Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Bob Darden wins Baylor's First Diversity Enhancement Award

The Razor's own hero of writing, Bob Darden, has received the first-ever Diversity Enhancement Award at Baylor. I'm proud of him, and proud of Baylor for recognizing what it has, but most of all I am awed by what Bob has accomplished.

In short, Bob has always loved gospel music-- mostly, African-American gospel music from the deep South. Not long ago, he realized that the legacy of this music was being lost as vinyl records decayed. He literally decided to save this important part of America's artistic and religious heritage. One guy. No money. Just determination.

He did it, too. He saved the music by doing what he does best-- he wrote about it. He wrote a book about the music first, and then wrote about the potential loss we faced. He raised the money to start the Black Gospel Restoration Project at Baylor, which now has saved (in digital format) thousands of recordings that otherwise might have been lost.

I love knowing people who have actually changed the world. I'm glad that Baylor sees it, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Pickles not welcome in Edina

As I recently explained, my unfortunate ankle injury was caused by a cat named Pickles who grabbed my leg while I was playing volleyball some 200 miles north of here.

I'm happy to report that my new hometown has strict regulations against demon cats like Pickles. Edina has extremely detailed animal rules which not only prohibit the raising of chickens (darn!), but severely limit cat misbehavior and freedom. Among the rules that came with my "welcome packet" we find this:

City ordinance does prohibit any animal, including cats, from running at large. A cat that damages or defiles property; creates noise, odor, or other problems; or molests animals or people may be declared a public nuisance.

Man, they have it out for cats! Not just the kind that molest people (like Pickles), but even those who molest other animals. Molesting animals seems to be a favorite pastime of cats, so that will be a tough one to swallow if Pickles meanders this way. Moreover, what cat doesn't produce odor or noise? Some kind of mutant or robot cat? Hmmm. "Running at large" also seems to be a habit of cats I've known...

I'm feeling safer already.



Since coming to Minnesota, I have gotten almost no email spam. How weird it is not to sort through the usual passionate notes from oddly rich people in Sierra Leone!

The irony, of course is that Minnesota is not only the home to real Spam, but the Spam Museum.


Cao Dai

Among the many interesting faiths to choose from, Vietnam's Cao Dai may be one of the most interesting:

1) It has a Pope and a Holy See (pictured above).
2) Saints to the Cao Dai include Sun Yat-Sen, Victor Hugo, Julius Caesar, and Winston Churchill.
3) It seems that Cao Dai adherents believe that God was created by the Big Bang.
4) Like Ba'hia, Cao Dai teaches the unity of all faiths in their central precepts.

Except for the part about Victor Hugo, Cao Dai's precepts diverge strikingly from my own core beliefs, so my search for a new church home will continue.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Seasons

On Friday, I spoke to a group of St. Thomas students at Manna, which is a little Protestant service held each week at the school. My talk was a little ham-handed (I'm rusty) but genuine, and the audience was wonderful. I'm back in school.

My life is really defined by two rhythms-- the school year and the church calendar. Both have spiritual meaning to me. For the school year, fall is rebirth. The few years I was away from an academic calendar, it was most odd in September, when there was no renewal and change-- a new start. I love that part of the cycle, and all that comes with it.

The church calendar runs differently, and perhaps more abstractly. The emotional starting point for many people is Easter, which very vividly depicts and defines renewal. For others, the start of the year might be Advent and Christmas. Either way, I love it when a church pays attention to the seasons of faith, and recognizes we need rhythm in our lives. We do, because God placed that need within us.

Not all moments are equal. Yesterday I was out in the front yard and found one perfectly formed, miraculous red maple leaf-- the first leaf of the fall. I picked it up (quite a project on crutches) and held it in my palm and said a little prayer of thanks. God put us here, turning around our sun, and all of His creatures respond together.

Fall is here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010



There is a lot of good about this broken ankle and all that comes with it. For one thing, I am forced to deal with the everyday frustrations that people with disabilities deal with all the time. In a life that has and will bring me into contact with friends and loved ones who fall into that category, the empathy which comes with this experience is a very good thing.

Empathy can be hard-earned, though.

This week I had orientation for my new job over on the main St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. The new professors met in a room on the third floor of a large building. On Wednesday, it was announced that we would be doing computer training in the library, and would walk over. Sure enough, everyone headed down the three flights of stairs to the lower exit, leaving me alone in the upper room. I managed to get to the elevator (which on the lower level was hidden away near the kitchen prep area), but finding the library was more difficult. I then had to climb some steps to get to the library entrance, and then searched for the elevator in that building. Someone said to go to the third floor. The elevator, inexplicably, had buttons for floor 3F, 3R, and 3.5 (I'm not making this up). I guessed 3.5, which was apparently wrong, because I then hobbled around that floor not finding anything for a while. Finally, having traversed stairs a few more times, I found the right room and came in twenty minutes late.

When it was time to go, the same thing happened-- everyone walked down the stairs, and I was left once again searching for elevators that were hidden away in a retrofitted building. They took me down to level ".5," which had only an emergency exit, so I made my way up one more level before falling on the stairs out of the building.

At this point I gave up and went to my office in Minneapolis to get some pain meds.

It would have been easy for just one person to have realized that I couldn't walk up and down stairs and offer to go with me from one place to the other to show me the way, but no one did.

If nothing else, what I will take from this is the willingness in the future to be that person, and a certain sense of shame in the fact that in the past I have only rarely been the one who did what was right.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Haiku Friday: Wishes

Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish For Unlimited Wishes
Having had a fair amount of time in which to daydream during orientation this week, I have been pondering wishes. What if you could have a wish granted (even without the hassle of a terminal illness)?

I do have to impose a few limits here:

1) No wishing for more wishes
2) No wishes related to Ken Mehlman
3) No wishes in which pandas are harmed.

Other than that, it's all good.

Here is mine:

I wish that there was
A new virus that would spread

Now it is your turn...
5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday, Part II: Undocumented Aliens

There are almost no movies at all about illegal immigrants from Mexico. There are lots, however, about dangerous aliens from space. This tells us that space aliens are, in fact, much more threatening.

What should the United States be doing to protect ourselves from space aliens?

More importantly, if they reproduce here, would their demon spawn have U.S. citizenship?


Political Mayhem Thursday: Ken Mehlman discovers he is gay

Ken Mehlman, who managed George Bush's campaign in 2004 (which succeeded largely by pairing the campaign with anti-gay marriage state referendums) and later led the Republican National Committee, has discovered at age 44 that he is, in fact, gay. Though the idea had been suggested in the media for years, the development apparently took Mehlman himself completely by surprise.

I have no problem with Ken Mehlman being gay. I have no problem with him advocating for gay marriage now if he thinks that is the right thing.

What I do have a problem with is the ridiculous proposition that he just figured out his sexual orientation, and the suggestion that his supposed "discovery" has prompted his change of heart on gay marriage. Obviously, he was a gay man who kept that secret so he could succeed in an organization that counted on anti-gay marriage votes.

Sure, it happens a lot, in a variety of ways. Cynics and hypocrites succeed in politics. I know that. I just don't like it-- I want public servants who really believe in the positions they profess, who have a passionate belief in a point of view. It saddens me that we seem so short on those people of late.

Why is politics, a trade which offers low pay and long hours, so thick with hypocritical opportunists?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Choosing a church in Minneapolis

Having been here for a few weeks, I have gotten down to the serious business of church shopping. Here are some of the candidates-- I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Colonial Church, Edina
Pro: Friendly congregation, park-like setting, Gloer-recommended.
Con: Odd lighthouse type thingee next to church.

Wayzata Favre Temple
Pro: Traditional Sunday Day of Worship, beer, Viking-style women
Con: Not exactly Christian, unpleasant relations with cheeseheads

Minneapolis Friends Meeting (Quakers)
Pro: Gentle spirit, deep roots, meaningful service
Con: Have no idea who Favre is

Bates Davidians
Pro: Based on teachings of Larry Bates, great music
Con: Never sure how many wives the Beloved Leader has, government trouble

Ba'al of America
Pro: Interesting leader (Ba'al), suburban location, lots of parking, attached amusement park.
Con: Too much incense. May be troubling to employers.

Wooddale Church

Pro: Very close to my home
Con: Vague (and possibly unfair) connection to Ted Haggard

Dinkytown Second Temple of Praise Church God Chapel of Dinkytown
Pro: In funky, fun Dinkytown neighborhood
Con: Founded by stoners who created McDonaldland

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The Mystery of Grimace

I was chatting with a friend recently about McDonaldland (I think this was a conversation that started out being about the sentencing guidelines, but went awry when someone asked what the guideline sentence is for Hamburgling). As we discussed the bizarre marketing choices made by McDonald's, we concluded that the strangest of all was the creation of the character of Grimace, pictured above.

How in the world is this guy supposed to sell food? He looks downright unsanitary, for starters. I don't want that thing handling my dinner! Further, what the heck IS he, anyways? Some kind of relative to Oscar the Grouch that got out of his can? Finally, in terms of appealing names, "Grimace" is about as bad as it gets. Why in the world would you want your product associated with a disapproving facial expression?

The only possible explanation is that McDonald's had hired stoners to do their ads, and this seemed like a great idea to them at the time...


Razor caption contest

Here in Minnesota, I am going through orientation, which thus far has been disorienting. Meanwhile, back in Waco, Practice Court began yesterday.

How about a caption?

UPDATE: Nicholas Chu wins

Monday, August 23, 2010


Recipe Monday: Drinks

It's hot (relatively) in both Waco and Minnesota right now. That calls for some cold drinks. Here is a personal favorite. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

Kool-Aid Disaster Punch

1 packet cherry kool-aid
1 packet strawberry kool-aid
2 cups sugar
6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
6 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate
3 qts water
1 quart gingerale


Combine all in punch bowl with some ice. Serve to whoever happens to be in your house, unless they have broken in through the wall or something.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Being humbled

Last week I wrote about the difference between pain and despair, a distinction that has become clearer as I have struggled through a move with the use of only one foot (which is admittedly a very small hardship).

Today I was in line behind a woman who fell into conversation with the woman in front of her. It turned out that they were both pastor's wives, and were comparing notes. The first woman described the growth of their ministry from a storefront into a burgeoning church with thousands of members. "It's very humbling," she said.

Really? Having thousands of people flock to your church is affirming, not humbling. I would think the opposite-- going from a church of thousands to a storefront with a handful of parishioners-- that would be humbling.

I have to admit that I have used the same term in the same way in the past. People would congratulate me on something that had gone well and, not sure how to respond, I would say "it's very humbling." But, really, it wasn't. After what happened to me in my own driveway last week, I won't use that phrase again in that way.

I'm not that good on crutches. It requires a certain sense of balance I haven't quite mastered, and I am often alone when I am trying to get around, which adds to my vulnerability. Getting in and out of the car is a special challenge when you can't put weight on your lead leg stepping out, and it is a challenge I have failed. Last week, I drove up to my house in a rainstorm. Because the garage was full of boxes, I parked on the steeply sloping driveway. Getting out of the car, I propped one crutch under my left arm, put my good right foot on the ground, and pushed off. I pushed too hard, though, and lost my balance going the other way, landing hard on my left side. With nothing to grab onto, I wasn't able to get up.

So there I was, lying in the dark, in the rain, in my own driveway, helpless. It is not a position I am used to. I called out for help, but no one heard. A few cars passed, splashing water up from the puddles in the street. I crawled back toward the car, but turned my broken ankle in a bad way and stopped in pain, and for a bit just lay there and felt the rain falling on me. I cried. It was only a few moments, but that... that was humbling.

I would never intend to put myself in that position, and it embarrasses me to describe it here. I have spent the past day or so debating whether or not to lay naked that helpless moment.

But... God did the same to Christ. Jesus was not "humbled" by great achievements. He was humbled by what would be truly humbling to any of us-- he was born in great poverty among animals, he was insulted by the pharisees, he was sent out by Herod wearing a purple robe and crown of thorns to mock him, and he died naked on a cross as people watched his agony. My tiny bit of humiliation was nothing, nothing, compared to what God put on his own son, or so many of his other children around me.

If one of you ever come up to me to mention something I have done that worked out well, I will look you in the eye and say "thank you for saying that." I may give credit to those others who often do most of the work. But I will not, ever again, say that I am humbled by an accomplishment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Party in the 254

Friday, August 20, 2010


Haiku Friday: Pie

I heart pie. I actually know how to make pie (though my crust is often a disaster). A long time ago, I made myself a lemon pie and then ate the whole thing. Bad idea.

Pictured here is one of my Mom's pies at the island. The oven there only has one temperature-- 400-- but she makes it work.

So, let's haiku about pie. Shout out your favorite, because summer won't last forever.

Blueberries, sugar,
flour, water, butter, yeast
This, I will savor.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Mosque at Ground Zero

While President Obama has supported it, Republicans seem fairly united against the idea of allowing a mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York-- the site of the World Trade Center.

The proposed mosque is a project of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which is a moderate group dedicated to interfaith understanding.

It appears that the proposed mosque will be built. Is this a good idea?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Is it art?

Here we see IPLawGuy trying to figure out what Donald Judd has done at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, during our visit there last month.

Here is an overview of what we were looking at, taken from the Chinati website:

The fifteen concrete works by Donald Judd that run along the border of Chinati's property were the first works to be installed at the museum and were cast and assembled on the site over a four-year period, from 1980 through 1984. The individual units that comprise each work have the same measurements of 2.5 x 2.5 x 5 meters, and are made from concrete slabs that are each 25 centimeters thick. Funding for the project was provided by the Dia Art Foundation.

Intriguingly, the pamphlet that came with the tour included a review which described the piece as a work of "megalomania."

[I like the way the concrete frames a rainstorm in this one, though I did not notice it when I took the photo]

So... do you like it? Are you more or less baffled than IPLawGuy?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Better writers than I

Yesterday, we had one of my favorite debates of all time in the comments section. Though my post did not address this issue, the question people cared about was this: Which is better, Tennessee (pork) barbecue or Texas (beef brisket) style? Apparently, it is quite a controversial topic. I would recommend you visit the comments section for yourself. See for yourself the banter between Lane (representing Texas), RRL (representing freedom), Dallas ADA (representing Old Europe), and Denise (representing Tennessee). Here are a few excerpts:

Call out:
Pulled pork is heaven on a plate and is the only true barbeque. As for the sauce - what can you mean by that? Would you rather have KC Masterpiece? Texas brisket is not barbeque. It is roast beef with sauce and is an abomination.

And Response:
As you no doubt possess a misguided loyalty to Tennessee, not having followed the stellar example of your countryman Davy Crockett, I must take up my educator's hat and inform the world of the blasphemy against the good name of barbecue that is pork, pulled or otherwise....

Just as importantly-- what beverage goes best with barbecue?

Monday, August 16, 2010


Recipe Monday: Raccoon (Now with a spicy barbecue debate in the comments section!)

As a kid, I loved to look around in my Mom's old "Joy of Cooking" book for the weird stuff. It was there all right, too-- recipes for bear and squirrel and rabbit. Of course, when I was a kid, squirrel was sometimes served as a side dish at family reunions.

I promised recipes on this blog, but have failed miserably. Fortunately, a friend from Tennessee had this wonderful recipe for raccoon, which I can now share in the Joy of Cooking tradition:

Roast Raccoon In Red Wine

1 raccoon, cleaned and quartered
2 cups boiling water
3 beef bouillon cubes
2 large yellow onions, chopped
salt and pepper
1 – 2 cups cheap red wine
1/2 - 1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 – 3 tsp dried rosemary
2 – 3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 – 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 – 2 tsp honey

Boil the raccoon in salt water for 30 minutes. Remove.

In a large bowl, mix the other ingredients together.

Place the meat in a 9" x 13" baking dish.

Pour on the wine mixture. Cover and bake 2 – 3 hours at 325 degrees.

Baste every half hour or so.

Remove from oven and let set a couple of minutes.

Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Pain

Apparently, breaking a bone can hurt a lot. I have never given birth, so I'm pretty sure that what I felt when I broke my ankle this week isn't as bad as it can get, but it was pretty bad.

Pain, physical pain, may be not the worst of things. After the break, but before the doctor set the ankle, the moving van came to my house from Texas. Sitting in my new house, surrounded by boxes but totally unable to move or unpack them, the awful helplessness made me feel a tiny bit of despair. Not a lot, just a little bit. That was overwhelming and awful and unfamiliar-- and it felt like a slippery slope into deeper negative feelings. It only lasted a moment (my life overall is pretty great), but that glimpse was a gift, a brief chance to see something and feel something that tears apart so many people.

Pain isn't the same as despair. I know many people who have suffered injuries or handicaps that cause great pain, but I never see a hint of despair in them. Conversely, I know many people who often despair, but rarely is this related to physical pain.

Despair seems much darker than pain. When I was lying on the ground right after the ankle gave out crying in excruciating pain, I was still able to laugh and even joke. Despair does not allow for such lightness, even in moments-- it is a dark blanket cast heavily over all of one's being.

Finally, it is easy to reconcile at least some forms of physical pain with a loving God. After all, pain is necessary, to tell us that something is terribly wrong with our body. Despair, however, seems apart from and contrary to the spirit of a loving God. One component of many people's despair is the sense of being forsaken-- by friends who don't call or write, by the world at large, and by God.

Pain is simple and secular. Despair is hard and spiritual. Perhaps that is why our culture is pretty good at "pain management," but not so great at "despair management."

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Witnesses explain the broken ankle


I don't live in Waco no more.

[Check out the appearance by Baylor cheerleaders at 1:18]

Actual conversation earlier this week:

Caller From the Waco Tribune Herald: Hi! We have a special right now, where if you get home delivery of the Waco Tribune Herald...

Newest Minnesotan: I'm sorry, I got the Trib for years and loved it, but now I live in Minnesota.

Caller from the Waco Tribune Herald: You don't live in Waco no more?

Newest Minnesotan (sadly): No, I don't live in Waco no more.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Haiku Friday: Clothes

Our topic: Our best clothes ever.

I loved that shirt--
Blue with white stripes, just right
I gave it away.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Legalizing Pot

There are both liberals and conservatives who favor legalizing pot-- and plenty of each who oppose it.

Should marijuana be legalized in the US?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Broken Ankle

Playing volleyball at Osler Island.
Apparently, those two bones at the left are supposed to be connected...

You may be wondering-- am I too old to be playing volleyball? Well, it didn't seem to bother my my Dad, who was on the other team! Or the 70-something guy whose spike I was trying to block. Sigh.

I came down and heard that awful crunching sound...


The Razor Net

When I started this blog, it was for my students. Right now, being between jobs for a bit (actually, I am working on my class outlines for St. Thomas, so I guess I mean between sets of students), it is interesting to ponder who is on the blog.

From what I can tell, it is a mix of former students, friends, long-lost connections, and a few people (ie Tyd) that I have never met. So... who are you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Island Time

Right now I am up on Osler Island (more properly, Frakes/Osler Island). Here is my annual to-do list for the week:

1) Read good books
2) Read at least one bad book
3) Write fair-to-middling poetry
4) Stare into the middle distance and think about stuff
5) Fish
6) Talk to my parent about stuff I don't remember, but they do.

Monday, August 09, 2010


The last night

Last week, the movers came to clean out my house. Apparently, movers have some strict rules. For example, they will not transport batteries, alcohol, or fireworks.

Somehow, it didn't seem right to just throw out those boxes of alcohol and fireworks. There wasn't that much of either; I'm not a big drinker, and my fireworks habit is seasonal.

In the end, I passed them out to some friends in the parking lot of George's bar after a nice dinner there. So that was one of my last acts in Waco-- passing out fireworks and open containers of alcohol out of my trunk. It fit, in a good way. One of the best things about Waco is the egalitarian nature of a place like George's where all parts of Waco come through and enjoy it. I'll miss that place, but miss that spirit more.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Sunday Reflection: The Heart of the Matter at Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church in Waco

Last week, I described my visit to Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church for my last Sunday in Waco, and the great sermon I heard from Rev. Kerry Berkley. In that post, I mentioned that he had a great insight within that sermon, but did not way what it was-- I was saving that for this week.

Rev. Berkley was preaching on the raising of Lazarus, starting with the laments of Mary and Martha. Both women went to Jesus to tell him that their brother was dead, and both accused him-- saying that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there. It was the same kind of lament we hear from so many who are hurt-- where was God?

Rev. Berkley noted that Jesus responded by asking where the body lay. It's a strange question; Jesus already knew and did not have to ask. So why did he?

The insight comes in Rev. Berkley's answer to that question. He suggested that what Jesus was really asking was for the women to "show me where you lost your faith."

"Show me where you lost your faith"-- a predicate question to a miracle. In other words, we must show God where we lost our faith, go back there with him, if we are to be healed. How challenging and profound is that? Yet it rings with simple truth. We all know that if we are to be honest with God, we all must answer that question at some point.

Thank you, Rev. Berkley.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Changing Over

There were many little moments as I left Waco and Baylor this week. Dropping off my keys, seeing the house empty, walking out of the Law School for the last time... all of them poignant and hard.

Still, for some reason, changing the heading of this blog was the hardest of all.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Haiku Friday: Best TV Show ever

I'm in Des Moines tonight, on my way to Minnesota. For whatever reason, whenever I am in a Hilton brand hotel and flip the tv on, Seinfeld reruns are on. I'm not sure if they have a special contract or what, but it is a good thing-- Seinfeld is my favorite show ever. I know this is silly and lite, but it's summer: Let's blog about tv.

Elaine shoves Jerry
Still cracks me up like nothing
A gentle surprise.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Presidents Bill Clinton and Ken Starr

The August Wacoan is now available, and it contains my interview with new Baylor President Ken Starr. From the time he was hired, I have thought that Judge Starr brings a great skill set to this job at just the right time for Baylor.

I'd like to highlight two parts of the interview, and get peoples' opinions on the second.

First, I really love what seems to be at the heart of Judge Starr's vision for Baylor:

WACOAN: In a world of online education and the financial challenges that we see in the education market right now, what does Baylor have to offer a bright and interesting 18-year-old that will make it worth the financial cost?

Starr: Well, we are still a bargain, and we are officially recognized as one. At the same time, the cost of higher education is an enormous factor. I’m working on that and have identified that as my single priority, to wrestle with the cost of education here at Baylor.

But what Baylor offers is transformation. As we have moved to be more of a research institution, we continue to value not only teaching, but we value teaching as part of a larger, more holistic approach in which we value all human beings. We see the students as being eternally valuable. We care about them and that means mentoring, nurturing. Great teaching is at the core of what we do because we are a university, but at the same time, we go the extra mile. We stop our work in the laboratory or the library. We keep our doors open to the students, and we say in every way, ‘We care about you.’

We also provide — I think the most remarkable thing — opportunities at spiritual formation and to develop one’s sense of call. I saw that last evening at Independence, Texas [the birthplace of Baylor]. That trip was an invitation for one to reflect on one’s sense of calling. It was beautiful. It was an opportunity to connect with the past in that very deep moral and spiritual sense, and to hear these great stories, some of which are fairly recent and some are almost ancient.

WACOAN: That word ‘transformation’ is a great one in this context. I know that I see that in my students. If I have something in the courts or in Congress, I bring students to help me, and let them share the project. It’s remarkable to see the change in their outlook. I’m very happy to hear that word ‘transformation’ being used, because it’s possible.

Starr: It’s done daily.

I love that line about student transformation: "It's done daily." He could not be more right, and there is no higher aspiration for a university than what Judge Starr is setting out. It is student-centered, challenging, meaningful, ambitious, and built on faith-- exactly what Baylor should be. The editors of the Wacoan chose wisely when they titled the piece "Transformation."

Here is the second quote, on which I seek opinions:

WACOAN: One of the things you did at Pepperdine was bring in very significant speakers, including Supreme Court justices. Will you be able to do the same thing here at Baylor?

Starr: I hope so. I certainly will be working with folks at the university more generally to see who would be helpful to bring into the community and share. It’s always great for students, but it’s also great for the faculty, the administrators, the staff to be able to see a renowned lawyer or justice of the Supreme Court.

WACOAN: Would you ever consider having one of those people be Bill Clinton?

Starr: Of course! I’d be honored to have President Clinton here.

I thought that Judge Starr's response was startling, Christian, and honest. Since I was the only other one there, I can vouch for his sincerity in saying this. If such an invitation were issued (say, an invitation to both Clinton and George H.W. Bush to talk about Haiti) and accepted, it would be a wonderful moment of reconciliation, and send out a perfect and positive message about Baylor. Talk about transformation!

So... do you think President Starr should make such an invitation?

If he does, should President Clinton accept?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


The last morning

Today is the day I leave Waco-- get in my car, turn the key, get on I-35 North and stay on it for 1100 miles.

Before leaving, though, I'm getting the chance to talk about the Fair Sentencing Act. This morning I'll discuss it with KWBU-FM's Derek Smith (that will air tomorrow), and yesterday I said good-by to both Julie Hays (whose video I couldn't get to embed) and Eli Ross:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


More on crack-powder reform

Over at the always-compelling Friends of Justice Blog, Alan Bean has put up a nice summary of some of the crack/powder issues I have described here. Also, I will get a chance to talk about these reforms tonight with Julie Hays for "Live at 5" on Channel 10, KWTX, the CBS station here in central Texas.

If I ever get famous like Alan Bean, I hope that my Wikipedia page has a photo like this one.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Mike Gravel and Social Media

I had a fascinating lunch today with Gardner Campbell, who heads up Baylor's Academy for Teaching and Learning, and is an expert on social media in the academy.

Our talk spurred a cascade of my own thoughts on intellectual life on the internet. Specifically, as Baylor comes up with a vision beyond 2012, I hope that the University makes it a priority to develop the use of new media in productive ways. Baylor's gift is the ability to transform the lives of students, to make them believe they can change the world. The ability to speak of faith is a true strength in that effort. Today, in the realms of faith and in the larger society, the world changes in response to new media. Understanding and harnessing electronic media isn't optional-- it must be a central part of teaching our students how they can live out their ambitions to change lives and societies for the better.

My own efforts in new media are halting and sometimes floundering, but I am trying. If Mike Gravel can do it (and Prof. Serr), though, then so can I:


The Move Begins


Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church, Waco, Texas

Yesterday morning, I went to hear Rev. Kerry Berkley preach at Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church here in Waco. It was a wonderful experience, and brought full circle my experience in Waco.

Jesus commanded that we welcome the stranger. Ten years ago, I came to Waco as a stranger. I literally knew no one here. The culture was different, the land was different, it was all very foreign. I was alone and scared. As I described in my last lecture, my furniture had not arrived, and all there was in my house was a futon and rickety three-legged table. I would set a meal on the stool, sit on the futon, eat my dinner, and then wonder what to do next.

Waco, though, did not let me feel like a stranger for long. I walked into a church and was welcomed, into a store, the school, and there was a spirit of welcoming that made everything better. I have not felt like a stranger for a long time here.

Today, though, I chose (I thought) to again be a stranger. I went to a church where I knew no one in the congregation (or so I thought). Greater Ebenezer is a small church by the interstate which recently built a new building-- the one in the photo is now gone. I know the pastor there, Kerry Berkley, who is a wonderful man, and I had always wanted to hear him preach.

None of the hymns were familiar, nor were many other parts of the liturgy. As is common in black Baptist churches, there were two collections, and the service lasted nearly three hours. At times I was lost. For a moment, I felt like I was back on that futon.

But for only a moment. As had happened in those first few days, good people of Waco welcomed the stranger. I was shown many kindnesses, and by the time Rev. Berkley began preaching I was moved and inspired. His sermon raised a theological point I had never considered, so I was challenged as well (I will discuss this in a future post). Nancy Hampton, who has worked with me here at the law school for many years, is a member of the church, and it was a joy to see her. It was a wonderful service, and I left not a stranger at all. Though I walked out alone, I was no longer alone in my spirit.

It is a good place.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Things, People, and God

Moving is painful. One part of that pain is the need to sort through physical possessions, which means revisiting each part of your life. As I did this today, I came across something dear:

It is a stool that sat in the stark white kitchen in my grandparents' house by Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington. It was a fixture of my childhood, and there were many days I sat on it as a child, watching my grandmother cook or listening to my grandfather tell a story or laugh. I miss them both though they have been gone for many years, as they taught me as much as anyone has. I have kept that stool, though, as a keepsake. It went from Bellingham to Detroit to Waco, as I have been unable to let go of that memory of those childhood days in that fragrant kitchen filled with love.

It will not go to Minnesota, though. It is ruined and old, loved to death, and I have come to realize that I can let go of that object without letting go of that memory. What I have is the purity of light in that room and the purity of spirit of people who loved me; that memory is not improved by a raggedy artifact that no longer reflects an essential truth.

Tonight, though, I moved past that sadness. I had dinner with a few old friends who love to talk about history, and I listened to them, sipped my wine, and appreciated the light and the warmth and the laughter of that moment.

Stuff is just stuff, created by human hands, while we are each direct creations of God. To one another, we each change the orbit of the people we encounter and befriend and love-- we never leave those we touch unaffected. My grandparents and the others who have moved me are in each cell of my being in a way that a chair never will be. I can walk away like the 70 apostles, holding nothing while I carry all of them inside.

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