Monday, November 24, 2014



Medievalist, I loved this one:

It's rainy, cold, dark,
November, a time for rest,
Slow down and give thanks.

And Anonymous was wonderfully happy!:

This year has brought love
In unanticipated
Form. Such joy abounds.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Cleaning

Yesterday, I tried to get my house in some order, since my entire family is coming here for Thanksgiving this year.  I tried to put away stacks of books (it was surprising how many of those there were), and cleared things out in the basement so that people can sleep there.

It went slowly.  In part, that was because I stopped and read old letters and found things inside of books.  It turns out I have saved a lot of letters, and reading them again was like getting a glimpse of myself two or three decades ago.  It wa like opening a time capsule, if things had been put into the capsule at random.

What surprised me is how similar I am now to the person described in those notes.  I would probably tell you (if you asked) that I am a completely different person now, but I'm not so sure.  Yes, I am a happier person, and more productive, but I have the same insecurities and challenges and strengths, for the most part.  There is an eternal part of who we are, I suppose...

Saturday, November 22, 2014


The Game

Today is pretty much an off day in college football:  #1 Alabama, for example, is playing "Western Carolina," which is apparently a thing, and #2 Oregon is playing Colorado, which I'm pretty sure is a club team.  

However, there is one game today that matters, at least to a few people: Harvard-Yale is going to determine the Ivy League championship, as the old old rivalry enjoys a new moment of relevance.  ESPN's weird but mesmerizing "Gameday" show is going to be live from Harvard all morning.  

Football aside, the Harvard-Yale game is kind of renowned for pranks.  A classic was this one in 2004:

Harvard's years of retaliation included this fake Yale admissions video:

Which led to this…

I wouldn't be surprised if something interesting happened today...

Friday, November 21, 2014


Haiku Friday: Giving thanks

There really is no other good topic for this week, or one more appropriate.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all; I love the idea that animates it, the absence of commercialism attached to it, and the sense of quiet and love that can come with it.

Let's haiku today about something we will thanks for this year.

I will go first.

These students I teach:
They each bring their own wisdoms
Some days I just sow.

Now it is your turn: write about something you care for, and use the 5/7/5 syllable recipe....

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Executive Action on Immigration Policy

The New York Times is glad that President Obama will announce new executive action on immigration policy tonight, but many others are unhappy.  It is expected that the administration will act to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.  

It certainly seems that the president does have the authority to use discretion in enforcing (and not enforcing) federal laws.  In fact, I have personally urged the federal government not to enforce a perfectly valid law barring marijuana possession. The question now is whether or not he has the right to negate the current laws on immigration through inaction.  Here, it appears that the President is acting in part out of frustration with the House of Representatives, which has failed to pass any immigration legislation.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The horse knows the way, to carry the sleigh...

As a kid, whenever I sang "Over the River and Through the woods…" I always wondered about that sleigh and the white and drifting snow-- where the heck did these people live, where the snow was already in drifts by Thanksgiving?

Now I know.

It's been a disconcertingly early winter here in Minnesota, with the snow falling and temperatures in the single digits. The ski areas are up and running, and the high school nordic team is out in full force.  

Usually, I am upset when I see Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but in the snow it seems ok.  In fact, unless we get a serious melt I'm not going to be able to put decorations out at all.  

I love the snow, though.  I love the quiet it brings, the smoothness of the world, the slower pace we all must have when we walk and drive.  I love glancing into the park and seeing a lone skater, blades cutting the ice against a backdrop of green and white and brown, cutting rounded lines into the clear, cold ice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Big Hero 6

I saw Disney's adaptation of the Marvel comic "Big Hero 6," and found it contained some intriguing surprises:

1)  It takes place in "San Fran-Tokyo," which seems to be the result of some kind of rapid and bizarre continental drift resulting in Tokyo merging with San Francisco.  The result is a little disconcerting.

2)  The puffy hero-robot has some great moment.  It is almost a return to physical comedy-- the kind that Buster Keaton and his contemporaries did so well.

3)  My favorite thing about the whole movie is that in the end the hero's highest and best use is as a medical services provider.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Fred Haas... or something like it

I'm not even from Houston, but I still loved Jill Scoggins' haiku:

Fred Hass car lot ads.
On my car radio, the
F and H aren’t heard.

“What is a Red Ass
Toyota? Do I want one?”
I wonder out loud.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Sunday Reflection: When Jesus was gone

Lately, I have been talking to some of my friends who, for various reasons, have lost their faith.  It's something I understand, and have come close to myself.  They didn't want to end up without that certainty, but people and events pushed them to a place where belief in a loving God no longer made sense.

Yesterday, I was wondering about Jesus's followers after he was gone.  Not just the first time, but the second time, too-- after the resurrection.  It must have been very strange to have devoted three years to an intense cause that was focused so closely on one man, and then have him be gone.  

What they did, it seems, was move to action.  They went all over, to the ends of the known Earth, they took risks, they confronted the impossible.  This is different, though, than what my friends struggle with.  For Jesus' followers, it was the body that was gone, but the idea of the man remained.  For those who lose faith, it is the idea that is gone.  It might be that losing the idea of what can be is worse by far. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Untied Airlines

IPLawGuy tipped me off to this great story in the New Yorker about the decline of United Airlines after its merger with Continental.  The story is a familiar one: Airlines promise great service and low prices after a merger, and none of it is true:

Modern American corporations rarely degrade service in bold, attention-getting ways. Rather, it is a kind of suffering by a thousand cuts, each individually unnoticeable but collectively defeating. On the “new” United, seats got smaller as the airline jammed more people into the same tube; upgrades, to escape the sardine effect, seemed to become harder to book. The number of boarding groups began to resemble something like a caste system; “change fees,” which have always been outrageous, grew higher (two hundred dollars for domestic, three hundred dollars for international), while baggage fees soared to as high as a hundred dollars. The cross-country flights somehow seemed to all be on old, broken-down planes, while gate agents and flight attendants all just seemed crabbier. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


Haiku Friday: Mis-heard

Earlier this week, I was driving along and heard President Obama speaking in China after meeting with that nation's President Xi.  For whatever reason, it sounded like Obama was saying "President Cheese," and until I got the full context of what was going on (I had started listening in the middle of the speech, and didn't know where he was), I thought he was referring to "President Cheese."  I was very curious about this President Cheese, imagining that logically it could only be that Mayor McCheese had been elected to the top spot in his native country, Sweden.

So, let's haiku about things we mis-heard today-- in songs, speeches, terrifying children's books, whatever.

Here, I will go first:

This President Cheese,
Is he a gouda leader?
Sing "Hail to the Ched!"

Now, you go!  Use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun...  

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: College Football Madness!

So, get this:  Baylor is 8-1, and tied for first in the Big 12.  They whomped Oklahoma last week, 48-14, and looked good doing it.  It's been a great season, with their only loss coming on a trip to scary, scary West Virginia.

In the latest ranking of teams by the committee that is choosing the four teams that will be in the championship playoff, though, the Bears are ranked 7th.  That's a little strange, given that they are three points behind 8-1 TCU, whom the Bears beat head-to-head earlier in the season.  In other words, these two teams played a game, one of them won, and now the other is ranked in a position to get into the playoff. 

Among other oddities of the rankings, one-loss Oregon is ahead of undefeated Florida State, the defending national champion.

But here is the thing about the TCU/Baylor debate... it may all come down to how Minnesota does in its last three games.  And Minnesota is the other team I have been rooting for lately.

See, if Minnesota wins two of its final three games-- against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska-- or maybe even just one of those, it makes TCU look better, since TCU beat Minnesota 30-7 earlier this year.  TCU's supposedly superior strength of schedule depends on the Gophers.

So, if I want to see Baylor in the playoff, I should want Minnesota to lose.  But I don't.  I'm kind of thrilled by how well they are doing.

What's a guy to do?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Wait a minute… Brad Pitt is married?!?!

I'll admit that I get a lot of my news from The Onion, but at least Onion readers know who the VP is:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Net Neutrality

The debate is continuing over the idea of net neutrality, as the President has ordered the FCC to take what steps it can to prevent internet service providers from favoring some content over others.  As the New York Times explained it:

The Federal Communications Commission, Mr. Obama said, needs to adopt the strictest rules possible to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers. That approach, he said, demands thinking about both wired and wireless broadband service as a public utility.

This is such a thoroughly modern debate-- an issue that didn't even exist just a few decades ago.  

Is there a principled argument against net neutrality?

Monday, November 10, 2014


Thank you for your vote.

How can I not recognize this haiku by my dad?

"Thank you for your votes;
I will take it from here" said the
special interests.

And, yeah, the sculpture/poster above is his, too...

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Living in the moment

"Live in the moment" is one of those phrases I always thought was just wrong.  I read it to mean that you shouldn't worry about or plan for the future, just enjoy whatever is happening right now.  It seemed narcissistic and self-centered.  When people would say it, I would roll my eyes.  

Then, something happened, something quiet and gentle, but it is often quiet, gentle things that really change us.

The last time I was in Richmond, I was sitting at the bottom of a hill at the University of Richmond, talking to some of the students there.  It was a beautiful evening, dusk, with that gorgeous filtered light and soft air that you get in Virginia sometimes.  

At the top of the hill, walking towards me, I saw my friend Craig Anderson with his wife Lori.  He looked tall and happy and strong.  In that moment, that precise moment, my heart leapt with joy.  It was a powerful thing.  Craig had battled cancer, a terrible bout, and beaten it.  Now, there he was, alive, well, whole.  That instant was perfect: that moment of realization, joy, and gratitude.

Maybe that was "living in the moment," in a good way.  I let myself feel that joy, express it, live it without compromise.  It was only a moment-- I had a presentation to give-- but one of the best moments of all.  I would imagine that at the end of life, that is what we are left with.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


A Title Unveiled

The next Star Wars movie comes out in about 13 months, and they have just released the title:  "The Force Awakens."  I have no idea what that means.  Why can't movie titles be more like that classic, "Snakes on a Plane?"  It pretty much told you the whole plot.  You saved 10 bucks, since actually seeing the movie was made unnecessary...

Friday, November 07, 2014


Haiku Friday: Post-election blues (and reds)

If you are like me, you are still trying to figure out what all happened in Tuesday's elections.  Let's haiku about that this week!  It can really be about any elections, anywhere (even India).

Here, I will go first:

What's up, Alaska?
Why does it take so long to count?
But now, legal pot.

Now it is your turn!  Just use 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and five in the third...

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Most Baffling Result of 2014

The papers and news programs are full of reporting on the possible impact of the Republican's capture of the U.S. Senate, some key Governor's races, and marijuana legalization in Oregon and DC.  Not to minimize the importance of any of that, but the result I find most fascinating is the result of the district clerk's race in McLennan County, Texas.

According to Tommy Witherspoon's report in the Waco Tribune Herald, here are the bios of the two candidates:

Karen Matkin (incumbent), 62

-- Graduate of Baylor and Baylor Law School
-- Former prosecutor
-- Past president of McLennan County Bar Association
-- Over 10 years in office, collected $3 million in additional fines (the office has a budget of $1.5 million, but now collects $2.5 million in fines per year)
-- Former board member of the Brazos River Authority, Governor's Commission for Women, and Friends for Life.

Jon Gimble (challenger), 38

-- Currently a student at Tarleton State University
-- Former clerk at Circuit City
-- Member of the Texas State Guard
-- Volunteer on political campaigns.

And... Gimble won.  Because he was the Republican.

In short, I'll say this:  Part of what went wrong in Detroit was that one-party rule led to too many unqualified people getting important jobs managing key city functions.  It's not a Democrat or Republican thing... it's a one-party thing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Election Results!

Here in Minnesota, Al Franken won.  Which is interesting, because he has sent me a series of increasingly alarming emails that made it seem like he just might lose if I didn't send him $5.  Frankly, the amount seemed absurdly small, and the alarm seemed a little artificial.

Back in Waco, it looks like a Republican sweep of everything both statewide and in and around McLennon County.  I've been thinking about the problems with one-party rule…

What do you think the most important result was?

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