Thursday, December 31, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: What to do in the wake of a terrorist attack

I'm back in Texas now, having left Detroit in the wake of a Nigerian trained by Al-Quaida in Yemen trying to blow up a plane flying into that city.

There is not doubt that this was an attempted terrorist attack that very easily could have worked. We know who trained him, and where.

What should we do in response? Here are the two possible options:

1) Use the military to attack targets in Yemen.
2) Increase security on U.S. flights.

(notably, the first inhibits terrorists while the second inhibits American travelers).

Should we be doing more or less? What should we be doing, exactly, to address this continuing and important problem?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Yet another bad book idea...

Yesterday, someone suggested to me that my next project should be to write a children's book. Given that most of my published work has been in the area of criminal justice, this seems like a bit of a stretch. Still, I have been working up some ideas:

1) Green Eggs and Crack

In this illustrated future classic, a hapless citizen is the recipient of endless offers of free crack by a shady character known only as "Son of Sam I Am." This will bring new meaning to classic phrases like "would you, could you, on a boat?"

2) Frog and Toad are Felons

"Good morning, Frog."
"Good morning, Toad."
"Would you like to hold up a convenience store?"
Toad looked up. "I suppose," he said.

3) The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Execution!

Here, the ageless bears are hired to conduct lethal injections in Texas. As one might expect, mayhem ensues until wise old Mr. Perry arrives to put everything back in order.

4) The Runaway Bunny and the U.S. Marshal

Baby Bunny is a parole violator! Luckily, an important community helper is there to gun down Baby Bunny when he appears to be reaching for a metallic object once he is cornered after a high-speed chase.

5) Charlotte's Web of Conspiracy

Wilbur the pig is living an unremarkable life on the farm until he meets Charlotte, a spider whose unusual ideas lead to several overt acts and the eventual indictment of all the barnyard friends.

6) James and the Giant Bong

James' friend Lil' Wayne has a special and amazing surprise for James!

Of course, some of the best stuff has already been done:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Favorite Box Ever!

This year for Christmas, my parents gave my brother a big box of firewood. That in itself isn't so interesting (well, honestly, it is a little weird to give wood as a gift), but the box the wood was packaged in was fascinating.

In short, it is a huge box that was apparently full of Old Spice Red Zone deodorant. The outside is marked "Attention: Football Coach."

What's the deal here? Is Old Spice sending product out willy-nilly to people who are sweaty or overweight? Who else is receiving such a box?


Sorry man-- my bad!

It turns out I made a terrible mistake regarding this incident. The following is my open letter to the victim:

Dear Resident of 1166 Roslyn Road, Grosse Pointe, Michigan:

I hope that you are having a fine holiday season. Perhaps you noticed that on the evening of December 23, your yard was festooned with toilet paper and marshmallows, and that a Christmas card was left at your door from someone you don't know.

That someone was me. You may be wondering why I would do this at your particular home, given our lack of any relationship at all. As you have teen-age children, I would imagine there may have been quite a bit of yuletide fingerpointing and recriminations regarding the source of these decorations, made all the more complex by the fact that the perpetrator (as made clear in the card) had come from Texas to do this to your house. I suppose that this probably came up at dinner on subsequent nights, as well.

Suffice it to say that I had the wrong address, a fact that actually is made clear even in the photograph published on this blog. I intended to surprise my longtime friend, your neighbor Scott Davis, who resides two doors down. It was quite a surprise when I met with him last night and showed him the picture, only to have him tell me that it wasn't his house!

I'm sorry about any inconvenience this may have caused. I will be much more careful in any similar pursuits in the future, particularly if conducted in your neighborhood.

Mark Osler

Monday, December 28, 2009


Two great things that did not survive the day... and what did.

1) 1989 Pomerol Chateau De Sales

For some reason I cannot remember, one day in the early 90's I splurged and bought a bottle of 1989 Chateau de Sales (it cost a fortune to me at the time). I set it away in my parents' basement, and every year at Christmas I go down and look at it and the few other bottles of excellent vintage I have hidden away there.

Last night, I opened it and shared it with my parents. I pulled the cork and decanted it, and took a little taste right then; the fullness of it was overwhelming, and the finish went on forever. By the time dinner was served it was sublime and beautiful, smooth and full. The color of plums, it did not last long enough. It was perhaps the best wine I have ever had.

Time of expiration: 7 pm EST

2) Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 with Leica lens

This was by far the best camera I ever owned. Nearly all the pictures that have appeared on this blog were taken with this camera (the photo above I took with my iPhone). It died when my mom accidentally knocked the camera off a shelf.

Time of expiration: 5 pm EST

You may have noticed that I shared my wine with my parents after my mom killed the camera. That timing was no accident.

There was this split-second, when I saw that the camera no longer worked, that I was upset. The lens was stuck in the extended position and nothing was happening. I knew that it had taken its last picture.

But, it was only a split-second. Then I remembered the first camera I ever had, a large body Canon my father shared with me when he had moved on to a better camera himself. He taught me to take light readings, and my mother would often point out the time of day when the light was most beautiful. After that came a flood of other cameras and pictures that were unified by one thing-- my parents' sense that beauty is all around us and only need to be positioned in the viewfinder. I took pictures everywhere I went, and was always encouraged by them. That will always be with me.

The thing about wine is that you can age it, but it will not be there for you forever. You do not know when it will turn to vinegar; it's a secret held tight in the molecules inside the bottle. You come home from work one day, open it up, and it is no longer there. You waited too long, maybe waiting for some special day-- the same way we wait for a special day to say something to the people we love, to forgive a grievance, to share something rare. But... wine is a living thing, and it will turn; we do not know the day or hour.

Tonight we drank it, together, and it was perfect.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Love's many flavors

Christmas is a holiday that embraces so many types of love-- we gather with "loved ones," which includes romantic, family, and agape relationships, at the same time that we celebrate God's gift of love to the world.

It is funny how such different kinds of love can seem so similar. The person who has come to faith so often resembles the person who has fallen in love-- unhitched from previous ways, filled with passion, seeing things anew. And the love for a child is not so different most of the time that the love we feel for a partner-- the protectiveness, the attention to the bond, a certain fear of loss.

Beneath it all, though, there is a commonality to everything that calls itself love. That is, every type of love has selflessness at its core, the willingness to subsume a part of ourselves into that love, to meld ourselves with something else. Yes, all love is at the cost of independent identity, and it is those who are most independent (of lover, God, children, friends) who disdain love most often.

I am not independent, for I have chosen to love and be loved, by God and some of those around me. Each of those I love takes away a little from my independence, because we become responsible to one another, and with each one I grow. I'll take that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Grosse Pointe now overrun with coyotes

[I am a little creeped out by this realtor-advertising photo, because in the current economy it's likely that this little family is being evicted as the bank puts their house up for sale-- only the realtor is happy]

As if the economic problems and resulting foreclosures weren't enough, now Grosse Pointe is being attacked by packs of coyotes, according to the Grosse Pointe News:

Police don't know if the coyote they shot to death last Thursday morning at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms was the one that killed a pet cat two nights earlier on bordering Provencal.

Even if it was, the hunt is not over.

On Thursday night, another coyote mauled a 13-pound pet dog on Belle Meade in Grosse Pointe Shores, about 1 1/4 miles from the club. The dog survived.

Police estimate four coyotes remain in the Pointes.

"On the night shift we see them," said Sgt. Dan Pullen of Shores public safety.

At least one of the animals has — or had, given the shooting — been bedding down on a compost pile in a wooded area of the country club adjacent to the polo field.

Officers in three of the Grosse Pointes where coyotes have killed or injured pets recently — Farms, Shores and City — have been authorized to kill the predators if a clear shot can be had.

At about 7:45 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 17, a contractor at the country club told Farms police a coyote was roaming the grounds.

Lts. Jack Patterson and Brian Belinski responded, armed with shotguns. Belinski staked himself out east of the polo field. Patterson, also on foot, tried to flush the animal from the woods.

Oh, no! Not the polo field!


This post was stolen, in its entirety, from Micah over at Micah-Circuitry

Stupid kid said it better than I could. And don't bother suing me-- I know an IPLawGuy.

The only thing that you will hear about the Christmas season from some people is how overtly commercialized it's become. The true spirit of the season, the birth of Jesus, is being obscured by glow-in-the-dark plastic reindeer and TV specials, they say. We need to get back to the way that we used to celebrate it, without all this commercial junk.

My view is that, although, yes, Christmas has become overly commercialized, that is not keeping you from having a good season and celebrating the birth of Christ. Besides, this day is, in reality, ornamental. Recent studies show that Jesus was born in July or August in 4 BC, not in deep December in 1 AD. This day was picked to coincide with the pagan feast of Yule, a celebration of the return of warmth and longer days to the land.

But, whenever I take this critical viewpoint, I end up thinking that, well, they picked the right day, if not the accurate day, to celebrate the birth of Christ. Jesus was born in the Middle East, where, despite those pictures on Christmas cards, it was not snowing. But in Britain in the middle ages, winter was a time of dread. The game left. The life outside was essentially shuttered. But, just when it seemed like nothing could break through the impenetrable shield, on December 21 (close to the 25th, isn't it?), the sun began to come back. There were cold days ahead, but they would be longer days.

Likewise, Christ was the coming of light to a world that was reaching its nadir. Just as it seemed like hope was lost, a tiny child was born in a barn inside of a feeding box. He was the light of the world, a metaphor that becomes clear this time of year.

And, as long as I remember this, the inflatable snowmen and Best Buy sales, don't bother me. Does it really matter what some people choose to do, why some (myself included) spend time buying gifts and putting up lights as long as we know that Christ is not the reason for the season.

In essence, he is the season.

Friday, December 25, 2009



[click on the photo to enlarge it]

I wish everyone a merry Christmas. For me, it is a time of great joy, a day on which we celebrate an astounding announcement to the world.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Finding old friends in familiar places

One of the dear friends I left behind in Michigan is Scott Davis, who is now found occasionally in the comments section of the Razor. He is presently the minister at a large suburban church, where he is well loved by his congregation and community.

Scott is a remarkable man. He is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, and I was on the committee that hired him as a minister at my church here in Grosse Pointe. When he came to Michigan as a young pastor he did a fantastic job in a frequently difficult situation. I really admired his work, every week, and treasure his friendship. He is liturgically conservative, and often challenged my thinking in a very positive way, all while being extremely supportive of me personally.

Keeping all this in mind, I stopped by his house tonight to drop off a card wishing him a merry Christmas and true joy in the New Year.

Then, since it didn't seem that he was home, I TP'd his house:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Is it art?

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

I love the debates which swirl around dinner here in Grosse Pointe. One of our classics is on the topic "Is It Art?" Usually we start with a piece of supposed art or some found object, and then go from there.

Rejected standards include "art does not include anything I can make," since there are genuine artists in the family.

What is your definition? What counts as art?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Toto... I don't think we're in Waco anymore!

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived back in Michigan. Driving through Detroit, I was struck once again by the number of collapsing and vacant buildings-- it really is a city being reclaimed by the elements.

The lake, though, is the same.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Death, Prison, Crime, and Recession

Something is going on in criminal law.

First, it appears that 2009 will see the fewest executions in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976-- even fewer than in 2008, when there was an effective moratorium for several months while the Supreme Court considered Baze v. Rees (which involved the lethal injection method used by nearly all states).

Meanwhile, it looks like incarceration rates will go down this year, for the first time in years.

Meanwhile, there are some reports that 2009 may see a decrease in certain types of major crimes, at least in some cities. FBI reports confirm this trend.

Provided that by year-end these statistics prove true (and they may not), how would we explain lower crime, fewer people locked up, and fewer executions, all during an ongoing recession?

[For an incredible amount of information on these issues, go where I go-- to Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog.]

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Pain and Tinsel

I grew up in a family with great holidays. We were feasting people, and my parents did a wonderful job of making sure that our holidays stayed focused on joy, togetherness, sharing, and gratefulness. They also did a good job with their marriage, and provided us with a warm and stable home.

Because of that, the holidays will always be a happy time for me. However, I know that it is not for some people-- that many I am close to wish that they could just flip the calendar to January and skip over all of this. I usually do not fully understand why this is, but I do know it is true.

What is the best way to deal with those who do not want to celebrate the holidays? As a Christian, should I mute my own feelings in the presence of those who do not share my faith or joy?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Festivus, Day 6: The hurling of the fruit

Yesterday, I received this note from a student who is the proprietor of an excellent blog, Magnificent Vista:

Are you going to be in your office at all tomorrow, or are you gone for the rest of the year? I've got a couple of questions for you, and meant to check with you after Sentencing class, but you hurled delicious fruit at us and escaped during the confusion.

You may be wondering: Did Prof. Osler really hurl fruit at his students, then run out of class?

The answer is yes. Yes, indeed I did.

At the moment, Magnificent Vista features this exciting video of foosball from Wednesday. You will notice that my only role appears to be waiting for Bates to score, then moving the scoring peg with special emphasis while muttering "unbelievable" in a Spock-like tone:

Friday, December 18, 2009


Haiku Friday: The songs

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for music, both good and bad. Man, there is some terrible music! But, some wonderful stuff, too. Let's haiku on that today. Here is mine:

A Peanuts Christmas
Song drifts out of the storefront
I stop; remember?

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Legalization of Narcotics

We may not be talking about narcotics legalization now, but we will soon-- there is a good chance that California and some other states may soon consider legalizing marijuana possession and use beyond "medical marijuana."

As I made clear in my lecture last week, I am not a proponent of legalization (because of the social costs of broader use), but I do understand that there are principled arguments for it.

Is legalization of narcotics a good idea? If so, which drugs should be legalized-- for example, marijuana but not cocaine?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Dipping into the Razor Mailbag

Intriguingly, I get a number of emails from readers of the Razor (my work email is linked to the blog). Today I would like to publish a few of these, with responses.

Dear Pr. Olser,
I am reading you blog and thinking about things you say. Most of it is stupid. You should write about baseball, if you know about that. No one cares about panda beers.

Dear Unsigned,
First of all, I think you expect too much of me. Apparently, you think I am the President (and an Olser), while in fact I am just a teacher. I will consider adding more content related to baseball, but that is not something I know much about. Meanwhile, people do care about pandas and beer, especially the residents of the Woodley Park neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

What's up with your hair? I think you need those Wacoan people to come take care of it.

Dear Christine,
The photo here actually shows me on a relatively good hair day. I suppose "hair" isn't high on my priority list. If I get it cut in Detroit, who do you recommend?

Prof. Osler,
I will not be in sentencing class today. I have to go talk to some guys about some stuff.
[name withheld]

Dear _______,
Oh! Given the nature of your appointment, I hope you understand that the "observation" I require involves watching a sentencing in court, not participating in an actual drug conspiracy. That said, if you do end up in the slammer, could you come back in 93-117 months and talk to the class about your experiences?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Deep, deep, sadness

Last night on the way home, I noticed that I-35 northbound was completely closed. This is the primary artery between San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, so the back-up was extraordinary. I imagined there was some terrible accident.

In fact, a Baylor student carrying a Bible had walked onto the interstate and knelt before an oncoming truck. She lived, miraculously, and is in the hospital. I know that I join with many others in hoping the best for her, and feeling a sense of deep sadness when I think about this incident.

The photo above was posted on her facebook page as her profile picture at about the time of the accident.

What could bring a person to this?


Tomorrow Night-- the Osler/Bates Foosball Classic!

Make your plans now-- tomorrow night is the annual Bates/Osler Foosball challenge at Cricket's. It's $5/game to take us on, with all proceeds going to Mission Waco. The festivities will begin at about 9.

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, here is the deal: Bates is a master of the foos, while I pretty much stink (as I do at all sports involving a ball). I am involved only for my trash-talking abilities and the fact that the International Foos Association requires two players a side. Still, Bates is so awesome that we usually win a large majority of our matches.

We would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's law enforcement community who have chosen to join us at Cricket's each year. We do sincerely hope you all enjoy the show, and please remember that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive there are still some things that make us all the same.

So, whoever you are, whatever you do, come foos with us.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Prosecutorial Discretion in the (local) News

Yesterday's Waco Tribune-Herald had this lengthy and intriguing piece by Cindy Culp analyzing the use of prosecutorial discretion by our local D.A., John Segrest. It's an excellent article. Even though she talked to me, she also talked to some people I really look up to in the area-- especially Marc Miller from Arizona and Ron Wright of Wake Forest, who are exactly the people who should be commenting on this issue.

In the field of criminal law, the use of discretion by prosecutors is hugely important while largely unseen. Many people, myself included, see the shift to mandatory sentencing guidelines in 1987 as a device which, more than anything, shifted power to federal prosecutors such as myself (from 1995-2000). At my first sentencing hearing, I realized that I had greater power than the sentencing judge, a revered 30-year veteran named Avern Cohn. Sadly, my knowledge and judgment were a fraction of his. The transition to "advisory" guidelines in 2005 has done less than expected to fix this imbalance.

I really appreciate Cindy Culp's attention to this important question, which is a fair area of inquiry as we approach a D.A. election. Already, some of my favorite writers/people are at the Trib-- Carl Hoover, Wendy Gragg, Tim Woods-- and I hope to see more great pieces like this.

Notably, this afternoon leading law blogger Doug Berman praised this story, too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Sunday Reflection: The holidays

I was in a restaurant today, and overheard a boy ask his dad, "what is Kwanzaa?" The dad seemed stumped by this question. The question ended up being answered by the boy's sister, who was well-informed on the subject, and I learned something through my eavesdropping. They then debated the relative merits of holidays celebrated by various faiths, from Purim to Ramadan.

Which led me to think-- if you could only celebrate one holiday a year, which would you choose?

Personally, I think it would be Thanksgiving, which seems in a sense to be the most Christian of holidays, at least in the form we usually use to celebrate. I need that reflective moment of thanks.

Which would you choose?

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Holiday Gift Guide!

For the Teen: If there is one thing teens love, it is to learn more about manners and proper deportment! My first choice would be to hire a personal coach to follow the teen around and correct his or her behavior, but short of that I would recommend a book on the topic.

For children under 10:
Younger kids are always happy to receive the gift of clothes. If you can, make sure it is exactly the kind of clothes you wear, only smaller. Sure, they say they want power tools or a puppy or toys, but really they want a sweater with a picture of a dog on it.

For parents:
I would recommend food as the perfect gift for a parent. Pork, beef, turkey, or any other kind of meat is best. Don't cook it, though! That is their job.

Actually, I just buy everyone stuff from Kid Robot.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Haiku Friday: Portrait of the Law Student As a Young Man

The above self-portrait shows the sad childhood of my student, Justin T. This image is just one of several which display the depressing world of a boy forced to watch a coin-operated washing machine instead of a television, made to sleep every night on a tanning bed, who ate alone at a diner every day for lunch, and whose only friend was an imaginary mohawk-sporting, guitar playing giraffe.

Fortunately, things worked out for Justin-- I have found that as a law student, he works hard on things he enjoys. Apparently, there were no long-term effects of watching the wash every day.

So, let's haiku today about our childhood eccentricities. For what it is worth, I consider childhood to last right through college...

Here is mine:

Our game: Ride your bike
Fast to the guard rail, then stop;
George bit off his tongue!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: What if we had a really good monarchy?

If there could be a guarantee that the king or queen would always act only in the best interests of the majority of our country, would you trade our democracy for such a "perfected" monarchy?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009



Tomorrow morning in my 8 am Appeals and Habeas class I will be talking about this guy.


Oh, for Heaven's sake, William and Mary!

My alma mater, William and Mary, is currently searching for a new mascot to replace the bumbling incumbent, "Colonel Ebirt." They have announced five finalists (in order of apparent relevance):

1) The King and Queen (because William and Mary were, you know, like, the King and Queen of England)

2) The Wren (because the oldest building on campus was designed by Sir Christopher Wren)

3) The Pug (is this suggesting that many students at William and Mary are physically unattractive?)

4) The Phoenix (because, um, old people in Phoenix inexplicably love to decorate their homes with a "Williamsburg" theme)

5) The Griffin (huh... well... hmmmm.... because Virginians loved Carter-era AG Griffin Bell?)

Surely, Razorites, we can come up with something, anything, better than this...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


About Last Night...

I don't know about you guys, but I had a great time last night. By my count, about 135 people came to the lecture on "Crackheads, Senators, Money, and Power," thanks to the efforts of the NAACP and the Federalist Society. It was wonderful to have so many undergrads over at the Law School, to get a taste of what we do here. There were also people from the community, which is a great thing. And my dad. I hope I lived up to the great opportunity I was given.

Sometimes, intellectual life presents you with ideas that are like a song in your heart that you just have to put out there, and this was one of those times for me. I'm really grateful for the people who made it possible.


Livin' Large in the... uh,...

Remember back in 1999, when people were wondering what we were going to call this decade? Well, it turns out that we never did decide.

Great-- now a whole ten years are going to be like that guy whose name you can't remember, where eventually you say "Great to see you!" and kind of back away...

Monday, December 07, 2009



Bored, and fascinated by federal sentencing policy? Well, tonight I'm giving a free public lecture at 7:30 in Room 127 of Baylor Law School. The topic is "Crackheads, Senators, Money, and Power: A Social and Legal History of Crack Cocaine," and it is co-sponsored by the Law School's Federalist Society and Baylor University's chapter of the NAACP. You can read more about it here.


The Original WOTY Speaks!

Since I am somewhat confused as to my duties as Wacoan of the Year, I have sought out confidential advice from the Yoda of this area, Scott Baker, who was the first-ever Wacoan of the Year (you can check out his blog here). Here is what he had to say:

Dear Mark,

First of all, I hope it is plainly understood that the advice and information I am writing you here should NEVER, under any circumstances, reach the general public. So as long as we're clear that this letter is to remain completely private and is never to be read by another Wacoan, I'll proceed.

Congratulations, grasshopper. For the duration of one year, you will be the holder of the title "Wacoan of the Year." (Naturally, since I was the inaugural WOTY, I retain the title in perpetuity. All subsequent holders are merely honorary ones. We're clear on that, capice?) You have reached the highest of heights. You have floated to the top of the Brazos. You have hit the high note on the Hippodrome stage. You have topped the final rung of the tallest ladder atop the Alico. You are the man.*

Now, becoming WOTY bestows you with awesome powers and abilities. You always know the answer to the question, "Where's Freddie." You become one of the keepers of the secret formula of Dr Pepper. If you find yourself at the back of any line, just say, "Don't they know who I am?" and you'll be moved right to the front.** You understand that in much the same way that odor is added to methane for our safety, the Waco water taste is added for everyone's benefit. Every time there is a natural disaster or other major threat to the city, you will be spirited away to the secret bunker underneath Ridgewood. It's all pretty cool.

And let me confirm some rumors: Yes, being WOTY comes with some perks. Among them is of course access to the VIP lounge on the top floor of the Alico. (The key should be where Bobby and I left it: buried in the "grave" of William Cowper Brann.) You get a free glass of wine every time you go to the Green Room. (Be sure to tell Davin I told you about that one.)*** You get a free membership to Cottonwood Creek as long as you are willing to climb the fence at night. Rosetree Floral will make sure that there is a path of rose petals leading you every step of your daily journey. And the mouth-breathers who badmouth you in the comment section of the Trib website will become increasingly incoherent as your WOTY powers grow and mature to the point where they will no longer even be able to form complete sentences.

But all is not sunshine and bluebonnets; there are some serious tasks for you. Continue my fight to rid the airways of the Clark Motors and Mike Knight television commercial abominations. Keep lobbying the Starplex to clean the headrests on their seats for the first time. Help Baylor in their obvious agenda to form a shadow government that really runs Waco. Find a way to eat one of each kind of pancake at Cafe Cappuccino in one sitting. Get Bush's to prove they don't lace their chicken with crack.

This is all but a taste of what you have to look forward to. Go forth boldly. Tell everyone I say hello. Wear the sash and tiara of the WOTY with pride. Don't point out to anyone that if they look carefully at the photo spread of me in the December '07 issue they'll notice that my fly is down. And next time I'm in town I'll teach you the secret handshake.


Scott Baker
Wacoan of the Year in Perpetuity

* - Not to be confused with "The Man." Without the WOTY title, being "The Man" in Waco is a very very very bad thing. It means you're the one keeping everyone else down. You cause the mold in the Brazos. You keep TAKS scores down in WISD. You make sure the police force is too small. You serve on a non-profit board. And you probably have something to with Baylor.

** - So far, this has yet to work out of town. Not for lack of trying. It also fails to impress my wife.

*** - Unless, of course, there is another Baylor employee present. In which case Davin will bring you some "grape juice."

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Snow on snow

There is a way in which our culture’s connection between advent and snow is very odd. The events we celebrate, of course, occurred in a climate much like that we see in Texas, not amid waves of ice and snow. When we spray a window with fake frost or send cards with winter scenes, we as a culture are in some small way distancing ourselves even further from the deep and mysterious events in a desert thousands of years ago.

All this is true. Yet I still long for snow each December, and there is a way in which Advent is not made real until there is that familiar crunch under my boot.

To those of us from the North, snow could be a difficult master. It came down with beauty and such gentleness, but each flake added to a mass which changed our lives. Everything slowed down: You cannot walk fast, drive fast, get anywhere very fast, once the snow is on the ground. Sometimes, the world even slowed to a stop—school would close, and we would stay home with the smell of bread or cookies in an oven, in a quiet world indoors and out. Quiet, because snow created a hush and muffled the harshness of our lives.

On a cold December day, the day of the first big snow, we would have a different routine. We would revert to the 1800’s, and gather by the fireplace to tell stories and read.

Snow forced the spirit of Advent upon us. We would want to go out, want to do our Christmas shopping, want to speed up our lives. The snow did not let us and forced us into quiet contemplation. “Stay here,” the Creator’s creation would say, “Stay here with Me,” and so we did.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Fuddy Mears, Dan Buck, and Scott Baker!

Last night, my dad and I went to see Dan Buck's directorial thesis, Fuddy Mears. I'm no theater critic, but I really loved it. It was not the typical play for these parts, but I like that. One aspect I really loved was the set and movement across that set-- it's the first play I've seen with a golf cart as a central element. Excellent job, Dan!

Next, I've got big plans for Monday. One bit of excitement this week was finding out that I am Wacoan of the Year (the bigger thrill was the truly excellent article written with great care by Megan Willome, and the kind things many people said in that article). Anyways, I'm not sure what my responsibilities are, so I have asked for advice from the first Wacoan-of-the-year, Scott Baker. Scott is a friend and a one-time-lurker here at the Razor, who was outed in the comments section nearly two years ago.

Trust me, his advice will be sobering and directive.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Haiku Friday: Fashion Disaster

My dad actually was a model, and quite a good one, too. That's him in the photo above, a 1960's bourbon ad.

Me, not so much. For example, check out this video of an excellent photographer, Joe Griffin, and his crew of four trying valiantly to get a decent photo of me:

Which brings to mind... what was your worst outfit ever? Can you describe it in haiku?

Yes, you can.

I will go first:

Ripped jeans with an old
7-11 uniform shirt,
Whooo- eee! Babe repellant.

Now it is your turn. Feel free to vary from the usual 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable format this week, because we need to allow for a little freedom to combine with our collective despair.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


30,000 troops to Afghanistan, many cheer

I think President Obama gave an excellent speech last night. I do not agree with his decision, though.

30,000 troops for 18 months: Everything is specific except a realistic statement of what those troops are to accomplish in that time frame. That question, though-- what the goal is-- is more important than anything else.

The closest thing I have heard to an articulable goal is that we want to use the additional troops to stabilize the country until the government there can take real control. That is understandable, but not sensible. Afghanistan is a country that has some parts (the flat parts-- tank country) that we can easily control. However, it has other parts (the mountainous parts and the parts that are actually in Pakistan) that we cannot easily control, even if we were to commit far more than 30,000 troops. The most likely outcome if these numbers (30,000/18 months) are true is that we will stabilize the flat parts of Afghanistan before we leave, and at that point the Taliban and/or others will come back out of the mountains and Pakistan, and we will be back where we started.

I think we should withdraw all our troops from Afghanistan, because we lack an achievable goal there. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


The Artist in Residence

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

My dad is staying out in the guest house this week, and it has been fun to watch him work.

His subject? Congressman Barney Frank (D. Mass). Cong. Frank is a very unique looking person, and apparently he requested the portrait. If the Congressman doesn't like the painting, perhaps I will buy it and give it to RRL.



Since tomorrow's Political Mayhem Thursday will (pursuant to federal law) be about the troop increase in Afghanistan, I thought I might broach a health care topic today.

It's pretty much beyond dispute that Americans (including me) are too fat. There is a significant cost to our nation due to obesity, much of it due to increased health care costs.

I have three questions:

1) Why are Americans relatively plump?

2 & 3) Should this problem be addressed by the government? If so, how?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Holdup notes

Back in the day, I really loved to analyze the notes used by bank robbers. The notes, of course, were totally unnecessary-- if you want to rob a bank, there is no reason to leave your handwriting, DNA, and fingerprints behind on a note.

Now Justin T. has tipped me off to a beautiful thing-- this blog featuring a variety of holdup note. Thank you, my padawan.


Family Sayings of... Infamy!

My family may be a little goofier than most, I admit, but I imagine that other families also have a few choice phrases that are first uttered as a slip of the tongue and then develop into catch-phrases.

In my family there are two-- one that makes sense, and one that doesn't, as described below:

1) "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it"

A combination, apparently, of "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" and "don't burn your bridges," this one was first used by my mom. It may have been intentional, actually, since it does describe a certain Osler tendency.

2) "Why pay for the cow when you can just have the cow live in your apartment with you?"

This was used by a more distant relative who was condemning the idea of living together before marriage. The idea of describing a woman as a "cow" is bad enough, but there is something undeniably funny about the idea of inviting a cow to come share your apartment. I suppose that at least you would get the milk for free, right?

What are your family catch-phrases?

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