so I might be posting some pics of our trip or I might not post at all, I guess you have to wait and see. Thanks.

Update to UI-Sandpoint

Well, according to U of I Pres. Tim White, the foundation that the UI is selling it's land to will, after a period of time, gift the land and the buildings back to the UI. However, how long a period of time and exactly why the sell of the land and then re-gifting needs to happen in the first place is still a question mark?

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's a gift, who doesn't like a gift?

I know I'm supposed to be all happy about the recent gift to the U of Idaho by the founder of Coldwater Creek. He has agreed to give the University over 30 million so that they can build a 4 building extension campus is Sandpoint. Sounds great, no?

But this is more than a simple donation. As part of the "gift", the U of Idaho is going to sell over 70 acres it owns near downtown to his non-profit organization. The organization will then "allow" the University to construct it's campus on a portion of the land. As part of the deal, the city of Sandpoint will have to construct a high school on remaining portion of the parcel or it will revert back to University ownership. Sounds good, huh? The University is allowed to expand, full-fill it's mission of educating the state, it brings much needed higher education opportunities to the region, and the city secures core downtown land for a future high school.

But I can't help but be skeptical. I'm not sure why the University had to transfer possession of land in order to build on the land. Why couldn’t the donation merely be stipulated on the construction of the extension campus? Why did the school have to transfer possession of such a potentially valuable strip of property? In 100 years, with as fast as Sandpoint is growing, when the city by the lake will be over 100,000 people, will the "foundation" break the lease with the University and develop on the prime real estate it has acquired? Is this simply a way to set up a nice family trust and avoid tax consequences? What is being done to protect the University in the long term?

Even without the transfer of property, the construction of the school itself benefits the benefactor. He is trying to develop a fortune 500 smack dab in the middle of nowhere. This, no doubt, complicates the already incredibly difficult task of finding smart, educated workers. Even here in Seattle, in the supposed "best educated city" in America, Microsoft and other employers struggle to find educated labor. I can only imagine the difficulty faced by the shortage of skill, educated labor in North Idaho that Coldwater Creek must work with. It is much cheaper, for Coldwater Creek, if it can find a way to educate the labor force it already has rather than try to import them from somewhere else. So, the presence of the school is a direct benefit to his company and his personal fortunes. So why did he need to require the U of I to sell the land to his organization?

I know I should be more trusting. I'm sure that there are no nefarious motives and that this gift was truly that, a gift, for the benefit of the University, the citizens of Sandpoint, and the people of Idaho. But, yet, I'm still skeptical? As proud alumni, I ask why this couldn’t have been done without the school having to give up a valuable asset. Anyone have any answers?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Social Entropy

I still think about them and wonder if they think about me? Do they still remember me, have they found someone to replace me, and if so do they like who they have now better then me? I wonder why I left the relationship in the first place, what was wrong that made me desire to leave; I can’t seem to remember now. What would my life be like if I had stayed in the relationship, would I be happy or still miserable? Was I even miserable? Questions like these, sometimes, enter my mind when I think about former employers.

I was browsing the internet, and for some reason I can’t recall, I started searching the job postings at Eddie Bauer, my first corporate HR gig after college, and noticed that my old job is posted. It made me think of my old co-workers. I wondered if they were still there working on our old eternal projects, or if they had left and how life was like without me. Conceited, I know, to wonder what my impact on their life was, but all too human I suppose.

I also saw that Eddie Bauer has moved to a new location after selling their corporate campus to Microsoft. The new headquarters is in a skyscraper in Bellevue and I got the urge to drop by the new digs. I stopped myself before going though. Would they remember me, could I get someone vogue for me to get past security, would they want to talk to me, would they be angry at me for leaving them, for allowing myself to be lured away by a former director to a new employer. Would I be perceived as the lame former employee who just couldn't move on?

The new Eddie Bauer HQ in downtown Bellevue.

Are old employers like old girlfriends? Each of whom, after breaking apart the relationship, it is impossible to remain friends with? Is it just too hard, is it unnatural, our we just supposed to move on?

It isn’t surprising, at least to me, that I would have similar emotions regarding former employers as to former girlfriends. If you think about work most Americans spend more waking hours with their coworkers than with their spouse/sig. others, they work through problems together, they revel in business victories and march through defeats, and throughout all of this, people can become very close through work.

My last job was with the Medial System division of Philips Electronics and while there I made some good friend with a couple guys. We would go out and have a beers, bitch about our projects and inept management, and talk about our families. We tried to do this a few time after I left, but the periods between outings grew from every couple months to once every six months and now it has been more than six months since I’ve even talked with them. Have we lost touch because we no longer share the common experience of work, is it because I’ve completely left the field of HR and moved into law, or was our relationship simply based on our shared work that it couldn’t survive without the common connection?

Life is supposed to be a continual forward progression, and I suppose, if you let it, it is easy for the currents of time pull you away from former employer, former loves, and people who once, at that moment in life, were essential to who you were. So, I guess I am left with the question of how hard should you try to fight the essential tide of life, how hard do you press to keep in touch with those to whom your common thread has been cut? I suppose, the answer is how much is it worth to you, how valuable are those friends gained through work and will you spend the energy required to fight the basic entropy that seems to be the underlying ingredient of modern social relationships.

Anyway, ramble off.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Color Catastrophe

Well, I haven't been posting for a while because I have been repainting the exterior trim work/molding on our house.

After living in our house for over a year, we just couldn't stomach the dark pink color that the previous owner had loved (in addition to the pink trim, she had painted the interior walls pink and had the kitchen done up in two shades of pink) so we decided to bite the bullet and finish this project before the end of the summer.

My wife, picked out a really cool color palette consisting of three colors; a very light cream blue for the soffits and columns supporting our front stoop, a middle hue gray-blue for the window trim and crown moldings, and then a dark blackish blue for the surface of the stoop steps. The three colors looked very cool on the color swatch thingy and we were very excited to put brush to wood.

So, after spending all last week power washing, sanding, taping and other prep work we got to work painting on Saturday morning. We decided to start with the lightest color and then add the other colors as we worked. After the entire day of painting, we completed the painting all the soffit, columns and some of the moldings on the front of the house by about 9 pm Saturday night. We packed up our gear and went in for the night.

Sunday, we rose early again and headed outside to work. My wife, as I was starting to paint the trim work around the molding asked in a way that could only be a statement rather than a question, "What do you think of the color?"

I took a step back and looked at the house. Agreeing with the doubtful tone of her question I answered, "I don't like it."

Crap.

While the color combination looked good on the color swatches, it just didn't work with the existing color of our siding or the color of the roof. It was too blue for a color palette that should have stayed in the browns. We stood for a couple minutes looking at the house, moving into the street to get a better vantage point, and then coming back in close to reexamine all the while trying to convince ourselves that the colors would work out.

"I was having doubts yesterday when you started painting the soffits. I should have said something." She finally confided to me.

I agreed but there was nothing that we could do about it. We decided that it was simply best just to start over. So, back to Lowe's we went, to pick new colors that would work better on the house we had rather than some house we wished we had. It took a while, there was a lot of comparing this color to that, of buying quart cans of various colors and trying them on the walls (we should have done the first time) and then finally settling on brown and green palette. However, by the time we started painting again, Sunday afternoon was all but gone. By the end of the weekend we were basically in the same position where we had started on Saturday morning. Two days wasted.

Thus, my plan this week was to paint everyday after work and hopefully I'll have the front done by this weekend and then I can move to the back and sides next week. Unfortunately, it has clouded up and it looks as though it might rain, so painting might be delayed yet again. It seems, as my wife commented this morning, "our house is never going to get painted." I'm starting to share her fear.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bellingham, the city of subdued excitement.

So, I was listening to KUOW on my IPOD while taking a running break from studying (I ran 8 miles today, thank you very much) and heard the best nickname ever for the lovely city to our north and home to Western Washington U: Bellingham, the city of subdued excitement. I liked it so much that I decided to further procrastinate from studying for my Professional Responsibility exam (btw, procrastination is technically forbidden for lawyer. Rule 1.3 of the general rules of professional conduct state that a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness, yes that's right, promptness in representing a client. I'm entering a career where the I'm technically forbidden from procrastinating. I'm fucked. Anywhoo...) to research where that nickname came from. I came across this hilarious, or perhaps just mildly amusing, well, no, I'm pretty sure it is hilarious, but probably only for a long time resident of pugetopia, from the Seattle Time April 1 edition. I can't believe I missed it the first time, but hey, who doesn't like a good rerun of four month old newspaper media.

Enjoy: Our City by the Numbers. (just to wet your appetite, come on, click it, you know you want to, here is a short excerpt:

12 STEPS ON THE ROAD TO SEATTLE DEMOCRACY
If only Iraqis could learn the Seattle Way. No Saddams here. A primer:
• All decision-makers must be elected.
• No elected official is capable of making a decision.
• All decisions will be submitted to a public vote.
• All votes are advisory.
• There will be a public hearing to interpret the meaning of the results.
• All interpretations will be appealed.
• Repeat as infinitely necessary.


or how about this little tid bit:

666 WAYS WE'RE SAVING THE WORLDLet's face it, from airliners to software, Seattle has pretty much fixed the world. Have we gotten the credit we deserve? Hardly. Billions of dollars, yes, but that's not exactly thanks. So let's recap how Seattle saved civilization:

How 'bout that Dreamliner? Higher ceiling. Bigger windows. Jetson curves. And airline seats crammed so tightly together that you still have to balance your plastic-wrapped snack on a 1-inch armrest while climbing over a fat man to stand in line for a dirty restroom while someone complains you're blocking their 6-inch movie screen. Can't wait!

Windows Vista! Can you feel the excitement? See-through graphics and a whole new set of commands to learn for only $239, plus $1,200 for a machine capable of running it. Does Microsoft ever sleep?

Priapus! Another miracle drug from Seattle biotech, guaranteed to keep things up for six days at a time! Next task: genetically engineering a wife who cares.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wiich one shall it PS3?

I admit it, I love video games. I always have. My early childhood consisted of playing countless hours of Atari 2600 games like Adventure, Pitfall, and yes, even ET. Later, I remember pining for the NES in grade school and walking the five miles to Eric’s (a boy I hardly knew) house so that I could play his. When my parent’s finally gave a NES for Christmas in the sixth grade, I jumped up and ran around the house like a wild hare. Later, when I had my first job working as a groundkeeper at a Condo complex in Pocatello, I turned my first two weeks of scraping railings, mowing grass, and replacing sprinkler heads into a SNES and a strangely unforgettable title, Xardion, and the obligatory copy of Pilot Wings.

From then on countless weekends were spent in front of the television in the basement beating game after game. My regular weekend routine would consist of my mom stopping by the movie place on her way home from work and renting me a game that I would spend the weekend (including the wee hours of the morning) beating, wearing my thumbs raw on the familiar, square controller of the SNES. In college, I was lucky to be living with fraternity brothers with better financial means than I who offered up their N64’s and Playstation and faster computers to my addiction. One weekend, when the house emptied out for a President’s day weekend ski trip and trips home to do laundry, I stayed behind to beat Metal Gear Solid. Later, in my final years of college, I turned my scholarship money into the Playstation 2, getting the last one in the store and taking home a shitty release title racing game. I later supplemented the PS2 with the Xbox and a Halo addiction. Most recently, I turned this interest into project for my legal research class by researching copyright issues in game publishing. My professor thought it was good work but thought that I was joking when, in my projects introduction, I compared video games to great works of art. I wasn’t.

Anyway, here it is, well into the seventh generation of video game consoles and I have yet to purchase one. I have valid reasons why I haven't. One, I decided to grow up and go back to law, which meant cutting our take home pay in half. Two, my wife really doesn’t enable my habit like my mother; she does not stop buy the game store after work and pick me up a copy of the latest game and a pizza. And third, well, there is no third, it basically comes down to me no longer working and my wife's disapproval of the hobby.

This all changed this week, however, when my wife finally gave her tacit approval for me to purchase a new system. I have been diligently working as a law clerk bringing in a little extra income and I had a good year in school, cracking at least the top 15%, thus she thinks I’ve earned one. But, unlike when I was a corporate drone, I can’t afford each of them and can only buy one. So, I am torn, which console should I buy?

One option is the market darling, the Wii. True, it does look like fun. Who can resist failing around your living room, swinging at the screen, and the bright colors that are the hallmarks of Nintendo’s offering. Even my wife has said that she would like to play it. This, coupled with it being the cheapest of the three, makes it a contender. But, and this is a big but, I think Nintendo has abandoned the hardcore gameer. When a company touts the new Mario game as their keystone, hardcore game you know they’ve left us serious players behind. I have played part of Zelda and thought it was fun, but Zelda, Mario, and the new version of Metroid are just-not-going-to-cut-it. Were I still working I would, no doubt, own a Wii-box (common term for buying both the Xbox 360 and the Wii), but I just don’t think Nintendo will get this student's money.

Speaking of the Xbox, I am leaning toward buying console. It has a pretty good library at the moment and with Metal Gear, Halo 3, and GTA on the horizon, this console a tough choice to resist. However, I know the price will drop soon and I am aghast to purchase within the next week or so only to have the price drop the next month. Come on Microsoft, word is out, everyone knows you are going to rearrange your pricing scheme, so just do it already!!!

Yet, there is still that black temptress, the PS3. Sure, the library sucks and as Microsoft is fond of saying, “it’s the software stupid.” Sony should know this. The original Xbox just couldn’t match the sheer depth of the PS2’s library and that is why they trailed market volume war in the last generation. But, Sony had a great showing at E3. The new titles look amazing, better than what is on deck for the Xbox, and as developers get used to the new architecture scheme, I think we will see some truly amazing titles in the future. This coupled with the fact that the hardware is better (note to Microsoft: I used to buy all my multiplatform titles in the Xbox version because they just ran better on your beefier system. Conversely, I think the same would be true today if I had both the PS3 and the 360; I would purchase multiplatform title on the PS3 vs the 360 because they would probably run better.) But is it worth it to wait to buy the PS3 on the mere chance that the titles might pan out given the costs and the wait until said title appear? Probably not.

Decision. Decisions. Decisions. What is a console purchaser to do? Perhaps just be content with PC? Readers, any thought?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Plug for Pluggd

Not too often that I plug things on this blog but I thought I would post this story about my brother-in-law's company in the PI and encourage everyone to check website here: pluggd.com.

Pluggd's audio player debuts on ZDNET

Seattle-based Pluggd has inked its first deal with a major media company, bringing its audio search technology to select podcasts on ZDNET.
It is currently available on Dan Farber & Larry Dignan's recent podcast on the iPhone and other topics, allowing users to type keywords into Pluggd's search box in order to find specific information.

A colleague of mine just used it, searching for words such as "iPhone," "Jobs" and "Microsoft." Doing so, returns a color-coded "heat map" of the frequency in which those words appear at certain periods in the audio file. Pluggd's HearHere technology also is available on the MonkCast program.
Cornelius Willis, chief marketing officer at Pluggd, said that he believes this is the first time that a major online publisher "has provided the ability to search within rich media."
Pluggd raised $1.65 million in venture funding last December from a group of angel investors that included Scott Oki, Paul Maritz and Bill Bryant. Intel Capital also participated.
Founded by former Amazon.com manager Alex Castro, Pluggd has been winning plenty of attention since launching the audio search technology, with write-ups in Wired and The Economist.
VentureBeat has more details, saying that Pluggd is in the process of raising a big round of capital. That's something I am hearing as well. But as I have mentioned before, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the search giants eventually pick up Pluggd.

-John Cook, Seattle PI June 29, 2007



Even if the company does eventually get bought about by Google, Yahoo, as some are predicting I’m still expecting for he and my sister in law to watch my dog no matter how many millions they get.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ranking of Law School (Western States)

I recently pulled all of the Western State's (in my book if you are western state if you are West of, or touch, the Rockies) law schools from the recent US New and World Report to see how the various school compared within the region. I know I've rallied against these ranking in the past, but I'll admit it, I'm a hypocrite and that part of me really loves lists of things (weird, huh). So, despite not wanting to give too much authority to these type of things, here it is anyway.


Top 100 Western Law Schools (Nat'l Rank)(US News allows ties but the ranking number continues after tie, for example Stanford and Harvard are number both ranked #2 so there is no #3, NYU is number #4):
1 Stanford (#2)
2 UC – Berkley (#8)
3 UC - LA (#15)
4 USC (#16)
5 U Washington (#28)
6 UC- Davis (#34)
7 UC (Hastings) (#36)
7 U Colorado (#36)
9 BYU (#44)
9 U Arizona (#44)
11 ASU (#51)
12 U of Utah (#57)
13 Pepperdine (#66)
14 U New Mexico (#70)
15 U Denver (#77)
16 Lewis & Clark (#82)
16 U Oregon (#82)
18 Seattle U (#85)
18 U San Diego (#85)
20 Santa Clara (#91)
21 U Hawaii (#91)
22 UNLV (#100)
22 U San Francisco (#100)
22 U of Pacific (#100)

Tier 3 - Unranked Nationally
25 Gonzaga U (WA)
25 Southwestern (CA)
25 U Idaho
25 U Montana
25 U Wyoming

Tier 4 - Unranked Nationally
31 California Western
31 Chapman (CA)
31 Golden Gate (CA)
31 Thomas Jefferson (CA)
31 Whittier (CA)
31 Willamette U (OR)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Why Does Google Want Me To Fail? Or, Why The Dog Ate My Homework.

I suppose you could call me a Google fan. I’m currently blogging on blogger, I put my blog photos in Picasa, I have a gmail account, I use Google Earth to plan running courses around the city, I’ve played around with the online spreadsheet and document, and I’ve even occasionally clicked on one of the ubiquitous ads that pay for it all. The little company has come a long way from the nondescript search page that I heard about from my brother in the computer labs at U of Idaho in 1997.

Before Google we had search engines like Alta Vista, Lycos, and others that I’ve forgotten. Remember them? When you searched for anything with them they invariably brought you back porn. It didn’t matter what you were looking for, you could input “puppies” and they would fetch you German bestiality pics. Of course in the middle nineties the only thing on the internet was porn and a few research papers, but, nonetheless, it was pretty insufferable. Then Google came and actually brought you stuff that, although not what you were looking for, it at least had a puppy or two in it. Since then, Google has been churning out product after product to keep our minds and eyeballs hovering over their ad space. It’s been pretty effective.

Their latest product that I’ve fallen for is Google Reader (GR). This little gem is basically an RSS reader, but it so much more than that. Like other RSS readers, GR brings you back RSS feeds you have selected. GR also has prepackaged interest bundles that bring collections of sites, and if you choose to, stores them on your hard-drive so you can click through the internet even when you are not online. It also organizes the sites and puts them neatly into their respective categories, allows you to scroll quickly through the headers and pictures, and monitors which stories you actually click on to read or just pass by, all the while keeping stats on what you've read, what type of stuff you've read, how many time a day you read. Wow. And all of it worthless.

I love Google Reader and I find myself spending hours with it numbingly clicking through stories that interest me and even those that don’t. But, I actually read very few of them, I just scan the header and the intro paragraphs, look at the pictures, and then move on. I should click on the stories and read them, but I don’t, because I have hundred of these things waiting for me to peruse. If I actually read them I’d never get on with my day. Therefore, I don't think GR has resulted in a more "informed" me, it has just made me more aware of the fact that there is an awful lot of content on the web (and most of it is awful) and I need to quit my job and become a full time internet addict.

This is what technology seems to have brought us, thousands and thousand of tiny distractions. Instead of the promise of improve productivity so that we could work for a few hours a day and spend the rest of our hours enjoying life, I spend hours blogging or on tool like GR that I should have been using for work, spending time with my family, or studying. And I’m pretty sure that there are other our their like me who spend way to much time enjoying these productivity and internet “life aid” tools rather than actually working.

Oh well, time is up on this rant, I have to get off blogger and put some time over on Google Reader, or I could actually do some work …

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Meth Lab in Paradise

I've had to drive down to Mason County Courthouse twice this week for work. I've never been to Mason county before but it is a gorgeous little piece of Washington. The county has the more miles of coastline than any other county in Washington, the geography is rolling hills covered in forests and dotted by grassy clearings. But, this ideal little county is crime ridden; Meth, poverty, car jacking, you name it. Sad that someplace so beautiful can be such mess.

Anyway, here is the beautiful county courthouse in Shelton.


On the drive back to Seattle, I got stuck in traffic, of course, and I wonder why I rarely leave the city on a weekday!

As you can tell I was a little bored staring at the steering wheel


Thank goodness for Ipod.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

What's for dinner?

Here is something I haven’t done before on this blog; share a recipe. I really like this one, and it is super simple, so why not share?

Mandarin Beef Medallions – beef, honey, soy sauce, ginger and garlic - what more could you want?

Ingredients:
• 4 beef medallions – the recipe calls to trim them but I say, hey, why get rid of tasty beef fat?
• 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
• 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 4 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil – I use toasted.
• 1 garlic close, minced
• ¼ teaspoon ground ginger – I’ve used both minced fresh ginger and ground ginger, I prefer the fresh but the ground will do if you are pressed for time or just don’t have any ginger around. The same princple holds true for the garlic.
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• ½ teaspoon salt – I use sea-salt, of course.

The process is pretty simple.
1. Trim the medallions or leave the fat on, your choice. Combine the rest of the ingredients (except the salt) into shallow dish that all your steaks will fit in. Be sure to stir the honey so that it dissolves into the liquid. Then put the steak into the liquid, turn a few time to coat, cover, and then let stand for 10 minutes at room temp.
2. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick ridged grill pan (or a non stick pan if you don’t have a grill pan, I personally haven’t seen my ridge pan since we moved and a flat pan works just fine although sans grill marks. I have yet to try this on a grill but it should work out well there too) over high heat. When a drop of water skitters across the pan (this is important, your grill must be hot enough to boil water on contact!!!) put the steaks onto the pan and sear each side of the steak for one minute.
3. Reduce the heat to medium high, salt the steaks, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to your desired doneness (and I hope that is rare).
4. Pour the left over marinade over the steaks, turning the steaks a couple times, until the sauce thickens into a light glaze. Remove from heat and let the steaks rest for ten minutes or so. Top the steaks with the glaze before serving.

The result is tasty, sweet and salty steak with a nice crust. I’m currently in the ten minute sitting process while the steak get happy in the marinade, it’s actually been a bit longer than that, so, off to the stove for me! I might post a pic when they are done.

Update;
Here is how it turned out ...


Note, things can get pretty smoky when you are searing. Hopefully, you, unlike me, have good kitchen ventilation. I really, really need to get to Albert Lee next weekned and buy a stove hood!!!

Well, The Police concert was pretty good. It wasn’t great, the U2 concert last year was great, but The Police was just pretty good. The first song, Message in a Bottle, was pretty rough. Sting was trying to keep it slow and Stewart and Andy were trying to speed things up, the result was very hard to listen to. At first, I thought this was going to be a repeat that Stewart described in his blog.

But, they pulled things together about halfway through the second song, Synchronicity II, and the rest of the concert was fantastic. The crowd was so old that I seemed young in comparison, which was nice. Despite the review in the PI , the concert did have empty seats. I’m sure they were all sold but there were continuous row of empty seats which is a tell-tale sign of scalper’s touch. The fact that these seats were empty means the scalpers got screwed, they couldn’t sell the blocks of seats they bought, and that notion brought a smile to my face. It is horrible that scalper buy up tickets in bulk such that the average purchaser can’t get tickets to “sold out” shows and then turn around and sell them at huge mark-ups. I had several friends who couldn’t get tickets but wanted to go; thus I’m just glad these scalpers lost money, but still, it sad that those seats went empty when there were certainly people who would have wanted to see the show.

Anyway, I ran in the Sound to Narrow 12K yesterday. I had been hoping to break 60 minutes but I think I was just shy at 62 minutes. I stopped in one place while climbing the last hill and I’m sure that was where I screwed up. It rained through the entire race. By the time I was done I was soaked to the bone and then I had to wait for another 20-30 minutes until the people I came with finished standing in the cold and soaking up the rain with every piece of clothing on me. By the end I was pretty chilled and it took me a long hot bath to feel normal. I’m feeling pretty good today, my butt it a tad sore but none the worse for where. I’m already looking for my next run to help me to get to my end goal, the Seattle Marathon in November.

Well, I should get back to my homework. I currently doubt my rational for taking a course this summer. I’m not sure why I did it. I won’t graduate early, I’m not taking a reduced class load in the fall, and all I’ve done is ruin my summer. Oh well. Live and Learn. Later.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yawn ...

Man, am I tired.

We didn't get a weekend this week, not really anyway. My mother-in-law's mother, Grandma C, fell and broke her hip and we drove to Spokane to see her. While Grandma C is recuperating in a facility in Spokane, her daughter (my mother in law) has decided that it is high time to clean her house. Like a lot of elderly folks, Grandma C is a pack rat. She never throws away anything and she has a bad habit of buying dolls/coins/etc off the TV, from magazine ads, and any other source of cheap crap. The problem is that the various items she buys, from her limited income, are marketed as collectibles that will only increase in value when; in fact, the only thing they collect is dust. I swear that these companies must consciously prey on unsophisticated consumers like Grandma C who are suckered into buying this junk as a form of investment; people who prey on weak consumers should be dragged out and shot. Anyway, as a result of her weakness for these sales pitches, and her inability to let things go, her four bedroom house has only one usable room and floor space is a rare commodity. Thus, there will be a few long months of sorting through everything, determining what is pure junk, what is valuable (either emotionally or financially) and giving away (or dumping) the rest. We got a start on Saturday by removing the big items, a 35 year old broken television that must have weighed 100+ lbs, a moldy waterbed, etc … All stuff that, had Grandma C been there, she would not have let us throw out.

With all the driving and working in Grandma C's house, I didn’t really get a chance to recharge this weekend and, as a result, I'm really dragging this week. My work day is just too long, from about 7 – 10. Here is my typical weekday. I get up at 6:00 am and leave the house by about 6:45 to get to work by 7:00, I stay until 4:30 pm, drive home and let the dog out, I then drive to the law school at 5:00 pm to do some last minute preparing for the class I'm taking for the summer, class start's at 6:00 pm and goes until 7:35 or so, then I go home and eat dinner and then read/study until 10:00 pm when I go to bed. Repeat. I can't wait until school starts in the fall so I can take a rest! I shouldn't complain. It is not going to get any easier when I'm actually in practice. Take for example this excerpt from my textbook on Professional Responsibility:

"You will end up billing only about two hours for every three hours that you spend at "work." And thus, to bill 2000 hours per year, you will have to spend about sixty hours per week at the office, and take no more than two weeks vacation/sick time/personal leave. If it takes you, say, forty-five minutes to get to work, and another forty-five minutes to get home, billing 2000 per year will mean leaving home at 7:45 am, working at the office from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 pm, and then arriving home at 7:15 p.m - and doing this six days per week, every week. That make for long days, and for long weeks, and you will have to work these hours not just for a month or two, but year after year after year" Patrick J. Schiltz, "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession. Vanderbilt Law Review. 1999.

Good for me that I would rather be overworked than bored.

Anyway, the one respite I have during the week are Wednesdays (because I don't have class on Wednesdays) and this Wednesday (tonight) I'm going to see The Police in concert at the Key. I'm pretty excited (as anyone who walked by my room in Fraternity house and could hear music coming from the room could probably attest) to see them. I heard they sucked in their show up in Vancouver, but here’s to hoping they have the kinks worked out by tonight. I'll post a review tomorrow. Hopefully.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Flipping on the lights ...

The blog been quite as of late, I’m kind of in a transition mode and haven’t been in the blogging mood as of late. A lot has been going on though…

• I’ve started work as clerk at a union law firm that represent fire and police guilds. I read CBAs (contracts) all day and turn them into numbers so that the attorneys can prepare for negotiations and such. I’m not sure how much “law” I’m learning, but I’m now current on my knowledge of Washington’s counties.

• Brother number 2 has found a job in Madison, Wisconsin and is moving. I guess this means that the entire family has left N. Idaho now.

• A recent blog I wrote has been getting a lot of attention from youth right groups (I didn’t even know there were groups fighting for those poor, oppressed teens out there who struggle under the oppressive yolk that is American society.) I’m about as progressive as they come, but of all the “groups” that actually are oppressed in this world, teens are about the last group I would fight for. But, if it gets people involved, than more power to ‘em, fight on teens of American, fight on!

• The application for both the law review and the journal for social justice are rapidly approaching, June 1. Both applications are really interesting topics so I’m having fun doing them; even if my progress on them is somewhat glacial. They just aren’t going as fast as I would have hoped. (Guess what I’ll be doing my 3-day weekend?).

• My summer classes start next week. So soon!

• I turn 30 next week. So soon!

• According to my Ipod+Nike thing, I recently past the 100 mile milestone. I have run over a hundred miles since I started tracking in February. (7.38 miles in Feb, 12.21 miles in March, 41.39 miles in April, and 46.56 miles in May, so far).

• There was a tragic shooting in Moscow, Idaho. It’s been on the news a lot and is pretty depressing for those of us who went to school in Moscow and love that little town. Guns and crazies, what are you going to do?

Well, sorry for this post. I think the simple status posting is possibly the lowest blog form there is, but between work, law review applications, and life; my mind just is not working right to write a decent post.

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's Over

Well, my first year of law school is officially over and I’m just a little bit closer from starting my third career (my first one was a 6 month stint in Retail Operations followed by nearly 5 yrs in HR/Compensation). At this point, I’ve gone too far to turn back now.

It's Over

Well, my first year of law school is officially over and I’m just a little bit closer from starting my third career (my first one was a 6 month stint in Retail Operations followed by nearly 5 yrs in HR/Compensation). At this point, I’ve gone too far to turn back now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Like, they say I'm missing my dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, like, that is just so, like, uncool. Whatever."

A couple weeks ago a women was killed a couple of blocks from my house when she was hit by a car that lost control during a left hand turn on a wet road. It was a tragic story because of the victim, a young women at the age of 26, a WSU graduate, who out doing what she loved - running on a Saturday morning; and because of the driver, a 16-yr old child alone in the car who had taken the turn at too high a speed and couldn’t regain control of the car. Taken together, the youth of the victim and that fact the driver was a child; it received a lot of attention in the media.

In response, my community association has asked us to reach out to our local officials to see what can be done to curb speeding on the road where the incident occurred. It is at the base of a steep hill and cars regularly build up speed coming down the hill in excess of 40 or 50 mph in a 35 mph residential zone. But, I don’t think that was the source of this accident. In this case, the driver was going up the hill and making a left hand turn, the cause of the accident was not due to speeding enforcement, but rather to an immature driver who was alone in a car that made a bad decision behind the wheel.

On the back of the last issue Newsweek is an ad from Allstate Insurance that starts with this tag, “Why do most 16-year-olds drive like they’re missing a part of their brain? Because they are.” The ad goes on to cite research that shows that the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with decision making, problem solving and understanding future consequences, isn’t fully mature until people reach their 20s. They cite that 16 yr olds have crash rates 3x higher than 17 yr old and 5x higher than 18 year olds. It recommends that states pass Graduated Driver Licensing laws that restrict the kind of dangerous driving teens can do based on age and cites that in North Carolina, where this type of law is in place, has seen a 25% decline in accidents with 16yr olds.

I agree that these laws are a good measure, but they will be worthless without parental involvement. I know that I was not a good driver when I was 16, I don’t even need to point out the time I was driving near home and I somehow, on a clear day, managed to slide off the road into a ditch and needed the Elkins to pull me out with their truck. Thankfully, I lived in rural Idaho and there was nothing out on the road with me except my stupidity in the back seat. At 16 I was hardly equipped to be driving the back roads of Coeur d’Alene, I definitely wasn’t prepared to drive alone in congested Seattle. I can’t imagine being a parent who just hands over the car keys to their kids and hopes for the best, there is just too much at stake in an auto accidents for this kind of negligence.

So, if you are reading this and you have kids reaching driving age please set limits. An automobile is big, dangerous machine that even experienced drivers can get into accident with, so don’t trust your kid to chance and your faith-in-them. I know we can’t prevent every accident, but we need to take meaningful measures such as mandating that they can’t drive without a parent present until they've accumulated so many hours (at least six months worth), precluding them from driving on accident prone and highly trafficked streets, and the minute you see them acting irresponsibly behind the wheel take away the keys! I know you love your kids and want to encourage them, but there are ways to do this without putting other people’s lives at risk.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Oh...my behind hurts!

Well, just got back from my torts final and ouch!!! I knew the law and I think that if we were just graded on our substantive knoledge of the law, I did pretty well. But, I got trapped by the clock and didn't have chance to re-read my essay for quality of writing or ease of read. I'm pretty sure my argument were pretty inconsistent and spotty when read. So, in balance, I'm stuck between mastery of the law versus a poorly written essay, I'm not sure how the grade will turn out. Oh well, on to contracts!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Study Break

Well, I think I've hit a study wall since I'm posting and reading more on HBO than I am preparing my analysis outline of the breach element of negligence. So, I think I'm going to take the dog for a walk since the sun looks like it is trying to break through the clouds to try to clear my head.

Before I go, I wanted to share an observation. I've been listening to my U2 collection on my ipod and wanted to share I’ve come to the conclusion that my favorite U2 album is Pop. Of all their albums it seems to be the least liked among the fans, but I dare say that I like it even better than The Joshua Tree. Heresy, perhaps; but true.

Today.

Sure was nice out when I walked down to FUEL to buy a cup of coffee, the air smelled exactly as spring air should.

Anyway, my first year as a law student is almost over. Classes ended Wednesday and I have two weeks of exams before I can say that I'm a 2L. My property professor likes to joke that after your 1st year you are a LA - after your second year you get your WY - and then your 3rd year you get the ER. He’s not a very funny is he?

I managed to land a job as a law clerk this summer. I guess I should feel good, not many 1Ls land paying law gigs during the summer. The firm represents various police and firefighter's associations in their contracts with cities and counties. They negotiate, administer the contracts, defend the members in disciplinary actions, and so forth. I am not really pro-union so it will be an interesting experience working in a law firm that works for unions. If there is a situation where I do believe in unions are good for their members, than it would be in situations like the police and firefighter are in; i.e. when the government has a monopoly power and the workers really have no market leverage. When you combine worker powerlessness with a strong government motive to keep costs low, the workers could get the shaft pretty quickly if they didn't stand together. Regardless of personal politics, I'm sure it will be a good learning experience for me. The pay sucks though. It is difficult taking this job knowing what I could earn doing contract HR work (about 4x more), but I'm willing to trade money for legal experience.

Anyway, back to the books. I have my Torts exam on Monday, followed by Contracts on Thursday; next week it will be Civ. Pro on Monday followed by Property on Thursday and then FREEDOM! Well, sort of.

Later.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rankism

US New and World report came out with their college ranking a couple of weeks ago. Despite a lot of talk from college administrators alleging that rank does not matter and that students should choose schools by finding the place that best fits them; administrators sure spend a lot of time discussing how they did. In contract last week, while listening to NPR, I heard a professor at some California school (UCLA, USC or something) argue that schools should stop participating in the ranking process. He urged school to return the surveys US News sends them unopened. He alleges a couple things: one that the rankings don’t actually tell students anything about eventual school they will attend; two, they subsidize a huge money maker for US News and get nothing in return; and three, they make the school take efforts to manipulate their standing such as raising the SAT and LSAT scores required to attend which really have no impact on the teaching quality at the school but just restrict access in exchange for rank. I tend to agree.

Not that I haven’t benefited from these US News Rankings. Both the U of I and my grad school at Seattle U promote how they do in the rankings. And they should. Seattle U Law moved up higher in the top 100 to something like 80th or 82nd this year. To put this into perspective, U Washinton’s law school in ranked 40-something while Gonzaga Law and U of Idaho law school were unranked and are in the 3rd tier. In addition to this top 100 ranking, our legal writing program is ranked number 2 in the nation this year, we were number 1 last year, and haven’t been ranked lower than number 2 in the last 5 years. These ranks will go into our marketing brochures, it will look good on resumes, and the school should be proud to be the ranked so high in so short of a time (the school is only 35 yrs old, it’s only been at SU since the ‘90s.).

Desipte how well Seattle U is doing in the rankings, should I believe them? Do I really believe that Seattle U is a better school then Gonzaga or Idaho just because we are ranked higher? Do I really believe that our legal writing program is better than Harvard’s or Yale’s? No, not really. Don’t get me wrong, I think we are a good school. I am not really sure, however, that just because US New and World reports says so that I actually go to a qualitatively better school and that I will be a better lawyer than someone from Gonzaga Law. Nor do I think that a Yale grad would really be intimidated by my ability to transition a rule paragraph to a legal discussion so seamlessly in a memo, do you? So, if the rankings don’t measure whether I will be a better lawyer by going to a better school, what are they based on?

In my opinion, perception drives the ranking process. Why is Seattle U legal writing ranked so high, for example? Well, because we wrote the book. Yes, the most popular legal writing handbook used in law schools was written by Seattle U professors. It’s a good book for sure, but does that mean the program is necessarily tops? More likely is that when some Dean at some Law school at “Insert East Cost State U” receives his survey and he gets to the legal writing program question that he just writes down Seattle U because he see the legal writing book on his shelf, he knows that it is the book his school teaches from, and therefore concludes Seattle U program must be good. He does this despite that he had probably never met a lawyer from Seattle U, probably knows nothing about the school except for the book we wrote, but he had to put down something and had no other reference for quality. I think this is the way it works, but maybe I’m just cynical.

This doesn’t mean that I would discourage people from Seattle U. It is a great program. Here you will learn the law, you will make friends, and from what I’ve seen our graduates are in demand. However, I don’t think this has anything to do with our rankings and I don’t think a new student would make a good education choice if they merely looked at the US News list and noticed we had moved up a couple places this year. I think students should realize that Deans are hypocritical when they say it doesn’t matter what a school’s rank is and then turn around and crow about how good their rank is. You should listen to the first half of the message, it doesn’t really matter what a school’s rank is. If it is accredited, if you are smart, and if you like the place then you will do great. In fact, you are much more likely to do well than if you pick a place merely on rank and then find out you hate it. (I would say this logic applies to every school below the top ten in the list. If you have the chance to go to a top ten school, go, despite if you don’t really like the place – financially it will be worth it. As for school 11-200, make sure you pick the one that fits you best, not the one that was randomly scored the highest by some dean at Timbuktu U).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pro-Life is not an Oxymoron.

Sometime there is nothing lonelier in this ultra-liberal Seattle than being a moderate democrat. If you are a conservative then at least you have a close, but small, group of friends. If you are a moderate democrat, however, and won’t partake of the bile and rhetoric launched against conservatives, than you are an outcast. I realized, today, the problem that keeps me out of so many social circles in this town is that I actually like conservatives.

My realization came today while discussing the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the partial birth abortion ban with a classmate before the beginning of my property law class. The conversation went awry when she started to complain about the labels, the pro-life and pro-choice bandied about by each side. I asked her what labels she would use and she responded, “how about pro-choice and anti-choice”. My response, “well, that’s not a neutral choice of words; it paints the opposition with pretty negative brush stroke.” At this point she starts to get upset, “I don’t care. These so called pro-lifer are just hypocrites” she then proceeds to go into a diatribe about the death penalty and Texas. I rebutted her arguments. I could tell that she was getting upset with me because I wouldn’t agree that the republican were a bunch of hypocrites, she thought I was blind, nay stupid. It was unfathomable to her to that I agreed on a pro-choice stance but wouldn’t also agree with her characterization of conservatives.

I think the crux of the problem with the ultra-left wing of the Democratic Party (and, just as a disclaimer, I think it is probably true about the ultra-right wing of the Republican party as well, but that is another post) is that they don’t really know or like any republicans. The result is that they spend all their time with each other complaining about republicans and convince themselves that they are right on their issues merely because the republicans are wrong. I don’t think this way.

It might have something to do with growing up in Idaho, the most conservative state in the Union, if not for Utah. As a result, I have a lot of friends and family who are conservatives: pro-life, NRA promoting, red-wearing elephants. I love and admire these people who are pro-life. Therefore I can’t and won’t stand for people who label my friends as hypocrites or dismiss them as people who “just don’t get it.” I heartedly disagree. My pro-life friends believe with all their hearts in life and live out their lives according to those beliefs; furthermore, these people “do get it”. They are just as smart and aware as any democrats who walk the streets of Seattle. But, despite this, I still disagree with my conservative friends.

My respect for conservatives requires that I think long and hard about the substantive meat of the argument and not the superfluous dispersion my classmates and many others I’ve met in this town through about. This central issue, of course to this abortion debate is no less than the meaning of life. There could be no smaller question. To pro-lifers, life begins at conception and that this life is just as valuable as that of my next door neighbor who is mowing his yard at this very moment, it is even more precious than that of killer or child molester, and therefore they desire to protect the unborn life with all the force of law used to protect citizens in this country. I, rather, believe that human life does not begin at conception. During the 1st trimester the fetus is just as likely to abort as develop into a child, it can’t think, can’t smell, can’t breath, and can’t even push its own blood around the few cells of its body. A human, it is not. Yet, I’m never going to convince my pro-life friend with science, I can’t even get them to buy into evolution; and they aren’t going to convince me with faith. So, we are at a stalemate. This essential dilemma needs to be acknowledged by both sides if we are ever going put this divisive issue to peace.

I fear, however, that it will not. There will still be the ultra-left screaming like harpies at the “hypocrites, idiots” and the trolls on the right yelling at the “murderers, baby killers”. What’s a moderate, conservative loving democrat to do?