Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

Highlights of 2007

Here's the big stuff over the last year...

Law School: I've been accepted into the University of Washington School of Law for Fall 2008, and have already informed that school of my decision to attend. As it stands, considering every law school (public or private) anywhere west of Austin Texas, there are only four schools ranked higher than the UW, all of which are in California: Stanford, UC/Berkeley, USC, and UCLA. Of those, only Stanford is ranked high enough in absolute terms to overcome the advantage the UW has of being located in the precise city I want to work, but even if I'd been willing to move to California the Stanford tuition and living expenses would have been prohibitive. As such, going by the numbers the UW was the best possible option for me, and the day I received my acceptance letter was a very happy day.

Resignation from My Day Job: I gave my employer notice last week, and my last day will be December 31, 2007. They've been a great company to work for, but the one thing they can't offer is a law degree, and I don't feel attempting to get that degree via part-time study would have been fair to them. This gives me from January 1, 2008 to September 7, 2008 to pursue my long-standing dream of bicycling solo across the United States.

Finishing Work on My North Seattle Property: My house in North Seattle has been renovated in its entirety (not quite to the level of complete gutting but pretty close), and is now being leased by a tenant who is proving to be every landlord's dream: respectful of the property, and respectful of commitments. The bottom line is that given this house's heavy renovation costs (particularly over the last year), plus agent commissions on the initial purchase, plus the opportunity cost of the down-payment, plus expenses for utilities/taxes/interest/insurance, I wouldn't have actually made money on the sale of this house even if I'd managed to sell it for full market value in the first quarter of 2007. So, I'm now holding this house as a long-term investment, the tenant is getting a good deal, and I'm happy about the situation as a whole.

Buying a Car and Re-Learning to Drive: I'd never owned a car before, and having lived in cities all my life I'd never felt I needed one. However, toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, it had started to become clear that the degree to which I was depending on rides from others was becoming awkward for all concerned. So, I purchased a practical, fuel-efficient vehicle and learned to drive again, culminating the year's Peak Driving Experience of renting a U-Haul and driving a piano from Seattle to my girlfriend's brother's family in Las Vegas.

Getting to Tour the Pentagon: My mother's brother was killed in the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11/01. Earlier this year the military named something after him, so in addition to touring the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court Building, I got to participate in a tour of the Pentagon which was organized for family members. Here are some memories of the tour: (1) getting to pass by the office of the Secretary of Defense, the door of which by tradition is always kept open, (2) learning some of the Pentagon's cold war history, such as the fact that the USSR had targeted something in the Pentagon's courtyard which they thought was an entrance to an underground bunker but which was in fact a hot dog cart, (3) seeing the view from the chapel which was built at the exact point the hijacked airplane hit.

And here's some of the smaller stuff over the last year...

The Seattle to Portland Bike Ride, and the Seattle to Vancouver BC Bike Ride: I did both of them this year, which confirmed my impression from previous years that the latter is great fun, while the former just isn't fun by any stretch of the imagination (too many people, too many inexperienced riders, too hot, and that dull slog down US-30 at the end). In short, the athletic stuff I did this year wasn't up to the level of last year, but it was still enough to feel I'd enjoyed the cycling season.

Learning About Bike Equipment: I've got everything picked out for the cross-country ride, and learned enough about gear just in general to write an online guide to long-distance cycling gear for 2008. So far feedback on the guide has been good, which reassures me I'm on the right track with my choices.

Hiking: This is something that it often seems I have to be dragged along for, but once I get out there I really enjoy it. The hike up Little Si was probably my favorite of the season.

Getting to Tour a Jail: Once I made the decision to commit to the law school application process toward the beginning of this year, I also started reading more books about law, and looking for opportunities to see legal processes in action. Part of this amounted to sitting through trials as an observer, but the most interesting part was tagging along on a comprehensive tour of the Seattle King County Correctional Facility, which was being offered as part of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences annual conference. One of the tour leaders was Kenneth Kerle, a national expert on jails and the former editor of American Jails magazine.

Snowboarding: I learned to snowboard in January. Kind of. Basically I had a few enjoyable experiences making it down a simple slope, but enough spectacular wipe-outs to make me worry about a leg injury getting in the way of what I REALLY want to do this year (i.e. the cross-country bike trip). So, I don't think I'll be taking snowboarding up again this winter :)
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