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February, 2013:

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.

Falling Back in Love with Reading

Last year I realized that law school sucked my love of reading out of me. I had to read so much for my classes that the last thing I wanted to during my down time was read for pleasure. At the end of the day the most I’d read was Texts From Last Night. After the bar exam my brain was so fried I couldn’t read anything for two days.

I <3 2 read by katerha from Flickr

I <3 2 read by katerha from Flickr

Now, I come from a family of voracious readers, so it’s weird that I barely read anything for years for my own enjoyment. I used to devour books. I made the decision at the end of last year to make reading a priority – and it’s been heavenly.

My goal this year is to read 2 books a month – one for fun and one for business. It’s hard to make myself read the business books, but the books for fun have been absolutely wonderful. I flop into bed every night and tell myself that I’m going to read 10 pages from my book, and I usually end up reading closer to 20. I read until I’m so tired that the words on the page are blurry.

I love to read nonfiction work. There’s something about reading about a person’s real life that is gripping. When I read nonfiction, I’m way more likely to remember it because it’s real. I forget big chunks of the fiction books I read and I think it’s because my brain knows the story isn’t real, so why bother remembering it. I recently read Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A modest bestiary by David Sedaris. I love David Sedaris’ work so when I saw he had a book out that I hadn’t read, I checked it out from the library without looking beyond the front cover. It turned out to be a collection of short fictional stories about animals. I read the book (It didn’t do anything for me – sorry David) and each night I picked it up, I couldn’t remember what I had read the night before – it just wasn’t important enough to remember.

I rarely buy books that I know I’m going to read once unless I know the author, so I’ve been loving the Phoenix Public Library this year. I took suggestions from my friends and my virtual bookshelf is up to 68 books that I want to read. The first book I checked out was Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival. It was fantastic! Right now I’m reading You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black and I’m loving it. I’m looking forward to trying out the library’s ebook borrowing program so I can get library books on my Kindle. The library has a great system where you can put a book on hold and it will be waiting for you on the first floor with your name on it, but getting books without having to leave the house is even better.

Reading is still a chore for me to get started each time but I’m so grateful to be reading books again. I’m looking forward to reading Heads in Beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality by Jacob Tomsky; Argo: how the CIA and Hollywood pulled off the most audacious rescue in history by Antonio Mendez; and I Killed: true stories of the road from America’s top comics by Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff.

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

What’s the Answer to Gun Violence in the U.S.?

Last week 70 year-old Arthur Harmon fatally shot Phoenix attorney Mark Hummels (age 43) and his client Steven Singer (age 48) following a settlement conference. The amount in dispute: $17,000. Both men are survived by a wife and two children each.

Candlelight Vigil by  KOMUnews from Flickr

Candlelight Vigil by KOMUnews from Flickr

It breaks my heart every time I hear about a senseless shooting. This one literally hit close to home. I live about two blocks away from the office building where this shooting occurred. My dog and I regularly walk past it on our morning excursions. After the shooting, police closed the entire street to traffic for most of the day and helicopters thundered overhead. The next day, news crews dotted the property with their transmission vans to broadcast updates on the morning news.

The press will provide update reports about the funerals of the deceased, but then this story will be filed like so many shootings before it. Arthur Harmon died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot so there won’t be a trial. We’ll all go with our lives while the surviving families grieve and try to find a way to move on. There are not words to express how sorry I am for them. Those men left for work that morning, probably never expecting that they wouldn’t be home for dinner that night.

And I’m left wondering, “What’s the answer? What can we do to prevent more senseless deaths from occurring?”

I’m pretty conflicted when it comes to regulating guns in this country. The problem isn’t with the guns as much as the gun owners. I applaud gun owners who are maniacal about safety – who keep their guns unloaded and locked up where others, particularly children, cannot get to them.

Some people argue that there should be more restrictions on what types of guns you can own. That will prevent people from legally purchasing some firearms, but will it stop any illegal gun sales? Some people say you should have to have liability insurance if you own a gun. I suspect that will create the same problem that we have with car insurance – just because the law says you need it, that won’t stop someone from illegally driving without it. The responsible people will comply with this requirement, but I suspect these are the same people who are maniacal about gun safety. Furthermore, this likely won’t stop a shooting but only provide compensation to the injured. It can’t bring a loved one back.

Then there are the questions about mentally ill people and guns. A law that prohibits gun ownership by anyone with a mental illness would be too broad. And what about people who weren’t mentally ill when they bought their gun but became violent due to mental illness? How do we get them to surrender their guns or not use them?

The only solution that makes sense to me is complete shift in the way our society views guns. Guns are tools for hunting and self-defense. They’re not the solution when you’re angry at someone.

If you hear about someone saying they’re going to kill someone, the proper response should be a forceful, “What the fuck are you talking about? Don’t do that.” Society should look down on anyone who voices such sentiments and turn their ass into the police as a potentially violent person. If you know who their intended target is, warn them. Likewise, if you know a gun owner who isn’t maniacal about gun safety, get on them about it. We shouldn’t have incidents where someone murders people because they easily stole a gun from a family member, acquaintance, or stranger.

If you want to attack someone, do it with your words. I’m not an advocate for physical violence, but if you go on the offensive against someone, use your fists. You may injure someone badly, but it’s less likely you’ll kill them.

My heart goes out to the families of the deceased and I’m frustrated we haven’t solved the gun violence problem in the U.S. Something needs to change before too many more lives are taken.

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