Wednesday, December 31, 2014


A big, big New Year's day!

So, I have been kind of sick-- in bed all day yesterday, and the doctor recommended a "complete head replacement."  I'm doing my best to get better by Thursday, though, since it will be the best football day of the year.

First up at 11:30 Central is the Cotton Bowl, with Baylor playing Michigan State.  I'll be watching at home with two special guests (and Razorites):  Baylor Prof. the Spanish Medievalist, and Michigan State grad Sleepy Walleye. I hope they don't get in a fight.  

Later in the day, the two playoff games will feature Oregon and Florida State in the Rose Bowl, and Alabama and Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.  Plus,  Minnesota is playing Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, and Michigan will be playing in the… well, they got a new coach.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


The Good and the Bad of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan

By all accounts, San Francisco 49ers' coach Jim Harbaugh is going to be the new coach at the University of Michigan.  He has been very successful in the pros (and before that at Stanford), and his salary will be about $8 million a year, by far the highest in college football.  There is good news and bad news with this.

First, it is a great hire for Michigan, which is Harbaugh's alma mater.  Harbaugh is a proven fixer-upper who gets teams competitive within a few seasons.  He is a strong recruiter and runs a clean program (based on the experience at Stanford).  Michigan very much needs the kind of strong personality that Harbaugh represents, and it helps a lot that he is a "Michigan man" in terms of being accepted at the University.  It's also great news for the Big Ten, which can't continue to hobble along with mediocre programs at so many traditional powerhouses, like Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State.  

The downside is this: $8 million dollars is crazy money for a University employee.  You could pay for 50 full professors for that price-- three or four whole departments at a big school like Michigan.  Because other coaches have contracts tied to the highest-paid coach in the country, the price of many other programs are about to go way up.  That would make sense if those programs made money, but relatively few do so.  They siphon money off of the University, even as the football players are increasingly segregated from the rest of the University (at Baylor, the athletes just got their own "nutrition center" so they won't have to eat dorm food).  

At some point, football needs to be put back in proportion.  Don't expect ESPN to do it.  At some point, academic leaders will have to step up and restore the balance of sports and the University's core purpose.

Monday, December 29, 2014


The gift of haiku

Oh, Geoffrey and Sally!  Here was their exchange last Friday (when the haiku subject was gifts):

Geoffrey Mustang Boy said...
I told Sal: "Good News!
It's Boxing Day! She punched my
Lights out.Damn New Gloves

Anonymous Mustang's Former Sally said...

Listen Osler--Geoff sucks.

I asked for leather gloves
Italian,red. I got
Boxing gloves?! Saw red.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Yearly accounting

One of the things I see over and over in the Gospels is very simple: We are charged with finding and correcting our own faults, not those of others.  In other words, Christ taught an ethic of personal accountability, not other-accountability (and blaming others for not being personally accountable is not consistent with this ethic).

As I have said before, the week leading to New Year's Day has always had a certain kind of spiritual depth for me.  The end of the calendar year is meaningless in itself, like the odometer flipping, but I give it meaning as a time for reviewing my year and recognizing what went right and what went wrong.  Already, I am coming to some conclusions about that.  I recognize that at times I needed to be gentler and more patient; unfortunately at times others have had to pay the price for my unnecessary busyness.

Also, in the coming year, I think I will use more emoticons.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Ski Alabama!

While doing some research and, uh, grading yesterday, I stumbled upon the odd fact that Alabama has a ski area-- The Cloudmont Ski Resort and Dude Ranch.  According to their website, "advanced snowmaking equipment and patient professional instruction" have allowed for a few hills to host a little downhill fun. 

Has anyone been there?  I'm kinda fascinated...

Friday, December 26, 2014


Haiku Friday: Boxing day!

I'm  not sure what boxing day is all about.  My first guess, that it was about boxing up Christmas gifts, was met with guffaws of disdain by a small group of Canadians.  Apparently, it is not about the sport of boxing, either.  

Given that, let's just haiku about the gifts we gave and received, as objects or otherwise.  

Here, I will go first:

Those who love music
They love it a lot. For them,
Shopping is easy.

Now it is your turn!  Just make it more or less 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and have some fun with it!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Merry Christmas!

I do love Christmas.  I love the traditions, the weather (usually), the chance to reunite with family, even the hope that I might receive a Conveyance Good Hand as a gift.

But, mostly, there is a way I connect with the beginning of the faith on this day.  I have to try, to push through everything else, but I do.  And when that happens, it opens up the world again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Graffiti of Detroit

Yesterday I wandered into Detroit with a bunch of my family.   In and around the Eastern Market, we were surprised by the really good stuff painted on walls.  It was so different than the graffiti in Rome, where it seemed to just be people scrawling their names on any available surface.  At its best, Detroit graffiti is worth soaking in.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Water worn

Last night I arrived back at my parents' house in Grosse Pointe, the house I grew up in.  It's a beautiful place, and timeless in the way that houses and towns on water often are.  As I drove in, I saw so many of the familiar things:  the house with the crazy bright Christmas display, the cold waves crashing over the seawall, the bare trees scratching at a gray Michigan sky.  There is a wash of emotions when I come back, but it is all in grayscale, from the white of pure hope to the black of despair.  Michigan is like that, and especially the Detroit area.  The tearing-down is real, while the rebuilding is too often a promise.

I'm starting to think about the year I have had; the many places I have been.  Sometimes in the past it has felt like being a flat gray skipping stone, bouncing off the water to the next wave, but this year the cuts into the water have been deeper.  

As a kid, I loved skipping stones, though I never was very good at it.  I loved the made-up science of it, choosing the right rock and trajectory according to arbitrary and baseless formulas that eventually molded to the truth of experience.  In my mind, I was the stone, trying to get as far as I could.  But the part I loved was the end, when my stone might topple end-over-end, pause a moment on the surface and then surrender to the water, to what is real.  It would stop its dancing and dive deep and fast into something new yet familiar-- after all, the stone had been worn smooth by that very water.  I kept watching where it had been, a thin, shivering boy on the shore.  Then, too, I was the stone.  

Monday, December 22, 2014



My favorite haiku from last week:

I actually hate
Baby It's Cold Outside
No Guitar Solo!

And now, "Let It Go"
From Frozen, A Christmas Song?
COLD equals Christmas?

Best rock Carol:
"All I Want For Christmas is
You" done by Foghat.

I'm not sure about the Foghat song, but I think the man asks a good question about "Frozen"...

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Commitment to what's wrong

I find it painful to read things about people who cling to an untruth.  Most recently, it was Dick Cheney defending the use of torture, despite its utter discrediting.  I saw it in George Bush's assertion that war in Iraq was the right thing to do, despite the lack of a positive outcome and the loss of life and taxpayers money.  I see it with prosecutors who cling to discredited convictions, and I have even seen it in myself with a few of my decisions that have turned out to be wrong (such as over-sentencing drug defendants).

It is hard to admit we were wrong, but it is harder still when such an admission means we damaged other people.  In sympathy, for example, to George Bush or Dick Cheney, think what it means if they are wrong: It would mean that they destroyed the lives of others for no discernible benefit.  For prosecutors, you are put in the position of looking at someone and saying that they should lose their freedom (or even their life).  And if you are wrong?  That's too big a burden to bear.

At Christmas, there is new hope.  Like the baby Jesus, though, it has to come from a humble place, one where we are not exalted and powerful.  It is a difficult place to go, but God provides us with a good example, one that we see re-created in every Christmas pageant and manger scene in this season of truth...

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Shake it off!

I think Sparty does pretty well here… especially the awesome sprinkler move with real sprinklers:

Friday, December 19, 2014


Haiku Friday: Best songs of the season

Year after year, IPLawGuy tells me how much the Twisted Sister song shown above means to him: When he first heard it, how he plays it as he decorates the tree, etc. etc. etc.

I may not agree with him about the song (or at least this version), but I appreciate the sentiment.  Let's blog about holiday music today-- any holiday of the season-- that we either love or despise.

Here, I will go first:

My mom in the choir
Singing "Silent Night," candlelit
That gets me each year.

Now it is your turn...  Just make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and have some fun!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Advent Quiet Thursday: The Tree

It's a hard day to stay away from politics, given that yesterday President Obama both normalized relations with Cuba and issued a round of clemency grants.  But, I will resist…

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is having a tree in the house.  It's a live, green tree by the front window.  When I pulled it through the front door, it was still cold-- I could feel the cold from a few inches away, emanating from the trunk.

At one level, there is something deeply weird about bringing a live tree into the house.  Usually, we respect a clear line on that: People live inside, while trees live outside.  But that's what makes it special and good and different.

The last thing I do before going up to bed is see that tree.  It is everything that this season should be, this unusual season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Waco Manhunt under way after shooting...

According to the Waco Trib, TV weatherman Patrick Crawford was shot three times outside the studio where he works south of Waco.  His station, KCEN, reported that he was attacked by a white man in his mid-30's.  Crawford survived the shooting, and the suspect is on the loose.  

It's an odd crime.  As someone whose career revolves around criminal law, some cases stick out because the facts just don't fit together well.  The Michael Brown case was one of those of course-- where the explanations given for the killing didn't fit what we would expect to happen.  The most common homicide scenarios involve a robbery gone wrong and a heated argument.  This sounds more like a stalking case-- where the killer tracked the victim to his work.  Those are more unusual and more complex.

In a town like Waco, being on TV is a big deal (though the pay doesn't reflect it, I think).  I still quote two different Waco weathermen, and I haven't lived there for four years.  People will pay more attention to this case than others.  

Meanwhile, I'm hoping the victim emerges alive and healthy...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Tumult and Advent

I did a little piece that is up on the Huffington Post right now-- Regular readers here probably recognize the ideas!  You can see it here.

For some reason, I find it hard to write in December.  Maybe because I should be more advent-y?

Monday, December 15, 2014


Some excellent haiku!

Check out all the ornament poems here.  I really liked Craig A.'s:

Clark the Cub on tree
Oh how I love thee! Needs pants.
Oh, and Red Sox suck!

and Anonymous's:

Stoked Texas Santa
presides in a sleigh pulled by
three fat cockroaches

Four year old artist's
imagination melded
with Waco real life.

and can't you just see Christine's?

A glass cowardly
lion catches the sunlight
and casts memories

And Meghan....

school gift exchange: My daughter
receives Hula Shark.

What is a "Hula Shark?"

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Christmas and Advent

Today, getting ready for a little party, I stopped at the store to get a bag of ice and a fire log.  The cashier said "Huh-- fire and ice."  I laughed.  It's a juxtaposition I have seen before.

December is an odd time for Christians who care about the liturgical calendar.  It is advent, a time dedicated to quiet and reflection and waiting.  It has a unique place, and one that is all the more important now.  The "Christmas" season, by that calendar, does not begin until Christmas day.

At the same time, though, the society we live in celebrates the entire month as "Christmas."  That cultural season offers values completely the opposite of advent-- a loud frenzy of commercialism and parties.

As I get older, I am starting to see the dual nature of things, and this is one of them.  It is advent and Christmas, all at once.  They stand for opposite things, but sit beside one another, tangled up, in our own lives.  We create corners of quiet, but also wade into the tumult.  People lament the tension between the two, but I am beginning to see the connectedness....

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Tough Interview

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,The Colbert Report on Facebook,Video Archive

Friday, December 12, 2014


Haiku Friday: The Ornament You Love Most

For Christians (and people who celebrate Christmas for other reasons), decorating the tree is a special annual moment.  For many families, there are ornament collections that build up over the decades, and many of them have special meaning.  My own tree is covered with the amazing ornaments that mom has made over the years.  Other favorites were less expertly made.  My parents, for example, have a Big Fig ornament, handmade by a nine-year-old Eric Frakes out of paper, that has lasted 41 years:

Let's haiku about favorite ornaments this week.... here, I will go first:

My mother made it
A simple silver star, a loop
A memory shines.

Now it is your turn... just make it 5 syllables/7/5, and have some fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Advent Quiet Thursday

I have friends who are much better at quiet and contemplation than I am; my friend Susan Stabile is pretty much an expert at it.  Many of those friends have a place that they go to, that is reserved for that-- a prayer space or meditation room or even a quiet place in the woods.

I've never had that.  To be honest, there are times that my calmest moments, my stillest reflections, come when I am in a crowd and profoundly un-alone.

There are times that I walk down a street in New York City.  The sidewalk is crowded, and the city is noisy.  Something happens; I watch the people passing, and then I think about the people there, and then move on to a different, calmer plane-- something beyond thinking, I guess.  There is a part of my brain that is taking care of business (wait for the walk sign... don't step in the manhole...), but most of it is in the kind of calm space that others find in quieter places.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Well, he has to do something after this job is over...

Presidents and humor can be a strange mix.  Some can never pull it off-- Nixon, for example-- while others were naturals (Reagan, Clinton).  Obama is pretty funny when he wants to be, and that's a good thing.

The strangest case was Al Gore.  When running for president, he was profoundly unfunny and came off as stiff and lifeless.  Then, after the bizarre 2000 election process was finally over, he appeared on Saturday Night Live and killed it.  If he had shown that side a little during the campaign, he might have gotten those few hundred votes he needed in Florida! 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


A March for our times

Cornell Brooks was in my class at Yale Law, and was always compelling, focused, and principled.  I'm not surprised to see what he is doing these days...

Monday, December 08, 2014


Sally! Geoffrey! Behave!

What am I to make of this from last Friday?:

 Mustang's Former Sally said...

Listen Osler--Geoff sucks.

Geoff wore red long johns
Backwards trap door in front.So
Always ready for love

 Geoffrey Mustang Boy said...

Sal's winter nightie
Lavender Flannel pink rosebuds
Impregnable buttons.

This over NFL sweatpants
Stainless steal chastity belt
"Undies." Impregnable.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Protest and Advent

On Friday, I was giving a talk to 30-some people from across the country about working with students on clemency cases.  I was giving the talk in Harkness Hall, which is across Wall Street from Yale Law School and down a block.  While I was giving the talk, a protest was held, involving several hundred students and faculty holding a "die-in" to make a point about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths.  

It was really an interesting juxtaposition: Outside the window, the protesters were expressing righteous anger about a real and serious problem.  Inside, we were working to mitigate the effects of the law enforcement excesses and racial imbalances they were protesting.  The two projects weren't in tension; rather, they fit together to make a whole.  

At the end of the session, we walked into the street to do down the street to the law school.  The protesters, headed back, were going the same way.  We walked together quietly, the street full of people and meaning.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


The Non-Pizza Lunch

What a week!  Back at my alma mater, I got to give a talk on clemency and faith, debate my old friend Rich Sullivan on narcotics policy, meet with 30 other people working with students on clemency cases, and meet with about a dozen Yale Law students at one time or another to talk about writing projects, job prospects, and the Law Journal.

So… a few days ago I posted pictures of a few of the posters from this week.  Many people are wondering:  What is this promise of a "non-pizza lunch?"

Well… first of all, it's not a non-lunch, it's just a lunch that is something other than pizza.  Apparently, YLS charges a $50 fee to organizations to clean up after a lunch, but waives it if the lunch is pizza.  (I heard a few various theories about why this might be).  As a result, they get a LOT of pizza at events, and a non-pizza lunch is a big deal...

Friday, December 05, 2014


Haiku Friday: My favorite winter clothes...

It's December… time to haul out the heavy clothes, the ones that save us from the cold.  For some reason, people (at least in Minnesota) have an odd affection for their winter clothes, and we have have favorites.  Let's haiku about that today.

I will go first:

Trusty ski helmet
Blasts tunes in my ears
So loud, IPLawGuy hears.

Now it is your turn!  Just make it 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third….

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Advent Quiet Thursday

Every year for advent, I leave off the political commentary for Advent.  Several years ago, I started paying more attention to the liturgical seasons.  Of them all, advent is the most challenging for me.

It is to be a time of quiet, of expectant waiting.  I'm lousy at that!  If you don't believe me, ask anyone who has been fishing with me.  I want to jump into things and wrangle them and get things done.  Yet, I know that there is deep wisdom in the call to quiet and reflection.

I'll have to work on that next week… this week I have my hands full in New Haven, though it is stuff I love doing:

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


The strange case of Georgia Southern

For years, Georgia Southern had a very good, even great, football program in what was first called Division I-AA, and now is called the Football Championship Series (I think they maybe need to revisit that change now that the former Division I-A also has a championship...).   Recently, they moved up to the top classification, and have excelled.

In fact, this year they won the Sun Belt conference with an 8-0 record in league play.  That's pretty remarkable.

However, it looks like the NCAA will not allow them to play in a bowl game, because they are still classified as a "transitional" team.

What could possibly be the rationale for denying a conference champion the chance to play in a bowl game?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


The college that quit the NCAA

I recently stumbled across the startling story of Spelman College, a strong academic women's college in Atlanta that decided to dump intercollegiate athletics and spend that money instead on the fitness of the entire student body.  

Here is how the New York Times described it (in part):

Spelman, a historically black women’s college with alumnae who include former slaves and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will become the second college in the last decade to leave the N.C.A.A. altogether, the other being the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Officials at the college, whose 2,100 students make it the size of some high schools, decided last year to eliminate the athletic department. The college had 80 athletes spread across seven sports, but the athletic budget was roughly $900,000 for the 2012-13 academic year — from an overall operating budget of roughly $100 million.

“I was startled,” Spelman’s president, Beverly Tatum, said. “It seemed like a lot of money for 80 students.”

The highly unusual move by Spelman comes when few institutions seem to be able to resist the lure of intercollegiate sports, even as one scandal after another has tarnished the reputations of universities throughout the country.

The decision to shut down Spelman’s athletic program followed the announced intention of several colleges to leave the Great South, meaning the conference would have too few members to remain viable. For Spelman, joining another conference would have meant incurring higher travel costs, making improvements to the college’s athletic sites and fielding teams in additional sports.

While watching a basketball game in the Jaguars’ 62-year-old gymnasium, where a shorter-than-regulation court has necessitated a waiver from the N.C.A.A., Dr. Tatum began to wonder what the players would do for exercise after their eligibility expired.

Dr. Tatum had become alarmingly aware of data showing that young black women were prone to diabetes, heart disease and other ailments linked to poor diet and exercise. Observing candles being lighted on campus at 10-year reunions in memory of alumnae who had died was chilling and revealing.

A remedy seemed obvious: disband N.C.A.A.-level sports and reallocate the money devoted to them toward establishing a wellness program that could take advantage of the college’s gym, courts and fields.

What a fascinating idea! Isn't it tempting to apply that logic to the schools that now are spending millions on money-losing athletic programs that a small number of students participate in?

Monday, December 01, 2014


Two poems about grandfathers

From Renee:

A rude wooden bowl
And one spoon fed 5 chicks..Pa
Hoarded money,they

Were left alone to
Fend.He learnt to sculpt trees
In Zurich. Gardener

He met his wife who
Was Cook.From Marseilles they sailed
To America.

Farmed a Tragic Land.
His mustache tickled my cheek.
He pulled my hair.

I would have loved to
Hear his stories.How he survived
When she shut out love.

And from Christine:

Dancing eyes, broad smile
A farm with horses and cows
Mem'ries of age five.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?