Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It my Blog-o-versary!!

Well, the Word Forge is one year old today. The time went by fast. Here a summary of the blog high and lows this year.

I started writing when I was still working in HR/Compensation, but had been accepted to law school. These posts early on were about biding my time until I could quit my former life and move on. To date, my most visual post has been about business trip to Boston that included a sighting of Ann Coulter. During my first summer on the blog, my posts became scattered bits of mental flotsam and jetsam; the topics ranged from politics, to law school angst, and to Vandal football and other miscellaneous observations. I experimented with reviews and shared with the reader some of my experiences renovating my home and promised photos which I have never put up. So far, the most read post I’ve written as been “Hey Hey What’s Going On” It’s popularity has nothing to do with it’s content, but rather the fact that anyone searching for the song lyrics for which the post was named end up on my blog. The second most popular post was one I wrote about my observations on cheerleading, I assumed it’s popular because there are a lot of dirty birds on the internet searching for porn involving cheerleading (how disappointed they must have been to land on this blog!). And finally, I realized my blog is boring.

Despite this, I’m still writing. This blog hasn’t lived up to my expectations; I just don’t have the time to craft anything of quality, but yet I will continue. I want to thank my few faithful readers and DFO at Huckleberries for putting my stuff out front every so often. I truly appreciate those of you who come back to share in my life and observations. So, thanks and here’s to another year!

-Matt (idawa)

Friday, March 23, 2007

March Madness

I haven't posted anything for a while, sorry. Spring break was nice but there really wasn't anything to write about aside from me baking my white arse by the pool or working on my wicked slice at the golf course. We got back on Sunday and it was cold when we arrived, at least it sure seemed cold after a week of upper 90's. I've just been trying to get back into the swing of school and homelife here in Seattle again.

I only have five more weeks before finals start, and then two week after that my 1st year of law school is over - 1 down, 2 to go. I've signed up for a summer class which will run most of the summer. I will only get a couple weeks off in May and August. I'm also going to be doing some volunteer legal work, some contract HR work to bring in some $$, and a whole lot of yard work. Summer should be pretty busy. I am still hoping for some sort of legal clerkship this summer, but the opportunities for 1Ls pay pretty low and they are few and far between anyway, I'm still hoping something comes through but I'm not couning on it.

Anyway, that's about it. Oh, and my bracket sucked this year in anyone was interested.

Monday, March 12, 2007

So Cal Thinkin

So, I’m sitting here in California, in 90 degree weather in early March and sipping a pear mojito while seriously considering if I could live anywhere aside from the Northwest. Back home in Seattle, it’s probably 45, maybe 55, and it is no doubt cloudy and the rain is falling.

Palm Spring is a refreshing change of pace. The sun is a marvelous thing; the mere presence of sunlight can make someone happy. Unfortunately, back home, the sun isn’t reliable until July. My wife and I have been seriously discussing down here the subject of moving after I’m done with law school. There are a couple of options on the table:

1) Boise. On the upside we have lots of friends from college and the town is growing. It is also much cheaper to live in Boise than Seattle or here in So Cal; we could sell our home in Seattle and take the current 400K profit and make a nice payment on a really, really nice place in the treasure valley. On the downside, it is, well, Boise. I’ve always thought of Boise as a cleaner, emptier version of Spokane, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. Also, my wife couldn’t find the same type of work she does now in Boise. She’s an accountant but she specialized in high end financial services, the type where if a client doesn’t have at least 5 million they can’t dance, and despite Boises growth these firm just don’t exist there yet. She could go back into general accounting, but that option doesn’t sound appealing to her. If we were to move to Boise she would probably stop working.

2) California - the OC. On the upside it is warm, which is a big plus. I used to count myself as the type of guy who appreciated seasons; the fall colors, the skiing in winters, and the blistering summers in Idaho, but, I think, I have grown out of that. I would be happy with an eternal summer. In addition, we have family and friends down here. A number of my pledge brothers moved down here after graduation and my wife’s maid of honor is an attorney in L.A. There are also plenty of career opportunities for both of us. California is thick with work for lawyers and L.A. has several firms that cater to multimillion dollar investors that would love to recruit my wife; so financially it’s probably the best move. But, it is California. Even in Palm Springs were are amazed with the crowds and the throngs of humanity moving about, and this is from people who live in the city of Seattle and a multi million person county. But the crowds in Seattle are nothing to those in S. Cal. And it is expensive. We would not gain any cost of living advantage by leaving Seattle for So. Cal. And you also have the occasiaonly violent brush fire, earthquake, plague and pestilence. Also, if the end of the world is going to occur it will probably start in L.A.

3) Coeur d’Alene: The advantage here is that it would be a return home for me, and my wife has lots of family in Spokane. It would also be a similar financial situation as Boise, we would gain on house prices but there really isn’t the type of work available that would interest my wife. If we moved she would be a stay at home mother. But we, well I, love Cd'A and the chance to return home is very appealing. I can already imagine buying a house, an older home preferably and fixing it up, sitting up a small practice and helping people start new business ... etc. This is my preference but probably a very, very remote option.

4) Hawaii. This is the dark horse option. Sure, it has all the climate benefits of So. Cal without the hassle of actually being in So. Cal. Sure, the cost of living is high, but it's Hawaii. On the upside, the Hawaii bar is much easier than California bar and there are a few finanical firms that cater to the Japanese that my wife could work for ... so ... I think this is just dreaming, but oh, what a dream.

We probably won’t leave Seattle though. Despite the pull of friends and family in Idaho or the siren call of sunshine in California; we still love Seattle. Our house in a fine neighborhood in the city, there are plenty of career opportunities for us, and we are basically happy. Now, if global warming would only kick in and chase a couple of these clouds away….

P.S. I’ll try and post some about our trip down here in Palm Spring….be advised that stories of laying by the pool or golf might be all that I post in the coming days.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Product Rave

I'm a runner. Well, I want to be a runner. I have always been a sprinter, I was on the track teams in both high school and college, but as anyone who was on a track team could tell you, there is a big difference between a runner and a sprinter. I could always run fast, but ask me to run for any length of time and I start whining like a baby.

Now, some ten years later, sprinting has no practical benefit to me. I haven't had to run a 1/4 mile in 50 seconds for a long time and I doubt I ever will again (I also doubt that I could); it's just a worthless talent. However, running is beneficial: it keeps you trim, keeps your heart young, and, not to mention, keeps my abs visible which my wife finds a plus. Despite all these benefits, I can’t motivate myself to run when it just so damned hard. That is why I want to rave about the Ipod Nano + Nike device.

My problem with running is simply that I lose interest in it quickly. I'll run for a couple of days and then get bored. I’ll make up excuses not to go out and then hit to pool instead (I'm also huge swimmer, growing up in a lake town, how could you not?). I just have nothing motivating me to stick with it, to slog out the miles after miles it takes to chisel your self into a "runner".

The nano + nike device can help with that. The device is a simple attachment for your Ipod Nano that tracks your distance, speed, time, and estimated calories burned on each run. After you run, you simply sync up the data with your computer and it uploads the data to an online database operated by Nike. The website converts that data into handy graphs and charts that show you your progress. It also allows you to make goals. I've made the goal to run 25 miles in 4 weeks, to run five runs in the next 4 weeks with an average pace under 9 min/mile, and to run at least 15 times in the next four weeks. The website then graphs my progress against these goals (It looks like I’m going to make my mileage goal and my speed goal, but the number of runs goal I’m a little behind on). Tracking my progress like this has been a huge aide in my motivation by tapping into my competitive side; I'm competing against my goals and therefore feel motivated to run. It's a simple concept but effective. After this set of goals, I simply make new harder ones and compete against those. I’m positive that this year I’ll make my goal of running in the Seattle Marathon.

There are also a loads of community features on the website such as the ability to map out your running course on line via google earth and share them with others. It also let you set online competitions with friends and strangers around the globe by giving you a forum to challenge them to various running goals and track the group progress; you can join message groups to support your running addiction and basically retreat into a digital world after you've been out bounding the pavement outside.

In addition to the Nike's auto crunching of the data, I've learned how to ferret out the raw data myself and plan on importing it into my own database and playing with it a little. The graphs on the Nike site are pretty simple and I think I could do some more complicated analysis on my own. (Besides, now that I’m in law school, how else am I going to keep my database skills sharp?)

For only 20 buck, it's a great peripheral for your Nano. It's been out for some time so it already showing up for discounts...I'm sure that this is just the beginning, I'm already looking forward to a device that is more accurate, can track elevation changes, etc...perhaps with the gen nano?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Where To Go...

It is college choosing season. The students, after having made their applications and waiting patiently for an answer from their desired schools, have now, if they have been accepted the task of choosing themselves amongst the schools that have admitted them. The last couple of weeks, students have been appearing in our classes listening on lectures, observing the students and professors, and trying to make the decision if we are where they want to start their legal careers. Pretty exciting.

My wife’s cousin is currently trying to decide between U of Washington and U of Idaho for an undergraduate education. My wife’s sister is a UW grad, and both my wife and I are UIdaho grads, so we were trying to help him out with his decision. Of course, we supported going to the U of I. My wife and I had a great experience; we had fun, we made friends, and we both were able to get great jobs with our degrees, but we told him that if he wanted to live in Washington that the UW would get him into a bigger alumni circle and if he wants to go into a research field UW research really can't be beat. My sister-in-law, while being positive about the UW, basically told him she thought that the U of I would be a better choice for him. For her, she found the UW a little impersonal; it’s big and not exactly a ‘cozy college experience”. I heard a similar sentiment from another UW grad I used to work with; he sometimes wished he had attended WWU instead. It may just have been the business school that both of these UW grads went to and not the whole university, but both of them seemed to have loved the fact that they went to the UW but weren’t fond of going to the UW, if that makes sense.

I look forward to helping my kids pick out a university one day. I didn’t, in truth, have much choice. Well, at least, I didn’t know I had much choice. As a first generation college student, I didn’t know that it was possible to attend a school that you couldn't pay for out of your wallet, I didn't know anything about loans and such, and my parent were never in a financial place to "send" me to school. As a result, I limited my choices to Idaho (which is cheap for an in state student) and U of Montana (where I might have been able to get a track scholarship). Luckily, my choice worked out and I landed at a great school.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Guilty Pleasure -

One of my newest internet addictions has been the fan boards for both the U of Idaho and Boise State. I admit it; I’m addicted to reading the banter of supporters of both schools. To read the Vandals all blustery over the school while discounting our failures versus Boise State constant gloating and simultaneously obsession with everything Vandal is pretty funny. BSU state fan chirp about the impending close of Idaho while Idaho fans deride BSU for being a glorified community college with only 1 merit scholar (Idaho has 43). Most of the posts are fun and not the least bit fact based. Idaho is not closing, it budget and endowment are healthy (if not robust) and BSU academic standards are the same as Idaho’s (they are set by the state, thus to say that an Idaho has a higher admission standards than BSU or vice versa is untrue).

Although, as a Vandal myself, I’m particular to Idaho and her causes, I’m not as anti BSU as some of my friends and posters on the VandalVenue appear to be. I actually welcome BSU’s growth and success. Living in Seattle region, I can observe the strong in-state rivalry between U of Washington and Washington State, and, although peripherally, the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State. Do you think the Huskies were happy when the Coug went to the rose bowl, did the Cougars celebrate with the Huskies won the nat'l championship? No, so I don't think anyone should be surprised when Vandal didn't attend the ticker parade after BSU BCS win. Rivalries are fun and they are good for the state in which they reside.

Like any market, competition in education is healthy. For nearly a century the U of Idaho has been Idaho’s school. Most professionals, legislatures, judges, and the who’s who in Idaho went to the U of I. So, in many respects, the school had a monopoly on the higher education system (sorry ISU, but you haven’t ever been much competition) and allowed itself to grow fairly fat and lax. This new rivalry with BSU, who has come on the scene in the last 40 years, has forced the school to refocus itself. As in Washington State, the competition between the state's major schools forces them to constantly invest in themselves, to improve academics, and improve on the athletic fields. This leads to better research, better education, better national visibility, and more alumni support of both schools. Better research and the better education leads to a higher quality of graduates who then go out and contribute more to the state economy, the state grows, and life improves. Thus, ultimately, having two healthy major state universities is a far better system for a state than a one school monopoly.

Of course, it’s easy to see why both schools don’t exactly welcome the rivalry. Idaho is a cheap state. Whereas Oregon and Washington can support a large higher education system, Idaho seems reluctant to do so. The state makes education resources tight and this breeds a pretty healthy animosity between all the schools for whatever each other gets, like two kids fighting over the same cookie. Therefore, the money that the U of Idaho needs to update her 100+ year infrastructure to be a modern school is in direct combat with BSUs aspirations of becoming a legitimate university with a post-grad system that isn’t a joke. I wish our state legislature could look forward a little and allow UIdaho to invest in her facilities and allow BSU to expand it’s graduate programs, both would allow the schools to actually compete with each other (Idaho with BSU on the athletic field, and BSU with Idaho on the academic field), but is that actually going to happen?

Currently, if you read the fan boards, the changes are not going to happen. BSU fans want to elevate their football out of the mid-majors and that requires money. The state of Idaho can not support multiple major football programs, which is why a number of BSU fans would like to see the programs at U of I and ISU folded under and all the money could be channeled to BSU (ala the Nebraska football model). So, they are going to oppose any investment in U of Idaho athletics. Conversely, Idaho wants to maintain it’s education dominance in the state, so naturally it opposed any money spent on upping BSU’s educational offerings. With alumni of both school fighting each other added to a naturally cheap legislature, the state of Idaho gets more of the same as a result: BSU; a fair undergraduate school with a hell of a football program in the Capital, Idaho; a great research institution with a laughable sport presence in the north. While this is a sustainable status quo, I'm not sure it is in best interests of the State. Both school to flourish and directly compete with each other in anyway they see fit; Idaho on the field or BSU in the lab.