Sunday, April 30, 2023


Sunday Reflection: The turning of the season


Winter fades slowly here in Minnesota. It comes quickly-- one day in November, boom, you get snow on the ground and then that's it for five or six months-- but it backs away from the cold at a much more gradual pace. It'll be near freezing today, and we'll all be walking around in puffy jackets while the rest of the world is in shorts.
It does make us all appreciate summer much more, and learn to appreciate winter as well. I kind of like it this way.
But it is also the way so many other things happen, isn't it? Good things sneak up on you and "boom!" they are there. Bad things fade slowly over time.  The snow is our memory of a bad day or month or year, dissolving a little as warmth falls upon it. But sometimes it is the other way around.
In the Gospels, I'm always taken by the way that Jesus seems to take people by surprise, even the Pharisees. They go to hear some guy speak, and go away transformed. It's definitely a "boom!" type of event. 
And when I see people lose their faith, often because of Christians, not Christ, it is a slower fade. The reality of people's cruelty or negligence of people in the church washes over them in little waves, until the mound of their faith is gone. It's a slow melt for many (though not all).
We just need to be better to each other. The true Church is known and defined by who it includes, not by who is excluded.

Saturday, April 29, 2023


I got a worm man in East Dakota


Friday, April 28, 2023


Haiku Friday: Good Reads

 IPLawGuy has said (and it is sometimes true) that I write more books than I read. But I'm reading one now, and will consume some more during the summer. After all, we are getting to reading season! So let's haiku about our favorite summer-reading books. Here, I will go first:

Eight-year old Mark O.
Sitting in his swimsuit, park bench
Deep in Middle Earth.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, April 27, 2023


PMT: The Biden Announcement & the 2016 Danger


Now it is official-- Joe Biden is running for re-election.
I'll start out with this: if it comes down to Biden v. Trump, I will vote for Biden.
That said, I worry. Democratic optimists are saying this is the 2020 election again, and the same result will reward us in the end. I'm not so sure.
And here's why: I think that it mattered that the 2020 election happened in a pandemic. The requirements of public life at that time allowed Biden to largely avoid public appearances, which he just is not very good at. His speech is stilted, his words seem borrowed from 2nd-tier Bill Clinton speeches, and he often says the wrong thing, mumbles, or seems confused. 
In 2024, Biden will not be able to avoid public appearances without being called on it. That means he either will avoided appearances and be pounded for it (mostly by Trump), or make appearances and give Trump a truckload of video to use in attack ads. Ouch.
And in that way, it is like 2016, where Hillary Clinton made a fraction of the appearances Trump did-- she didn't make a single one in the swing state of Wisconsin--  and assumed she could coast to victory as Trump self-immolated. And we know how that turned out.
Trump is nearly as old as Biden, but can be very effective at situating his opponent and defining him or her by their worst moments.  You don't have to wonder what that would look like-- he has been putting out ads like that for a while:


Wednesday, April 26, 2023


The In-Between Season

 I have this friend, IPLawGuy, who is all in for his favorite baseball team, the Washington "Nationals." He has season tickets, takes kids to the games, fills out a scorecard, and cares about the team from the first game until the end of the season (for the "Nationals") in late August. It carries him through a big chunk of the year, and going to a "Nationals" game with him is pretty fun. 

Sadly, I don't have that kind of thing going. My interest in sports begins in early September with the start of college football, peaks during college football championship week, fades during the bowl games, revives to some degree for March Madness, then subsides until the next fall. 

Don't get me wrong-- I go to the occasional Twins game and enjoy it. Last February, for my birthday, I went to a Red Wings game and had a blast. But I just don't find myself following along with sustained interest. For example, the NBA and NHL are well into their playoff seasons, and I have no idea who is still playing. 

Maybe I need to go to DC and watch the "Nationals" with IPLawGuy and watch how he does is....

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Don Lemon, Susan Rice, Tucker Carlson all out....


In a fascinating coincidence, yesterday saw three people leave their current positions: Don Lemon, Susan Rice, and Tucker Carlson. I have to say that I am glad about all three.
Don Lemon is the only one that I knew; he interviewed me at least three times (you can see one clip here). He struck me as someone who often took on too much-- for much of his tenure at CNN, his show was too long for him to properly prepare for any one issue. 
Of course, he wasn't as dangerous as Tucker Carlson, who seemed intent on division, and ginned up his audience on dislike of others. Lemon did that at times, but it wasn't at the center of what he did, as it was for Carlson.
Finally, Susan Rice is stepping down from as the head of the Domestic Policy Council, an organization within the White House that has as much power as a given president gives it-- and it appears that President Biden gave this one a lot of power. Rice was a voice often too attuned to politics rather than what is right, and insiders tell me that there will be more hope for comprehensive and transparent discussion on issues like immigration once she is replaced.
Still... what a day!

Monday, April 24, 2023


On Texas!

 I was, in fact, back in Texas for a single day on Friday, and saw so many friends, including the Medievalist. That made me love your haiku all the more.

Desiree sees a positive:
Raised in Texas, he's
a Texan from hat to boots.
But I still love him.

So did Anonymous:
"Found a home church yet?
Invasion of privacy?
Or, kind? The latter."

IPLawGuy sees a mix:
Great Place to Visit
Fine food, excellent tunes, but
Evil Politics.

And Christine, the same kind of contrasts:
Endless, concrete, roads
Oppressive humidity
Houston in summer

Fields of bluebonnets
A Lady Bird legacy
A State of contrast.

While Craig has his own truth (and sadly, it is true):

State from another era:
Prefers regress to progress.
Not my flag to fly.

Sunday, April 23, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Truth in the scramble


I do, of course, know some people who are skeptical of how seriously I take the Gospels-- that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (I don't pay much attention to the other books except as context-- I'm a Christian, so it is Christ I am really interested in the most). "Hey!" some of them say. "You don't really think that an oral history transcribed by others much later then recopied is really some kind of exact transcript of what Jesus said, do you?" 
And the answer is that I don't. I'm not someone who thinks that God wrote the Bible or guided the translators-- there is too much variation between their outcomes for that to be true.  I do think there was a Jesus and that his central teachings-- humility, for example-- come through. In those stories there are certain consistencies that (even if imperfectly described) really shine through. 
I find this with my dad these days-- since his death, many people have been telling me stories about him (which I love to hear). Some of them, including some that I tell, vary from others recollections. But the spirit and persona described are very clear, even with those mis-rememberings. We knew the same person, and saw the same things. In forty years, when people tell stories about him, that will still be true.
My faith is built on a perfect narrative, and I'm ok with it-- the story rests with us humans, and we are talented at telling truths deeper than perfection allows. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023




Friday, April 21, 2023


Haiku Friday: Texas


Love it or hate it, you never forget it! I spent ten years in Texas, and found a lot to love. If you live there, visited there, or just have some ideas, let's haiku about Texas this week! Here, I will go first:
Hey, IPLawGuy--
You shoulda bought the Health Camp
You woulda fit in!
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!


Thursday, April 20, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Shooters


In a bizarre new twist in America's love affair with guns, three incidents in the last few days have revolved around people gunning down someone who just happens to be in the wrong place.
Shown above is the upstate New York driveway where a 65-year-old named Kevin Monahan shot dead Kaylin Gillis after she and some friends drove up his driveway by mistake as they looked for a friend's house. Monahan fired away with a shotgun as the young women tried to leave the property.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, 85-year-old Andrew Lester shot through his front door and killed Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old child who was trying to pick up his siblings and went to the wrong house.
And in Texas, two young cheerleaders were shot when they mistakenly approached the wrong car in a parking lot.
This ethic of firing away as a first resort when any kind of threat is perceived is the culmination of several threads within our culture, forming a toxic rope. The first is the idea that guns are the solution to crime. The truth is that they are more often the cause of crime. The second is that violent crime is out of control, and we are all under constant threat of attack. That's just not true-- violent crime is down, not up, this year-- and even when crime is relatively high any one of us is usually at pretty low risk. 
I've told the story before about my dad: when we lived on the East Side of Detroit in the late 1960's and many in the neighborhood got guns out of fear, my dad got a trombone. He did not know how to play the trombone. It doesn't make much sense-- but it makes a lot more sense than getting a gun and shooting at whoever comes on your property.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


In the Atrium


Yesterday was really wonderful. I won an award named for my friend Justice David Lillehaug, who is retired from the Minnesota Supreme Court. The presentation was at an event in the atrium of the law school, and featured a 45-minute conversation between me and Justice Lillehaug, which was really fun-- a chance to tell a lot of stories about my students, my parents, and my many mentors. 
I'm grateful for a moment like that, and it was wonderful to share it with so many people in my school and community. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Yes... I do eat fast food


Not often, but I do eat fast food. As a kid, my favorite was the long-lost Red Barn, where you could get fried chicken in a cardboard barn.  These days, here are my favorites, in order of quality:
1.    Culver's
2.    In N' Out Burer
3.    Chipotle
4.    LeeAnn Chin's
5.    Burger King
6.    McDonald's
7.    Taco Bell
97.    Popeye's
Some of these are regional, of course-- you only find LeeAnn Chin around Minneapolis, and Culver's is a Midwestern chain, while In N' Out is found mostly in California and Texas.    
And I know some people love Popeye's, but I'm not in the club. It seems greasy and weird to me, and their fries are like those hot-dog fingers in Everything Everywhere All At Once (which totally creeped me out).
Do you agree with my list? 

Monday, April 17, 2023


Dreams of Summer!

Good haiku, friends-- thanks for lifting my mood! 
It's always good to hear from Gavin-- so evocative:
Day gives way to night
The bonfire crackles, spits
Crickets play their part
Christine loves summer (and the Shores Park):
Hawaiian Tropic
Days gone by sunning poolside
Ice cold Tab with lime
This anonymous entry harkens back to my favorite lake:
Stand up paddle board
Sunny day on Lake St. Clair
Good workout and fun!
Your Tim(e) Has Come certainly sounds Minnesotan: 
From furnace to air
Conditioning our cloistered
Spaces 'til freedom
Jill Scoggins delivered:
Where to go? What
to see? As much fun as the
vacation itself.
But it's CraigA I want to visit: 
Sand encrusted flip-flops,
Pockets with shells and plastics,
OBX sunrise beach walk

Sunday, April 16, 2023


Sunday Reflection: The Second Day


The painting above, by my dad, is kind of a mystery to me. I don't know who it is, or what the context is. Somehow, though, it makes me think of prison. 
I'm in prisons sometimes, and send my students there regularly. When I started my clinic for clemency in 2011, I decided on two things. First, we would visit all of our clients in person. My students would negotiate all the myriad rules, get in, and sit down with the person whose story they would help tell-- the story they lived that hopefully would result in clemency. 
The second decision was that when we went to a prison we would always visit on two different days. Often, prisons will ask "why two days for two hours each? Why not one day for four hours?"
There is a good reason. On that second day, we get so much more of a person's story, because they trust us more, and they trust us because we came back. These are people whose lives are full of people who did not come back: parents, partners, the people who were supposed to care for them. That means there is great power in the simple act of coming back. 
But... it's not just prisons. We all need that, for people to come back, to not forget us. And that, too, is part of loving our neighbor as we want to be loved.

Saturday, April 15, 2023


Kid, you smell like a Reuben...


Friday, April 14, 2023


Haiku Friday: Dreams of Summer


It's warm enough now-- even in Minnesota-- that people all over are dreaming about those long summer days. Some people have plans, some have hopes, some have memories, but we all have something! Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:
Long ride on my bike
By a river in the sun
Bliss and exhaustion.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5.7.5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, April 13, 2023


PMT: Too early to discuss the 2024 presidential race? Actually, it might be too late


It's only April of 2023-- a year and a half away from the 2024 presidential election. It is not at the top of the news, and people seem to think it is too early to talk about it. I fear that it is too late. Here's why.
It looks like Biden will run. Trump is running. Those two things we know, and that ought to scare us. 
For one thing, if it ends up being those two, it will be an ugly, awkward campaign. Trump makes things that way, and Biden has never really run a full campaign-- previously, he has dropped out early and in 2020 the pandemic allowed him to make relatively few appearances. This time around, he won't be able to do that, and having him make a lot of public appearances plays into Trump's hands.
The truth is that Biden isn't very good at public appearances. He tends to appear stiff and (at times) old. There will be gaffes, and Trump will claim they are signs of senility (while the truth is that Biden was a gaffe machine in his 30's). 
But Trump can't win, right? Well.... a lot of us thought that in 2016, after the Democrat ran a lackluster campaign that limited appearances.
So what if Trump doesn't win the primary? Then Biden is in even worse shape, because a younger more vigorous Republican free of Trump's baggage will have a very good chance to win.
Democratic challengers to Biden aren't emerging, and that development, going on right now, might be the most important one of all once this is all finished.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023


The 146th mass shooting of 2023


So, I'm not making that up-- it really has been the 146th mass shooting of this young year in the United States. It's becoming normalized. Here are some things we probably should agree on by this point:
1)  Thoughts and prayers have been an ineffective strategy to address mass shootings.
2)  Arming more people, under the theory that all those armed people will fend off the mass shooters, has also failed. Many of these have occurred in places with a high percentage of armed citizens.

3)  Other that those two strategies, we really haven't tried anything in a serious, systemic way. Maybe it is time to do that.   
New strategies may involve disarming some people who pose a special danger to themselves or others.  If you think about it, it's pretty shocking that the suggestion of doing that, after 146 mass shooting in 3.5 months, is controversial.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


Coronation of... who cares?


Prince Charles is about to have his coronation as the new king of the United Kingdom. As with anything involving the British royalty, I have to wonder why any American would care at all. 
He will ride in a golden coach!
He will wear fancy clothes!
Some Anglican priests will do stuff!
Other royals will be there!
Seriously... how much more stupid could this be? They don't govern. They don't contribute much-- or anything-- to society. They don't seem to have their friggin' shit together. You seriously could pick any family out of the phone book and come up with a more likeable collection of characters.
It does make me glad to be of the people who cast all this off and call themselves Americans.

Monday, April 10, 2023


The Good light

 I wanted to go all these places with you all! We had this from Desiree:
Sand that looked like cold
snow at noon, warms at dusk
to comforting gold.

And from Jill Scoggins:
Words sometimes fail me.
Like when I want to tell you
about that golden light.

It washes over
the beach, just before twilight.
It’s gold in all ways.

It wraps me up in
gold-like air. I feel it so
much more than see it.

These three stanzas don’t
really convey it. Words can’t
capture that treasure.

From the Medievalist:
Alhambra Palace,
Watching the end of the day,
Sipping on something.

And Christine:

Crest of the hill, light
mixes with the morning fog
Iridescent joy.

 Unrelatedly, I also had a long message from CraigA about the ECAC winning the Frozen Four, blah blah blah, Colgate, Etc. etc. etc., Gophers suck, etc.  Which was all kind of true.

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