Wednesday, September 30, 2009


So, what should professors wear to work?

As I have mentioned before, one of the joys of my job is that there is no uniform. My colleagues sport a variety of styles, from the simple jeans-and-t-shirt look to the full suit.

For those of you who are or have been students, at Baylor or elsewhere, what do you think is a good look for a professor?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Hey! That went ok...

My three-hour presentation this afternoon to the school of social work and Waco's social work community went pretty well, I think. The first hour was about ethics, principles, and art; the second hour was about negotiation; and the third hour was about pandas.

I was very much impressed by the audience, composed of people I greatly admire. Social workers do the good work of holding families, communities, and individual lives together, and few people go into that vocation for the money. They made for a wonderful audience that often surprised me and impressed me with their reactions to what I had to say, and in the end it was three hours very well spent (at least for me).


Time on Location in Detroit

Razor Buddy Campbell Warner tipped me off to the fact that Time Magazine is spending a year on location in Detroit-- well, at least several reporters are. The results are impressive.

They are going all the way, too:

This summer the editors at Time Inc. did something a little out of the ordinary for us or, frankly, for anybody: we bought a house in Detroit. As houses go, it's nice enough — three stories, five bedrooms, 3½ baths with a yard and a basement. We paid $99,000, about $80,000 above the average price of a house in the city limits.

I intend to keep a close eye on this experiment.

Monday, September 28, 2009



It looks like Baylor quarterback (and leading candidate for the Baylor Presidency, I think) Robert Griffin III is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. This is bad news for Baylor.

This also means that returning to a starting role will be Blake Szymanski. A Senior, Szymanski was the starter for his sophomore year (before Griffin arrived) and racked up impressive passing numbers in an offensive scheme which pretty much did nothing but pass the ball.

Unfortunately, as shown in the picture, Szymanski is handicapped by having a small dog growing out of his midsection. While he has described this dog as "his biggest cheerleader and fan," it does slow him down and make him easier to tackle.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Knowing

There are three kinds of people:

1) Those who believe there is a God.
2) Those who don't know (or who haven't thought about) whether there is a God or not.
3) Those who believe there is not a God.

I am in the first group. I believe there is a God for three reasons. First, I do think there must have been a "first mover" to set this universe into motion. Second, there is a morality in whole within the teachings of Christ about God that resound within me as true. Third, I sense that there is an internal consistency (for example, the connection between math and music) within this universe which reflects a creator.

Certainly, my beliefs are not the type that I can insist someone else adopt as inescapably true in their own opinion and experience. That is, my truths are mostly subjective, and I acknowledge that-- but my subjective perspective is all that I have.

What group are you in, and why?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Football Saturday with Vic the Demon

Today the Baylor Bears are at home against Northwestern Louisiana, whose mascot is the infamous Vic the Demon.

I'm hoping to avoid my sartorial error of three years ago. That, and I hope that the Bears win. Also, I'm hoping that the mascots get in a fight, and that it gets downloaded to Youtube. Those are pretty much my goals for the day.


Poem #423: Ghosts of New York

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

There was a line by a bus,
A lengthening crowd at dusk
To see the “Ghosts of New York”—
Old men with scary beards.

I did not join the line.

My ghost of New York is
There as I walk into the Park
Her hand brushes mine,
So I take it, entwined.

I tell the ghost about
The chocolate I have
At most special times
So we go, especial, glowing, tall
My bouncing step,
Her white skirt.

This leaf,
Light as a pencil:
Don’t go.

If there was a line, a bus,
For futureghosts,
It would wrap around
The world and again;
We all would pay
To know the joys
To come.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Haiku Friday: Fall Saturdays

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I have always felt like I am guided by the academic calendar, even when I was not a student or teacher, and the weather is great.

In the fall, it is Saturdays that define us. The early-morning run, football, homecomings... it all happens on Saturdays. So, let's haiku about that.

Here is mine:

We were the Norsemen
Running young over gold leaves
Happy on the bus.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: America's role in the world

In his speech to the United Nations this week, President Obama said “those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.”

This sounds like a hint that the Obama administration will spend less of America's wealth projecting power oversees via the military. To me, this is a good thing. I think it is also a conservative position-- one that calls for a smaller government and more controlled spending. I wish that such conservatism extended to domestic spending.

Should the United States spend less money policing the world?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Dream Life?

One of my trusted friends who, like me, used to be an associate at a large law firm forwarded a fascinating piece circulating around the internet (for what it is worth, my friend and I both generally enjoyed our time at a big firm, though we both later found more fulfilling jobs). The article surveys the lives of big-firm associates. Below is a snippet. You can read the whole thing here.

LAW-FIRM VETERANS AGREE THAT A Career in a large firm, once the crown jewel of the profession, has fallen victim to an obsession with the bottom line.

“A lot of us hate ourselves for what we’ve become,” one soon-to-retire big-firm partner tells me as we look out the floor-to- ceiling windows in his K Street office. “We no longer recognize the practice of law as we knew it. I’d never want my kids to lead the life I’ve led.”

He adds, “See those trinkets?” He points to a shelf lined with glass-encased corporate icons and other memorabilia clients have given him. “Each of those reminds me of another slice of my family’s life that went to pot because I had to stay holed up at work.”

In the 1970s, associates billed about 1,400 hours a year; in the 1980s, 1,800 was the target at even the largest firms. But at today’s Latham & Watkins, billing 2,300 hours is typical, and 3,000 hardly raises eyebrows.

Some of what lawyers do all day — using the restroom, dealing with firm bureaucracy, explaining to spouses why they can’t come home for dinner — doesn’t count, so billing 2,300 can translate into working 3,000 hours or more. For many attorneys, that means getting home after 9 PM most weekdays and working weekends too. And it’s not just for a short hazing period but month after month, year after year — for some, decade after decade.

One young Latham partner says, “Becoming a partner here is like winning an ice-cream-eating contest where the prize is a lifetime supply of more ice cream.”

I would appreciate the thoughts of my readers, many of whom work for firms. Anonymous comments on this topic are welcome.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Next up: The World of Social Work

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

A week from today, I'm going to enjoy a new challenge: A three-hour ethics workshop for Waco's social workers, through Baylor's excellent school of social work. The event is that school's annual Dyer Ethics Lecture. I'm eager and a little scared, like wading into the ocean at night: the subject is known but the context is not.

I'll be speaking to a group of people I greatly admire. I'm from a family of social workers. My mother works regularly at a social service agency as a volunteer, while both of my siblings have a Masters degree in social work and have worked in a variety of positions in that field. I know what social workers do, and realize that much of it is beyond my abilities.

At one point in my life, I was an associate at a large law firm in Detroit. I was living with my brother, who was working at a hospice for AIDS patients at a time when people with AIDS simply died; that was the only outcome the diagnosis promised. He came home in the evening and we would talk, but we did not talk about our work. We talked about almost anything else, actually. From my perspective, I did not want to talk about spending my day doing discovery on seat belt retractors. From his, I think, there was just too much pain.

Of course, he is my brother. He did not have to tell me much about work. Knowing that all of his clients, the people he worked with every day, that he watched each of them die in turn... he did not have to tell me. Brothers are like that.

I look forward to speaking to the social workers. It will be good; I am committed to that by love and blood.

Monday, September 21, 2009


What? Luby's?

Apparently, Waco's own Luby's cafeteria has closed. I'm not sure why, but that kind of makes me sad.


Chet Garner, the Austin Daytripper

Not long ago, Chet Garner graduated at the top of his class at Baylor Law School. Now, he is entering the world of media with his new TV show, the Austin Daytripper, which will start in October.

You gotta love the clip-- anything that includes the Health Camp has to be great!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Jewish and Christian Henotheism

I need church. One reason I need it is that I really learn something every week, and often what I learn changes the way I think in a significant way. This morning, I had one of those moments in Sunday School. As is often true, Lynn Tatum was the one who put something out there in an "... as you already know" aside, which of course I did not know.

Religions, I have always thought, are either polytheistic or monotheistic. It turns out that things are more complicated than that, and that there are at least three types:

1) Polytheistic religions recognize and allow for the worship of more than one God.

2) Henotheistic religions recognize more than one God, but allow the worship of only one God.

3) Monotheistic religions recognize only one God.

I have always thought of Judaism and Christianity as monotheistic religions. However, the ancient Jews seem to have been henotheistic-- they viewed their God as superior but sometimes in conflict with other Gods. Even the Ten Commandments seems to recognize this: They direct not that there is only one God, but that Jews worship no other Gods above Yahweh. (In our modern version, it translates as "have no other Gods above me").

In our own time, many Christians often speak in henotheistic terms. That is, they worship God but also recognize the existence of Satan, who is described as having power that are those of a God: supernatural abilities to create evil.

Does this more complex view challenge the way we think about our faith? Should it?

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Bring on the Huskies!

Where I grew up, it wasn't so great to be known as a "Husky," since husky sizes in boys' clothes were for overweight kids (I think the girls' equivalent was "Chubby" sizes). Today, Baylor plays the UConn Huskies, many of whom are pretty big. (For those who may be wondering, female UConn teams are not known as the "Chubbies").

There are many challenges facing UConn this week:

-- it is the longest road trip the team has made in years
-- their starting quarterback is hurt, as is at least one other key player
-- the team has been ravaged by the flu, which took down the second-string quarterback, among others
-- UConn is recovering from a tough 12-10 loss to UNC last week, while Baylor had a bye week
-- It will be very hot, something Texans are used to in September
-- They have a surprising number of players from Greenwich and environs

All of which means they will out perform expectations, I suspect. If their third-string QB, a freshman, gets to start, he will be motivated to make this his break-out game. UConn is well-coached and surprisingly deep at key positions. I just hope that Baylor is focused on this game, and not believing the hype.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Haiku Friday: Being annoying

You know what I find really annoying? I mean, totally, out-of-my-gourd annoying? Is when people inexplicably call me "Herbert." I'm not sure why this happens, but it does:

Today, we shall haiku about things that annoy. Cell phones, bugs, Brett Favre's last name, infomercials, whatever.

I shall go first:

I am not Herbert!
And are you wearing a dress?
Back to your planet!

Now, it is your turn...

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Is it fair to charge smokers more for health care?

Yesterday, Sen. Max Baucus released details of his health insurance reform proposal, which is now at the center of the health care debate.

One aspect of that plan is that it would allow insurers to charge smokers 50% more than they do similarly situated individuals, even when offering group insurance. On its face, this makes perfect sense, as smokers are far more unhealthy than the rest of us, and choose to have this condition. The choosing part distinguishes smoking from other health risks which are part of our genetic predisposition, such as a history of breast cancer in a family. Why not charge those who choose to be unhealthy more than the rest of us?

One reason not to charge smokers more has to do with income. Smokers tend to be poor and uneducated. The effect of this disparity would be to charge more to those who can least afford it. In other words, it would be regressive relative to income.

My view is that the problems of being poor and uneducated are compounded by smoking and the health issues that result. Choosing to smoke, for example, almost guarantees that you will not be around for as much of your child's life as you would be otherwise. If you cannot afford to smoke and have health insurance, you should quit smoking. Certain freedoms are expensive, and smoking enough cigarettes that you miss your child's graduation should be one of them. The fact is that the result will be that the wealthy will have one more benefit the poor do not enjoy-- that is, to both smoke and have health insurance. In my mind, that unfairness is a net benefit if the result is that more people quit smoking.

I'm sure there will be those who disagree. That's why I have a comments section!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Credit for falling on his sword... (so to speak)

Yesterday I cut DiaDelKendall from my blogroll, since he hadn't posted anything since July 12. Well, he's back. Why, you ask?

Because he redeemed himself with this horrifying post about his 13-year figure skating career.

[Actually, we hockey players had a very secret respect for figure skaters since they (1) were actually really good at skating, and (2) spent a lot more time with girls in swirly little skirts than we did]


Another bearish video from Philley...

Now a short quiz on this video:

1) Why do his teammates sit so far away from the bear?
2) What song is the bear playing on the trumpet?
3) What position does the bear play?
4) How would this bear do in Practice Court?


New Blood!

As promised, I have sifted some of the deadwood out of my blogroll, and put in some new listings. Intriguingly, some of the deadwood bloggers explained why they fell away from the craft. The first three explanations (which can be reviewed in the comments section to the previous post): (1) I lost the password, (3) I spend too much time crying, and (3) my house blew up (which is the "unpleasantness" Tyd refers to).

Here are some of the new links to check out:

-- Wendy Does Waco: Law School Buddy Wendy Gragg's insights on everything.
-- Carl Hoover: Carl (my hero of writing) reports on what's up in Waco.
-- Amy the Law Student: Finally! A new student blog!
-- Baylor Proud: Good stuff about Baylor.
-- Walter Reaves: A local leader in criminal law and Innocence Project honcho.
-- Chet Garner's Austin Daytripper: A Baylor Law grad's amazing new tv show.
-- Prof. Wilson: My colleague and deacon is back to blogging! It's a spicy melange of controversy and intrigue, too. Well, that and parenting tips.

Please let me know if there is more I should add...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Bring out your blogs!

It's time to cull my blogroll again-- some of the blogs listed there have sadly fallen into desuetude, and others have descended into either stock tips or soft-core porn.

I am more than happy to list any new Baylor Law blogs, and am also open to those from others in Waco. For example, I plan to link to a few of the Waco Trib blogs, including those by Wendy Gragg and Carl Hoover.

In other news, I am happy to introduce the new Razor Mascot, Bloggy:

Monday, September 14, 2009


The Look

My dad painted this guy, and I'm pretty sure why-- he has a compelling look. It's probably some other artist in France or a historical figure (or both), but it doesn't matter; what captured my dad's eye was the effect of his image. The fuzzy guy in the painting was trying for a certain look, too... you don't grow a beard like that without intending it to be there at the end of the day.

For most of us, our look is at best accidental. We have a vague sense of needing to fairly decent-appearing, of fitting into some sense of what society expects. Rarely or never do we cultivate what could be called a "style." Shoot, I still haven't really figured out what I am supposed to wear to work!

Would the world be a better place if more people cultivated a personal sense of style?

Sunday, September 13, 2009



When I was in high school, I went through the confirmation program at my church. My studies related to that, though, led me to an unusual conclusion: I didn't just want to be confirmed, but I wanted to be baptized by immersion. That was the method of Christ and his followers to make real the choice they were making, and it is what I wanted to do to reflect that same adult choice.

No one in my church had ever been baptized by immersion, so my pastor was somewhat taken aback by the request. He was an older and quite scholarly Congregationalist from Boston who had not only never baptized anyone that way, but had never seen it done. To his credit, though, he worked with me and it happened. It was a strange bit of boldness on my part, but one of the best choices I ever made, and one that framed my spiritual life from then on.

Now that I am surrounded by Baptists, I wonder how the reality of Baptism must be different for them, in a place where it is less of a strange thing to do. Is there social pressure to be baptized? How is it that six-year-olds are said to have an "adult" baptism? How does one come to that choice?

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Oops! I didn't mean to imply that Michigan was the only football power in the state...

Two posts ago, in revealing my fondness for University of Michigan football (which beat Notre Dame today), I fear that I may have implied that Michigan is the only football power in the state, which of course is not true. Like many other states, there are two gridiron powers in the state of Michigan. In fact, the other traditional football school also had a good day today, beating Michigan State in East Lansing, 29-27. Go Central Michigan Chips!


The Mascot Search Continues

Football season has begun, and it appears that William and Mary is still trying to come up with a mascot. Not that it is hurting them much-- they beat the University of Virginia last weekend, which is a pretty bad thing for UVA.

Here are some contenders for the new mascot:

Col. Ebirt
Vic the Demon
Prof. Fusilier
Mr. Meatloaf
A 1987 Nissan Sentra
Rep. Argbf the Giant Panda (D-VA)


USC 71 Ohio State 3

I'm a Michigan fan. That's a hard thing to admit these days, when Michigan is pretty bad at football (they remain very good at things like physics and law).

I never actually went to Michigan, choosing other schools twice, but I am still a thorough fan of the school. The deal is that if you are from Michigan, you have to pick either Michigan or Michigan State to root for, and stick to it the rest of your life. I made my choice, and now I have to live with it.

Even in a terrible year for Michigan football, there are two things you can still count on. First, Michigan will have the best helmets in college football, with that wolverine-head thing on them. Second, Michigan fans will still wish the worst on Ohio State, regardless of who they are playing.

USC 71, Ohio State 3.

Friday, September 11, 2009


September 11

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Speech TOO DANGEROUS for America's Children

There's two things I don't like right now about Republicans in public life: (1) They never actually shrink government when they are in office, and (2) Of late, too many of them would rather scare people for political advantage than actually try to make this country better. Most recently, many Republicans have been having conniptions because President Obama (like Reagan and Bush I) gave a speech to kids urging them to stay in school. (Tonight, apparently in an attempt to top that immaturity, at least one GOP Congressman actually heckled Obama from the floor of the House).

Below, verbatim, is the speech they apparently felt was so inappropriate for children. Hopefully, some of my readers can point me to the parts that are so horrible that no child should be exposed to it.

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book.

Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon.

Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Hard not to like...


or this:


What an exciting fire!

The new ownership of the Waco Tribune-Herald is supposedly very conservative and staid, but I'm not seeing it, at least in the paper's photo selection today.


Charity Auction Items

A friend called tonight to solicit items for a charity auction. It's an enterprise that perhaps I should not return to, given what happened last time.

Several years ago, a local member of the federal judiciary and I, in league with some others, organized an event called the "City Breakfast." What that was all about I won't go into here, but suffice it to say that many rollicking good times were had. As part of the last City Breakfast, we had a silent auction which included the following items:

Item Three: Amazing Dollar General Gift Basket!

Nothing says "I'm addicted to meth" quite like regular appearances at the Dollar General store, but that doesn't mean you need methamphetamine to appreciate real value! This amazing selection will shock and appall you and serve as the basis for years of re-gifting between friends.

Item Seven: A CD of Really Lewd and Obscene Songs

Tired of songs about love and going to France on a boat, etc.? Ever desire more misogynistic music with horrifying lyrics about "ho's?" Have your parents overstayed their welcome as houseguests? Then this CD is for you!

There were others, which I won't describe further here, including a "mystery box" and an evening out with Bates and I. Perhaps not surprisingly, the latter of these was purchased by a sociology professor (really), perhaps for professional purposes.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Nilsson of my youth

We all remember the songs our parents loved. They were there in the background, maybe coming up from the basement late at night or in the living room before dinner. There are some songs that even now don't sound right unless they are coming out of the big box speakers my Dad built.

My parents had good taste in music, and a broad range of affections, so I grew up with both the Beatles and Bill Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald and John Lee Hooker. More than anything, though, the music that marked my childhood, that I remember best, are the songs of a man named Harry Nilsson. He was a friend of John Lennon and a troubled soul, a brilliant musician who did not fit into any of the musical categories or trends of the time. People may remember his song Everybody's Talkin', from the film Midnight Cowboy, or maybe his theme song from the Bill Bixby tv show The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Nilsson had a warm, wistful voice and way of emotionalizing even small things like a child's desk.

I keep thinking that those songs will fade in my mind, the way I have forgotten who lived two doors down or what my hockey teams were called. But songs aren't facts. Songs are blood cells that circulate through the body, forever, ready to rise up and take over your thoughts when a melody emerges or perhaps you smell the scent of fresh bread or mown grass. Each love has a song, at least one, and the song is there long after the love in many cases, so that opening notes will make an older woman squeeze her thumb and finger together so as not to let on to others the place her mind has gone.

So I haven't gotten rid of Nilsson. I probably wrote the only law review article ever structured around Nillson's work, in fact.

Since I can't get rid of them, I have begun listening, really listening, to those songs again. Most of them are profoundly sad. They are about what is missing in a life, be it peace within or a person deeply loved. Though I am a profoundly happy person, I suppose that Nilsson is my equipoise; as happy as I may be with where I am or what I see, there will always be those holes, small or large, and those songs that drifted up from the basement on a snowy night as I did homework on a blue wooden desk still define that part of me-- a part I would rather not see or feel, but will be there nonetheless.

Not so long ago, I was traveling out of town. The journey was much worse than I had expected, and I had that weariness of soul and body that can only come when travel intersects with disappointment. I walked into my room, threw my bag by the door, and sat on the edge of the bed for a minute. It was very quiet right then, and I usually like quiet, but I wanted a little sound, so I turned on the radio and there was his voice. I knew all the words, so I sang along, every bit, and when it was over I turned the radio off because it had done everything a radio is capable of-- delivered a moment of connection, of deep emotion and heart. I kicked off my shoes and laid down, a little more complete. My blood was still my blood.

Sing it, Harry:

Monday, September 07, 2009


As a Lions fan, it is great to see something like this...

NFL Players Mentor Troubled Detroit Lions


People and animals

While eating a hamburger this weekend, I noticed that someone nearby was wearing an anti-PETA t-shirt. It seemed kind of odd to protest protesters-- if you disagree with protesters, ignoring them seems the best option, since what they want is attention. Still, this brought to mind the divide in the country over how we think of animals. There seem to be four camps, including two absolutist positions and two in between:

1) The animal rights believer

This person feels that animals have rights (natural rights if not legal ones) close to those of humans. They usually are vegetarians and are very sensitive to what they perceive as cruelty to nearly any animal.

2) Animal rights particularists

Particularists agree with the first group as to certain types of animals only, usually pets. These people will eat a steak, but take very seriously the treatment of their favored type of animal.

3) The accommodationist

This type thinks needless cruelty should be avoided, but generally does not agree with the idea of animal rights because she feels that people are fundamentally and morally distinct from animals. Usually this type does not seem very interested in the issue.

4) The animal rights opponent

This person has disdain for group 1, and thinks our society has gone overboard on the protection of animals.

Which type are you? Are any of these principled positions?

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Faith without church

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

Today, I showed up halfway through church just in time to complete my assigned tasks at extended session. I was late because some friends had kindly invited me to their beautiful ranch (pictured here), and it was just very hard to leave.

The experience made me think about those who have faith without church. I don't think that would work for me, since so much of my own relationship with God has an intellectual component, and as such needs to be challenged on a regular basis. For others, they find it is hard to feel their faith or the presence of God without communal worship.

Yet, for many people, they do without church yet still hold close their faith. How or why do they choose this? Is it in tension with Christ's teachings to choose to worship alone?

And would my faith have been better served by praying in that beautiful place where I started the day?

Saturday, September 05, 2009


It's Football Time!

My prediction: Baylor 30, Wake Forest 27

And yours?

Friday, September 04, 2009


Haiku Friday: Dreams

I've been running a fever, which always turns my dreams all goofy. Last night, I was in a knife-fight with former Clinton cabinet member and current University of Miami President Donna Shalala. That lady is TINY, but surprisingly mobile. In another dream (this one recurring), I obtained the ability to fly through force of will, and then used that power to float around the house and do chores.

So, let's haiku about our dreams.

Here is mine:

Lady Shalala,
You are quite handy and quick
With a shiv. Ouch! Hey!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Executing the Innocent

So, it turns out that Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by the state of Texas, was probably not guilty. Scientists analyzing the arson case have concluded that there is no real evidence to support the conclusion that the fire in question was deliberately set. The state's scientific evidence in the case was deplorable.

Does this matter? Can you ethically support a capital punishment regime that executes innocent people?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Nice Mansion, DBA!

Yesterday, I spoke to members of the Dallas Bar Association for one of their monthly lunch meetings, along with Judge Ed Kinkeade and an SMU law professor. I really enjoyed it; the audience was great, and I think that my talk (about professionalism) went well. The words I used included:


It was my first trip ever to the Belo Mansion (pictured above), which is the headquarters of the Dallas Bar. It's an incredible place, right in the middle of the Arts District. It is an amazing resource, and it was an honor to get to speak there.

My other principle observation: We are lucky to have Judge Kinkeade teaching at Baylor.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Oh! So... that's what it's called!

Every once in a while, Blaine McCormick and I will meet for lunch over at Penland Hall, which is a dorm cafeteria on Baylor's main campus. Last week, we sauntered over to the dessert table and found what may be my favorite food label of all time, pictured above.

At my own alma maters, the food varied considerably. At Yale, the food was outstanding, while at William and Mary it was pretty bad. One redeeming feature of the W & M cafeteria, though, was the "Your Questions" board outside the main door. You could drop a question in a box, and a baffling handwritten response would appear a few days later. Two responses still crack me up, all these years later.

In the first, someone (me) had asked about a featured item called "Clammos." I had previously asked if Clammos were, in fact, made out of clams, and got a simple "yes" in response. Because Clammos tasted more like polyurethane, I tried a follow-up. "What part of the clam are Clammos made of?" I asked. The response: "Clam Toes."

The temperature was usually crazy at the Caf, too. On hot days, it would be frigid, and on cold days it would be boiling inside. This seemed not only uncomfortable but a waste of money, so there were several notes over time with the same question: "Can't you get the Caf to be a consistent temperature?" The response was always the same-- "The temperature is controlled by a computer in Richmond."

That had to be the worst answer to a serious question ever. First of all, WHY was the temperature controlled by a computer in Richmond if it did such a lousy job? Secondly... what was up with this computer? Was it some kind of evil twin of the HAL 3000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Had it been programmed by someone who was shockingly drunk? Yet, this computer kept its job despite terrible performance for all four years I was at W & M.

Feel free to add your own horrifying dorm food stories in the space below.

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