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Person + Passion + Social Media = Change

I saw two films over the weekend: The Hunting Ground and #chicagoGirl. Both of these documentaries featured young activists who are fighting against horrible problems – sexual assault on college campuses and abuses of power in Syria respectively. The something that I find it so captivating about both of these films is none of these activists waited to be asked to help. They just started doing what they thought was right, at many times putting themselves in danger, and doing what they have to do to try to make a difference.

I love seeing this type of passion in people – working on a cause every free moment, even at the expense of schoolwork, a social life, or sleep. This is when you know you’re working on something that matters, when you sit down to work on a project for an hour and the next thing you know six hours have passed. I love when I’m in this zone.

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The other thing I love about these films is seeing how social media allows people all over the world to connect and work on a cause. In #chicagoGirl, we see how 19 year-old Ala Basatneh is a major player in the Syrian Revolution by coordinating activities from a Chicago suburb and posting videos that end up on news stations like CNN. In The Hunting Ground, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino use platforms like Skype to connect with other survivors of campus sexual assault and teach them how to file a Title IX complaint against their school if they don’t handle their case correctly.

It is so incredible to see what every day people are able to do with social media. It’s a platform that anyone can use to raise awareness, connect with others, and promote change without having to ask permission from the government or any other type of authority. I absolutely love it.

The problems related to campus sexual assault in the Syrian Revolution are ongoing. If either of these issues are important to you, please get involved however you can. And if there is another cause that you have passion about, don’t wait for an invitation to get involved. Join and online community related to your issue, and if there isn’t one, start it.

The Hunting Ground Sheds Light on the Realities of Campus Sexual Assault

I saw the documentary The Hunting Ground tonight, which sheds light on it the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Many schools appear to under-report the problem and deal with it in effectively, many times discouraging victims from going to the police.

This situation is so frustrating because it appears that schools are focused on maintaining their reputations which increases the likelihood of getting and maintaining donors, in particular in regards to athletics and fraternities. The statistics regarding campus sexual assault are shocking and astounding, especially given that studies have shown that less than 10% of reports are false. In many cases, it appeared the school was more focused on silencing the victim then dealing with the problem.

They even featured an interview with a person who had been convicted of campus sexual assault and he described perpetrator’s pattern of behavior. It appears that the majority of people on a college campus do not commit sexual assault; however, those who do, attack multiple people.

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

One of the most devastating statistics presented was if this situation doesn’t change, over 100,000 college students in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted next year.

Now, I have to temper all of this information with the fact that the accused attackers are innocent until proven guilty and sexual assault cases are difficult to prove, especially when there is weak physical evidence. I can accept this as long as law enforcement does a thorough job with their investigations. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

After the film, I walked up and down Mill Avenue for a while. For those of you who were not familiar with Arizona State University, Mill Avenue is at the border of the Tempe campus where there are many bars. I found myself wondering, “How many ASU students will be sexually assaulted tonight?”

Based on what I saw many young women wearing, crop tops appear to be back in style. Of course, no person deserves to be raped regardless of what they were wearing (or drinking). But I wondered how many attackers will take advantage of this fashion statement to grab or fondle someone without consent.

Systematic problems like this make me so frustrated because it feels like the deck is stacked against victims and their allies. I don’t know what it will take to make universities step up and admit that this might be a nationwide problem and covering it up or pressuring victims to remain silent is not going to fix it. There has to be a way to make it more painful to try to dismiss this problem rather than deal with campus sexual assault effectively.

I applaud what Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are doing to encourage victims to file Title IX complaints against their school if they do not properly respond to reports of sexual assault. Until those complaints are reviewed, the lawyer in me may also suggest survivors to consider getting a restraining order against their attacker and suing them for civil damages in addition to filing criminal charges against them.

Traveling Reveals What’s Important

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

I spent the last 2 weeks on the road with The Undeniable Tour. I flew to San Diego and drove to Seattle, doing a speaking engagements and mostly staying in hostels along the way. I lived out of a small suitcase in the backpack, and I could have brought less if I didn’t have to dress like a professional or be prepared for such a wide variety of weather.

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

When I step back and reflect on my adventurers from a personal perspective, I see that traveling with such few possessions and traveling by myself reveals some of my core values. I hand selected my speaking engagements, lodging, who I interacted with, and how I spent my free time. It’s been a long time since the last time my days felt like they were my own and not dictated by deadlines and to-do lists. I often drove without music or the news playing in the car so I had lots of time to be alone with my thoughts.

Even though I am a gregarious performer, I’m a very simple person when it comes to my tastes and what’s important to me. I like super soft fabrics, memory foam mattresses, hot coffee, and excessively hot showers. I like to be near the ocean even though I hate getting sand in my shoes. When I had down time during the tour, I often went for a walk, read my book, or slept. I wish my city was more walkable.

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

I enjoyed chatting with my fellow travelers in the hostels, but I wouldn’t say that I socialized with them. I was in each city for only a couple of days at most so I was picky about who I spent quality time with. I’m really glad that this trip allowed me to see so many of my friends, some of who I hadn’t seen in close to a decade. There have been several times I’ve contemplated putting a map of the U.S. on my wall and marking where all of my friends live with push pins to help me remember who to look up when I’m on the road.

Living out of the suitcase reminded me how little I need to be happy and comfortable. It made me want to continue my diligence in regards to living a minimalist lifestyle. Since returning to Phoenix, I’ve added a few things to my donate-to-charity pile.

This trip definitely showed me that it’s important to periodically take a break from my everyday routine and surroundings to reflect on who I am, where I’m going, and what’s important to me. As much as I enjoyed sharing information and ideas with my audiences about how lawyers and law students can use social media and the blogging in their professional careers, the weakest gained from this trip for me personally was it gave me some time and space to think about my priorities.

Minimalism in 90 Days Update – 4 Weeks into this Adventure

Minimalism Boxes 11-9-2014

My Minimalism Boxes – November 9, 2014

Rosie and I have been in our condo for four weeks so that means we’ve been doing our own version of Ryan Nicodemus’packing party” for just over a month. (I closed on the condo on September 29th so the official start of the project was October 1st even though we didn’t move in until October 11th.)

Ryan’s “party” ended after 21 days. I’m giving myself 90, though I’m starting to wonder how much more I’m really going to unpack. I have yet to go a day without unpacking something and I expect to unpack more wintery things as it gets colder but the low right now is only in the 50s. (Ah the joys of living in the desert.)

When I got my first apartment, my mom took my shopping for my kitchen basics – dishes, glasses, cooking supplies, etc. When I moved to Phoenix, the house was fully furnished, so my kitchen gear mostly lived in the garage for 10 years except for a few specialty items. Now I’m rediscovering my cooking supplies and seeing what I actually need and use. I suspect I’ll keep a handful of basics that I barely use – like my hand mixer and my casserole dish – just so I won’t have to replace them when a rarely-used recipe requires one of them.

Here’s what I unpacked in the last week.

Day 22

  • Rosie’s flea treatment (she gets this once a month) and doggie bags
  • Toaster and plate
  • DVD
  • T-shirt

Day 23

  • T-shirt
  • Plate
  • DVD
  • Hairbrush (that I’m using this as a microphone to practice for an upcoming speech. I’ve always used a brush for this.)

Day 24

  • Hat and yoga pants (Yay! It’s finally cold enough for yoga pants!)
  • Two knives

Day 25

  • Slacks, blouse, and t-shirt
  • Clipboard and notebook
  • Anniversary card (which I bought on sale in July)
  • Knife
  • Glow-in-the-dark ball (for Rosie)

Day 26

  • T-shirt
  • Cookbook (to help me make my shopping list), knife, and plate
  • Heating pad and 2 Styrofoam cups (to make an ice cup)
  • Lip balm (I have no problem admitting I’m addicted to lip balm.)
  • DVD (because I think you’re obligated to watch V for Vendetta on 11/5)

Day 27

  • Socks and tank top

Day 28

  • Hiking boots and socks
  • Caffeine pills

After the end of Week 4, I took some time to go through and combine several half-empty boxes. I’ve gotten rid of at least 4 boxes since my last video. It makes a big difference in the amount of free space I have and has me thinking about how I want to use it going forward.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3

Living the Sweaty Life

For anyone who doesn’t know, I sweat . . . a lot. I sweat when it’s hot. I sweat when it’s cold. I have to be careful about my wardrobe choices otherwise it’s painfully obvious how much I sweat. I own almost no white or other light colored shirts because I know I’m going to stain them the first time I wear them. (Thank goodness I look good in jewel tones.) I also don’t own silk shirt or any other fabrics that stain easily. I don’t wear women’s cut shirts because the arm holes are cut too close to my armpits so it makes the sweat transfer even more efficient and obvious.

Sweat is Sexy by Dawn - Pink Chick from Flickr

Sweat is Sexy by Dawn – Pink Chick from Flickr

My situation has a fancy name – hyperhidrosis – and technically it’s a condition but I just accept it as a state of being. It’s something I live with and that I’m mindful of.

I’ve learned to keep my right hand in my pocket or pressed against my leg when I’m at networking events so my hand won’t be wet when I go to shake someone’s hand.  I know to keep the car’s A/C turned up too high to keep my sweating under control when I’m driving to a business meeting or an important event and to turn the vents in the car towards my hands on the steering wheel so my hands don’t get too slick while I’m driving. I often don’t put on my work shirt until right before I leave the house.

Looking back, I’ve had this for as long as I can remember. I sweat just walking between classes at school (and it wasn’t a big school). In gymnastics, one of my nervous habits was blowing on my hands. I never really had an answer when my teammates asked why I did that, but I’m pretty sure I was trying to keep my hands dry.

People with hyperhidrosis can get Botox in their armpits, but this is only a temporary fix. I can think of better ways to spend up to $3000/year. It’s cheaper to use a men’s unscented antiperspirant (it works better) and buy new shirts.

I got one suggestion on how to deal with hyperhidrosis in professional settings that made a lot of sense. Katy Goshtasbi  suggested I invest in some plain dri-fit shirts and wear them under my professional clothes. This is a great suggestion when I wear sweaters and oxford shirts, but it probably won’t work for other fashion tops. I have my eyes peeled for a close fitting men’s dri-fit shirt. Women’s shirts tend to have cap sleeves, which means the sleeves are not long enough to stop all the sweat. I learned that the hard way when I tried layering a simple white shirt under a dress shirt before an important interview. Thank goodness for jackets.

If you sweat like I do, just know that you’re not alone. I know others have it worse than me and I’m lucky that this is only a big deal if I let it be.

Thirty Days of Smoothies

My friend Evo Terra has successfully done a month-long beer-and-sausage diet. Oh yes, he lost weight and got healthier eating sausage (and whatever came with it) and drinking beer. (I know – it doesn’t seem logical, but it’s true.) He recently announced that for the month of April he would be doing a beer-and-eggs diet.

Evo & Ruth

Evo & Ruth

Whenever Evo does a crazy diet, he is supervised by bariatric surgeon, Terry Simpson, who is an expert on weight loss. I asked Terry if he could design me a diet around desserts. He said, “Of course.” I was so excited by the idea of eating ice cream and pie for a month. Then he came back and said he could a month of smoothies. That’s not exactly milkshakes, but I was already committed to the diet idea. So Evo and I are going head-to-head for 30 days to see who gets healthier (as determined by Terry).

So for this entire month, I will be drinking my calories. My smoothies will have a base of almond milk and Greek yogurt, and I can add virtually any food I want to it. I’ll probably start my day with a mocha smoothie and have fruit-and-spinach smoothies midday in the midday and evening. My expected total calories for each day will probably be between 1,000 and 1,250. I’ve already declared I get one ice cream smoothie for PMS purposes. I also get to have water, carbonated water, and black coffee.

For anyone who is freaking out because I’m already small, calm down. According to the fancy scale at Dr. Terry’s office, I weigh 121.5 and my BMI is 20.9 (my bathroom scale said I was 123.8 that day). A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24. I’d have to drop below 108 pounds to be considered underweight. I’d be surprised if I drop below 112 on the fancy scale (114 on mine).

Photos taken on 3-31-2013, weight = 121.5

Photos taken on 3-31-2013, weight = 121.5

Why am I doing this? I like challenges. It’s the same reason I ran half marathons and trained to climb the seven mountains in Phoenix in one day. And I want to beat Evo.

I will be documenting my daily intake on my Google+ page. Feel free to add me to your circles if you want to keep up with the daily update on what I’m drinking, how I’m feeling, and what I weigh.

I’m looking forward to having a month where I don’t have to think about what I’m eating or what to get at the grocery store. And I won’t really have to do dishes except for my blender, measuring cups, cutting board, knife, and cup.

I think this will be fun once I settle into the new routine. I have a feeling I’ll be sipping on something most of the day rather than drinking large quantities at three separate times, but we’ll see how it goes.

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I Met Charlie Todd!

I’ve known about Charlie Todd and Improv Everywhere since he uploaded Frozen Grand Central to YouTube in 2008. I was fascinated by their creativity and boldness from the start. I went back and watched all their videos and read all the blogs from their missions – it was captivating. I subscribed to their YouTube channel and I joined the now-disbanded “Urban Prankster Network” online.

Charlie Todd and Me

Charlie Todd and Me

Charlie and I have exchanged emails and messages over the years after I helped co-found Improv AZ and I started digging into the legal issues surrounding flash mobs and pranks. He was always friendly and helpful, but since we lived on opposite sides of the country, we never met in person.

A few weeks ago, I got a note from Charlie saying that he was debuting his film “We Cause Scenes” at SXSW. The film follows the story of Improv Everywhere from the beginning to where it is now. I love this story because Charlie didn’t start out trying to create this group. He was just a guy who was having fun with his friends and he embraced the opportunities that allowed it to grow into his career. I was so excited. I immediately put his film at the top of my SXSW to-do list.

I met Charlie about an hour before the film in the convention center. When I saw his familiar face, threw up my arms, and screeched, “Charlie Todd!” I gave him a big hug and chatted for a few minutes before claiming my spot in line. It was so great to meet him in person but because we’ve been conversing for years, it was like seeing an old friend.

The movie was fantastic. If it comes to your city, go see it. It’s a great story.

During the Q&A after the movie, Charlie announced that Improv Everywhere was doing an MP3 Experiment in Austin. I of course rearranged my schedule so I could go. We were given a place, a time, an MP3 to download, and we were told to wear a certain color shirt and bring an uninflated balloon. You’ll have to wait to see the video to see what we did, but we had a blast. It was so great to do a mission with my prankster brothers and sisters.

I give my friend Jeff Moriarty a lot of credit for helping me become the person I am today. If he hadn’t organized the first No Pants Ride in Phoenix, there never would have been an Improv AZ and I wouldn’t be a flash mob attorney and blogger. Watching Charlie’s movie reminded me that I have to give him a lot of credit too. He was the one who came up with the idea for the original No Pants Subway Ride and he was the one who decided to invite the world to participate in 2009. If he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t have given Jeff his launch into the official prank/flash mob world.

So thank you Charlie. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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Kiss-in at the New Chick-fil-A? Maybe Not.

I was driving through my neighborhood over the weekend and I saw that the nearby Denny’s that closed down recently is going to be turned into a Chick-fil-A. I wasn’t surprised to see that the Denny’s closed given how popular the nearby “Gay Denny’s” is.

My initial response was “Eeeewwww.”

I’m not a big fan of fast food so I’m not happy that we’re getting another fast food place in the area, but I was really unhappy about the prospect getting a company with a homophobic reputation in my neighborhood. I wished there was some type of protest we could do to keep them from coming, but given the extent of the construction so far, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Jamie & Lisa at the Chick-fil-A Kiss-In

Jamie & Lisa at the Chick-fil-A Kiss-In

My next thought was I think I have an obligation to kiss a girl on the new Chick-fil-A’s property when they open. I posted it on my Facebook page, and a friend suggested I play “I Kissed A Girl” on a boom box while I’m doing it. I thought that was pretty awesome, and probably more appropriate for an all-ages audience than the equally awesome “It Gets Better” by Rebecca Drysdale.

I was starting to think having a kiss-in to protest the new Chick-fil-A at 16th Street and Camelback in Phoenix is a really good idea. One of my reporter friends even said she wanted to cover it. I was starting to get kind of excited about this idea when my friend sent me a link to an article that said Chick-fil-A has stopped supporting anti-gay organizations. Wow – they did a really bad job of letting people know that they changed their affiliations.

So maybe we don’t need to have a kiss-in at the new Chick-fil-A. I still don’t support them opening a store in my neighborhood because they either are homophobic and don’t want to broadcast it or they didn’t do their research when they decided where to donate their money.

I’m sure we can find another cause to protest if we need another reason to have a kiss-in.

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Solving the Problem of Bar Exam Travel

My phone rang at 7:50am this past Sunday. Who in their right mind would call me that early in the morning, and on a Sunday? I looked at the Caller ID on my phone and saw that it was my friend, Erin. We’d tweeted at each other earlier that morning so she knew I was up.

Erin was in a panic. She was at the airport to fly from Phoenix to Portland to take the Oregon Bar Exam this week.  She was supposed to change planes in Denver and her flight was delayed due to the storm in Colorado. She was petrified about getting trapped in Denver and was calling for advice. I calmed her down and she ended up changing her plans to a direct flight.

Virginia Bar Exam by Philip Larson from Flickr

Virginia Bar Exam by Philip Larson from Flickr

Erin’s situation got me thinking – why do you have to go to a state to take their bar exam? I think there should be a national bar exam, but until we get that, it makes more sense to take the bar exam wherever you live. Everyone takes the bar exam on the same days so why not set the system up so you can take any bar exam at any testing location, but throw in an extra fee for people taking other state bar exams? The main fee would go to the state whose bar exam you’re taking and the extra fee would make it worth other state’s while to let you test in their location. If the fee is cheaper than an airplane ticket, everyone wins!

The way the system is now, some states have a 2-day exam and some states have 3. I’d change the system so everyone has a 2-day test and make sure the testing time blocks are all the same (3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon). I’d put the out-of-state test takers a separate room or section to make it easier to give those individuals their test questions. The instructions are the same – answer the questions in the time allotted – so that’s not a problem.

I don’t think this idea has a potential problem with cheating more than the current system. Only a moron on the east coast would try to communicate with a west coast test-taker and tell them what’s on the test. When I took the bar exam, we had to be at the test location at 6:45am to start the test at 9am. There would be little if any time for someone in a different time zone to tell another test taker what’s on the test. Plus it’s nearly impossible to get a message to anyone during the test. We were only allowed to bring a clear Ziplock bag into the testing room. It could only hold our keys, wallets, and medication pills (no bottles). You couldn’t bring in anything else – no cell phones, no water, no paper, no pencils, no Kleenex, no feminine hygiene products – nothing! There’s nothing to cheat with, and even if you snuck something in, there were proctors everywhere and they’d notice if you did anything suspicious.

It just makes sense to treat the bar exam like the LSAT or the MPRE – you sign up to take the test at the testing center closest to you. You’ll have to pay a little extra to take another state’s test in your home state, but that’s a better plan than having to risk not being able to take the test at all because you’re trapped in an airport after spending thousands on bar prep, a plane ticket, and a hotel.

Adventures with Sick Rosie

It’s hard being a dog parent. When your baby gets sick, they can’t tell you how they feel. I feel helpless when she’s uncomfortable because I can’t fix it instantly. My rescue basset hound Rosie and I have been on rollercoaster with her health lately.

Rosie's Pills

Rosie’s Pills

A few weeks ago I came home and caught Rosie up on the couch (bad dog). When she jumped down and lay on the floor I noticed she was breathing kind of hard. That was odd because I didn’t think I surprised her that much. I let it go and went on with my day. About an hour later I checked on her and she was still breathing hard. That wasn’t normal so I called the vet and got her an appointment within the hour.

Rosie's Pills in Peanut Butter

Rosie’s Pills in Peanut Butter

The vet said her lungs and heart sounded good and she was oxygenating well so we decided on wait-and-see approach. She said to bring her back if she got worse or exhibited new symptoms – like lack of appetite. That night she wasn’t very hungry. I put her to bed with the thought, “Please still be alive in the morning.” The next morning she wouldn’t eat at all so we zipped back to the vet for a 7:30am appointment.

Rosie Eating her Pills in Peanut Butter

Rosie Eating her Pills in Peanut Butter

The x-rays showed systematic lung inflammation so we ran blood work. By the end of the next day, she was on a steroid, an antihistamine, and an antibiotic. This was Ruth and Rosie’s first joint adventure with pills. Let me tell you, she doesn’t like them. She put up a fight when I put them in the back of her mouth and held her jaws shut. It took three attempts to get them all down the first time. Thankfully one of my fellow dog parents recommended putting her pills in peanut butter. That fixed everything and it’s really cute to watch her lick peanut butter off the spoon.

The steroids make her really thirsty so instead of drinking a bowl of water every day, she’ll drink a bowl of water every 4 hours. All that liquid has to go somewhere and there have been a few accidents while I was out of the house and during the night. Thankfully she does it on the tile where it’s easy to clean.

Of course when you can’t breathe, you can’t go for walks so we had to stop walking completely for a few days and now we’re doing short walks every other day until she’s totally better and gets her stamina back. I’m sure her doggy friends miss her.

I noticed she was adjusting her blankets into a ball and laying her head on it sometimes. I thought that might have made her more comfortable to keep her head and spine in alignment. I tried to make things easier for her by adding a pillow to her bed. She pushed it out of her way and ignored it.

Rosie will be done with all of her meds this week, but there’s a chance she has valley fever. She tested low positive for it, which means she’s either had it or she just got it, and since she’s a rescue dog, I don’t know her full history. We’re going to re-test her white blood count when she’s off the antibiotics. If it’s still elevated, we’ll treat for valley fever.

It’s amazing how easily we fall in love with our pets and how heartbreaking it is when they hurt. I can’t wait for my baby to be well again.

Sleepy Rosie

Sleepy Rosie