Friday, March 31, 2006

The Coming of the Oracle

I got my new palm yesterday! Having one of these things is totally foriegn to me. Bear with me as I get use to such things as Graffiti 2 and tiny input screens. The big hope is this will help keep my outrageous schedule under control... but we'll have to wait and see.

In the mean time I'm just exicited to be completing my technology portfolio.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Back in the Saddle

The Vegas trip was a success... complete and total. I will suggest to my faithful readers that if you are ever considering driving to Las Vegas that you give it careful consideration. It is not a trip for the weak... or physically active. You never really get a sense of how much you enjoy standing until you have to sit for 20 hours.

Time actually spent in Vegas proved most efficacious. I won $400 in blackjack over the course of the week (most of it on the final day). Roulette went equally well when the group placed a $10 community bet (8 bucks left over from a shared lunch tab plus $2 of my own) on double zero. That paid out a cool $360 split between the six of us and helped pay for a rather enjoyable show.

Entertainment wise we saw Penn & Teller, the Star Trek experience, and a few of the off strip entertainment options. Good stuff, for the most part. Of course, I am sworn to secrecy about the whole affair beyond what I've already disclosed. You know, standard "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" agreement. Probably for the best for all involved parties. In the interest of scintillation, allow me to hint at the existence of almost three full hours of uncut video.

Now it's back to school, my last quarter, wrapping up my various projects, finding a job, and saying goodbye to my home for the past seven years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Done with a Capital D, that Rymes with V, that Stands for Vegas

I just turned in by Basic Income Tax final, the last of my three back-to-back-to-back finals and ends the quarter1. I think I did just fine, all things consider, and am looking forwards to my perfunctory B+. No shame in being average at a top tier law school.

On Saturday I pick up the minivan in preparation for leaving on Sunday on our much vaunted Vegas Road Trip! Pictures should be flowing back from the event, along with some sort of musical montage for the actual driving portion. We have a timeshare ready for our use down there (free of charge, thanks Mom and Shannan!) and will be staying for 5 days! In addition, we are driving through six different states: Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California, and Oregon. And the plan is to drive NONSTOP! I don't know whose going to be doing the driving at three in the morning, but it should be loads of fun.

The trip is largely bankrolled by my fantastic tax return this year (thank you qualified tuition exemption). Although, for a moment there I was sort of freaked out when I received an email claiming to be from the IRS informing me my refund was only going to be $68. After freaking out (seriously, emotional blowout) for a bit, I realized it was a fake... email originated in Japan, the website it sent me to had a Brazillian TLD, the thing was covered in government copyright notices, but the real nail in the coffin was the form asking for my credit card number so they could send me my refund. Hmm... I don't think that's how credit cards work.

Anyway, the whole trip should be a blast and a welcome relief after the super stressful quarter I've just finished. Hoo-ah!

1. Technically, I got an extension on a two credit research project, but I don't care.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Boy Scouts in the News

Seems the Boy Scouts can catch a break these days. Last time I saw the BSA in the press was to report on widespread cases of heat exhaustion while waiting for President Bush to speak at the National Jamboree. Well, today the Seattle Times reports that a fellow Scouter at Camp Meriwether (it's in Oregon, and yes, I've been there) was walking with some other scouters, collapsed, and died.

He was 16!!!

So, first... why don't they every report about the good things that happen to Scouts, or because of Scouts? Like, "Cat rescued from tree by local scout" or "church repainted by scout troop." No, it's stuff like "Scout dies while hiking" or "Scout fails to rescue fellow hiker from falling down a crevasse." Seriously, scouts have their problems, but if I just read the paper I'd think they were an endangered species crippled by years of inbreeding. On reflection, that might be true, but certainly there are some good things to say as well.

Secondly... what happened to healthy scouting? Sixteen year old males are not supposed to fall down and die from walking.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Race Based Admissions

Can someone please explain this New York Times article to me? As with most newspaper articles it is high on rhetoric and low on facts, but it sounds as if universities and colleges are shutting down their minority focused programs. Now, race is a complicated issue for everyone, yes, everyone; but some topics are pretty straightforward... like the applicability of the 14th Amendment.

The Times article says that most of these changes are coming "threats of litigation and pressure from Washington." I guess I can sort of understand the "pressure from Washington," maybe the Education Secretary is going around threatening to pull federal aid if schools don't eliminate the programs. But legal challenges? Under what authority? The article reports that the Center for Equal Opportunity sent out over 200 legal challenges to which 150 schools had responded favorably (from his perspective, I suppose). I want to know what those legal challenges said?!

See, the 14th Amendment, where all the previous affirmative action litigation has emanated from, is very clear about one thing (and, really, only one thing): it is limited to state action. The 14th has absolutely not impact on my behavior, your behavior, or those of private institutions. So why is Pepperdine, a private religious school, rolling over?

My theory is pretty evil, but it fits the facts. I suggest that for the past several decades conservatives have been fighting to get on the Board of Directors for these schools (much as they have infiltrated the school boards and city governments). Once there they discovered it was simply political infeasible to just outright eliminate these programs... so they called up their friends in Washington (governmental or NGO, doesn't really matter) and said if they raise enough of a stink they can use it as cloud cover to make change. Far less resistance if they are just trying to stay chummy with the "powers that be" as opposed to overturning 50 years of progress towards racial equality.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Words to Read

This year the ASUW has perhaps the greatest President in office of the seven years I've been involved. I want to share with you something he wrote a few days ago; an observation about America and about ourselves. I hope you'll take the time to read all of his words... I know you will find it worthwhile.

Our Not too Distant Future

If you have even the remotest interest in the outcome of the 2006 midterm election you must read the New York Times Sunday morning Magazine article.

I beginning to wonder if I'm cut out for this stuff?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Final Determination

In 1998 the students of the University of Washington made a stupid decision, and this Friday, almost nine years later, that decision was affirmed on procedural grounds. The decision was to replace the aging Driving Range with a new state-of-the-art double deck range at a price of $3,000,000. Since then the Range has reduced in size to an expansion of only three tees and the cost has ballooned to $9.7 million. Through it all the S&A Fee Committee has dutifully agreed with the project and no matter how hard I may have tried, the range will go forward.

To be honest, I really couldn't be more proud of the Committee this year. While I rather disagree with their decision, I am just a single vote on the Committee and refuse to be the Chair who pushes his opinion on the membership. It was their call, and they made it. Their reasoning boils down to this:
  • The 1998 Committee approved the range at $3 million
  • The 2002 Committee approved the range at $8 million
  • There are no apparent procedural defects in how those decisions were made
  • The decisions are themselves not unreasonable
  • The 2006 Committee may have decided differently but it is not appropriate to substitute our judgment for theirs
  • Funding outside of student money was available to make up the difference between the approved $8 million and the $9.7 million need
Even though the Committee had the resources to make up the difference on our own, they felt the decision was easier to make by using other resources. Personally, I don't see the distinction. The other funding was money set aside for the Recreational Sports Program (RSP) and would have been used for other capital projects. By spending it on the Driving Range we just put the Committee in a worse position when RSP comes back to ask for funding later. It may not have been student funds today, but it will mean greater student spending later.

I would have been very interested to see the vote had that money not been available. I think it would have changed the dynamics, but the outcome would probably have still been the same. The Committee seemed unwilling to disturb the earlier decision and found a way to avoid doing that... but if that option hadn't been available I think they still would have been unwilling to stop the project. The argument that we should leave the original determination undisturbed holds just as much water. Yes, we need to spend an additional 1.7 million more of student fees to faithfully execute the decision, but that's no different than the actual situation... it's just the appearance that it wasn't our money.

The Committee also let the RSP Director get away with murder. These funds had been in an account for years and gone unreported until just a few days ago. Instead of berating the director, the Committee let him off easy. We could have made him spend every penny of those excess dollars, retaining as much of the student's money as possible. Instead the Committee decided to let him keep as much as possible. I really can't begin to understand that decision unless they were giving the original Committee decision of $8 million some sort of super-precedence. Not only had the costs gone up since then, the necessary funding from students had gone down.

Not a whole lot I can do about it now... except marvel at the larger situation and take away an important lesson. First, the necessary power to overturn a previous decision (even a bad decision) is far greater than I had expected. Second, combinding in recent observations from GPSS, the necessary power to make a new decision (even a bad decision) is far lower than I had expected. These two factors do not bode well for government.

So, if this is true... how is it that we've managed to hold the government together for so long? Shouldn't we be tearing ourselves apart at the seams at this point?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Get Your Saturday Seattle Post-Intelligencer

After my weeks of radio silence I return in a blaze of glory to tell all my faithful readers to go pick up a copy of the Saturday PI. There, among the headlines on page one you will find a story entitled "Universities are adding on the perks at a price" which includes multiple quotes by yours truly.

If you're too cheep to buy the paper (50 cents man) or simply out of physical reach, you can read the article via the interwebs.