Thursday, November 30, 2006


Winter Driving Tips

In Michigan, we know a thing or two about driving in snow. Rule number one is to have the right vehicle, such as the one pictured here. You will notice that it has no problem driving in the snow.

Also, putting chains on your tires will help a lot with traction, both in the winter and in the summer! Plus, they are a cheap and easy upgrade to your vehicle.

Also, you may want to consider installing a Christmas wreath on the front of your car or truck. Not only does it provide a nice Christmas-y touch to the vehicle, but it helps buffer you in a festive holiday car wreck. If that occurs, you will love the aroma that is released by the impact with the pine boughs!

Finally, always have an "emergency kit" in the trunk in case of car trouble. At the very least, this kit should contain:

Parka w/ firearm
1997 Texas fishing regulations booklet
Tracheotomy tools
Cheerleader outfit
Steaks (Ribeye or filet mignon)
Gloves, hat, mask, & demand note
Authentic Deutscher Meister Foosball Table
Emergency pet
Volleyball or badmitten net
Gasoline or lighter fluid in precariously balanced, uncapped Dr. Pepper bottle
CB radio
Public radio program guide
Wii game console
Air mattress
"Monty Python" tape on Betamax cartridge
Cooler w/ beer
Extra printer cartridges
Foam "#1" finger
Advocacy notebook
Emergency Advent calender
Protective cup
German-English dictionary

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Important News About Bates...

It seems there is a new BLS blog in town, by yet another 1L I won't meet for another two years. Did you guys know I have never actually met Swanburg? It's true. Anyways, the mysterious Yee of Little Faith recounts that today Prof. Bates revealed in Contracts that he was a professional foosball player. I'm sure that some people think he was just blowing gas on this, but I can verify that it is true. I know it is true, because the gentleman has kicked my heinie in foosball.

I first learned of this talent on a trip we made a few years ago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I realize that this is an odd destination, but we had our reasons. Reason one was a Bob Dylan concert there (which was excellent), and the second reason was that we wanted to climb the highest peak in all of Iowa (which we accomplished, despite having to buy off a very nice farmer with some Waco keychains). During the trip, we happened upon a foosball table, and Prof. Bates claimed to be a former pro. I scoffed, but not for long-- he has this amazing move where his little guy is trapping the ball, then there is a loud banging noise, then the ball is in your goal. It is pretty incredible. Now I believe.

We also went to see the minor league team in Sioux Falls, the Canaries. You can see Prof. Bates in the photo with the Canary mascot. Something interesting there... you know how mascots will but their arm or wing or whatever over your shoulder for a photo? Check out the Canary's body language-- he obviously is guarding against some kind of attack from Prof. Bates. And that is saying something, given that at the time the Canary shared mascotting duties with some volunteer posing as Jorge The Deranged Army Guy.


My Weekend Plans

I have been chewing away on the PR finals this week, and they aren't so bad. I will get a break this weekend, though, as I travel to Notre Dame to attend the meeting of a new group called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together on Law." The idea is to gather 16 Catholics and 16 Protestants to talk about faith and legal issues. I feel like the admission department's mistake-- the other participants include Bill Stuntz and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard, John Coughlin and Rick Garnett of Notre Dame, and even Chuck Colson, among other notables.

I'm thinking of getting a haircut first.

The good news is that it is supposed to be bitterly cold, with snow and sleet making travel nearly impossible-- which to me is the way December is supposed to be.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I suspect that maybe, perhaps, I just had a great idea...

So this morning about 11, I'm sitting there staring at my phone, which was about to ring. I knew that because there was going to be a conference call on the Supreme Court briefings in US v. Claiborne, and the big cheeses were supposed to phone me so we could confer on what I was going to write. Probably I should have been rifling through documents, making sure that I was ready to defend my ideas about the case, have cites ready to go, blah, blah. But, right then, I had a really good idea.

The Baylor blogs have become pretty interesting, as shown by the impressive and varied list to the left. My thought is that we need to have an awards show for the blogs, maybe during the dead days of February. We could have some key categories (ie, most revealing post, worst photo, etc.), and a few of us could come up with the nominees, then open it up to on-line voting. After that, we could have an awards show at some prestigious local establishment (ahem... not the law library), with perhaps a lifetime achievement award for Fahrenholt, complete with a weepy video montage and surprise appearance by Plan B.

Right as I was putting together some categories, the phone rang. Dang it.


Two/three new winners!

These three win copies of my William Hung-themed Christmas cd.

First of all, there was some serious high-quality haiku last week. The best was this one from "Justin" which was poignant yet subtly terrifying:

Justin said...
Turkey-day is gone
But the turkey it remains
What to do with it?

Experiments yikes
Turkey enchiladas bad
What was dad thinking?

Don't think he'll stop now
He's back at the drawing board
Turkey please run out!

The high schoolish dark poetry contest had many horrific entries. Perhaps the most grippingly sad were these two, penned by co-winners Brian McKinney and Jonathon Swanburg:

Brian McKinney said...
They need A/v
Calling, always calling,
Help them set up projectors...
Only to be mocked.

Swanburg said...
The principal asks
The teacher touched you where?

I point to the doll
Unlike me, the doll doesn’t cry
The doll doesn’t know

The gym shower
Teen angst envelopes me
Can’t go in there

Monday, November 27, 2006


Why that?

I've been wondering for a while why "Tydwbleach," who posts here often (and is from my deep, not-so-dark past) goes by that name on the internet. Laundry fixation? Random name generator? Industrial accident?

Please describe how you came up with your online handle. I'll go first-- I picked Osler's Razor as a play on Occam's razor, a logic principle which I often refer to in class. The description below is swiped from Wikipedia:

Occam's razor (also spelled Ockham's razor) is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. Occam's razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or "shaving off," those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. In short, when given two equally valid explanations for a phenomenon, one should embrace the less complicated formulation.

This is often paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one." In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest hypothetical entities. It is in this sense that Occam's razor is usually understood.

After starting the blog, I found that the name wasn't original. As it turns out, in 1983 Nobel prize winner Peter Medawar wrote a very good essay called "Osler's Razor," linking Occam's principle to my partial namesake, Sir William Osler. Didn't know my middle name was William did you? (Or that I steal my stuff from people with Nobel prizes).

The picture above shows me on a camping trip with Nobel winner Peter Medawar. Oh, wait, that's my Dad, Spike. Sorry.

Anyways, please share the genesis of your own nickname in the comments section below.


Now that's what I call blogging!

Wow-- Baylor people need to read this. Brilliant, true, and loving.


I have waited years for today...

In 25 years, I have not once been called for jury duty. I have picked lots of juries (often poorly-- it is the aspect of trial I am worst at), I have argued in front of juries, directed investigations with grand juries... but I haven't gotten to be a juror, or even on the panel.

Today is the day. I tried not to look too professorial-- blue pants, plaid flannel shirt-- and am going to be honest but hope to get on the jury. I'll let you know what happens.

UPDATE: I just got back from the Courthouse. Judge Strother put me off until January 16... maybe then I will get to be a juror. Finally.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Minnesotans on Film

Tonight I watched the "Prairie Home Companion Movie," which was almost required. I grew up listening to that show, and affection for it runs in my family. Our other common weakness is an inability to stay on Interstate highways for very long. For some who have been close to one or more of us their worst memory may be driving lost on County Road YY as the Osler driving sings along in the dark with Garrison Keillor on the radio, belting out "Red River Valley."

The movie is about death, and is set on the last night of the show. I have always thought that the mark of a raging ego or true insecurity is to speculate on what would happen if you died or stopped working; those thoughts of how everything would fall apart. It's rarely true. Baylor Law survived Bill Underwood leaving, and would rumble along just fine if any of the rest of us did the same. I once had a friend who hosted a party that was supposed to be like his funeral-- he laid motionless, and people were supposed to say nice things about him. He even gave some people scripts. Jeez, what an egomaniac.

It also contained a sad and strained portrait of how midwesterners sometimes see Texas Christians. Tommy Lee Jones plays a ruthless and doomed businessman from Texas who is buying St. Paul's historic Fitzgerald theater; he's going to tear it down and build a parking lot. The connection between his faith and his blank-faced business practices are made explicit in the movie: He will drink only water without even the indulgence of ice, and makes it clear that "finding the Lord" led him away from music and sentimentality and towards heartless maximizations of profit. I do know that this is how we are viewed by many from outside of Texas: As practitioners of a faith stripped of Christ's compassion and empathy, leaving nothing but coarse judgment and moralistic hypocrisy to show the world. It is a view that is sometimes true but usually false, and that is one thing I learned by coming to Texas.

To get an actual Minnesotan's take on the movie, click here.


Three Writing Heroes

There are certain talents I really admire. Being able to speak a foreign language is like a magic trick to me, and I'm in awe of those who can; I'm also very impressed by those who can sing. Sing to me in French and I'll just follow you around for a while with my mouth open. Another talent I really appreciate, and count on, is the ability to impart information I need while keeping it as simple as possible and interesting. Today I want to recognize three people whose writing fits this description, and whose work I read regularly. They are also three people I admire for the choices they have made in their life, which makes it even easier to like.

1) Brad Bogan, Fifth Circuit Blog

Brad was my student a few years ago, and I remember him well. He may not have been the flashiest performer to come through Practice Court, but in criminal classes he had a remarkable focus, a passion for the material, and an ability to articulate a position few others in the class would take. After school, he took a job as a brief-writer with the Federal Defender's office in Del Rio. As I have traveled the Western District doing CLE's, defenders in other offices always know of Brad and speak well of his work. That always makes me feel a little swell of pride.

Typical of him, Brad took the initiative to maintain the Fifth Circuit blog, which I rely on to keep up to date with the criminal rulings here. His writing is succinct, honest, and clear, which is exactly what I want.

2) Bob Darden, Reluctant Prophets and Clueless Disciples

"Reluctant Prophets and Clueless Disciples" is just the most recent of some 900 books it seems like Bob Darden has written, but it is the one that has meant the most to me. He breaks down the stories of the Bible in a very accessible way, and as a Christian with no theological training it really speaks to me. His previous book, "People Get Ready," is a definitive description of gospel music in America, and he has led the way in trying to preserve the recordings of this music.

Bob is also my extremely talented Sunday school teacher at 7th & James Baptist Church. We have an amazing class, and it is a highlight of the week. In that group of 5-9 (usually including a linguist, an Old Testament scholar, Bob, an archaologist, and a mathemetician) I have found more spiritual growth than anywhere else in my life. I am profoundly grateful for that.

3) Carl Hoover, Waco Tribune-Herald

Carl Hoover is my favorite writer in the local paper. He has an engaging, light touch with cultural and religious issues, while still bringing meaning to the surface. That must be an extremely hard task, because very few people can do it well. I often read a story in the paper, think to myself that it is really good, and only then notice his byline.

Carl is one of those people whom I peek at as corners of his life are exposed, and they all show a man with a wonderful balance in his life. I hear him in the church choir, I see him with his children, I make a point to attend if he is speaking at church, and sometimes I even eavesdrop on his conversations with others (I'm like that). In all these things, I see something to emulate.

I never see my heroes on television, but perhaps that is one reason they are my heroes.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Reflections on Thanksgiving

I often mull something over, make a note to bring it up at a party, then forget to do so. Most recently, I planned to ask my guests over the past week (I basically had three dinner parties in seven days) why they don't have Thanksgiving (or a similar holiday) in France. I mean, look at that photo-- they have a lot to be thankful for. I imagined that it would have brought forth the usual anti-France sentiments which are common around here, but maybe a little insight, too, given the people at those parties-- the Spanish Medievalist, Prof. Bates, Bill Underwood, etc. But I forgot.

Not that there was any lack of adventure. As some of you may have gleaned from reading the blog, I recently purchased a set of Cutco knives from an enterprising young Baylor student (who has also developed into a master of haiku). They are great knives, and it was the best and easiest job cutting the turkey ever. However, they also played a role in a near-disaster which was narrowly averted only through the quick actions of Gordon Davenport.

On Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, I traditionally make fresh bread and a hearty soup. This year, all was going according to plan. A few bottles of wine had been opened, the guests gathered around the kitchen, my bread came out (goofy looking but tasty), and the soup was close to completion. Then, disaster. While cutting some meat for the soup, the high-quality, long-lasting Cutco knife I was using slipped and cut deep into my finger. It appeared that the finger had been severed at the joint, and blood was gushing out. Unfortunately, I reacted by waving my hand around, nearly spraying blood on the wives of Prof. Torts and Prof. T & E, and causing an audible gasp as my blood pooled on the countertop around the baby carrots. I started to feel faint.

It was at this point that Gordon realized the gravity of the situation-- if I did not complete my task, there may not be enough meat in the soup. As I slumped onto the floor, he deftly stepped to the counter and took up the job of slicing the meat and filling the soup pot.

Thanks to his quick actions, the soup was salvaged and there was enough to eat. Thank you, GED3-- hungry people everywhere salute you.

UPDATE: See the comments for (inexplicably) several excellent soup recipes.

Friday, November 24, 2006


A Little Haiku for Friday...

It's the holiday weekend, blogging is light, but still... traditions are traditions. And the prizes are fabulous. This week's prize is a Christmas Music CD which contains some surprises. He he.

Since I only anticipate a few entries, maybe I will win this week? Here's my effort:

May not teach Swanburg,
Shot by a jealous husband
Well before PR.

Put your own below. It doesn't necessarily have to be about Swanburg, who apparently is now accusing me of messing with his stuff, though he's disguising it by using the long word "vituperative."

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Thanksgiving Warning: Look Out for Chilly Willy

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This is my favorite holiday-- I love the idea of it, and the fact that it is a holiday geared more to reflection and humility than patriotism or commerce.

But, like many other good things, there is a dark side. Those of us from Detroit know to keep a lookout for a Thanksgiving menace that appears when least expected-- Chilly Willy the Penguin.

In 1990, a frozen dessert company entered a 30-foot inflatable penguin in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade down Woodward Avenue. Given the variety of social ills (street violence, poverty, a rotting infrastructure) faced by Detroit, few in attendance thought that a greater threat might be posed by the giant gaseous penguin. They were wrong.

Midway through the parade, Chilly Willy made a break for it. I remember this-- I was there. He broke free of his handlers and charged into the sky, taunting those below. Legend has it that several bystanders stopped shooting at one another and fired at the fleeing bird to no avail. The irony was overwhelming; After decades of tragedy, now the city was under threat by a giant flightless bird that had somehow taken to the air. Now he headed for the home of the singer-songwriter who defined irony for so many of us: the Great White North's own Alannis ("Isn't It Ironic?") Morrisette.

So, like other Northern-border fugitives, Chilly Willy headed to Canada. Many watched as he headed down the Detroit River and across Lake St. Clair toward freedom in a nation famous for its generous proportions of ice and snow. He got as far as Walpole Island, just into Canada, before he was finally apprehended.

Chilly Willy's reign of terror was not complete, though. In a Napolean-like comeback, some months later he was trusted with the duties of appearing at a car dealership for promotional purposes. Not missing an opportunity, he lashed out with violence. It was not random violence, however-- his target was an official of the very parade from which Willy had escaped! CW threw his terrified victim from the roof of the dealership, breaking her arm and leg, and teaching a valuable lesson on the hazards of trying to tie down a restless spirit that cannot be contained.

They say that Chilly Willy has been safely deflated and stored in a secure facility. Believe that if you want... I'm watching my back.

[It occurs to me that some of you might think I am making this up. If you don't believe me, check out the news article here, in the last four paragraphs.]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A new and even goofier contest...

I have happened to come into possession of the 2004 literary magazine from a local high school. The truly terrifying thing about it is just how grim the poetry is, though it is often evocative and even pretty good. I mean, you would think these people are in law school or something! Here are a few verbatim snippets of these dark insights from several different poems:

"The elements forgotten,
Cannot ever be replaced,
As we live with greed and rot,
Our world will be erased."

"His metal begins to rust
Immobile, he keeps
That heart of mine
While I cry myself to sleep."

Things wanted,
Mistaken identities,
Ruin a life.
Early in years,
Leave you in regret and tears."

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

Wow. I just kind of remember being excited about being able to drive a car. Anyways, here is the contest, which you can enter in the comments section below. Your entry can be in one of two forms: Either a grim high-school poem (no haiku, thanks), or a horrifying law school fable such as the tale of Prof. Bankruptcy and the severed head which can be found a few posts down. The prize is a copy of the infamous Osler "William Hung" Christmas CD from last year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Anonymous Unveiled!

The "anonymous" entry which won last Friday's haiku contest (as chosen by Swissgirl) turns out to be Baylor's own Linda Jegermanis. Why does it seem like I am constantly giving her prizes?


Today's Baylor Crisis!

I'm kind of tired of everyone else creating the crisis of the week and just having to respond to it, so I'm going to make up one for this week:

Did you hear what happened in Bankruptcy yesterday? Apparently, Prof. Bankruptcy showed up to teach wearing a sopping-wet sweatshirt, spandex biking shorts, and an odd array of other clothes all covered with an elegant shawl, while carrying the severed head of a Baylor Law applicant. From what I understand, what happened started out down by the river. Every morning, Prof. ADR, Prof. Bankruptcy, and Swanburg go fishing for catfish from that old dock down by the river there while downing a case of Bud Lite. Anyways, Prof. ADR catches a real lunker and it runs for the bottom. Just then, two undergrads in a sailboat come by, somewhat out of control, and cut across Prof. ADR's line. This enrages Prof. Bankruptcy, who leaps into the river, jumps into the boat, and knocks out both occupants with her kendo sword (the "shinai"). Not content with this revenge, she dives to the bottom of the river and strips their lifeless bodies of clothes and jewelry, all of which she puts on.

Fortunately, no one saw the whole debacle except one visiting prospective student from Sam Houston State, whom Prof. Bankruptcy dispatched quickly with her sword, saving his severed head as a prize and warning to all.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Sad Dad Bad Had

Last night I had a dinner party for an out-of-town guest and several of my friends and colleagues came over. It was a good time-- I grilled some tuna, mahi-mahi, and salmon, tried a few bottles of the Beaujulais Nouveau which came out last week, and we told some good stories. It was one of those happy, cozy, almost-the-holiday times with friends that make a long week worth it.

The dinner started at about 7, and at 10 one of the guests brought up his transportation issues, leading to this memorable discussion:

Guest B: So, did you get the other car back?
Guest A: No, it's still in the shop, so we are all using the one car.
Guest B: So how did you get here?
Guest A: My dad drove me.
Guest B: Well... isn't that your car out front?

[horrified silence as other guests realize the truth]

Guest B: You left your Dad in the car this whole time????
Guest A: He's just sitting around in the car... he likes that.

At this point, I thought Guest A might be putting us on, so I ran to the front window to look into his car.

And there was his 70-something dad, looking back at me.


Mr. Happy Cow

What should I make of the following email from "Randy Whittle?":

"Prof. Osler--

I was your student in 1984, in the class of the law. Study the law and the boy and happy of the cow. Now to work in New York, sell phone to country and the people of the land. To send me the check, reply here to this address."

It is oddly personalized to be general spam, but doesn't seem to be from anyone who actually knows me. For example, I was not teaching the class of the law in 1984; I was a college sophomore at the time.

I am interested in finding out more about the happy of the cow, though.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Could this be how Switzerland stays out of war: They can't commit?

I received another missive from Swissgirl, as follows:

"Another Honorable Mention, if you have room:

ryanlindly, for his stimulating but vaguely troubling series of haiku. I considered it, but the naked midgets paired with Chinese children was just a bit much for the imagination.

Maybe these prizes should be broken down into categories, like the Oscars:

Best Single Haiku
Best Haiku Series
Best Foreign Word Usage
Most Literary
Most Legal
Most Outrageous First Use of a Word in a Haiku
Most Baylor-esque

This is only because I resist picking one winner . . . maybe a female thing."


The Swissgirl Has Spoken!

I received the following message from "Swissgirl," who took her job as Haiku judge very seriously:

"Actually, it's a tough choice between Anonymous 3:27 and krj. I liked them both for their right-on usage of their foreign words, their clarity and larger insight, their ability to write more than one haiku that pair well together, and their relevance to what's going on at BLS.

Ultimately, I'll go with Anonymous 3:27 for his/her ability to write a nice, coherent sequence of haiku and for the double entendre in the last one.

Video duty
yet more pointless objections
thinking: seppuku.

I wonder about
the professors' stamina
an endless ordeal

Just one quarter left
then my nightmare is over
but then they repeat

I wonder how much
I would consider enough
to do this daily

Sitting here thinking:
if she objects one more time
I will lose my mind.

KRJ is the runner-up, a VERY CLOSE second, for his/her use of 'estoppel' and 'ennui' in a nice bit of assonance. (This is the 'winning' one, but the second is a nice, lowbrow contrast to it.)

estoppel by deed
I purport to convey that
ennui overwhelms

4:24 PM

Tex-Mex fills my gut
margaritas, Coronas
Tia's tortillas

4:28 PM

Honorable mention goes to:
--Carver, for making me look up 'meshugine' (Yiddish for 'crazy' or 'foolish');
--Stef the Pef and Micah, for their notable first use of words in a haiku. There should really be a
separate category for this. (Stef the Pef for 'Puffalumps' and Micah for 'Malt-O-Meal.')

Sorry, Micah; you don't get to belly up to the bar and order beers yet, even if you are (partly) in Texas."

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Constructive and Destructive

Baylor People:

I really love Baylor, and I'm very protective of the people and institutions that I love. If you want to hurt Baylor, I'm not going to help you.

Loving something doesn't mean pretending that it is perfect, and we have some stuff to work on. From my perspective, that starts with my own role in the institution. I'm doing my best in my classes to teach well. I mess up sometimes-- I'm inefficient, the reading assignments sometimes require detective skills to find the relevant parts, often during lectures I jet off on a tangent, and I'm a novice at writing tests. I do some outside work, too, an area that some people seem concerned about. That falls into two groups: Sometimes I teach continuing legal education or take federal panel cases. For that work, I make $90/hour. That constitutes about 1/4 of my outside work. The rest is pro bono, and includes (in the last year) civil rights litigation and sentencing appellate work. In my outside work, I have students working with me for independent study credit. It's not very lucrative in terms of money, but I do think that it is lucrative in the sense of promoting the school, keeping current in my area of study, and involving students in a high level of legal discourse.

Feel free to critique my teaching; I'm open to that, and have learned a lot from students in the past. However, don't ask me to either critique or comment on any other prof's teaching methods. I know this much-- that we have an extremely strong faculty. I respect my colleagues, enjoy working with them, and know how hard they work. I think we were extremely fortunate to bring in the four new profs we recruited this year-- I'm proud to know each one of them. If you have a problem with a teaching method they employ, raise it with them.

Want some perspective? At Yale Law, I had a prof schedule classes for 8 am on Saturday morning. I had a prof stand me up for nearly the full hour because I had broken a minor rule. There may even have been a professor who walked out on a class in frustration (though I don't remember being in such a class). I can't say that this happens at every school or most schools, but I do know that similar things happened there, and that people got wigged out by it. The picture to the right is of Yale Law's "Free Speech Wall" where students posted their grievances (and still do). Even at such a privileged place, people felt aggrieved, and sometimes they were right (just as sometimes the grievances of Baylor students have been correct).

Please note, however, that my blog is not a free speech wall. It has my name on it, and a picture of someone who looks kind of like me. I won't let it be used as a place to tear down people I am close to, as opposed to legitimate and constructive ideas for change.

Baylor Law is a place we share. If you want to change it for the better (and I am one person who wants to change some things), there are positive and negative ways to do it. If in the end your goal is to make it better, I'm probably with you. If your goal is to hurt something I love and believe in, I'm not.


Calling Europe... Europe, are you there?

Swissgirl, it is your job to pick the winner of yesterday's haiku contest. You have many fine entries to choose from!

As for me, I'm all about the University of Michigan today. I never went there, but in the state of Michigan you are assigned at birth an allegiance to either Michigan or Michigan State, and my birth certificate clearly says "Michigan."

It is also the Harvard-Yale game today. Back in law school, I loved going to the "The Game," if for no other reason to see women in fur coats waiting in line to use a port-a-potty.

At 11, I'm attending the BU-Oklahoma game-- I'll be the one wearing maize and blue.

Friday, November 17, 2006



Oh, yes you are ready for some haiku. Oh, yeah. This week's prize is either last week's prize (the photo of two Baylor Law Professors in silly clothes) or maybe an evening at Chapter 11 with Bates and me. Actually, we put that for sale at a charity auction several years ago, and someone bought it for $75. The winner, a fetching humanities prof., did get her money's worth in red-hot intellectual badinage.

If you are a blogger, feel free to cross-blog; that is, put your haiku here and on your own blog.

The suggestion for this week is that you put at least one foreign word into your haiku, which still must follow the form of 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables.

So, here is my haiku for the week:

Fahrenholdt told us
We must now call it "The Skunge,"
Not "marijuana."

[Note that I am counting "marijuana" as a foreign word, which I learned this week it truly is]

UPDATE: I see that the mention of Chapter 11 has generated some speculation. I suppose that whether that prize is available would depend on who the winner was. For example, if IPLawGuy wins (46-year-old partner at Holland and Knight), no problems. If Micah wins (5th grader), problem.


Beer Pong

Swanburg recently posted about Beer Pong. For a great thread on Baylor History which devolves into a debate over Beer Pong, eventually swerving into a description of kittenball, click here.

Intriguingly, I originally typed the title of this post as "Peer Bong," which probably exists somewhere in acadamia (but NOT at Baylor. Officially. That I know of.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Another repressed memory

There is probably a reason that I have not allowed this one to surface...

When I was about 16, I took my kinda-girlfriend, a sophomore I had inexplicably nicknamed "Stan," down to a concert in downtown Detroit. Taking a girl to downtown Detroit wasn't necessarily as bad as it sounds to an outsider, but it did have some risks, such as being attacked by terrifying strangers, which is exactly what happened.

As we walked up to the concert, a mime suddenly ran up to my girlfriend, took her arm, and started doing that goofy exaggerated walk that mimes do. I turned around, saw them, and ran for it-- I have always been terrified by mimes.

Needless to say, that story made the rounds at high school, and I probably deserved the ridicule, but... I still think mimes are evil.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Whee! It's Wii!

Some people are getting a little over-excited about the launch of Nintendo's new Wii (pronounced "Weh") gaming system on November 19. Of course, with any new system it is the games that really matter, and it sounds like Nintendo is really bringing out some blockbusters. Here are a few of the games they have lined up:

1. Luigi's Tax Master 2005

If you are still working on your 2005 taxes, this "fun" and "educational" game will help you find all the available deductions with the aid of a master plumber.

2. John Madden's Find the Remote 2006

Video fave John Madden has lost his remote control! You are cast in the role of Madden's lackey as you have to search his filthy tour bus for the lost remote control. It may be in an old pizza box, a pair of enormous underpants, or even under Madden himself! The audio features Madden's voice barking out directions and threats. Also guest-stars Bobby Knight and Dom Deluise as Madden's visiting friends.

3. Lego Borat

Following up on the success of Lego's Star Wars games, now Lego has transformed the cast of the hit movie "Borat" into mini-figures who re-enact all the scenes in the movie. Fun for kids of all ages!

4. Grand Theft Auto 5: Homemaker!

The latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto series allows you to take on the role of Martha Stewart, who has a host of demonic financial and culinary tricks up her sleeve. If you advance to level 12, you are allowed to take on Donald Trump and three of his ex-wives.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Drug Day in Crim Prac Got a Little Mayhemic...

I really can't describe it. Basically, I completely lost control of the class, which ended with a student standing up front waving my pen around and quoting from an open copy of William S. Burroughs' "Junkie."

And no, I'm not making that up.


Exploding Myths about the League of Women Voters

My talk this evening to the League of Women Voters was pretty fun-- well, as fun as a forty-minute speech about habeas corpus can be. If you are into that sort of thing, which I am.

I did find that many of my ideas about the League of Women Voters were flat-out wrong. Each of the following beliefs turned out to be a myth:

Myth 1: The League is only for women.

Apparently, I AM eligible to be in the League of Women Voters-- the name is just wrong.

Myth 2: The League is a satanic cabal obsessed with world domination.Again, not true. The League, according to my sources, is dedicated to the downfall of bad government practices and stuff like that, but they seemed a little miffed at the suggestion that they might be a satanic cabal. One offended women rebuffed this theory by saying that "I don't think satanic cabals have their meetings at Gratziano's in Waco." A point well taken.

Myth 3: The League is run by Charlton Heston and/or two superheroes named Ace and Gary.

I asked about this. They denied the Heston connection (that is some other organization) and pretended to have never heard of Ace and Gary, which was kind of suspicious.

Myth 4: The League is a competitive sports league with fighting, like the National Hockey League.

From what I am told, this is not true for most of the chapters, particularly in the south. The woman I talked to about this agreed that there may be hockey-style fights in some of the Minnesota chapters, though. I am sending away for some video just to check.


It was a very very long day

It's after midnight and time for bed, and I'm glad to leave this day behind. For some reason, it was full of disappointment at every turn-- like I had my bad-luck charm on or something.

The good news is that tomorrow is going to be very different. I'm looking forward to "drug day" in criminal practice. It almost seems like people want to talk about these things, and that makes it all easier. Then, in the evening, I'm giving a lecture to the League of Women Voters! I'm pretty excited about that-- this is a group that I am ineligible for, and thus it seems exotic and glorious. Think about it... a club defined by the fact that they vote. What's cooler than that, especially the week after an election where the power of voting was shown so clearly?

My topic is habeas corpus, which like voting itself is somewhat mysterious, powerful, and rooted in ancient social structures we now find hard to comprehend. I love that whiff of history in the law, the old stories that still define our world. I think tomorrow I may meet some kindred souls in that regard.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Winner, winner, Wienerschnitzel dinner!

P. Rico has ruled, and his ruling is final. The winner of last week's Haiku contest was Swissgirl, for this entry:

Things change and change back;
Twelve years one, twelve the other;
Sounds like Yeats, not Bush.

Congratulations, Swissgirl. The impressive literary allusion to Yeats and his devices put you over the top.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Haiku Update

I ran into last week's haiku winner, P. Rico, at the Lady Bears' basketball game this afternoon. He has agreed to be the judge for Friday's entries. The prize is really special: A framed photo of two Baylor Law profs in silly clothes. Trust me, this is something anyone would be proud to have.


Can I get a pocket part?

Something exciting is happening in the staid world of law reviews. More and more journals are starting web-only versions which provide quicker turn-around, greater relevance to the real world, and shorter pieces. To see a good example, check this out.

Probably, these are transition journals-- a step between the paper-based world of the past, and the electronic world of the future (and present). It will change the way people like me write, and the things we write about, and that is a good thing. Some things, like baking bread, are best done the old way. And some old ways will fall away.


More blather about fairness

I woke up thinking some more about principles, and why fairness isn't in my top three. Those three (as I defined them in PR) were humility, honesty, & engagement.

First off, most principles aren't absolute. To me, though, humility is close to an absolute value-- I can't imagine a situation where it is not called for. Honesty is close, but not absolute-- if you save others in wartime through a lie to the enemy, that may be a virtuous lie. There are also limits to engagement as a lawyer, which we talked about-- such as withdrawal if there is a conflict, and not revealing confidential information to another client.

Fairness (again, defined as treating similarly situated people equally) is much further away from an absolute value for me. As a Christian, it means something to me that a principle value of the faith, mercy, is usually unfair. That is, to show mercy to a person is to give them an unearned advantage. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard at Matthew 20 seems to speak directly to this, albeit in the context of man's relation to God.

With fairness, it comes down to balancing equality with the cost of equality. If treating TOC team members equally means that the school can't send PC students to the Tournament of Champions, then it isn't worth that cost. Of course, I do need to make things as equal as possible, and I will try to do that. Compare that with, say, racial discrimination-- there is no social gain from allowing such discrimination, and fairness in the form of barring such discrimination should prevail.

In PR, I tried to show that the values aren't absolute by presenting them as queries-- important questions-- as opposed to lines which cannot be crossed. I'm not capable of providing guiding principles that will always be directive. The best I can do is provide a guide on when to be troubled and pay attention.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


The Value of Fairness

In a comment to the last post, an anonymous student complained that two members of Prof. Powell's TOC team got to take the PR test late (they were in competition at the time the test was given, then there was no time to give it this past week when both they and I were available). The gist of the complaint was that this is not fair, and Anonymous further suggested that "fairness" should be as important as the virtues of honesty, engagement, and humility that I emphasized in PR class.

First of all, if the worst thing about my PR class was that a few people got the test rescheduled, I did way better than I thought I did (personally, I can think of several things I need to do differently next time). As for fairness...

It would seem that Anonymous has a view of "fairness" that requires that similarly situated people (ie, those in the PR class) be treated the same regardless of individual circumstances (ie, the TOC tournament happening the same time as the exam). To me, there are some real problems with such a view of fairness. Coincidentally, I am right now working on a Supreme Court brief that argues against basically that definition of fairness-- in short, I am arguing that judges should be given greater discretion in sentencing rather than being held strictly to the limits of the sentencing guidelines. Obviously, that sense of fairness is not something I find to be as important as some other values.

It's not that I ignore the idea of fairness generally or think it isn't a positive value. One way I'm aware of it is that I have been unfairly advantaged in many ways-- I was lucky to be born into a relatively affluent home where my parents read a lot and read to me; I was able to go to good schools when others were not; and my few talents are overvalued in our society. Being the recipient of such unfairnesses, I do feel a special obligation to the society that advantages me in that way. It's funny, but I gave a little speech to my own mock trial team about exactly this issue of obligation: That they had an obligation to perform well for the many hard-working students who were back in Waco taking tests. The gist of it was that the world doesn't know how hard Baylor students work in PC, and the team had an obligation to make that known through the competition.

In the end, there is some unfairness I care deeply about. For example, there seems to be something profoundly unfair about the way in which education is provided for poor kids vs. rich kids. I think there are profound unfairnesses in the federal sentencing guidelines, and I try to do something about that. As for letting Prof. Powell's TOC team take the test late... If that is the injustice that truly bothers you among the problems of the world, you are just going to have to live with it.


I'm thinking that may have been a bad plan...

Since Baylor Law students often at least appear to be surprisingly uninformed about illegal narcotics, I devote a class to the subject and assign students different drugs to report on. This particular criminal practice class seems particularly enthusiastic about the project-- I'm not used to people yelling "Yes!" when they hear they need to study marijuana or heroin. I look forward to the adventure Tuesday will be. I suspect that at least one student will show up in costume. Hoo boy.

And I worry what research they will do for the upcoming class on drunk driving.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Haiku Friday! Get in the pool!

It is haiku Friday! No topic this week, since so much has happened (including the election to Congress of the lead singer of the band Orleans). Pick your own. BUT-- there is a fabulous prize: A framed photo of two Baylor Law Profs wearing silly clothes.

Here is my own entry:

Some pan-fried chickens
And a side dish of squirrel
Osler reunion!

Obviously, I still have food on my mind.

Place your own entry lovingly in the comments section. The recipe, as always, is 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I'm calling you out, IPLawGuy

As noted in my earlier post, politics is NOT something I know a lot about. However, I do know some people who know a lot about politics, and one of them is IPLawGuy, who worked on the Hill for several years and has his ear to the ground in Republican circles.

So, IPLawGuy-- As one of the most politically astute people I know, what do you make of the elections? And what will happen in 2008?

[And please please please do not put your response in the form of a haiku]


Testing and Tribulations

I'm sitting here grading exams, and thinking about exams in general. As some of you know, in most of my classes I no longer give the traditional end-of-the-quarter final. My reasoning for this is that it tests a skill (memorizing a huge number of facts for four days) that has very little application in the real world. I have tried, where appropriate, to shift to a series of exercises including a take-home exam that is going to require realistic legal analysis.

Many, if not most, of my students go on to be prosecutors, and I am often struck by the fact that those hiring for prosecutor positions often tell me that they don't care much about grades-- and even that they find that many of the best prosecutors are those well down in their law school class. Is this an indication of how poorly traditional testing correlates to the skills we are trying to create in a professional school?


Election Reflections

I had a brief conversation with Chicago down on the first floor today. He seemed dispirited. Trying to cheer him up, I mentioned that a gridlocked government is as close as we will get for a while to a smaller government. He seemed slightly cheered.

In thinking about the election, I'm going to limit my comments to that extremely limited area in which I actually know something:

1) The MCC bond issue passed.

McLennan Community College is a very good institution. Some of the people I know who teach there, including Dann Walker and Ashley Cruseturner, are among the best teachers I have ever listened to. I really believe that as much as we need institutions like Yale Law School, we also need MCC, and for much the same reason-- to challenge and train people who will be doing important work in the future.

2) Chet Edwards won.

I think that Chet Edwards is a fundamentally decent person. The same may be true of Van Taylor; I just don't know. It makes me glad that Chet Edwards is going back to Congress and representing me. By the way, I'm told that he doesn't like being referred to as "Ched Edwards," or being mistaken for Mayor McCheese. Oops. Sorry, man.

3) The House Judiciary Committee will no longer be run by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Much of the oversight of federal sentencing comes from the House Judiciary Committee. Under Rep. Sensenbrenner, it has been the source of increasingly unrealistic and poorly-conceived proposed legislation, such as the conversion of the sentencing guidelines to a broad system of mandatory minimum sentences. The new chair will be Rep. John Conyers of Detroit. While he is disliked by some (and never answers my letters), I'm optimistic that he will refrain from any broad changes in federal sentencing not supported by the experts in the field, particularly those at the US Sentencing Commission.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Ladies and Gentlemen, I have election results...

The voting has concluded for the winner of last week's haiku contest. The Second Runner-Up is IPLawGuy, for his entry, "Hot Baby Spit-Up." First Runner-Up was Anonymous, for his/her entry, "Freudian Slip." Our winner, P. Rico, penned this bit of gentle social observation:

"Seven umbrellas
I buy one each time it rains
Must be with stray socks."

My congratulations, and a treasured (duplicate) photo of Baylor students smoking in Atlanta, go to P. Rico.


There seems to be a problem with the voting machine...

I'm going to close up the poll on the haiku competition at 5 today, so get your votes in now. It seems that there is some malfunction with the software, so that the poll plasters itself over the posts if you are using an Apple computer (as I do at home), and I can't take it much longer.

In the real elections, I voted last week. I love voting-- I would do it several times if I could, like they do in Chicago.


It's time for some repressed memories!

It's about 6ish in the morning, and I woke up in the middle of a very odd dream. I was trying to catch Brian McKinney, a Baylor freshman who sold me a set of Cutco knives, with a net. I was mostly unsuccessful, since the net was very small and he was fending me off with two large handbells.

Which reminded me that in starting this blog, I promised all of you "Musings, rants, recipes, repressed memories, haiku, and drivel." Let's do a quick inventory:

Musings-- check.
Rants-- oh, yes.
Recipes-- a couple, anyways.
Haiku-- an inexplicably large amount of haiku.
Drivel-- a truckful.
Repressed memories-- not a one.

Fortunately, the McKinney/net episode did bring up a memory I have successfully repressed to this point. When I was in grade school, my parents employed a witch as our babysitter. By that, I don't mean that she was mean (she was quite kind), but that she actually practiced witchcraft-- she took lessons in it. One day, the witch took my brother and I to see the movie "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang," which featured a terrifying character, the "Kid Catcher," who captured children in a big net. I was really scared of the kid catcher, and it kind of ruined the movie. My Mom was supposed to pick us up after the movie (the witch was only 15), so we were standing outside the theater waiting and secretly fearing the kid catcher when the town's dog catcher pulled up in his caged truck. We didn't have time to run before he came out of the truck and asked "are you the Oslers?"

As it turns out, my Mom's car had broken down and the police had sent the dog catcher to get us-- but believe me, we were NOT easy to catch.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I like to watch

The first day of Criminal Practice was great, at least from my perspective. Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard came over from the theater department to discuss the play we read, and she was so much better than I was at explaining it that I felt well-educated when she was done.

Is it a bad sign that when people come and speak in my class and I sit and watch, I find it so much more interesting than when I speak? Uh, don't answer that....


You choose the winner!

The last few weeks I have chosen the winner of the haiku contest, but this week I am leaving it to you, the readers. The poll should appear just to the left of this message. Intriguingly, our finalists include a Baylor freshman, a partner at Holland & Knight, a member of the Gatos street gang in LA, and, uh, a Swiss girl.

The winner will receive this week's prize, a framed photo of Baylor law students smoking outside a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


That was more like MLB than Rookie League...

In an extremely well-done final (on both sides), Baylor won the SMU mock trial tournament yesterday by beating an excellent squad from the South Texas College of Law. The tournament, which was designed for students who had not previously participated in mock trial competitions, was extremely well-run, and our thanks go out to the organizers, including Randy Block of Performance Legal Placement in Dallas.

The team included Jas Brar, Ryan Fowler, Darren Indermill, Linda Jegermanis, Brandon Lewis, Martha May, Lauren Melhart and Jennifer Seale. Gordon Davenport did most of the coaching (and the eating).

In the final, Jennifer Seale and Jas Brar outdueled South Texas with the aid of Lauren Melhart (as an alcoholic, stoner 7-11 clerk) and Linda Jegermanis (as a grizzled veteran cop with a dark secret).


Food and Loathing in Dallas

Things have gone well in Dallas. The team has a round against Univ. of Houston this morning, and if they win they probably will be in the finals this afternoon. They have done an excellent job.

On the other hand, I have been somewhat of an oaf. Last night we went out to dinner at Oceanaire, a wonderful seafood restaurant north of town. At the conclusion of the meal, I was expressing some amazement at GED3's awesome "I passed the bar" personal intake, which consisted of:

- various vegetables
- a towering array of appetizers, including a lobster
- a tray of escargot
- two slices of bread, with butter
- a crab cake,
- a 10 oz filet mignon, served with
- yet another whole lobster
- scalloped potatoes au gratin
- asparagus
- shells and cheese
- baked alaska
- fudge brownie
- ice cream
- creme brulee, and
- (some claimed) part of Martha May's napkin.

It really was an awesome display of eating prowess. At the end of my oral summary of his meal, I offered up my pretty-good impression of Fat Albert's catchphrase, a throaty (and maybe too loud) "Hey-heyyyy-heeyyyyy!"

The problem was that right as I delivered this (and without my noticing), the woman at the next table had gotten up and started to leave the restaurant. It appears that I let loose with my too-loud "Hey-heyyyy-heeyyyyy!" at the precise moment she began walking. As she passed, she gave me the most incredible, thorough, horrified look of disgust I have ever received. It was a Hall-of-Fame look of disgust, the kind that can only be delivered by a 40ish Dallas socialite who has just been given the Fat Albert treatment in a nice restaurant.

I kind of hoped that I was the only one who saw that look, but... well, there's a few students who now will have some quality material for discussions of cloddish professors.

The ironic, and perhaps scary, thing is that the woman who shot me "The Look" was in great shape (you probably have seen the type)-- tall, straight blond hair, angular, carrying at most 125 pounds over a 5' 10" frame presented in a silk shirt and tights. I'm pretty sure she has been on a treadmill continuously since "The Look," guessing my name and then cursing it.

So, here's to you, near-anorexic Dallas socialite who will relive that moment in her nightmares!

And, to the enterprising Baylor student who immediately captured my Fat Albert impersonation to use as a cell phone ringtone.

Friday, November 03, 2006


It's Haiku Friday!

It is, indeed, Haiku Friday. Perhaps you are done with your work week, or with finals-- what makes for a better celebration than an elegant haiku? Here is mine:

This knife is so sharp
Or the steak is so tender,
It cuts like butter.

Oh, yes-- the prize for this week is a beautiful picture of Baylor Law students smoking cigarettes in Atlanta, Georgia. Believe me, this will become a prized heirloom.

Enter your own haiku in the comments section below. Remember the rule-- 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, 5 for the third.

Thursday, November 02, 2006



Does anyone else think that the guiding principle behind architecture in Dallas is an apparent need to attract alien spacecraft? Every building seems to have swirling lights or some pattern designed to pull in extraterrestrials. The restaurants are good, though. That would attract me if I was from a different planet. Tonight, the team is going to Bob's for steaks. I figure if you are going to eat a steak, it is best to eat one cooked by someone named "Bob."


A Pre-Apology and a Promise

Things move fast! The new quarter starts on Monday. I am off to Dallas today with my mock trial team, so I will miss commencement, and I apologize to the graduates. I really love graduation, and especially the part where I get to meet parents. It explains a lot. At least, people say that when they meet my parents.

As for the promise, I think I am going to be able to get one of the best teachers at Baylor, Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard, to help out with my first day of Criminal Practice on Monday. If you are in the class, make sure to pick up the reading, which is available on the 3d floor or here. Dr. Toten-Beard is one of the people I try to be like in my approach to teaching, and I'm very excited she will be visiting on Monday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Something else new...

Uber-Blogger Doug Berman of Ohio State has started a new blog on law school innovation, and has signed me up as a co-editor. Give it a look, and you will see (among other things) how innovative our program already is, especially in continuing the engagement of students through the third year.


Yet Another Halloween Fiasco

I wish I could say that my Halloween costume ("Inappropriate Bear") worked out really well, but it all ended badly. Next year, I'm just going to go ahead and dress as Bob Seger.

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