Thursday, January 31, 2013


Haiku Friday: Winter

This is a simple one.

Here is mine:

Revel in quiet
The snow hushes us all now
"cept shovel's hard blade.

Now it is your turn... Use the 5/7/5 syllable format, and the winner gets a bio here on Monday.


Political Mayhem Thursday: Anonymous

Because I am a sentencing geek, I am a frequent visitor to the crushingly dull website (well, except to me and 8 others) of the United States Sentencing Commission.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the website had been hacked by the group Anonymous, who were angry about the prosecution and subsequent suicide of Aaron Schwartz. Here is their statement:

Citizens of the world,

Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.

We have been watching, and waiting.

Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win -- a twisted and distorted perversion of justice -- a game where the only winning move was not to play.

Anonymous immediately convened an emergency council to discuss our response to this tragedy. After much heavy-hearted discussion, the decision was upheld to engage the United States Department of Justice and its associated executive branches in a game of a similar nature, a game in which the only winning move is not to play.

Last year the Federal Bureau of Investigation revelled in porcine glee at its successful infiltration of certain elements of Anonymous. This infiltration was achieved through the use of the *same tactics which lead to Aaron Swartz' death. It would not have been possible were it not for the power of federal prosecutors to thoroughly destroy the lives of any hacktivists they apprehend through the very real threat of highly disproportionate sentencing.

As a result of the FBI's infiltration and entrapment tactics, several more of our brethren now face similar disproportionate persecution, the balance of their lives hanging on the severely skewed scales of a broken justice system.

We have felt within our hearts a burning rage in reaction to these events, but we have not allowed ourselves to be drawn into a foolish and premature response. We have bidden our time, operating in the shadows, adapting our tactics and honing our abilities. We have allowed the FBI and its masters in government -- both the puppet and the shadow government that controls it -- to believe they had struck a crippling blow to our infrastructure, that they had demoralized us, paralyzed us with paranoia and fear. We have held our tongue and waited.

With Aaron's death we can wait no longer. The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration. The time has come to give this system a taste of its own medicine. The time has come for them to feel the helplessness and fear that comes with being forced into a game where the odds are stacked against them.

This website was chosen due to the symbolic nature of its purpose -- the federal sentencing guidelines which enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers -- the federal sentencing guidelines which are in clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments. This website was also chosen due to the nature of its visitors. It is far from the only government asset we control, and we have exercised such control for quite some time...

What do you make of this? Are you more sympathetic to the prosecutors, Aaron Swartz, or the hackers?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Change Razor

Since I started blogging here in 2006, it surprises me what has changed, and what has not:

1) For this entire period, traffic on the blog has been remarkable consistent, with about 200-350 hits per day. There have been spikes and lulls, of course, but about 90% of the time, traffic has been in that range.

2) The ebbs have been predictable, too-- there is almost always lower traffic on weekends and in the summer.

3) One significant traffic pattern has emerged from my move from Texas to Minnesota. When I worked at Baylor, there was almost always a spike in traffic during final exams. The opposite is true at St. Thomas-- during finals, traffic goes down.

4) The people, of course, have changed over time. Some, like IPLawGuy, RRL, and Christine, have been constants from the start. Others, like Lane and TradeLawGuy, were frequent contributors, then dropped out of sight.

5) IPLawGuy (pictured above) has observed that Minnesotans are less active on the blog than Texans, and I think he is probably right, at least in regard to my students. Why might this be?

6) What might I do to improve the blog? I'm open to suggestions... I have been posting every day for six years, so it is easy to get in a rut!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Geek alert! Star Wars Episode 7

One of my favorite events EVER on the Razor was the time I was taken to task for apparently spelling the name of an obscure Star Wars planet incorrectly (among other things).

Now, Disney has bought the Star Wars franchise, and is coming out with a seventh movie in the series. Is this a good thing?

Monday, January 28, 2013


Haiku success!

So much goodness last week, on a hard subject, with so many great poets remembered. I had a lot of favorites, but here are two of them. For short-form, I have to go with Woody's reflection on RFK honoring MLK:

MLK is gone.
Misquoted Aeschylus, but
wisdom through God's (awful)grace.

In long-form, I was really wowed by someone new, Mustang's Sally:

You wimp.Think you got
It rough? Sylvia's dad wuz
A Nazi. Cry Baby!

And she married the
SS of Critics.So she
Baked her head.Dammit!

Just seemed easier
Than dealing with that English
Snobjerk.Now she rests.

But I remember
About "A Black Rook in Rain"
Which so described God...!

Made me want to call
Her out of the oven.WAIT!!
Sylvie, I Love You.

What Sally and Woody have in common, of course, is a love of words, which can be the truest muse of all, singing and seducing, always there, always calling to us, perfection that is just out of reach. These are people who savor the good words, let them linger like good scotch, and that is a true mark of wisdom.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Sunday Reflection: Still learning

Over just the next twenty days, I will be giving talks in various places on each of the following topics (in addition to my usual classes):

Federal clemency
The history of crack
The role of victim witnesses in criminal law
Civil discourse
The role of ritual in faith life
American Violet

Only one is at St. Thomas; of the others, four are at other universities and two are at churches.

Looking at this list, I think a fair criticism might be that I lack focus. In short, how can I be an expert on anything, if I am addressing so many different things?

I think it is true that I am not a real expert in any of these, at least beyond the first two. Two of them (civil discourse and ritual and faith life) are topics that I have hardly exemplified, in fact. So, where do I get off talking about these things?

The lame answer is that I was asked to speak on each topic by a school or group, and said "yes." Still, can I have anything to offer?

I hope so, and have been pondering this. In the end, maybe when I speak about these things that are outside my core field, the best I have to offer are my own failures as a cautionary tale and the posing of good questions. The latter of these, especially, should not be under-rated.

Those who have read this space in the past know that at the core of Christianity I see a message of humility. It's telling the way that Jesus treated the learned "experts" of his time-- consistently, when we see Christ showing genuine contempt for someone, it was for them. When I read that, I realize that I should approach the things I talk about with a sense of humility, and the honest acknowledgement that there is probably more knowledge in the audience about my topic than I have brought with me. I certainly don't know more about abortion than the women in my audience; I don't know more about civil discourse than the laypeople and clergy I will address; I don't know more about racism than the African-American people who will be in the audience when I talk about American Violet; and I don't know more about ritual than the Catholic audience I will address about that topic.

Still, perhaps I will ask the right question, and that might just be as good as it gets.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Why don't the best college players become the best pro players?

A few weeks ago, in the course of talking about vocation, I noted that a number of great pro quarterbacks were something less than big-conference stars in college-- a group that includes Kurt Warner, who went to Northern Iowa, while Tony Romo qb'd at Eastern Illinois and wasn't drafted, Joe Flacco emerged from the University of Delaware, and Ben Roethlisberger played at Miami-- the one in Oxford, Ohio, not Florida. In the Super Bowl, we'll be watching 49er QB Colin Kaepernick, who played for the University of Nevada.

Meanwhile, the more highly-recruited guys emerging from dozens of big-time schools wash out.

This reflection was spurred by the mention of Michigan State basketball player Mateen Cleeves, who was a 3-time all-American and led his team to the national championship. He dominated the Big Ten. In the pros, though, he played sparingly for five different teams before falling into the D-League, where he played for the Bakersfield Jam and some team in Fayetteville. There are dozens of others like him in basketball, as well.

Why do you think this is?

Friday, January 25, 2013


Haiku Friday: Poetry about Poets!

As Renee has reminded me, today is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns, sometimes called the "Ploughman Poet," since he honed his language skills while tending the family farm. His best known poem is probably "A Red, Red Rose:"

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

So, my friends, let's haiku about our favorite poets, be they Shakespeare or Bob Dylan.

Here is mine:

Kennedy listens, leans in,
To hear Robert Frost.

Now it is your turn! Make your haiku about 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and the most corpulent poem gets a bio here on Monday!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Political Mayhem Thursday: Your gun incident inventory

In the context of the general debate over guns, I received a remarkable note this week from a Razorite who will remain anonymous.

In his note, he inventoried two kinds of gun incidents involving people that he knew. First, he listed all those incidents where a gun was used to repel or in response to a crime, the way that the NRA envisions "good guys with guns" deterring crime. Second, he listed all those who were involved in other incidents with guns where someone was hurt, outside of military service or police action.

The first list (where people used guns against or to deter criminals) was empty... he had never known anyone involved in that kind of incident.

Here is the second list:

1. One relative shot himself with his hunting rifle, in what was probably a carefully planned suicide.

2. A friend and neighbor was shot and killed in a car jacking.

3. A friend's son, a high school freshman, committed suicide with a gun.

4. A teenager on the next block entered a neighbor's house when he was drunk. The neighbor shot and killed him.

5. Another acquaintance had a son who committed suicide with a gun as a high school freshman.

6. Another relative was accidentally shot in the head by a hunter.

It's a fascinating exercise. I invite to do a similar inventory in the comments section, limiting yourself to people you have known, rather than things you have read about or heard.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Just up on the Huffington Post!

Check out my little thought piece on Christianity Without Arrogance. Now it is cross-posted at Sojourner's, too!


Plus, I hear the food is great!

This past weekend I killed some time with friends noodling around on-line looking at rental apartments in Rome. It appears that accommodations in Italy have some very unusual touches and details:

1) This apartment looks charming, but I wonder about the "cot with linen and pillow suffocation and a high chair." I'm pretty sure I won't be needing a high chair, and one my goals for the year as a whole is to avoid being murdered.

2) Hmmm... I'm always cautious once people start giving names to rooms: "In details: there is a drawing room (HALL OF BOOK) with a single sofa bed, one more drawing room (PHOTO’S ROOM) with a Queen sized bed, one bedroom (FISH’S ROOM) with a double bed and one more bedroom (ARABIC ROOM) with a double bed and a double sofa bed in a slightly (but not completely)." I'm willing to forget those issues, though, given what we find listed under "amenities": "In the living room there is a fun control."

Really? A fun control? I hope this one goes to 11!

3) Well, at least the owner of this flat was honest in noting that "the ensemble of the quarter which glamour is in the "poor"architecture of its houses."

So, which should I pick? Is it more important to go for poor architecture, enjoy a fun control, or have ready access to pillow suffocation? Any advice?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Because the Death Penalty wasn't controversial enough...

Tomorrow I will be talking about abortion here at St. Thomas. Noon, in room 448. The basis of my talk will be this paper, which I am presenting at Stanford next month.


The Monsters University/Baylor University connection

Is it just me, or is Monsters University ripping off their material from the Baylor media department? Check out the two promotional videos below...

First, Baylor:

Now, good old MU:

Monday, January 21, 2013


That was some very good bad poetry!

Last week's bad high school poetry contest was a great success!

I have to give a shout-out to Megan Willome, who did a great job dissecting the oeuvre over on her own blog. It was hard, too, not to love the interplay between Geoffrey the Mustang Boy and his apparent ex.

My favorites of the whole lot was these; first, from Christine:

Does he love me, love me not???
I will never know...
Contorted heart, beats erratically
thump, thumpity, thumpity, ouch....

Who am I kidding...
Does he even know I exist?
Doubtful, just in my dreams
I pull off more petals

And then this genuine poem of high school, from Rebecca Wright:

Shatterer of my heart
You fart.

As Renee noted, though, that one was at some level to good to be bad...

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Sunday Reflection: Authentic, Unashamed, and Honest

Here is a hard question that is too rarely discussed: How do we express our faith in a pluralistic society? That is, how do Christians live out their faith and mission without seeming arrogant, and without denigrating other faiths, all while not hiding that which is most important to them?

My answer to this is in the title of the post-- I think we should be authentic, we should be unashamed, and that we should be honest.

By authentic, I mean that our faith need not bend to the will of society. Importantly, this is different than feeling the need to impose our beliefs on others; rather it means not changing ourselves. For example, consider the question of the Sabbath. An authentic Christian should probably (as Jesus advised) try to keep the Sabbath holy. However, we can do that without insisting that everyone else close down on Sunday.

By unashamed, I mean that Christians should talk openly and publicly about the way their faith influences their actions. Most of us do not accept a two-sphere morality-- that is, we hope that the same values inform us all the time, at work and at home. We should live that out. If we choose to do something or not do something because of our faith, we should say so.

By honest, I mean that we should not pretend that our faith or our life in faith is perfect, or makes us perfect, or is easy. We should be honest about our doubts, and about our own failures. Christianity is humbling, and we should be willing to be honest about our problems and struggles. I once heard someone say "you can't be an alcoholic and a Christian," and I completely disagree. You absolutely can be a Christian struggling with that problem, just as we all struggle. To claim that Christians are different than others because they behave better just is not honest.

It is tempting to hide our faith in a secular society, but if we do, is it really faith?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


More on guns keeping people safe...

Friday, January 18, 2013


It's time for the 3rd Razor Bad High School Poetry Contest!!!!

Are you ready for some POETRY?

And not just any old poetry-- this time we are shooting for ultra-dark, super-depressing poetry of the style you find in high school literary magazines. We've done this twice before: Once in 2006, and again in 2008. The entire project was begun after I came across this real-life bit of teen poetry:

"There's no need to cry
The clouds do it for me
Expressing my depression better
Than I ever could."

So, let's get to it! Your poem doesn't necessarily have to be dark; just a faux (or real) reflection of high school.

And the prize? The winner will get their poem fawned over right here on the Razor!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Political Mayhem Thursday: Do more guns make us more safe?

One argument I am hearing from gun enthusiasts these days is that more guns make us more safe-- that the answer to gun crime is more people with guns. In short, people won't commit crimes with a gun if they think they will get shot.

I'm fascinated by a statistic related to that.

I spent ten years in Texas, where gun ownership rates are higher than average (at least in terms of number of guns that are privately owned-- it is about average in the percentage of people who own a gun). There is no doubt that many people in Texas feel strongly about gun ownership and the ability to protect themselves with guns. If more guns (and the willingness to use them) mean more safety from gun violence, you would expect Texas to be relatively safe from gun violence.

But, it's not. Just as an observation, I was always intrigued by the fact that so many people had guns in Waco for self-defense, but there still was a remarkable number of armed robberies and other incidents of gun violence.

Hard numbers back this up. According to statistics from The Guardian, in the United States as a whole there are 2.75 firearm murders per 100,000 people, firearm robbery rates of 39.25/100,000 and firearm assault rates of 43.77. Texas is much worse, with a firearm murder rate of 2.91, firearm robbery rates of 50.21, and a firearm assault rate of 58.28. Especially in the last two categories, Texas is more prone to gun violence than the United States as a whole, despite all those legally owned guns.

When I have brought this up with people in Texas, they often say that the high gun crime rates are because of the state's proximity to Mexico. Hmmm... setting aside the assumptions that underlay that idea, let's look at data. If the problem is Mexico, then it must be really bad in El Paso, right? Since it is right on the border, and is so closely tied to Mexico, and is by far the largest Texas city on the border-- but El Paso turns out to be the safest city in the United States. Which means, I guess, that the rest of Texas must be really bad in terms of gun crime.

The truth is that there is no consistent correlation between gun ownership rates and gun violence rates. For example, the two jurisdictions with (by far) the lowest gun ownership rates are New Jersey and DC, but they diverge wildly, with New Jersey having low gun violence rates, and DC having high gun violence rates. Still, if more guns really meant less gun violence, then there would be a correlation-- and that just isn't true.

More guns don't make us safe. Fewer guns do make us safer, IF the gun that is not there is the one that would be used in a crime-- that is, if the person deprived of a gun is the one who would use it for gun violence. To me, that points to wisdom of the type of measures that President Obama proposed yesterday, which are largely targeted at the people most likely to use guns in crime, and the types of weapons they tend to use.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Last night on WCCO

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to Jason DeRusha over at WCCO about the President's executive orders regarding guns:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Discerning Vocation

Yesterday, Susan Stabile blogged on discerning vocation, and I'm stealing her idea today, title and all.

Vocation, of course, is the idea of combining your faith with your work somehow. It's a luxury in this economy to have a good job of any kind, but I am surprised at how many people I know, including many of you, have found that depth that makes a job part of a vocation.

Susan (quoting Jennifer Wright) describes vocation as having something to do with joy, gifts, and the needs of the world. I don't disagree with any of that, but I would add something else.

The people whose vocation I admire the most have something in common: They are all transgressive. That is, they are unconventional in how they do things, and often in a way that is challenging to the status quo. I don't think this is an accident-- I think it has something to do with seizing agency in your work, out of principle. It's very rare that I see someone who strictly follows convention, for example, who really impresses me. For that matter, I rarely see in those people that thing Jennifer names first-- joy.

And me, I'm all for joy.

Monday, January 14, 2013


The winner: Ann Sorenson!

This week's winner is Ann Sorenson, who won for this entry:

Sweet scalloped tomatoes,
Tossed with white bread:
I sit until tomorrow morn.

What I like about her poem is that I can just see that horrible dish, made from two things I really don't like. I've had a lifelong aversion to tomatoes for reasons I can't quite explain, and except for a very rare (and strangely pleasant) encounter with bruschetta, I have managed to avoid them.

Ann Sorenson, as a long-time Minnesota resident, has not been so lucky. Every summer she is deluged with tomatoes from neighbors and co-workers, and has resorted to tossing them at random out her office window. Unknown to her, though, is that the result looks highly mysterious and unfortunate. Eventually, thousands of grackles appeared to eat the pile of red mess, and that is how the grackles first came to Edina...

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Sunday Reflection: "Do not resist an evildoer"

I have always found that instruction ("Do not resist an evildoer") from Jesus to be among the most difficult. But, it is clear, and consistent with the rest of his message in Matthew 5:38-42.

When Jesus says something like that which just doesn't make sense, what do we do? I suppose there are two options when Christ's instruction is so unambiguous. One is to have our reason guide us, and the other is to have Jesus's teachings guide us. To make this more real, my reason might tell me to buy a gun to protect myself from evildoers, but Jesus instructs the opposite.

If Christianity, in the form of what Christ taught, guides my actions, then I should not buy a gun to protect myself from evildoers. That's a hard pill to swallow.

I was led to these thoughts by a wonderful piece written by my mentor and friend, Craig Anderson, who is now a "Special Correspondent" for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Here is part of what Craig has to say (after discussing Jeanne Bishop's trip to the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin):

Fear and anxiety have their appropriate place. At the same time, unconsidered, fear and anxiety are often irrational responses to perceived and anticipated threats. Fear tends to simplify and to amplify our responses to such threats. More so, fear tends to cause us to regress; it tends to pull us backward.

Might what Craig says be connected to Jesus' instruction? After all, if we are not planning to resist the evildoer, then we are no longer focused on him, and fear of him is no longer motivating our actions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


My client in The Nation...

One of my projects for this year has been preparing and submitting a commutation petition for Weldon Angelos. His case just got a great write-up in The Nation-- you can see it here.


An idea and economics...

A few years ago, I posted about a simple proposition: That transparency of the US News criteria for law school rankings had facilitated attempts to game those rankings. It turns out that three economists (Florian Ederer of UCLA, Richard Holden of the Univ. of Chicago, and Margaret Meyer from Oxford) saw that post, combined it with some similar situations, and tested the thesis. Their work is about to appear in the American Economic Review, and you can download it here.

Interesting stuff!

Friday, January 11, 2013


Haiku Friday: Food you would never eat!

Good discussion of food here yesterday, so why not keep it going a little?

Let's haiku about the food you would never eat. For me, and I hate to incense some of my readers, but that list would include McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Not so much because of the weird fish it is made out of, but because of my staunch opposition to the
"-O'-" construction in naming things.

So, here is mine:

My Mom was steadfast:
No blue Kool Pops for Oslers!
I think she was right.

Now it is your turn: Craft a decent haiku, of 5/7/5 syllablage, and you just might get your bio posted right here this coming Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Political Mayhem Thursday: Food!

I'm getting interested in food policy-- the regulation of food by the government.

What spurred this was the discovery that McDonald's McRib sandwich is fascinatingly complex. It turns out that the McRib isn't made out of rib meat, but of "tripe, heart, and scalded stomach." Blech. Plus it contains some bleaching agent used in yoga mats, among 70 other ingredients.

My problem isn't selling the McRib-- if you want it, eat it! It's the labeling. Isn't selling something as "rib" meat, when it is actually a "restructured meat product" made of much less appealing parts of the pig, about as wrong as selling as sirloin something made out of tofu?

Of course, the whole chain is built on selling a "ham"burger that actually contains no ham, so I guess that is pretty telling.

What part of our food/agricultural policy do you think should change?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


School again!

It's time for a new semester, and I'm ready.

I'm going ISO 9002 on this project, too-- I'm going to be better than I have been in the past as a teacher. I have three projects to improve my teaching... we'll see how they work out.

It is a wonderful thing, a blessing, to have a job you look forward to as much as I look forward to doing mine. I know that it is rare, and that I am lucky.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


The disrupters

My high school, like most, had a group of kids who referred to themselves as "Theater People." They had all grown up doing children's theater and tried out for all the school plays. A big part of their life was that group of friends who tended to have complex relationships with one another.

Every once in a while, though, someone from out of nowhere would try out for a play and get a lead role. This was completely vexing to the theater people-- that was their territory! And then when we went to see the musical with the new person, all anyone talked about was "Who knew that football player/stoner girl/math brain could sing? That drove the theater people bananas. They had run into a disrupter-- someone who discovered a talent or passion (or had it discovered by others) a little later than most.

I think that disrupters (at least of this merit-based type) are a great thing. They challenge us, bring new talents and ideas, and give people broader perspectives. They shake things up without destroying them.

Unfortunately, my field of work is particularly walled off from disrupters. In most fields of the academy, you need a Ph.D., and from a top program, to get a good job. Work experience in the outside world is often a negative, not a positive, even in professional schools. We are protected against disrupters, because we guarantee that everyone is just like us. There is a cost to that.

People develop skills at different times, and disrupter-resistant fields don't take that into account. There are many people who gained their focus later in life and didn't get into Harvard or Yale law-- yet are excellent teachers and scholars. If you doubt this, contrast the legal professorate with those who succeed in a meritocracy like pro football, where results are easily observed and evaluated. Some of the best quarterbacks (ie, RGIII) were great college players in BCS leagues, but many others bloomed later and went to schools that aren't exactly football powerhouses. Kurt Warner went to Northern Iowa, Tony Romo qb'd at Eastern Illinois and wasn't drafted, Joe Flacco emerged from the University of Delaware, and Ben Roethlisberger played at Miami-- the one in Oxford, Ohio, not Florida.

In the academy, we sweep up the early bloomers with strong pedigrees (the Peyton Mannings and Tim Tebows) but miss too many of the people who develop later, and that is a loss for us all.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Haiku Winner: JR!

Wow! 36 great entries last week-- and I loved them all. This one, though, told a story that spoke to me:

Statistics. You know
it's not good when your "grade" is
simply "Please See Me."

JR, a resident of DC, was most recently the lead pollster for the Romney campaign. His projections had Romney ahead by 5 points the day of the election, which turned out to be very... well, wrong. This shouldn't have been surprising,given his previous work as number-cruncher for Herman Cain.

Before all that, JR was well-known in the food n' beverage world as the guy who famously reversed the flavorings for Dr. Pepper and KFC somehow, leading to the worst-tasting soda ever.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


Sunday Reflection: Lost People

I've had the occasion to run into a few people I know during my holiday travels, acquaintances I had not seen in years. Both of them I would describe as "lost." They both spent some time telling me about their situation, with some degree of despair. It was clear that they were full of pain.

I'm not good in those situations; my brother and sister and many of my friends are much better at them. I just never know what to say, and it seems wrong to describe my own happy situation, so I don't. I just kind of mutter sympathetically, and then wander off.

I can do better than that. My faith, at least, demands it. How do other people handle that kind of situation? How do you react? And, if you are someone who has gone through periods of despair, what is it you would like people to say or do, given that they have good hearts?

Saturday, January 05, 2013


Mantle Jumping Aftermath

Yesterday, IPLawGuy made a reference to "Mantle Jumping," something that we used to do in college. Long story short, you jumped off a mantle. The idea, infrequently realized, was that people would catch you.

There were a lot of things that didn't make sense at William and Mary, looking back at it. For example, the photo above is from "Beach Week," which was the week between finals and graduation in the Spring, when people would decamp to Nag's Head, North Carolina (which was virtually empty at that time except for us) and go to the beach and dance and, uh, maybe do some mantle jumping.

There are some things I wonder about with this photo:

1) It looks like I have a black eye. Hmmm. Maybe that was from mantle jumping?

2) I'm wearing just a pair of shorts, but the girl I'm sitting with (Janet McNulty) is wearing a quite fetching but very modest sailor outfit. Did I not get the memo?

3) I'd disparage my hair at that time, if it wasn't looking pretty much like that right now.

Friday, January 04, 2013


Haiku Friday: What did you REALLY learn in college?


This week, let's haiku about the most important things we learned in college. Most people I know learned... well, some different things than they expected. So speak freely!

I realize that some people didn't go to college, or haven't had the chance yet; feel free to sub in any school you have attended.

Here is mine:

Best thing I learned:
When not to say anything.
Still working on it.

Now you go! Just make it more or less 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and don't forget that the winner gets a bio right here on Monday.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


Political Mayhem Thursday: Actual Mayhem!

Oh, you, John Boehner!

So how bad are things in Washington? Isn't this a pretty bad sign?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


A Recipe for 2013: Auto show magic!

As many of you know, there is nothing I love more than cars and food, so why not finally bring them together? This is a simple and healthy dinner you can make on the engine block of your car.

Osler's engine-block pork


3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry or snow
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, smashed (if necessary, run over it)
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 pieces star anise
Road salt
4 ounces of windshield washer fluid
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 head bok choy, roughly chopped
3 1/2 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, star anise and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 5-to-6-quart pot. Add the pork, then cover and place on the engine block as your car idles for 8 hours. Add the windshield washer fluid to the appropriate reservoir in your car.

Add the bok choy to the pot and rev the engine; cover and cook about 20 more minutes.

Add the noodles to the pot, making sure they are submerged. Cover and cook 10 more minutes.

Remove the pork from the pot and shred the meat. Divide the pork, bok choy and noodles among bowls, then ladle in some of the broth. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Turn off the car.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Happy New Year!

I love the New Year. Don't get me wrong-- 2012 was pretty great. Still, who knows what will happen this year?

This morning, I woke up with an unusual thought, which I suppose is a resolution: I want to do things that are unexpected. Not self-indulgent bucket-list stuff, but rather express parts of my own best self that are engaged with others or the community. It will be the start of my second 50 years this year, and it will be a good time to stretch a little.

What does that mean? Well, we'll see...

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