Welcome, September.

To Autumn

John Keats, 17951821

Centennial Park (7)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
  Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? 
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, 
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Collecting Moments (and Sea Glass)

Yesterday, we packed up the car, filled our Premacy with gas, and left to explore parts of the Island so far unseen.  Leaving Chatan-cho we headed northeast on the expressway, a 10-exit toll road with two lanes each direction, to find the aptly named Sea Glass Beach.  Russell was thrilled to be able to drive 80 kph (50 mph), the fastest speed permitted on Island, and I enjoyed the lush greenery on display.

Upon exiting near Camp Schwab, we followed directions found on Okinawa Hai to the beach, that read, in part, “drive on that road until you come upon a huge house with a red tower-like roof; take a left onto the gravel road directly across from the house.”  Despite some ambiguity in the directions, we arrived at our destination to find a small, nearly empty beach.

Sea Glass Beach, Okinawa.

The beach had small rocks and was peppered with bits of glass smoothed by the sea and the sand.  A second American family who arrived shortly after us lamented that the recent storm must have washed away most of the beach treasures.  Regardless, there was plenty of sea glass to be found.  Of course, the common colors were amber and clear, but with a keen eye one could find a good bits of green and light blue glass.

My haul.

While the colors of the Sea were muted as a result of the cloud coverage, various shades of greens, aquas, and turquoise could be easily seen.  The water was as warm as [S]’s bath and as clear as crystal.  By the time we left, right before noon, the tiny beach had become crowded with Americans taking advantage of the calm waters.

After brushing the sand from our toes, we headed northwest towards Motobu to find Kajinho, a restaurant on top of a mountain known as Pizza in the Sky.  As we drove, we passed Henoko, where locals sat under tents protesting development of another U.S. base, and Camp Schwab.  As we made our way west, we were greeted by picturesque views of the sea.  The waters were deeper, showing off richer blues and deeper greens.

As we continued north, the number of Status of Forces Agreement license plates, those marked with a Roman alphabet letter, decreased drastically.  We found ourselves on roads with the Sea on one side and quarries on the other.  We drove until we spotted the first “Pizza in the Sky” sign with a red arrow pointing us upwards.  After a few wrong turns, a bit of backtracking, and more gravel roads, we came upon three large parking areas for Pizza in the Sky.

The restaurant has traditional Japanese seating inside, as well as picnic table seating outside.  The menu is written on the back of a fan and consists of small or medium pizza, salad (one size), and drinks.  What the restaurant doesn’t have is air conditioning.  Several electric fans are strategically placed for those waiting and brimmed hats and hand fans are available for customer use.  We waited nearly an hour to be seated, but the experience was well worth the wait.

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Japanese seating.
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Menu: pizza, salad and drinks.
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Picnic table seating. (Yes, shoes stay on here.)
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The view.
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The pizza.

Most patrons were Japanese, but there were a handful of Americans who also had ventured up the mountain.  The pizza was hot and the crust chewy.  But our favorite part of the meal was the salad and the ice cold beer.  We’ll certainly be back when we are in the area, but this time we’ll know better than to arrive at lunchtime.

Looking forward to our next adventure.

A Case of the Birthday Blues

For much of this week I’ve been in a funk.  I’ve been restless.  Uneasy.  Touchy.  Emotional.  Unsettled.  Of course, there are many real world reasons why I could be feeling out of sorts.  Hundreds of tiny ants have invaded our kitchen, trying to find their way in from the rain.  Our daughter is going through nighttime separation anxiety–again–waking in the middle of the night and refusing to go back to sleep without the presence of a parent.  We had an unexpected power outage and have two scheduled all-day power outages approaching.  The not-of-this-world book I’m reading is getting odder by the chapter, keeping me up at night. And Donald Trump is being taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

But my mood–or moodiness–has nothing to do with any of those issues.  For I’m fairly confident that those issues will work themselves out with time.  In fact, the ants have all but disappeared with the passage of Goni and I’m nearing the end of my book.  I believe the problem is August.  Yes, August.  Each year I face my birth month with equal parts optimism and loathing.  This is the month when I take stock of my life, examining the past year in detail, noting my accomplishments, acknowledging my failures, and engaging in a new round of goal-setting.  Think of it as my personal New Year, if you will.

As I do so, it is clear that this past year has been a year of rapid growth and fundamental change.  A year ago, we had it on good authority our next duty station would be in North Carolina.  A year ago, I was the mother of a four-month old.  A year ago, I heard the reassuring jingle-jangle of Blue’s collar throughout our home.  A year ago, I lived within driving distance of a childhood friend.  A year ago, we were still settling into our new home in La Jolla.  A year ago, I was working.  A year ago, I was a year younger.  All of that has changed.

The past few weeks have been a period of quiet transition for our family, literally.  While my Husband has been at the office familiarizing himself with his work, [S] and I have been working on establishing a daily routine of our own.  A good bit of the day involves preparing and eating meals and snacks, with taking walks, playing, reading, and napping also high on the to-do list.  This settled life is a far cry from the chaos we experienced throughout the past several months.  It’s quiet.  It’s calm.  It’s routine.  And it can be both lonely and isolating at times.

I’m not fearful of birthdays or of what they signify to most, which is, of course, aging.  Rather, I think about what gains have been made and what losses have been suffered.  This year, our home is quieter.  When our doorbell rings, I expect barking, but it never comes.  Caring for [S] is an endeavor largely undertaken in muted tones, aside from the honk of her car and the blare of Taylor Swift on the radio.  This concentrated one-on-one time with [S] is new to her and it’s new to me.  Yes, we’ve been together since birth, but now she’s awake, alert, aware and absorbing everything.  For someone who takes pride in crossing off items on her long list of to-dos, I’m finding that compared to days past there’s little left to be done.  It is discomfiting.  Friends have reassured me that this time will pass quickly, encouraging me to treasure the moments that too soon will be distant memories.

It is only through experience (yes, aging) that wisdom is possible.  I suppose years from now, I will find this essay laughable.  But for now, I am only beginning to understand the necessity of this quiet period, filled with cuddles, hand-holding, and toothy grins, for her–and for me.  One of my friends sighed and said, “I guess the only thing I can tell you is to be patient with yourself.  Take the time to be with her.  Take the pressure off of yourself to do other things.  Before you know it she will be in school and you will be on to something new.”

We are driven to identify who we are by what we do.  I believe this to be especially true of women, for better or worse.  And, at this moment, I am a full-time Mom.  This month, I have set one–and only one–goal for the coming year:  to exploit every minute I have with [S]–quiet or otherwise.  My birthday hope for next year is that I review the year past and know I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

RE:PRINT (NYT): Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs

Getting into law school is neither easy nor cheap.  No, not even with third and fourth tier schools vying for students.  Most schools require LSAT scores (requiring fees (both test fees and test preparation fees, should one elect), preparation, and time) and applications (requiring time and fees), and some require in-person interviews (requiring time, preparation and travel (and more money)).  And that’s before one is able to be called a law school student.

Experience has taught me that law school attracts four types of people:  (1) those seeking big firm life (think elite firms, six-figure starting salaries, inroads to politics and power); (2) those seeking to change the world (think not-for-profit organizations, public interest, and defenders of the underprivileged); (3) those seeking non-legal or quasi-legal professions (think academia, agency (sport or other), think tanks, politics); and, (4) those seeking something other than the three mentioned above.

James Rouse, founder of the Rouse Company, is known for telling anyone without a clue as to what to do in life to attend law school.  After all, law school develops and sharpens analytical skills, teaches one to question to find solutions, and hones communication skills (both written and oral).  Yes, Mr. Rouse attended law school, but he never practiced law.

“Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs,” erroneously assumes (1) that people attending law school want a legal job upon graduation; (2) that law school graduates are qualified–and able–to undertake legal jobs; and, (3) all available entry level legal jobs are being filled upon graduation.  Indeed, graduates may not have passed the bar exam on the first or, even, second, attempt, barring them from many legal jobs.  Alternatively, personal circumstances may dictate that graduates who successfully have passed the bar are not able to work in a legal job.  (I’ve meet several women in Japan who recently have passed bar exams, but find themselves unable to practice law abroad.)  And there are always legal jobs that are difficult to fill, typically those offering low pay, few benefits and long hours.

Aside from relying upon questionable statistics to set forth his position, what is most disturbing to me about Steven J. Harper’s piece is that he overlooks the basic premise that attending law school is a choice.  Graduating from law school does not guarantee a job–it never has, it never will.  If one does not know this before applying to a law school, perhaps he or she has no business becoming a law school student.  And he or she certainly will have a difficult time in the real-world legal field.  Indeed, I would not want to work with someone incapable of conducting the most rudimentary of cost-benefit analysis.

I took out student loans for my legal education.  I read the disclaimers.  I understood the small print.  And I signed on the dotted lines.  I understand the burden of repaying law school debt better than most, as I am still doing so–many, many years post-graduation.  Do I regret the path I chose?  No.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  And while periods of practicing law were difficult and other moments troubling, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive–worth every penny of my 30-year education mortgage.

I entered into law school knowing that hard work and determination only go so far and with the understanding that life is a crapshoot.  To be certain, there were moments in my third year of school when I considered applying for jobs that would offer loan forgiveness.  But that wasn’t the path for me.  And while I didn’t know my path at the time, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Attending law school gave me credentials that gave me the freedom to take a gamble.  And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Successful career aside, I don’t believe that my education was worth the amount of tuition charged.  And that, in my opinion, is the true starting point for discussing law school tuition reform.

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RE:PRINT:  The New York Times

Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs

By STEVEN J. HARPER AUG. 25, 2015

WILMETTE, Ill. — Ten months after graduation, only 60 percent of the law school class of 2014 had found full-time long-term jobs that required them to pass the bar exam.

Even that improvement over the class of 2013 (a 57 percent employment rate) came with three asterisks: Last year, the American Bar Association changed the job-reporting rules to give law schools an extra month for the class of 2014 to find jobs; graduates employed in law-school-funded positions count in the employment rate; and the number of jobs that require bar passage fell from 2013 to 2014.

Amazingly (and perversely), law schools have been able to continue to raise tuition while producing nearly twice as many graduates as the job market has been able to absorb. How is this possible? Why hasn’t the market corrected itself? The answer is that, for a given school, the availability of federal loans for law students has no connection to their poor post-graduation employment outcomes.

Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones. Since 2006 alone, law student debt has surged at inflation-adjusted rates of 25 percent for private schools and 34 percent for public schools.

In May 2014, the A.B.A. created a task force to tackle this problem. According to its recent report, 25 percent of law schools obtain at least 88 percent of their total revenues from tuition. The average for all law schools is 69 percent. So law schools have a powerful incentive to maintain or increase enrollment, even if the employment outcomes are dismal for their graduates, especially at marginal schools.

The underlying difficulty is that once students pay their tuition bills, law schools have no responsibility for the debt their students have taken on. In other words, law schools whose graduates have the greatest difficulty finding jobs that require bar passage are operating without financial accountability and free of the constraints that characterize a functioning market. The current subsidy system is keeping some schools in business. But the long-term price for students and taxpayers is steep and increasing.

Paradoxically, the task force chairman was Dennis W. Archer, the former mayor of Detroit, who is also head of the national policy board of Infilaw, a private equity-owned consortium of three for-profit law schools — Arizona Summit, Charlotte and Florida Coastal. These schools are examples of the larger problem. Most Infilaw 2014 graduates didn’t find jobs that required their expensive degrees. Excluding positions funded by the law school, only 39.9 percent of Arizona Summit graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least a year and requiring bar passage. Florida Coastal’s rate was 34.5 percent. At Charlotte, it was 34.1 percent.

Yet as the demand for new lawyers continued to languish from 2011 to 2014, the size of Infilaw’s graduating classes almost doubled, to 1,223. These schools are also among the leaders in creating law student debt. Arizona Summit’s 2014 graduates had average law school debt of $187,792. At Florida Coastal, the average was $162,785. Charlotte’s average was $140,528.

The task force report said that some witnesses proposed “capping law student loans, requiring law schools to have ‘skin in the game’ by being responsible for loan repayment in certain situations, and even scrapping the current federal student loan program altogether.” It characterized proponents of such measures as hoping “that a kind of fiscal tough love will force schools to become more financially responsible and reduce cost.”

But the task force argued that “there seems to be little need to impose the kind of tough love some want because the market is already doing it.”

Except that the market is doing no such thing. While enrollment did decline to about 38,000 last year from 52,000 in 2010, it has not been falling at the pace necessary to reach equilibrium in a stagnant legal job market. Too many incoming law school students still believe they will be among the lucky few who get decent jobs.

The task force, having dodged the issues that should have been the focus of its work, offered four suggestions: law schools should offer students better debt counseling; the Department of Education should develop “plain English” disclosure information about student loans; the A.B.A. should collect and disseminate information about how law schools spend their money; and the A.B.A. should encourage law schools to experiment on curriculums and programs.

None of those will make a difference. The crisis in legal education is real. Magical thinking and superficial rhetoric about declining enrollments, better debt counseling for students, and law schools’ experimenting with curriculum changes will not create more jobs.

The A.B.A. should treat the challenge seriously and begin to address it with serious solutions. So far, that has not happened. In fact, earlier this month, the A.B.A. House of Delegates missed an opportunity to address this issue by giving its rubber stamp of approval to the task force report.

Until student loans bear a rational relationship to individual law school outcomes, law schools will exploit their lack of accountability, the legal education market will remain dysfunctional, and equilibrium between supply and demand will remain elusive.

The A.B.A. calls itself “the national voice of the legal profession.” When it comes to the profession’s most urgent problem, it’s long past time to speak up.

Steven J. Harper, a former partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, is the author, most recently, of “The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 25, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs.

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Why I Won’t Mow Our Lawn

Russell was mowing the lawn this evening.  He stopped and stood in front of our living room window.  I opened the door to see what he needed.  “Are you scared of snails?”  “No,” I replied.  But I don’t like them.  “I found a huge snail by our tree.  Do you want me to bring it to you to see it?  It’s the size of my fist.”  Gulp.

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Turns out, it likely is a giant African snail, the largest snail in the world. Its conical shaped shell can grow up to 20 centimeters (almost 8 inches) and is host to deadly parasites.

Gross.

A Wet, Windy and Wild Monday

It’s been years since I’ve seen the likes of Typhoon Goni.  The storm was predicted to pass Okinawa as a category 2 hurricane.  (Tropical cyclones in the west Pacific Ocean are referred to as typhoons; tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and east Pacific Ocean are referred to as hurricanes.)  For hours, wind has been howling at the sky, trees have been bowing to the wind, and rain has been gusting horizontally.

FullSizeRender(125)It’s the first time since our arrival that TCCOR conditions have reached 1E (emergency), requiring us to shelter inside and stay away from windows.  The storm, passing the Island as I type, is a category 3 hurricane.  And despite being protected by a concrete home with metal doors, water has found a way inside, entering our home from two of our three doors and our bedroom window.  Truly, not bad, especially considering we have 17 window panels in our home. Unfortunately, we are now out of dry towels.

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FullSizeRender(124)Ever the optimist, I spent the morning preparing to lose electricity and water.  I cooked rice, steamed broccoli, prepared eggplant ragu, filled water containers and turned down the thermostat.  All while my oh-so-handy-Husband took time to transform our house into a home, hanging curtains, artwork and, even, some butterflies.

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Fortunately, we’ve made it to the end of the storm without incident.  As Russell states time and time again, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

#BePrepared4TyphoonSeason

Typhoon Goni

It’s been one wet weekend.  Showers on-and-off yesterday.  Heavy rains today. We are expected to feel the outer bands of Typhoon Goni tomorrow at midday, as the storm proceeds west of the Island.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in the Philippines mourning the loss of life and suffering from the destruction of property as a result of Goni’s winds and rain.

Bravo Zulu, Ladies.

First Lt. Shaye Haver running an obstacle course at the Army’s Ranger School in Fort Benning, Ga. She is to graduate on Friday. Credit Robin Trimarchi/Ledger-Enquirer, via Associated Press.
Capt. Kristen Griest, center, during a Ranger School exercise in Fort Benning, Ga., in April. Captain Griest on Friday will become one of the first two women to graduate from Ranger School. Credit Spc. Nikayla Shodeen/US Army.