Sunday, September 30, 2012


Sunday Reflection: Faith and works

This morning, I will be off at Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury, where Susan Stabile and I will be talking about faith and works.

It's always a little humbling to share a forum with Susan, no less so now that her great new book from the Oxford University Press is almost out-- it's called Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditiation, and reviewers love it.

It's a fascinating topic for us to address together, because Susan is much more evolved than I am in her faith-- there is a reason that she is such a wonderful spiritual director for so many of our students. My focus, in turn, has been on works.

Yet, I do find that though I focus on works, those works keep bringing me back to faith. Almost always, after an argument in court or a lecture at another school or a speech about an issue, there is this still, small moment where I feel moved to reflect. Almost always, it shifts me a little-- makes me realize that I don't know quite as much as I claim, or have not considered with adequate grace the views or humanity of those who oppose me. It is, I think, the voice of God, gently humbling yet loving.

That stillness is not in my nature. My instinct is to push it away. But... I am getting better.

To let that moment happen, to not fight it off... it is Susan who convinced me of that.

You can see Susan's reflections on our talk here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


What does Osler do all day? (Part 19)

Over the past several months, I've been doing a lot of writing, which is one of my favorite parts of this job. Here is a list of what I've got coming out in the next six months or so:

Roe’s Ragged Remnant, Stanford Law and Policy Review (forthcoming, Spring 2013). One of Roe v. Wade’s troubling legacies is two distinct time thresholds—viability and birth—for the attachment of rights. This odd choice has allowed legal abortion of viable infants.

The Valuation of Harm and a Failure to Evaluate in Narcotics Law, Valpariaso Law Review (forthcoming, Spring 2013). Written for a symposium on narcotics sentencing, this article argues that several mistaken assumptions regarding narcotics are written into penal codes, setting false priorities and mandating failure.

Learning From Crack, Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law (forthcoming, Spring 2013). By seeing the crack “epidemic” as a product of economic forces, Learning From Crack offers a new perspective that also serves as a critique of our societal response to this problem.

Victims: Transforming the Death Penalty Debate and Talking to Each Other in the Dark: The American Abolition Movement and The Christian Opportunity (with Jeanne Bishop). These two book chapters will appear in Ashgate Press’s forthcoming volume, New Voices About Capital Punishment (2013).

A Biblical Value in the Constitution: Mercy, Clemency, Faith, and History, St. Thomas Law Journal, forthcoming, Fall 2012). While some try hard to see biblical values in the Constitution, they often fail to identify what may be the most obvious: The value of mercy written into the pardon power.

The Promise of Trailing Edge Guidelines to Resolve the Conflict Between Uniformity and Judicial Discretion, University of North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology (forthcoming, Fall 2012). The federal sentencing guidelines present a host of chronic problems, and many of them can be addressed through the use of a modern Sentencing Information System. This article explains how.

While doing that academic writing, I've been lucky to have the chance to do a lot of short-form writing and speaking, too:

“Cutting Off Cash Flow the Way to End Drug Trafficking,” Washington Times, September 24, 2012.

Lecture, “Civil Discourse in Tumultuous Times,” Nativity Episcopal Church, Burnsville MN, September 23, 2012.

“Ask Now About the Pardon Power,” Huffington Post, September 21, 2012.

Lecture, “The Marriage Amendment,” Club 331, Minneapolis MN, September 20, 2012.

Interview, “The Insanity Defense,” Tru TV, September 19, 2012.

Lecture, “Civil Discourse in Tumultuous Times,” St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, St. Paul MN, September 18, 2012.

Panel Discussion, Supreme Court Term Review (with Michael Stokes Paulsen, Robert Delahunty, and Thomas Berg), St. Thomas, September 17, 2012.

Sermon, “Power and Influence,” Grace Episcopal Church, Menomonie WI, September 16, 2012.

“Amendment is Wrong Way to Preserve Traditional Marriage,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, August 25, 2012.

“The New Episcopalian,” Huffington Post, August 22, 2012.

Trial of Jesus, Univ. of St. Thomas, August 22, 2012.

“Kagan’s Elegant Principle: Children are Different,” Huffington Post, July 10, 2012.

“Time to Deal on Life Sentences for Kids,” (with Jeanne Bishop),, July 6, 2012.

Interview by Daniel Fisher, Forbes, “Was the Clemens Jury a Hotbed of Tea Partiers?” June 18, 2012.

“When the Atheists are Right,” Huffington Post, June 6, 2012.

Lecture: “Productive Advocacy,” Minnesota Peace Project, May 29, 2012.

“My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage,”, May 19, 2012.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Haiku Friday: Restaurants we miss

I read with some alarm the news that two restaurants I knew in Waco, the Lake Brazos Steakhouse and Samarai Japanese Steakhouse, were permanently shut down for health code violations. As to the latter, the Waco Tribune Herald reported the following:

... local health officials closed the restaurant Aug. 9 for violations that included a roach infestation, blocked sinks, unclean food equipment and indications employees were living there, including the presence of a clothesline over a sink, a health official said. “It was pretty bad,” said David Litke, a spokesman for the Waco-McLennan County Health District.


As for the Lake Brazos Steakhouse (again, from Mike Copeland's story in the Waco Tribune Herald):

Litke said inspectors closed the waterfront Lake Brazos Bar & Grill on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard after completing a routine inspection early Tuesday afternoon.

“It was determined to have multiple and repeat violations,” said Litke, who declined to release the health department’s full report on what inspectors found, but did summarize the violations.

He said that:

* Food was not consistently kept at a safe temperature;
* Equipment and surfaces that came in contact with food were not being kept clean and equipment was not in good repair;
* Employees were not following good hand-washing practices; and,
* Managers did not show adequate knowledge of food safety.

“All of that, rolled up, led to the temporary closure,” Litke said. “Their permit to operate is up for renewal and the inspection was part of that process.

I ate at that place! I'm a little surprised that the "Managers did not show adequate knowledge of food safety," given that we are talking about things like hand-washing and heating food.

My favorite restaurants, though, closed (if they did) for reasons other than health law. Let's remember them today, in haiku. Here is mine:

Sparky Herberts, gone.
Grosse Pointe's clubhouse for riff-raff,
Secret world writ small.

Now, you write one! Just make it about 5/7/5 syllables. The winner gets their bio here on Monday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Fraud of Voter Fraud

I'm always suspicious of solutions without a problem, because usually that means that the supposed "solution" is actually motivated by something else. Such is the case with the Republican-promoted voter ID movement. It turns out that there is surprisingly little voter fraud out there.

Yet, the alarm over voter fraud is still being promoted by big money backers of these initiatives to require ID when voting. The problem I have with this is two-fold.

First, aren't conservatives AGAINST onerous new government regulations, especially when they don't do much beyond extend government control? Here, there is a real cost and inconvenience created, too. For example, consider (former) voters in nursing homes. They don't have a driver's license, because they haven't driven for years. They don't need a state ID for anything, so they don't have one. The expectation, I suppose, is that they will somehow get to the Secretary of State's office so they can get a new state ID. Really? That kind of government imposition is defensible based on the rare instances of voting fraud that can be verified?

Second, this initiative runs against a central tenet of citizenship: That voting is a civic virtue, and that it should be encouraged, not discouraged. I still believe that, and it saddens me that when Voter ID enthusiasts rail for more government regulation, they don't hear the voice of their high school civics teacher whispering in their ear "voting is good."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Will IPLawGuy get a date for homecoming?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Whole lotta Shakin' Goin' on!

So, IPLawGuy sent this to me, along with the accusation I am moonlighting as a wedding singer.

Hmmmm.... I'm a little troubled by the promotional line "Like watching a train wreck."

Monday, September 24, 2012


Haiku Winner! And a request...

To my DC friends-- if you happen to get a Washington Times today, could you save me the paper? I have this piece in there today...

But enough about narcotics policy! What about the haiku?

The Curessa did some fabulous work this week, but she won last week under a different name, and it just seems wrong to win every time. There were lots of great entries, too, but one that rose to the top was this from Maureen Kane Berg:

Okra inquiry:
Do you serve it with a fork?
Or with a Kleenex?

It just rang true. In the fall of 1981 I arrived in Virginia for college, and tried okra for the first time. I still remember the moment. It was horrific.

So, just who is this "Maureen Kane Berg?"

Raised outside of Chicago with an older brother, Maureen became well known in law school at the University of Chicago for her unique skill sets: Legal analysis and musical theater. She combined the two in a way no other student ever has, briefing her cases so as to present them if called on in song, often in harmony with a few other students whom she had bribed. Her greatest hit was a full-length musical, in which Richard Posner was depicted in a whirlwind romance with a bawdy, alcoholic legal savant who ruins his career and then decamps to Boca Raton. The classic closing number, "Makin' the Scene with Antonin" is still performed in some Chicago area retrospectives.

Congratulations, MKB!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Sunday Reflection: A biblical value in the Constitution

This morning, I will be off speaking at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Burnsville-- another great opportunity. I'm very lucky that way.

An article I wrote in the last few months, for the St. Thomas Law Journal, is now available through SSRN here. Just click the button at the top that says "download this paper."

Here is the core of it:

There is little debate that mercy through clemency is in the Constitution—it is, after all, explicit on the very face of the text. Less examined, yet just as clear, is the presence of mercy through clemency in the Bible. It does not take long to find clemency—not just analogies to clemency, but the actual thing of it—in the story of Jesus. Looking beyond the simple healings and grants of forgiveness dispensed by Christ, the Gospels reveal instances in which clemency is in play explicitly within the realm of criminal law. I will consider here just a few of the more obvious moments in the chronicles of Christ’s life where the pardon power is described as a positive virtue.

For many Christians, including myself, it was God who wrote the story of Jesus’s life on Earth, with every known detail imbued with deep meaning. Should it not it matter then that mercy through pardon, within the specific context of criminal law, comes up again and again in the life of Christ?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


New things to read!

What a week it's been... I'm whipped!

My biggest project this week was finishing a long article on Roe v. Wade for the Stanford Law & Policy Review, for their symposium in March. I also gave a sermon on Sunday, a Con Law talk on Monday, a church talk Tuesday night, a lecture in a bar on Thursday, and taught my classes.

Plus, this new piece on pardons is now up on the Huffington Post, and this totally different piece on narcotics policy will be published on Monday in the Washington Times.

Whew! Time for a nap. But I have to be up in time for this talk on Sunday at Nativity Episcopal Church in Burnsville

Friday, September 21, 2012


Haiku Friday: Bad food

Fraternity corn,
What are these little dark things?
Uh oh... that's not food.

Now it is your turn-- just make it 5/7/5, syllable-wise, and the winner gets there bio here on Monday!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Election is Gaffe-tastic!

First off, while we're talking politics, I'm looking forward to finally giving a lecture in a bar rather than to one. The group is called Drinking Liberally (it's unusual for me to speak to a liberal group, but they had me at "drinking," after the week I've had) and they meet tonight at 7 at the 331 Club. You can get the details here.

So, how about that Romney video where he talks about the 47% of the population (more or less) who don't pay income tax? He sure took it on the chin for that:

In response, the Romney camp pointed to President Obama's statement about some voters "clinging to their guns and religion"-- which, frankly, was a fair comparison.

The reason it's fair is because both were totally dumb but mostly true statements. The problem with both wasn't that they weren't true-- it's that the way they were said, taken in context, reveal contempt for the people they are talking about. For example, in the case of Obama's gaffe, the truth is that many Americans, myself included, turn to our faith in times of trouble. The statement was true. The problem is the verb "cling," which adds the tinge of contempt.

None of us like to be treated with contempt, and it is wrong for a public servant to do so.

This morning I went to get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks closest to work. I asked for a grande Veranda, and watched the barista grab a cup and head to the somewhat hidden place where the coffee carafes were. There were two carafes side-by-side, and one was marked "Veranda." However, another barista was using that one, so the woman serving me simply poured a cup from the other carafe (which had a different kind of coffee) and brought it to me without comment, assuming I couldn't tell the difference (I've had this happen a number of times at Starbucks, usually when they are out of what I want). It made me mad, because I was being treated with subtle, hidden contempt. It revealed, clearly, that the people who work there don't think much of their customers.

And that, in a nutshell, is why people are upset with the comments of both Gov. Romney and the President.

Meanwhile, I need to get in a better mood. Might this help?:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Recipe Time! Fraternity Corn (now with safety update!)

I borrowed this recipe from my favorite Ina Garten book, "The Barefoot Contessa: Frat Parties!" It's easy to make, and feeds a lot of people.


8 ears of corn or one large can
9 hot dogs (do not use "weiners" or "franfurters")
16 oz. Kraft brand French dressing

First, you need to boil the corn. If you are using fresh corn, be sure to remove the husks before you boil it; if you are using the can, you can just toss the whole can, unopened, into the pot of boiling water. Also throw the hot dogs in there.

After 8 minutes, remove the corn and the hot dogs. Open the can and remove the corn, or cut the corn from the cob. Cut the hot dogs into half-inch sections. Throw all of it into a 16" skillet (cast iron works best for this), and saute in the Kraft brand French dressing. You can serve right from the skillet!

[Safety Update! Susan Stabile just ran into my office to advise that if you are going to use corn in a can, you need to poke a hole in the side with your kitchen awl before boiling it, or there will be an explosion and injuries. She seemed to know what she was talking about from some unfortunate personal experience.]


More excitement on television!

Apparently the good people at CNN have forgotten about this debacle, and I'll be appearing today at 11 am central time on CNN subsidiary Tru TV's show "In Session." I'll be talking about a Georgia case with an unusual insanity defense.

Actually, I think CNN still likes me, if only for the traffic this got...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The Nationals, and the Yankees, and one of those teams in Florida, and that one in California...

Oh boy! It's the pennant races in baseball!

As usual, I couldn't care less and have no idea who actually is involved in the wild card races, etc. (except the Washington Nationals, and that is only because IPLawGuy calls me every time they get a base hit, hyperventilating with excitement).

And no, it's not just because I am a Twins fan... though that sure helps.

More than anything, it is because a sport I like more, college football, has begun, and the air is cooler, and it just isn't really baseball season anymore. This is the time of year it starts to seem silly that the manager wears a uniform....

Monday, September 17, 2012


Haiku winner: Carrie Willard!

Dale's Mega Foods! Dad's
office, doughnuts, flick rentals,
liquor store inside!

Really? The store was called "Dale's Mega Foods?" How can you not love that?

What Carrie does not reveal is the nature of her own job, even as a child, at Dale's Mega Foods. Because the store only sold mega food, that is, food which weighs over 9 pounds, it took the efforts of the whole family to locate such food and keep it in stock. Carrie scoured the nation looking for gigantic foods-- the 10 pound cheese wheel, the braunschweiger package that came with wheels, a 6-liter bottle of Pepsi... they had it all right there at Dale's Mega Foods.

The trick to running a Mega Food store, of course, is marketing to Packers' fans, who consume such things almost exclusively. Carrie was in charge of drawing them in, going to the effort even to dress as Bart Starr at one point to wave in traffic (though she wasn't much of a football fan, got confused, and dressed by mistake as Ken Starr, which was still somewhat effective).

So... what mega food would you want to buy?

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Sunday Reflection: Today's sermon in Menomonie

Grace Episcopal Church
Menomonie WI
September 16, 2012

This week there were leaves, red and gold and brown, beneath my feet as I walked. Here in the Midwest, fall is deep and meaningful and beautiful. It is a time when so many sounds and scents bring back a memory.

For many people in Michigan, where I am from, some of those memories have to do with deer hunting. I’m guessing that at least some of the people here, too, remember something like this:

It is a cool, even cold, day in late autumn. You are 9 or 10 or 12, out in the mist of the early morning with your father. One thing about deer hunting is that you have to be quiet and still, and the two of you watch and listen. Then, it happens- you see a buck there, walking within range. Your father points, and you raise your rifle. There is a single stark moment when the deer stops, freezes, perhaps turns toward you—that moment before it runs. In your ear, you hear your father’s voice. He says “now.”

Your father, with just that word, was teaching something, something important—teaching about timing.

Timing matters because not all moments are equal. I think that is one lesson from the gospel reading this morning [Mark 8:27-38].

Really, there are two great mysteries to me in that story from Mark. The first is when Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus orders him not to tell anyone. The second mystery is in Jesus later telling Peter “Get behind me, Satan!” I think there is a connection between these two, and it was something to do with… timing.

Jesus orders Peter not to share the truth—that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God—because it is not yet time for that. It would, of course, become clear upon Jesus’s death (even to the Centurian standing guard), but it was not yet time for that truth to be known.

Why not, though? Why was it not yet time for Jesus to be known as the Son of God? Perhaps it is because that public knowledge would have given Jesus power, and he wanted something different, and stronger: influence.

Power is the ability to make someone do what you want—to force or prevent an outcome. Certainly, Jesus could have chosen that kind of power: to be an earthly king.

However, that kind of power is profoundly different than influence, which is the ability to convince people what is right, and what they should do. It was influence that Jesus held, the ability to convince the world over centuries of what is right, something that could not be attained by sword or chains. Influence lasts; power does not. Nicolae Couescescu, the dictator of Romania until 1989, had power, and that is all gone. Christ influences us now, two millennia after he taught.

One reason that influence like Jesus’s has such strength is that it commits the listener to be a part of the story. When he talked to the woman at the well, he talked about water; when he tells a story about vineyard workers I suspect his audience included exactly those workers. They are hearing about themselves; they complete the circle of truth that Jesus began, as he both affirms and challenges them.

So, what of the second mystery—of Jesus saying “Get behind me, Satan!” to Peter? I think that, too, has to do with power and influence. Remember that what preceded Jesus’s response was Peter’s rebuke of Jesus’s prediction of a fate that would include great suffering, prosecution, and execution. Jesus described his path, and Peter used his influence to discourage him.

What Jesus rebukes is the negative, discouraging use of influence—that Peter set his mind on human things rather than the divine, his own desires rather than God’s.

There IS evil in that… just as there is evil in the words that others say to discourage us, to deter us from dreams. Sadly, we all have memories of that, too.

Jesus’s influence still lives, in our lives and in this world. Power is loud; but influence is often quiet. The gospels tell us not only of Jesus’s grand moments, but the quiet ones. There is meaning in that. We must still ourselves to be influenced by God.

It is, often, only in that quiet, in the stillness of our hearts, that we can hear the whisper of God, our father, close to our ear, saying “now.”

Saturday, September 15, 2012


What a week!

I've got a lot going on this week... and for those of you looking for my Sunday Reflection, it will pop up at about 9:45 on Sunday morning (it is the sermon I am going to give, and I don't want to pre-empt myself!

Here is the whole shebang:

Sunday, September 16: Sermon and talk afterward, Grace Episcopal Church, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Monday, September 17: Supreme Court Term Review, St. Thomas

Tuesday, September 18: Lecture on Civil Discourse, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, St. Paul MN. Details here.

Thursday, September 20: Bar lecture (that is, a lecture in a bar), Drinking Liberally, 331 Club, Minneapolis, details here.

Sunday, September 23, "Productive discussion in a tumultuous time," 10:15 am, Nativity Episcopal Church, Burnsville MN.


You know what I miss?

The Aqua Buddha. Somehow, I never knew about that in my ten years at Baylor...

Friday, September 14, 2012


Haiku Friday: Shopping

Have a favorite store? Past or present? Of course you do. Let's haiku that today.

Here is mine:

At Gene's Party Store
Penny candy, pop, liquor
Kids of all ages.

Now, you go! The winner gets a bio here on Monday....

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: A shift in momentum?

I've noticed a certain amount of grumbling by Republicans about their candidate in the last week or so. For example, one of my Republican friends (who closely resembles the Second Amendment enthusiast depicted above), posted this in another forum:

Winning candidates have to stand FOR something positive. (see Reagan v. Carter, Clinton v. Bush). Merely running against the other guy, especially an incumbent, and attacking is a losing strategy and never works (see Dole v. Clinton, Kerry v. Bush and McCain v. Obama--John McCain would have been a better President, but he ran a TERRIBLE campaign). Romney needs to be more specific, or do a better job getting his message out there or he's toast.

Is the Romney plane losing air speed?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Pontiac: Scary!

Robert Johnson sent me this video, which is worth it just for the depiction of Pontiac:

Robert, of course, is the publisher of the Wacoan Magazine. I don't know if it ran, but last April they asked me to do a little restaurant recommendation-- my favorite dish in Waco-- and I sent them this:

There are times, late in the afternoon in Minnesota, that I long for a meal nearly mythic in proportions: La Fiesta’s Ultimate Date Fajitas. Served on something like Thor’s shield, it features every imaginable kind of meat, and is accompanied by a supporting flotilla of lesser dishes which fill the table like an aircraft career group going to sea. When you are done with it, the very last bit of battle-scarred onion consumed, there is nothing to do but sit back with lank arms to your side, mouth agape, pleased and horrified all at once at what you have done. Now that’s real food.


RG3-- Pretty good start in the NFL!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The Calendar!

It's going to be a busy, busy fall!

Here are some of the things I will doing for the next few months(not everything is listed). Most of the events are open to the public, so feel free to come!

Wednesday, September 12: Judging St. Thomas Moot Court Semifinals

Sunday, September 16: Sermon and talk afterward, Grace Episcopal Church, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Monday, September 17: Supreme Court Term Review, St. Thomas

Tuesday, September 18: Lecture on Civil Discourse, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, St. Paul MN. Details here.

Thursday, September 20: Bar lecture (that is, a lecture in a bar), Drinking Liberally, 331 Club, Minneapolis, details here.

Sunday, September 23, "Productive discussion in a tumultuous time," 10:15 am, Nativity Episcopal Church, Burnsville MN.

Sunday, September 30, Presentation with Susan Stabile, Christ Episcopal Church, Woodbury MN.

Tuesday, October 2, Lunch talk on Forgiveness, St. Thomas.

Tuesday, October 3, lunchtime Manna presentation, St. Thomas.

Sunday, October 7, Sermon, Church of the Holy Comforter, Richmond VA.

(Later on)Sunday, October 7, Lecture on death Penalty, St. Mark's Catholic Church, Virginia Beach, VA

Tuesday, October 9, Trial of Christ, Regent University, Virginia Beach VA.

Thursday, October 11, Faculty Colloquium, Commutation, St. Thomas.

Week of October 14-21 (Fall break): Trial of Christ at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena (Oct. 17, 7 pm), Azusa Pacific University (Oct. 18) and other events in Southern California.

Tuesday, October 23, "The Future of Marriage in Minnesota," Maplewood Community Center, Maplewood MN, 7 pm.

Friday, October 26, Hamline Law Review Symposium on gay marriage, 1:30 pm.

Wednesday, October 31, "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory," with Susan Stabile, St. Thomas, 12:30.

Friday, November 9, Presenter, Narcotics Reform Symposium, Valparaiso Law School.

Friday, November 30, Faculty Colloquium, University of Tulsa.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Haiku Winners: It's all Carolina, baby!

I'll admit-- it was looking like the win for Megan Willome, until she forthrightly admitted a tragic error in this haiku:

Hail Battlin' Billies,
whose mascot is not a goat
but a ram. Oh, sheep!

It turns out that the mascot of the Battlin' Billies is, in fact, a goat. She's not alone in making that kind of mistake though-- I have been cuffed on the head for similar errors by both Handsome Dan and Pluto the Dog. Really, I have.

So, we end up with a tie for first between these two Carolina themed entries:

First, we have this from Neil Alan Willard:

Blue Devil (Meth-diss)
and Demon Deacon (Bab-diss)
-- two unrighteous dudes.

Followed by this gem from Demetra:

The Blue Devil chants
"Go to Hell Carolina!"
No matter the foe.

Why Christine, who LIVES in friggin' Durham, North Carolina, didn't get in on this action, I don't know.

At any rate, much as Neil Alan Willard and Megan Willome have a secret and unsettling history, the same is true of Neil Alan Willard and Demetra.

Though Rev. Willard likely does not know this, he once served communion to Demetra, in her first and only visit to an Episcopal church. As a William and Mary grad, it should not be surprising that she once visited Bruton Parish Episcopal Church there, but what was unusual was her experience.

Rev. Willard was not his usual self, having been smitten with another W-burg denizen, the now-infamous Carrie Willard. Something about it left Rev. Willard less focused on his work, and it was into this haze that Demetra, accustomed to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, stumbled.

During their short interlude at the passing of communion, all of the following occurred:

-- Rev. Willard offered seconds
-- He asked Demetra where a good place to get flowers was
-- He also checked his cell phone twice for texts from Carrie

Yet, somehow, they survived, and now meet again as co-champions!

Sunday, September 09, 2012



A long time ago, I took the Myers-Briggs personality-typing test and was categorized as an INFJ, described here. That means that I am (to some degree) an introvert, intuitive, feeling, and judgmental.

What often surprises people about that is that I am an introvert, but it is a completely accurate assessment. I'm not only comfortable being alone, there are times I really need to be alone, and thrive on that. It's how I gather myself.

I don't feel like this is a negative trait, though sometimes people who are more social than I am think it is odd. I see this trait, though, in other people whose spirituality I really admire, like Susan Stabile. Christ, of course, sometimes needed solitude-- he would leave everyone else and go to be alone. Even in a group, he had ways to remove himself, such as in John 8, when he writes on the ground, off from the crowd.

I'm not Christ, and can't say I know what he was doing there, but I do understand that instinct in my own way.

We are, I think, called to community-- after all, the church is nothing less than that, and Christ directed us to communal worship. It is important to be a part of the group. For some of us, though, we also need that time alone to be whole and at peace, and that is within Christ's spirit, too.

Those two poles which compete for our time, quiet solitude and communion with others, correlate to the two great commandments-- because to love our God, we must listen quietly to and for him, and to love one another, we must share in joy and sorrow together. It is a duality that makes a whole... and we all do seek to be whole, on the many paths before us..

Saturday, September 08, 2012


The story of New Christine...

I recently asked New Christine to write a little something for the blog about herself, and she did a wonderful job, writing about an experience at a reunion. Her work is found below:

“Hi Christine… It was nice to see you yesterday at the cemetery…it brought back a lot of memories of being a kid and playing at your house… But I’m really confused… I don't remember a Christine in your family... I remember Carolyn and Debra and Charles, but I cannot for the life of me remember a Christine… I know Charles was about a year or 2 older than we were but I just don't ever remember meeting you at your house… Is my memory getting that bad?? I guess at my age I can't expect to remember everything but I sure am confused on this one… Anyway it’s always nice to run into people from the past… best regards, Patti.”

Two reunions planned on the same day. My choice, family over high school, though morning was set aside for a side trip and picnic lunch in the town where I grew up – blanket spread between my parent’s final resting place and next to that of my uncle. Conversations initially silent soon became vocal.

A greeting offered to a young woman, with watering can in hand, began a new friendship. Nikki was tending to the flowers for her loved ones, acknowledged my comments and approached to inquire why a woman was sitting on a blanket. A&W root beer, half eaten burger and fries, a picnic – mystery solved, conversation continued and she has more flowers to water. With an emotional voice and tears of happiness, I gratefully accepted her offer to tend to my parent’s flowers.

The cemetery trip became reason for being more than a little late for the all family bar-b-que. I missed the reunion and made amends by spending the week visiting family and loved ones.

Upon my return home, I was flooded with emails, an email from Nikki, received before Patti’s, required responses to both.

Dearest Nikki,
“…And yes, I had ‘...a wonderful rest of the weekend.’ Though, I created quite a stir... Thank you for introducing me to your dear friend and reacquainting me with her parents (Patti and Casey) – looking into their eyes encouraged me to unexpectedly attend my class reunion.”

“Patti, you are not losing your mind and a little confusion – well, who wasn’t last weekend. My parents had ‘only’ three children, Deborah, Carolyn and Charles. “…Charles was…” and ‘is now’ Christine. Childhood dreams instilled by faith, family and school were mostly achieved. Spouse, parent and architecture embraced – though all came with a twist.”

(My closest friends and those who have met New Christine no longer live in our twin towns – That afternoon I was in familiar, though uncharted waters.)

Within the month, Nikki sent me another email…

Hi Christine.
“…One other thing I wanted to mention is that many of the people that you graduated with have heard that we became friends. I think it is so wonderful that they all have such great things to say about you!! Men and women all say such kind wonderful things.

It goes to show that if you are true to yourself and treat people with kindness, even in this small minded community (which it can be!) people will care…”
Nikki =)

The week had begun with another of ‘those’ conversations and an awkward dance with the Holy Spirit during my drive north – I was not convincing. How did I agree to wear my most stylish summer dress and sandals during a four hour road trip to a cemetery picnic and family bar-b-que? After meeting Nikki, I had my answer.
The past year, I was gifted an old, prized coffee mug from a new friend I met while attending a morning mass at my son’s parish – offered on the second of each month to honor my granddaughter’s birth. The inscription reads, “God danced the day you were born.” God danced the day Nikki was born…

Her kindness and generosity have few limits – “I was FINALLY able to finish your manuscript. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing with me! I smiled, laughed, and cried. I hated every time something came up that made me put it down. …I just can’t stop telling my family what a wonderful person you are, and all the struggles, but also triumphs you have encountered. Your faith brings tears to my eyes. I am a Sunday School teacher at the Faith Lutheran Church in HL. I respect the Catholic religion very much, I actually feel that the two (Catholic and Lutheran) are very similar. While reading about your faith I honestly got chills and tears. It is amazing!!!”

It is she that amazes! Her first marriage ended when she and her three children left an abusive, alcoholic husband (father). Years later, a new, blessed, blended family was formed – soon to be staggered by the great recession. “We have gone through quite a bit in the short time that we have been together, but (through economic hard times, rotating shift changes and uncertain schedules) we both feel it has all brought us closer together.”

Closer together and active in her community; “I feel after reading all about you I would give you a little more about me. …I went to BSU for Elementary Ed, but with 5 children and their busy schedules and my love for volunteering (currently I am active in the HL Chamber, HL Water Carnival Committee, Miss HL coordinator, Faith Lutheran Church council and Call Committee, and I am on the Mesabi East Youth Hockey Board) I have chosen to be a paraprofessional at the school. This allows me to still use my teaching skills (plus add more, as my student last year was deaf, so I am quickly learning American Sign Language).” Ask around our twin towns, most everyone knows and admires Nikki’s generosity and compassion. Meeting and getting to know her has been one blessing after another. Nikki was the first to greet Christine and welcome her home.

Like Nikki, my greatest blessings have come from sharing a moment with another person. Everything we say to another, do for another or accomplish on behalf of another is initiated by our willingness to share a moment in time. When our Spirit allows another person to feel comfortable in our presence, so many wonderful experiences are possible – silence can be enjoyed, listening can be rewarded, words can be appreciated, a message can be heard, tasks can be accomplished, relationships can be reinforced or mended, events can be defining, love can be made, the possibilities are endless. It starts with sharing a moment, sharing a moment together.

To all, thank you with all my heart for opening your hearts to me and sharing your blended (Osler) family.

Friday, September 07, 2012


Haiku Friday: Mascots!

Yeah, ok, so I am a little obsessed this week. I'll admit it. You can haiku about any mascot you want, but here are some suggestions:

1) Goldy the Gopher (Minnesota)

He was the star of the Big 10 "Call Me Maybe" video, he has the best tail in sports, and he stands by one of the worst football teams in the BCS. Now that's a mascot!

2) Keggy the Keg (Dartmouth)

Keggy is the mascot at Dartmouth. More than that need not be said.

3) Bucky Badger (Wisconsin)

Bucky is always... well, he suits Wisconsin pretty well.

4) Cookie Monster (Univ. of Illinois)

After the University of Illinois had to ditch their former mascot, Chief Illini-Wek, they adopted Cookie Monster as their new mascot. He leads the crowd in singing "C is for Illinois" among other things. I see intellectual property issues on the horizon...

5) Handsome Dan (Yale)

Um, yeah. I suppose this is the appropriate setting to explain Yale's mascot...

E) Cletus (Texas A & M)

Texas A & M used to have a mascot named "Sarge," but they updated it to "Cletus" with their move to the SEC.

6) Big Red (Western Kentucky)

What is it? No one really knows, but Big Red brings the fun.

7) Monopoly Guy (Harvard)

It was good of him to visit Occupy Wall Street....

8) Doofus the Duck (Oregon)

The glasses are so 1987, but the song is catchy...

So, here is mine:

Bruiser, Baylor's bear,
Saw him once driving a car
So... is that legal?

Now it is your turn... the winner gets their bio here on Monday!

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: What should Obama say?

Last week I asked what Gov. Romney should say to the Republican convention, and got some great answers. Just about the best was this suggestion from the Waco Farmer:

1. Who am I? I believe in the power of love. I believe I am a better person because I married Ann. Her love saved me. We are blessed with an amazing family. Our love and God's love built that. I believe in America. I believe that hard work pays off. I believe that we are a great nation that can do better, if we come together and take our serious situation seriously.

2. I believe President Obama is a good man who wants the best for America. I believe he was born in Honolulu, HI. And, even if he wasn't, the Romney family is on record as saying that is not even a disqualification for the presidency. I believe Barack Obama is a great father and husband. I believe Barack Obama is a great American success story. I believe Barack Obama loves the USA as much as I do.

3. I also think Barack Obama has not met the challenge of our times. Granted, he inherited a tough situation, but he has been unable to get his mind around the big issues facing our nation, and he has wasted three and a half precious years that we could not afford to lose:


4. What can be done? We can get serious about energy. We have a new reality in terms of our potential for energy independence. We need to reassess our old ideas about energy and look forward into the 21st century. We need to reassess our old ideas about entitlements and government spending and taxes and put our country on a path to sustainability. We need to shake off the ideas of the last century and put our country on a course for peace and prosperity for the next 100 years. And the time is now.

5. Change is hard. I am the unknown. I understand. But when the known is unacceptable, change is the only viable alternative. There is no reason to believe President Obama will do anything different over the next four years from the last four years. We cannot afford another four years of sitting dead in the water.

Give me a shot. I will give you my best. I will not let you down.

God Bless America.

So tonight is President Obama's turn. What should HE say?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Big 10 Mascots sing "Call Me Maybe"... Goldy Represents, Willie the Wildcat AWOL

(Almost) all the Big Ten mascots in one video? What's not to love?

However, Penn State's mascot (the squirrel-looking thing with the blue-and-white tie as its only piece of clothing) has a less than wholesome vibe going here. While the other mascots are doing mascot-y things with cheerleaders and other students, the Penn State Squirrel Guy is off by himself mowing the lawn and washing his car. What's up with that?

Also one might wonder... where the heck is the Northwestern Wildcat?

Let's put the mascots in rank order of quality:

1) Goldy Gopher

Appearing Rambo-like out of stagnant water? Check.
Hanging around at Lake Calhoun? Check.
Using tail to fling water at women at Lake Calhoun? Check.
Not being homeless any more? Check.
Plus, he can do his own laundry.

2) Sparty the Spartan

Definitely the best dancer of this group, and seems to have a great group of friends. Downside: Lives at Michigan State. Reportedly, he tried to defect to Michigan a few years ago, but Ann Arbor's ban on guns also covers swords.

3) Bucky the Badger
Best use of a state capitol. Seems to know his way around. Downside: Dance at the start reveals that Bucky has no tail whatsoever.

4) Lil' Red, the Nebraska Inflatable Guy
He cracks me up, and can do that bouncing-on-his-head thing. What is he, some kind of giant farm kid?

5) The Iowa Hawkeye
I like the ice skating bit, and he does make a good flapping motion, but doesn't seem to have a lot of charisma.

6) The Other Nebraska Guy
Ok, I'm fond of Inflatable Lil' Red, but the other guy is less charming. Something about that smile...

7) Brutus the Buckeye
Did anyone else notice that he dances like Elaine from Seinfeld?

8 The Penn State Knitting Lion
My Mom, a Penn State grad, tells me that the Penn State mascot is not a squirrel, but a "knitting lion." Presumably, he made that tie/scarf thing himself. Still... mowing the lawn? Car washing?

9) The Purdue Boilerhead Guy and Northwestern's Willie Wildcat
These two did not show, claiming they didn't get a call. Then they produced a make-up video, which shows Willie to be both a little hung over and the last person in the U.S. who uses a pay phone:

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Green Bear? Sailor Bear? Bruiser the Bear? Live bears? The Too-Many Baylor Bears...

In the comments to Sunday's post, OsoGrande made a reference to Baylor's "Green Bear" mascot, which got me to thinking about that whole thing. Previously on the Razor, I have given a detailed history of Baylor mascots up to about 1934. Since that time, though, things have gotten a little weird. During the ten years I worked at Baylor (which coincidentally, were the dark years for Baylor's mens sports), there were about five different versions of the Baylor Bear rolling around:

1) Sailor Bear

How could you not love Sailor Bear? The jaunty sailor cap, the challenging visage, the bearlike demeanor, and the totally bizarre idea of having a sailor mascot for landlocked Baylor. It made no sense at all-- which meant it made all the sense in the world. Sadly, Baylor apparently does not own exclusive rights to Sailor Bear, so they no longer use him.

Having a mascot floating around without proper trademark protection can be risky. According to one history, Sailor Bear ran into some problems during the war years, "when it was dropped due to the fact that a German U-Boat which terrorized trans-Atlantic shipping was reportedly named (without Baylor's approval, obviously) “Baylorsgebang- bruindasboot,” with a picture of the Baylor mascot stenciled on its side next to the Nazi swastika."

2) Green Bear

So, what makes even less sense than Sailor Bear? That would be the very odd "Green Bear," which may well remain Baylor's symbol (they do own the rights, after all). Why, exactly, is the bear green? My guess is Aramark food, but there may be some genetic mutation involved, or Waco water (which always turned me a little green, too).

I have a hunch that Green Bear was a product of the 1980's, which gave us a number of baffling cultural icons, like "The Simpsons" and Journey's Song That Won't Go Away, "Don't Stop Believing." Green Bear is pretty much the "Don't Stop Believing" of college mascots.

3) Inflatable Bear

Appearing exclusively at Baylor basketball games, inflatable bear (who was also green) was gigantic and wobbled around unsteadily before performing various antics: pulling his head inside his body, bounding on his head upside-down, appearing to gobble up a cheerleader, etc.

At least once, I saw the inflatable bear in a parade, terrorizing children as he lurched unpredictably from one curb to the other. Confusingly, the inflatable bear, like the live bears, is named "Judge."

4) Live bears

For several decades, Baylor has had live bears living on campus, and at times (many years ago) they were brought out at football games to drink Dr. Pepper to promote one of the team's sponsors. Some people had a problems with forcing Dr. Pepper down a chained bear's throat, so they stopped doing that and now they just stroll about with students and live in a very nice zoo in the center of campus. They are all, like the inflatable bear, named "Judge" for some reason.

Some sources have reported that the new Baylor stadium might contain a glassed-in area where the bears can comfortably watch football games, but others think that money might be spent instead on academics... we'll see.

5) Bruiser the Bear

Bruiser appears at many Baylor games-- and, apparently, is enrolled full-time as a student who attends class in full bear suit. At least he is the right color, not too nautical, and eats an appropriate omnivorous diet! Still, he creeps me out a little.

Which one is best? My vote is for Sailor Bear...

Monday, September 03, 2012


Haiku Winner: New Christine

So many good ones last Friday... too many winners to pick just one.

Still, that's kind of my job, so I'll go with this one from New Christine:

Renee's words give flight
To visions forgot or new
A journey delight

Using both "Journey" and "flight" to describe the work of a 35-year airline employee? A+!

New Christine, of course, is an architect, a field most of us know only through the work of one "Mike Brady," who seemed mostly to work at home. Architects are important of course... and I have always wished that I could have taken the class once offered by Dan Freed (my sentencing mentor) and Phillip Johnson at Yale-- where one law student and one architecture student were paired to design a prison.

New Christine, though, is well-known not only for fabulous house designs, but also for her fascinating take on public buildings. Her new city hall for the town of Anoka has several creative features, including a goose livery and a "living history" display on the roof of the building, which not only serves as a county detention facility, but generates 50% of Anoka's electrical power through low-polluting prisoner activities. She also is responsible for the sliding wall at Target Field, which allows the Twins to face a 280-foot wall in left field, whereas opponents are looking at a 385-foot shot from home plate.

All hail, New Christine!

Sunday, September 02, 2012


Sunday Reflection: The gift of disappointment

The most disappointing year of my life was the year after I finished college. I had done well at school, and felt ready to take the next step... but the next step kept turning out to be tripping into a mud puddle.

I was turned down for an amazing array of jobs. I wanted to be a copy writer for an ad agency, and got some interviews but was rejected every time. Over and over, I failed. I was turned down by a fascinating group of employers, including Northwest Airlines, where I applied for jobs like being the guy at the gate who tells you your flight is delayed. They separated us into two groups, those who would go on in the process, and the rest of us. A guy next to me said, "welcome to the loser's bracket."

I finally got a job delivering flowers, and was not very good at that, even. I kept the job, but did not deserve to. I started to buy lottery tickets, and I felt as if my failures were an embarrassment to my parents. When I cried, people looked at me like I was just pathetic, and perhaps I was.

Of course, I eventually got my first job in law, as a process server, but that took a while.

It was an incredibly painful time, and I found my faith wavering-- from my small, selfish perspective, the world did not seem rationally constructed by a loving God.

But... maybe it was, after all. What if I had succeeded in getting those jobs? What if I had been hired as an ad writer? Perhaps I would have done well at that, and been fulfilled. Somehow, though, what I do now seems right and best for me, and I would not be doing it if I had not suffered those disappointments.

When I look at the best things in my life, almost always they had their roots in a low ebb. Certainly, I am a fortunate and privileged person in ways I don't deserve, and the hardships of so many others dwarf my small travails. Still, from my limited experience, I do give thanks for the professional disappointments I have known, because nearly always they pushed me away from something, and towards something else.

Others, I think, have seen the same as they look back at their path.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Best print ad EVER

Yesterday's New York Times contained, on page A19, what may be my favorite goofy half-page advertisement ever. Placed by Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao, it sets out the following in both English and Chinese:

Chen Guangbiao, citizen of China and advocate of peace, solemnly declares to the US government and the American people:
-- The Diaoyu islands have been part of China since antiquity.
-- Japan's right wing is now violating China's territorial sovereignity, and threatening stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
-- etc. etc. [see image above]

What makes this ad so great?

It's the photo on the bottom right, of a guy doing a trick on a bicycle. What does this have to do with the Diaoyu Islands? Or is it Mr. Guangbiao himself? Will this mystery ever be solved?

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