Saturday, March 23, 2019



Here are the upsets from the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, from biggest to littlest (based on seeding):

UC-Irvine (a 13 seed) beat Kansas State (a 4 seed)
Oregon (12) beat Wisconsin (5)
Liberty (12) beat Mississippi State (5)
Murray State (12) beat Marquette (5)
Ohio State (11) beat Iowa State (6)
Iowa (10) beat Cincinnati (7)
Minnesota (10) beat Louisville (7)
Florida (10) beat Nevada (7)
Oklahoma (9) beat Ole Miss (8)
Washington (9) beat Utah State (8)
UCF (9) beat VCU (8)
Baylor (9) beat Syracuse (8)

Nine seeds often beat 8s, but this year was a wipeout-- 4 for 4. For some reason, the 12 seeds often beat 5s, and that was true this year as 12s went 3 for 4. 10s also went 3 for 4 against 7s. 

But it wasn't all excitement and tumult-- no 3 seed or higher lost.

Friday, March 22, 2019


Haiku Friday: Spring Cleaning

It is spring cleaning time! I look at the picture above, and I realize what I am standing in front of, blocking from the camera's view: a fantastic tangle of fishing rods and reels, piled against the wall and weaving in and out of one another.

We all have something we need to clean out. Let's haiku about that this time. Here, I will go first:

Boat house disaster
Mass of filament.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: The contenders

Who should the Democrats choose to run against Donald Trump?

Most of the Senate, several governors, and a bunch of once and current members of the House are already running, along with a Mayor and some misc.  Here is the current list of people who are officially running, according to the Chicago Tribune:

 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, 
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke
former Gov. John Hickenlooper, 
Gov. Jay Inslee, 
Sen. Bernie Sanders, 
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 
Sen. Cory Booker, 
Sen. Kamala Harris
ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, 
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 
former Rep. John Delaney
authorMarianne Williamson
and former tech executive Andrew Yang.

We will probably soon add Joe Biden to that list.

My purpose is not to comment on the "horse race," which is pretty meaningless right now. Instead, I would like to list the top six candidates by experience and achievement in governance (which are two different things):


Yes-- all Senators. However, Sanders, Klobuchar, Harris and Booker all have experience outside of Congress. And the Senate is a particularly good platform from which to learn the breadth and depth of American politics. 

I'm inclined to pick my favorites from this list. Is this fair?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


The Tournament Begins!

Tomorrow is a great day-- wall-to-wall college basketball as the first long weekend of the NCAA tournament kicks off. It's these early days when upsets happen, overdogs stick it to the little guy, thrillers go into overtime, and no one can always predict which games will be which.

Here are some of the games I am most looking forwards to in the first round:

-- Nevada (a 7 seed) vs. Florida (10) This is one of several upside-down games this year, where a traditional power is seeded below a mid-major. Nevada was ranked most of the year, while Florida had to pull off some wins at the end of the season to get to a 10th seed.

-- Wofford (7) vs. Seton Hall (10) Another upside-down match, and this one features a Wofford team that seems to have something going (that something being shooting well). 

-- Tennessee (2) vs. Colgate (15) I'm told that Colgate made the transition to four-year school from being a 2-year dental training institute only in 2014. It's remarkable they have gotten to this level so fast! Tennessee was ranked #1 early in the year. We can all only hope that no one gets hurt.

-- LSU (3) vs. Yale (14)  LSU has beaten some great teams this year, and Yale is, well, not a basketball powerhouse. Nonetheless, the Ivy champ has won in the first round 4 of the last 10 years, and Yale does have an NBA prospect on the roster this year.

What are you looking forwards to?


Oh my....

I'm not sure what to make of this photo (from the meeting in Vietnam). Maybe you all have possible captions?

Monday, March 18, 2019


Two takes on Spring Break

I love that both of the takes I got on spring break from known Razorites involved adult spring break-- those of us who work at schools.

First, it appears that the Spanish Medievalist is back here in Minnesota:

Going home again,
Family is important,
Soft snow falling now.

Meanwhile, Jill Scoggins has been robbed!

Lucky faculty,
students: Spring Breakers all, while
staff toil away. WAH!

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Sunday Reflection: On Manafort and Justice

It's hard not to want to see those who do bad things be punished in a way that hurts a lot. That urge towards retribution seems to be an easy emotional response. Unfortunately, it creates a lot of harm when we punish people more than we should. It also runs counter to what Jesus taught (as do most other religious traditions, and many ethical thinkers outside fo those traditions).

People like Paul Manafort really bug me. A lot.

But I am not one of the people who think his sentence was too short. Instead, I think a lot of other people's sentences are too long. If you want to know more of my thoughts on this, I have a piece in the Waco paper today that lays it out. You can read that here-- and I hope that you will.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Bernie Sanders in 1981

This was nearly four decades ago!

Friday, March 15, 2019


Haiku Friday: Spring Break!

I've been enjoying my spring break quite a bit. IPLawGuy and I have been skiing in Sun Valley, and it has been a blast. It's a beautiful place, and apparently a secret given how uncrowded it is.

Let's haiku about spring break this week! Here, I will go first:

Up on the big snow
You can see sky forever
And then there is lunch.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: Manafort and the History of Clemency...

Yesterday I took a break between runs with IPLawGuy to talk to Audie Cornish at NPR's "All Things Considered" about clemency and Paul Manafort. You can hear the interview here.

I also interviewed IPLawGuy:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


They Shall Not Grow Old

Last night, IPLawGuy and I hobbled over to the Sun Valley Opera House to watch "They Shall Not Grow Old," with some commentary by filmmaker Peter Jackson. The movie is simple but profound: a restoration of World War One film with oral history commentary by veterans of the events depicted. In all, it is an anti-war movie, focused on a war that grew out of a minor conflict and caused unmitigated tragedies and led to revolutions in both Russia and Germany.

When I was a kid, there was a World War One veteran living across the street from us. Mr. Kengel was shell-shocked; the sound of our tennis balls crashing against the garage door resulted in understandable protests from him.

But like most Americans, I did not think much about World War One. We are much more knowledgable, it seems, about the Second World War, which somehow seems more modern and immediate.

And yet there is a lot to learn in the modern day from the epic rolling tragedy that some called The War to End All Wars. It was fueled by interlocking alliances and empire; nations with no real beef with one another suddenly were in a shockingly bloody war. Technological advances turned it into a bloodbath that few foresaw when it began. It was the last war of medieval Europe and the first of the modern age.

The stench of death was all over it. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019



I'm not crazy about my birthday-- for one thing, it rolls around at about the most depressing time of the year (February 21). 

One thing that brightens it up every year, though, is the card I get from my talented sister, Kathy Osler. She draws something original every time, and I love the surprise of it. She is... kind of like that generally.

As some of you know, I am a little obsessed with the Roman Goddess of clemency, Clementia. Kathy took a turn with that and imagined Clementia as a little friendlier and teddy-bear-ish. Thus, what I got this year was Clementedia. 

And I love it. It sits in the middle of my mantle. I am happy to take questions when people visit. And I glance that way if I need a lift of spirits. 

Now that's a gift.

Monday, March 11, 2019


Gavin is right, again...

Christine had a good answer for what she would do with $206 million (cure cancer), but there was a great haiku from Gavin, too:

I’d buy wild land
Where game and fowl still live free
And just leave it be.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Sunday Reflection: On Break

It's spring break time here in Minnesota-- which seems a little odd, since we are getting a half-foot of snow this weekend, piling up on top of all the snow that we already have.

So, I'll go skiing.  IPLawGuy and I do every year for spring break.

I think having breaks from the usual is part of how we are supposed to work. We are programmed for cycles: to celebrate holidays at the same time every year, to recognize the change of the seasons, and to sometimes put down our tools. I have the luxury of a job--teaching--that has a precise rhythm. We have new students every fall, and we graduate others in the late spring.  There is a poignancy to it, those starts and ends, the people who are at the center of your work coming and going.

When IPLG and I are skiing, we have different styles. I just ski, eat, and watch basketball on TV. He is usually working, even on the ski lift. I'm kind of surprised he hasn't found a way to take calls as we go down the slopes. I suppose it's because his work is different-- most adults do not get spring break, after all.

Perhaps he gets his cyclical reality in other ways. He's Episcopalian, and they take the liturgical year very seriously: the liturgies are in a cycle, of course, and the whole church changes with each season: Lent has a whole decorative and costuming theme, which abruptly changes at the onset of Easter. I love that.

How do you get yours?

Saturday, March 09, 2019


One great scene

Fabulous old cars? Check. Chicago like it was when I lived there two summers in law school: messy, gritty, and fascinating? Check. John Lee Hooker singing "Boom Boom," followed by a shoving match? Check. Aretha Frankin at her peak, dissing John Belushi? Check. 

Friday, March 08, 2019


Haiku: What would you do with a lot of money?

Yesterday I was looking for a video where I ramble on about sentencing issues and instead discovered a web site that supposedly reveals "How rich is Mark Osler?" The answer, apparently, is pretty darn loaded-- it says my net work is $206 million dollars... Which is off by nearly $206 million. The same site also claims that my main source of income is "Celebrities," that I was born on New Year's Day, and that I have expertise in "make-up" and "special effects." That picture is definitely me, though.

So, this week let's all imagine we were that fictional Mark Osler with that $206 million. What would you do with it? And we can do it in haiku! Here, I will go first:

Two hundred and six
Million? I would buy a new coat
A haircut and tie.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, March 07, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Incarceration of Women

Yesterday at St. Thomas, ACS hosted Andrea James, the founder and leader of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. I've known and admired Andrea for a while, and it was wonderful to get her in front of our students to talk about her work. I just wish that we had more time for it!  People like Andrea offer a perspective that I cannot, and it is essential to get those other viewpoints into the flow of ideas and conversation in our classrooms and hallways.

Andrea is a forerunner for five others who will speaking at St. Thomas at a symposium on March 29, who were also formerly incarcerated: Alice Johnson, Amy Povah, Shon Hopwood, Jason Hernandez, and Rudy Martinez. Other speakers include Mark Holden (General Counsel of Koch Industries), Nkechi Taifa, and Roy Austin (who worked on clemency in the Obama administration). 

 The moving force for reform in criminal law has come largely from those who were incarcerated.  That they have found a voice and forums to be heard is in part a testament to the Obama administration, which encouraged that dialogue and sought them out both publicly and behind the scenes. The Trump administration has done the same, to some extent. 

I know that in many areas of reform, people despair of the political climate. In my field, though, there is reason for hope.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


Minnesota Nice

I'm not a native Minnesotan, but this is my favorite place that I have ever lived. And I am saying that as four feet of snow create a landscape most reminiscent of the ice planet Hoth.

One thing people sometimes wonder about is the almost preternatural niceness of people here. I found people in Texas to be friendly but often not nice. Here they may not be as friendly, but they are more often nice. And I don't mean in a passive-aggressive way, but a genuine way.

In a recent article about Amy Klobuchar in the Atlantic, Caitlyn Flanagan described it very well in the course of revisiting Klobuchar's now-famous dialogue with Brett Kavanaugh:

Klobuchar didn’t take the occasion to grandstand or to showcase her own moral superiority by giving one of the vile little sermons that have become a hallmark of our time. She didn’t even bring up Spartacus. She simply gave the only decent response to a sincere apology: She accepted it. She was no pushover—her questioning about blackouts rang the bell upon which the whole matter turned—but neither did she allow his bad behavior to inspire any of her own.
When people speak derisively about “Minnesota nice,” it’s because they don’t understand the people and the place. It’s not niceness; it’s a form of radical politeness combined with an unshakeable and largely unexamined sense of obligation to one another. Klobuchar knew her family would survive the divorce when she trudged home from a friend’s house the morning after getting the bad news and saw her mother up and dressed and shoveling the driveway. In Minnesota, a shoveled driveway is both a winter necessity and an unmistakable sign to the community: We are okay in this house. If she had been too broken to do it, someone on that block would have surely done it for her. That, too, would have been an unmistakable sign: We won’t let you go under.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019


Flag hugging

Donald Trump is taking some flack for his flag-hugging at the CPAC conference last weekend (which was part of an epic 2+ hour speech he gave there). I'm not sure where I stand on flag-hugging. It should be noted that Trump has a bit of a history of, um, intimacy with the flag. Here he was last summer:

Is it... patriotic? Romantic? Just kind of weird? I do have to say that it is sort of compelling, in a can't-look-away sort of way.

It's one of those things that just challenges expectations. Of the many things we think of a flag doing, being caressed isn't one of them. It's kind of like Bible-dancing:

Monday, March 04, 2019


Cozy, with whiskey

I loved what people wrote about being cozy! Like Christine's suggestion:

The rain falls, steady
My bones are cold; outside, brrr...
Hot tea with whiskey.

And the Medievalist seems to have some experience, too:

Old college sweatshirt,
Slippers and wool socks, blue jeans,
Comfy recliner.

And Megan Willome seems to have it down:

warm White Magic tea
dogs asleep, as usual,
a real paperback

Sunday, March 03, 2019


Sunday Reflection: On being a blade of grass

There is one crisis of the spirit that many people I know go through. It is this: Does my life matter? It is an existential crisis in four words.

There are few stock answers to that.

One is that "God loves you," and that this means that your love matters-- you are loved. I think that is true, but I understand how for many people it doesn't offer much solace. "After all," they say, "If God loves everyone and everything, that still means I don't matter much." And on top of that, if they have been hurt and are in pain, they don't feel very loved by an omniscient, omnipresent God that apparently chose not to help them.

Another answer, for people inside and outside of a belief in God, is that meaning comes from helping other people. I think that is true, too. But, again, I can see how that can seem insufficient to those who are the ones needing help, or whose efforts to help others have been unrewarding.

My own answer to that question does not deny either of those truths. But I do have a different way of thinking about it.

When I lived in Texas, I found myself at least once a year driving down I-35 in Kansas, and often spent the night in a little town called Cottonwood Falls. It is in the middle of an area called the Flint Hills, covered with tallgrass prairie.

I found that prairie stunningly beautiful. It is almost treeless. Instead, there are endless fields of grass on the rolling hills. The prairie exists by a cycle: the grass grows up and then burns off, to start the next generation.  Sometimes, I saw those fires, which were a part of the whole.

What is it to be one of those blades of grass, a tiny part of that larger picture, one in billions of nearly identical blades of grass? Is any one blade insignificant?

No. Of course not. Each blade of grass, every one, is part of that remarkable creation of God, a brushstroke of the divine. What glory there is to be that blade of grass, thrusting up to the sun, living, dying, perfectly in tune with the creation of something extraordinary beyond our imaginations?

It isn't bad, to be a blade of grass in that glorious field, or a single thread in a beautiful tapestry, or a drop of water in a big, blue ocean. "But," some might say, "without that blade of grass or that thread or that drop of water, the field and the tapestry and the ocean would be almost the same."

True. But... almost? Almost is not the same as whole. If there is a God, it is not an "almost" God who creates "almost" everything with care. And this, this is not an "almost" world.

It is good to be.

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