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May, 2011:

Unexpected Stars of Ignite Phoenix #10

I have been involved with Ignite Phoenix since the fall of 2009.  I presented at Ignite #5 and I have been a volunteer at every Ignite Phoenix event since.  I love the Ignite Phoenix crew and the Ignite concept.    It’s hard to describe what Ignite Phoenix is because words alone do not do it justice.  The Ignite Phoenix page describes it as “an information exchange for fostering and inspiring Phoenix’s creative community.  In one evening, you hear 18 passionate speakers from our creative, technical, and business communities talking about their current projects or favorite ideas for just five minutes.  Presentations will educate and inspire you, and maybe make you laugh in the process.”  Each speaker gets 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about their passion, and their slideshow advances every 15 seconds whether they like it or not.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

I volunteer backstage on the night of Ignite Phoenix.  My job involves wrangling the presenters before the show, orienting them to the stage and the evening, answering questions and calming their fears, putting microphones of presenters during the show, and running around doing odd jobs throughout the night.  I love what I do, but because I run around so much during the show, I only see half of each presenter’s performance at best.  I watch every presentation in its entirety a few weeks later when the videos of each presenter are posted on YouTube.

Even though I don’t get to see the show in its entirety on show night, there are always a few presenters who grab my attention.  Usually they are the people I did not expect to be captivating.  Ignite Phoenix #10 was no exception.  These women were the unexpected stars of the show for me.

  • Corri Wells:  I initially perceived Corri as a somewhat sweet and soft-spoken person.  I saw on the program that her topic was “Anger” and I expected her to talk from a psychological perspective.  I didn’t expect her to take the stage with such a powerful presence and advocate for people to use their anger to make their voices heard and create change.  “Publish or democracy perishes.”
  • Bogi Lateiner:  Bogi’s presentation was “How Learning to Change A Tire Changed My Life.”  When I met her I noted how girly she was in her skinny jeans and heels.  She is the epitome of a person you would expect not to know the first thing about cars, yet when as I listened to her speak about her experiences rebuilding her Volkswagen bug and teaching women about automotive basics, I began to picture her working on her car in a pair of faded coveralls and a smear of grease across her face.  The lesson that I took away from her was that it’s empowering to know how to do things yourself, and it gives you a sense of security.  She made me want to know more about the inner workings of my car and just how to do be more handy in general.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

It’s people like Corri and Bogi that make me love Ignite Phoenix so much.  You never know what to expect and you always walk away from the experience entertained, enlightened, and inspired.

If you want more information about what it’s like to be an Ignite Phoenix presenter, Jay Thompson was also a presenter at Ignite Phoenix #10 and wrote an excellent post about his experience of being a presenter from his application submission through to his actual performance on the Ignite stage.

Submissions are currently being accepted for Ignite Phoenix #11 on October 28, 2011 and its big sister show, Ignite Phoenix After Hours #2 on July 29, 2011.

Discrimination Against GSA in West Bend

I was listening to Dan Savage’s Savage Love Podcast last week and I heard about a sad but inspiring situation in West Bend, Wisconsin.  East and West High Schools has had an unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance for over a decade and is currently being denied the recognition of being an official school group.

Some schools have Gay-Straight Alliances or si...

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Prior to this year, student group recognition was fairly informal, and it appeared that every group that requested recognition received it.  This year a new process was imposed that required a group to show that they have curricular tie, national or state affiliation, student appeal and a volunteer adviser to receive recognition by the school.  The GSA complied with every requirement of the application process and their application was approved by the school district administrators.   All they needed was the approval from the West Bend Board of Education.

The students of the West and East High School GSA did a very ballsy thing – they hired an attorney who assisted them throughout this process.  When the group went before the school board, their attorney warned the board members that legal action for discrimination could result if they denied the group’s request for official recognition.  They walked into that meeting and basically said, “We’ve complied with your requirements.  We know we have rights, and if you deny us our rights, we’re going to sue you.”  I love it!

The school board unfortunately voted against granting the GSA recognition.  Randy Marquardt, president of the board of education, voted against recognition and does not understand the need for the school to recognize the GSA.  He allegedly said the board should not vote in the group’s favor to avoid a threat of legal action.

The GSA complied with the school’s requirements for recognition, and therefore they have earned the right to be an official school group.  The co-presidents of the GSA have filed a federal lawsuit against the West Bend Board of Education for violations of their First Amendment rights and the federal Equal Access Act that grants all non-curriculum student groups equal access if a school recognized at least one non-curriculum student group.  The students claim that they are being denied the privileges afforded to recognized student groups such as using the school’s PA system, posting flyers and posters in the school, using the school’s resources and equipment, raising funds for group activities, and being included in the school yearbook.

These students should be applauded for their determination and for refusing to sit in the back of the proverbial bus.  Their group’s mission is “to combat bullying and harassment through education and advocacy and to provide an emotionally and physically healing learning environment for people of all gender and sexual orientations.”  The GSA has only asked for a declaration that the board of education violated rights, a court order requiring the school to recognize the GSA as student group, less than $20 of damages and attorneys’ fees.  They are not asking for anything spectacular, only for what is fair.

To the students in West Bend, keep fighting the good fight. I was pleased to hear that the community for the most part seems to support you.  Please let us know what we can do to continue to support you and your cause.

If you want to send Randy Marquardt a message urging him to allow the GSA to be an officially recognized student group, you can email him at rmarquardt@west-bend.k12.wi.us or call him at 262-306-2601.

UPDATE: On Monday, June 13, 2011, in a re-vote the West Bend School Board approved the request for an official GSA at West Bend High School.  It appears that the school board caved because they were advised that if they fought the lawsuit filed against them, that they would lose.  Randy Marquardt had the audacity to say that the board was bullied by the GSA and that he still does not approve of giving the group recognition as a student club.  Regardless of why the board approved the GSA, it was the right thing to do.  Congratulations kids!

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Guidelines for Studying for the Bar Exam

Today is my first day of BarBri class.  For the next 10 weeks, I will be on a regimented schedule of going to class and studying as I prepare for the Arizona Bar Exam.  Thankfully, I am a person who thrives in structure, so being on a strict schedule should work well for me.  I have been thinking about what guidelines will apply to my life during Bar prep.

  1. A Student of the University of British Columbi...

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    Stick to the BarBri schedule – go to class every day and study for a total of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

  2. Use study techniques that work for me: class, outlines, and flash cards.
  3. Everyone is banned from the house unless they have an invitation.
  4. Do 30 minutes of walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or yoga every day.
  5. Eat a balanced diet – lots of fresh fruit, veggies, and protein; minimal sugar; & plenty of water.
  6. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  7. Avoid people and places that bring excessive drama to my life.
  8. No TV except for my weekly indulgences of House and Deadliest Catch.
  9. When I’m studying, I cannot have my cell phone where I can see or hear it.
  10. When I’m outlining on the computer, stay off of email, Facebook, and Twitter.
  11. If I realize that I’m just staring at my books without doing any productive work, STOP and take a break.
  12. The default response to any invitation to social events until the Bar is “No;” however there must be the occasional fun event to maintain my sanity.

I’ve spent the last few days getting the house in order so that I will have as few distractions as possible while I’m studying.  I have also been reading Chad Noreuil’s The Arizona Bar Exam: Pass It Now.  I’m grateful that my family and friends are being supportive of me and my process.  One of my friends has already put me on notice that if I’m too non-responsive to the point that he worries that I’m getting unbalanced, that he’ll stage a raid.  I doubt that will be necessary but it’s good to know that people care about me enough that they would be willing to do that.

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Law School: If I could do it again . . .

Today is my graduation day from law school.  I’ve been reflecting all week about my law school experience . . . when I haven’t been running around like a crazy person taking care of everything that I’ve put off during the semester but have to get done before BarBri starts next week.  It’s been fun to remember the person I was when I started this adventure three years ago compared to who I am today.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Green

So the big question is, if I had to do it all again, knowing what I know now, would I have gone to law school?  Absolutely!  I went to law school because I was told it was the best education a person can get, regardless of whether they become a lawyer.  That statement is still true.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still go to law school, but I’d do it a little differently . . .

I would have skipped more classes. The American Bar Association permits students to miss up to 10% of every course.  I should have taken full advantage of that.  There were so many opportunities for law students to attend workshops and conferences; however I felt that I couldn’t attend them because it was drilled into my head that missing class would result in me not learning the material.  While I believe that going to class is important, some things are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that are worth occasionally missing class.

I would have published more papers. I’m graduating from law school as a co-author of a book chapter about government regulation of emerging technologies; however I have close to final drafts of papers on the legalities of organizing flash mobs, the legal side of blogging, and the legalities of GPS technology.  They are all on my back burner of projects that I’ll get to when I have time.  It would have been nice to have submitted at least one of them for publication in a legal journal.

I would have networked more. I have tried to seek out my fellow geeks in the legal community and people who have been successful following their passions.  I am glad to have been bold enough to reach out to some wonderful people during my law school career and develop some great relationships.  I wish I had had the time and energy to do more of it.

I would have started Sponsor A Law Kid sooner. I wish I had thought of Sponsor A Law Kid when I first started this blog.  This campaign has paid for approximately 1/3 of my tuition during my final semester of law school and it has provided the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and businesses.  It would have been amazing if I had been able to use this to fund my entire education.

I never would have looked at my grades. I went into law school like everyone else, thinking that you have to be in the top 25% to be successful.  It made me focus too much on grades and not enough of learning the materials.  Once I figured out that grades are meaningless, I stopped looking at them.  I switched my focus to learning the law, and I became so much happier and learned so much more.  I was more creative, efficient, and relaxed.  I have not seen my grades since my first semester of law school, and I’ve been told that my GPA has gone up every semester since.  Being in the top 25% is a requirement for some people’s professional dreams, just not mine.

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SALK Day 130: Art by Kerry Mitchell

I met Kerry Mitchell last year at Podcamp AZ when he attended my session on copyright basics.  He sponsored a day to promote his artwork.  I thought he might be a painter or a photographer.  Nothing prepared me for the experience that is his artwork on his website.

At first, I was captivated by the vibrant colors he often uses – electric pinks, blues, reds, purples, and golds.  As I looked closer at his pieces, I noticed the beautiful intricacies of his designs.  I do not know how he creates these gorgeous works, but I love them.  Mitchell has created hundreds of works of digital art.  These are some of my favorites.

Ascension:  This was the first piece that caught my eye.  At first it reminded me as a seashell but it drew me in when I saw the detailed repeating swirl patterns.  Every time I look at it I see another aspect of his art that I did not notice previously.

Blues in the Night:  This piece reminds me of the night sky in the darkest of night as it is seen in rural areas where the city lights do not drown out the dimmer stars.  I think this is one of the most majestic pieces he’s done.  It has a lovely balance of power and peace within it.

Compared to What?:  Mitchell said this piece was inspired by the song “Compared to What” as performed by Les McCann and Eddie Harris.  It’s a delightful song and Mitchell turns it into a beautiful mix if purple, gold, and pink.  I would happily turn an entire wall of my future office into this piece.

Mitchell’s prints are available for purchase in sizes ranging from 8”x10” to 24”x30”.  Larger prints are available upon request.  Many of his works deserve to be displayed in larger form so you can take in all the dynamic elements that make his work so remarkable.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Kerry Mitchell.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 129: The Miracle of Recovery

Today’s sponsor is my dear friend who is celebrating 22 years of sobriety this week.  He asked me to write about recovery from addiction.  I’ve had the privilege of knowing a handful of incredible people who are recovering from addictions to various substances.  It is amazing to hear their stories about how their lives used to be and to see them now as functional and successful people.  Most of my friends who have done this needed help from a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA Big Book

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The transformation that people in recovery can experience is incredible.  One of my friends used to be a prostitute when she was using, and now she’s a nanny for a family with a special needs child.  Another one of my friends used to be a misanthropic drug dealer who sold drugs to college kids to support his habit, and now he’s close to finishing his college degree and has aspirations of going to graduate school.  He’s also one of the most thoughtful and gentle people I’ve ever met.

A few years ago, I invited one of my friends who is in recovery to dinner with my parents.  He is one of the kindest and warm-hearted people you will ever meet and he does not hide the fact that he’s in recovery.  Afterwards, as Mom and I were washing the dishes, she turned to me and asked, “Did he used to be really messed up?”  She couldn’t believe that this wonderful intelligent person that I’m proud to call my friend used to be drunk and/or high on a daily basis.

These are only a handful of the stories of recovery.  Dozens of AA Speaker Tapes of people’s stories of recovery are available for free on iTunes.  These are people who were so full of pain and shame, who had no self-esteem, and were so uncomfortable in their skin that they had a compulsion to medicate their feelings with drugs and alcohol, regardless of the consequences.  It’s amazing that the found the help they needed and stuck with the program to get sober.

And it’s hard work.  I’ve heard that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are simple, but not easy.  They require a willingness to be uncomfortable and to learn to live in a new way where people don’t have the option of self-medicating to escape their discomfort.  It requires being willing to walk through fear and not self-sabotage their potential for success.  The work is worth it, because recovery comes with hope, freedom, and the ability to dream again.

Tonight, I asked my friend who, if all goes according to plan, will be celebrating 22 years of sobriety this week what advice he would give to someone who is contemplating recovery or who is new to the program.  He said, “You’re worth it.  You’re worth giving it a try.  You have nothing else to lose.  Give yourself permission not to self-sabotage.”

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Anonymous.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

Warrior Dash Recap 2011

This past weekend my friends and I did the Warrior Dash in Florence, Arizona.  This is my type of race – 3.4 miles with 12 obstacles along the way.  It requires endurance, strength, and strategy to be successful.

(cc) Jeff Moriarty

There are two types of people who do this race – the serious athletic types who are focused on getting through the course as fast as possible and the types who are there just for fun who often do the race in costume.  I was the former.  Two of my friends were the latter: one dressed up as a Roman gladiator and chased my friend through the course who was dressed up as Jesus.  All of us had an awesome time and are already thinking about what we want to do for next year’s race.  I wanted to share some tips about things that my group was glad we did or should have done.

Train as if the Race was 5-miles Long:  The course was only 3.4 miles, but it was on dirt, uneven ground, rocks, sand, and mud.  It was much harder than running 3.4 miles on asphalt.

Do Strength Training:  When I saw which obstacles would be on our race course on the website, I was motivated to add push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and squats to my workout.  It made a big difference on race day.

Wear Clothes that can be Destroyed:  The course might have dirt, sand, water, fire and/or mud on it.  Don’t wear anything that you’d be sad if it was ripped, stained, or otherwise destroyed.  This includes your shoes and sunglasses.

Expect Mud to Get Everywhere:  Regardless of your body type or what you’re wearing, you will be covered from head to toe in mud.  Expect to have it everywhere by the end of the race – including inside your underwear, sports bra, and shoes.  Be sure to trim your nails and remove all jewelry before the race to eliminate having to scrub mud out of small crevices.

Use Gear Check:  Red Frog doesn’t promote this enough.  They have an area where you can check a bag while you’re running the race so that you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to put your keys during the race or have to go all the way back to your car to get fresh clothes when you’re done.   You will want to have your phone, keys, plastic bags, a towel, a complete set of fresh clothes, and a pair of flip flops in your gear check bag.

Make Sure You Can Move in Your Costume:  One of the best parts of the race was the amazing people watching.  We had racers in crazy outfits – Oompa Loompas, Richard Simmons, German bar girls, and lots of people in capes, tutus, kilts, and wings.  Make sure you can run in your outfit and be careful not to snag your wig while you’re crawling under the barbed wire.  Regardless of what you wear on your body, be sure to wear proper running shoes on your feet.

(cc) Jeff Moriarty

Wear Underwear: You never know if the elastic in your shorts is going to snap while you’re crawling through the mud pit.  After the race, they have an area where they hose you off.  You may want to strip all the down to your skivvies to ensure maximum mud removal.

I was a little under-prepared for this race but I’m very pleased with how I finished.  My official time was 36:51:45.  I finished in the top 9% in my division and in the top 21% overall.

Thank you Red Frog Events for putting on such a wonderful event.  A special thank you to Monster for being on-site promoting their new Anti-Gravity drinks and their promoter who opened my beverage for me because I was too tired to do it myself.  I can’t wait until next year.

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