Last day as a public defender

Today is my last day as a Deputy State Public Defender. 

Over the last five years, I have fought beside some of the best people I've ever met to defend the indigent accused. 

I've had the honor of saving men from living the rest of their lives in a cage. I've experienced the pain of watching a client be sentenced to 48 years of prison, taking away his adult life. 

Nearly 35 jury trials. Oral argument in front of the Colorado Supreme Court. Thousands of clients lives touched, and hopefully, helped in some way. Late nights and weekends spent working harder to keep my clients out of a cage than the prosecutor was working to put them in.

There are new chapters to be started. They should be good ones, but today is the last day of the most meaningful job I've ever had.


Sarwark Elected Chair of Libertarian National Committee

Blogging here has been kind of light.  I ran for and was elected Chair of the Libertarian National Committee over the last weekend in June.  It's going to be a busy two years.

From the official press release:

Delegates to the 2014 Libertarian Party National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, elected Nicholas Sarwark of Colorado to be the party's new chair.
Sarwark has been active with the LP since 1999. He has served on committees of the national party, and as chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland. He is currently the vice chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, where he played a key role in recruiting the state's 42 Libertarian candidates for 2014, as well as supporting the passage of Colorado's historic marijuana legalization initiative in 2012.
Sarwark's goals include clearly positioning the Libertarian Party as the only choice for pro-freedom young people.
"Younger voters are rejecting the old political parties," Sarwark said. "Reaching out to pro-freedom young people will make us the dominant political party in 20 years."

I will keep this blog primarily for personal stuff.  Based on the last two weeks, in which I've taken official positions on the Hobby Lobby decision, leaving the old political parties behind, immigration, and stopping NSA spying, I'll be saying plenty about politics in my role with the Libertarian Party.

I also maintain a Facebook page as Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, where I will be doing more political blogging.  You can also follow me on Twitter as @nsarwark.


Elect Nicholas Sarwark as Chair of the Libertarian National Committee

The Libertarian Party national convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio June 26-29.  I have announced my candidacy for Chair of the Libertarian National Committee and hope to lead the party to growth and success as we go into the 2016 election cycle.

If you can attend the convention, please come out and support me.  If not, please "Like" my campaign page on Facebook and tell your Libertarian friends about my campaign. 


Book Review: So Good They Can't Ignore You

"Follow your passion and the money will come."  How many people have been given this advice when deciding what to study in school, whether to take a job, and whether to quit a job to do something else?  It turns out that it's terrible advice.

That's the thesis of "So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love," by Cal Newport. The title comes from a quote by Steve Martin, that the secret to success is getting so good that they can't ignore you.  It's advice that's simple, but difficult, which is why most people don't want to take it.

The book examines the passion hypothesis and finds it lacking.  It turns out that the passions people have seldom correspond to a career.  It is true that people who are passionate love what they do, but that passion is developed over time through success.

Newport suggests building "career capital" by developing skills in your current work through deliberate practice.  That career capital can then be leveraged into work with more control, which is linked to job satisfaction.

At the end of the book, the author walks through the example of his own career path to an assistant professorship at Georgetown as an example of how the principles can be applied in practice.

It's a good read about how to focus energy away from daydreaming about other careers or the traditional "What Color Is Your Parachute?" type of career advice.


Drinking White Wine in the Sun

It's hard to be an atheist around Christmas sometimes. As we are reminded, often loudly, Jesus is the reason for the season. But I, like many atheists, enjoy Christmas for all of the beauty it brings unrelated to religion. Singing songs, spending time with family, loving each other.

Tim Minchin, whose work I have mentioned before, has a beautiful song that sums up the conflict of the unbeliever, but in a gentle, sentimental way. The bonds of love and family that come around this time of year are worth celebrating.

If you purchase White Wine In the Sun from iTunes in the month of November, December, or January, all the proceeds go to the National Autistic Society.

Merry Christmas to you, no matter why you celebrate or what you believe. Love each other.


The $1,000 Challenge

There are only two ways to improve your financial situation.  You can bring in more money or you can stop spending as much money.  In my quest to do the latter, I read The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheeseby Brian J. O'Connor.

Mr. O'Connor is a personal finance columnist at the Detroit News.  The book follows his quest to cut his monthly budget by $1,000 ($100 in each of ten categories). The prose is easy to read and humorous and the tips are broken up into three categories in each chapter, depending on where your personal financial situation is.

None of the recommendations are life-changing or that new to those of use familiar with Mr. Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme, but the book helps you with how to think about your budget and figure out where you can cut.

If you can cut $1,000/month from your budget, you can reduce the nest egg required to retire (or reach financial independence) by $300,000.  This is based on a 4% safe withdrawal rate and the amount of money required to support $1,000/month.  (1000 x 12 x 25 = 300000)

Check the book out from Amazon or your local library and let me know what you think.


Simple shelf from one hardwood plank

When you do "knowledge work" for a living, there's an inherent frustration in not creating something concrete from your efforts.  Negotiating a case, reading cases to prepare a brief or a motion, appearing in court, all of these things have value to a client, but the value does not manifest itself as a thing you can touch and feel.  Matthew B. Crawford explores this concept in eloquent detail in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, a book Mark Bennett recommended I read and I, in turn, recommend you read.

One of the ways to get that feeling of accomplishment, of making a "thing," is having a hobby where you make stuff.  I built a workbench so I could have a place to do woodworking.  The first project I wanted to build, a simple tic-tac-toe shelf from Spike Carlsen's book, Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects: Great Looking Furniture Anyone Can Build, is done now.   

The completion of the project is shown in pictures below.  Total time was probably 3-4 hours, with gaps for the finish to dry.  All that was required was a 1" x 6" x 8' hardwood board (I used poplar).

The raw plank:

Cut down to four equal lengths:


Cut into arcs:

Ready for finishing:

Dry fit:

Finished with Medium Walnut Danish Oil:

Close up of the finish:

Mounted on the wall with picture hangers:

With a canister to give a sense of size on the wall:

Less than $30 worth of materials and about 4 hours of work and I have a very nice shelf for our dining room and a "thing" I can look at and think, "I built that."