Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Sharing grief


Good friends are there when you need them. IPLawGuy came out for the memorial for my dad; he lost his own dad a few years ago. It meant a lot to have him there, along with a lot of other people from different parts of my dad's life.
One of my jobs at the service was to marshal people who wanted to speak. I had Eric and Karen Frakes and Jeff Plansker go around and take the names of those who wanted to speak, and then I called them up. I didn't know what any one of them would say. In retrospect, it could have been a disaster.
But... it wasn't. Everyone had something important in common: we all were experiencing grief over the death of this person who touched so many lives. I figured that people would approach the task with respect and brevity, and they did.
Some people would say that's the holy spirit; others would say it is the inherent goodness in people. And it could, of course, be both.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


The Service

 If you are interested-- here is the service for my dad:

Monday, May 29, 2023


The long days

 Three good people, three good poems.

We had this from Desiree:
Summer is coming
And we celebrate as the
Moon and Venus rise.

And one from the Medievalist:
June twenty first is
The longest day of the year,
A warm summer night.

And this from Christine:

Almost summertime
Yesterday our heat cycled
So unusual

Sunday, May 28, 2023


Sunday Reflection: The Eulogy


Today I will be giving the eulogy for my dad. It's going to be a long and hard day, but I am sure there will be moments of joy. If you are interested in coming to the memorial, it will begin at 3 pm at Grosse Pointe Congregational Church.

How long will the service go? I don't know. But the best things have mysteries.
I'm also not totally sure what I will say. That's because I always leave a hole in any important talk, a space for the holy spirit. Maybe that hole will be filled, perhaps not.
I wish I new what to say when people ask me what I am feeling. The answer, honestly, is everything at once, every emotion possible all tangled up together. I don't imagine I will untangle it by three. But maybe that's ok.

Saturday, May 27, 2023


Who ordered the bacon-crusted rolls?


Friday, May 26, 2023


Haiku Friday: The long days


This is a special time of year: It's not quite summer yet, but the days are about as long as they get, and evening goes on forever. There is something really evocative about it all, this season of graduations and weddings and planting. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
Nine o'clock; it's dusk
That soft, perfect light of God
A time to be still.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun! 

Thursday, May 25, 2023


PMT: A rough start for Ron DeSantis


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis decided to announce his presidential campaign through an "event" on Twitter with Elon Musk. And.... it didn't go well.
Who thought that was a good idea in the first place? I guess DeSantis figured that Donald Trump, having abandoned Twitter, would be unable to upstage him-- but it turned out he did not need any upstaging.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


The rest of the story....


Last week, I described the amazing slate of reforms and new laws passed by the Minnesota legislature in the field of public safety-- but that was just a fraction of all that they got done. Here is some of the rest of what was passed:
-- A steep cut in the tax on social security payments
-- Rebate checks from the surplus
-- Created a state system for paid family leave from work
-- Legalized recreational marijuana
--Allowed for driver's licenses for undocumented people
-- Created legal protections for those coming from other states to seek abortions or transgender health care
-- Broadened environmental protections and provided money for state parks, trails & fisheries
-- Provided money to bail out nursing homes
-- College will be free for students whose families earn less that $80k per year
--  Support for education across the board
-- A big infrastructure commitment
-- And much more!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


Graduation advice


Other than at my own schools, I have given two graduation addresses in my life-- and they were both on the same day, in May of 2010. One was for an elementary school and the other for a high school, both in Waco.
I remember very consciously avoiding saying "Follow your dreams!" or "To your own heart be true!" My reason was clear: I did not want to make it seem that at such a young age you were supposed to have found your passion. I didn't find mine until I was well into my 20's, after all.
The danger is making kids feel like something they like-- basketball, music-- must be their "passion" that they are duty-bound to pursue. That's wrong because kids that age, for the most part, are generalists. They do a lot of things, some well and some badly. In high school, for example, I was a mediocre hockey player, an ok runner, a decent writer, and a failure at STEM subjects. That didn't mean that any of those things were my "passion" in life-- I had a long time to figure things out. 
There is a good, and slightly different, critique of "follow your dreams!" in the New York Times today, by Sapna Cheryan and Therese Ann Mortejo (you can read it here). 
I suspect that many of the graduation speakers spouting this commencement orthodoxy are thinking "Hey! I followed my passion and I turned out ok!" But if they examined their own lives closely, they might realize that their passion was not yet identified when they were the age of the people in their audience.
Basically, I think every graduation address should be about love. That can't fail.

Monday, May 22, 2023



 Aha! That worked-- so many good poems about jingles.

Loved this from the Medievalist (about a jingle written by Barry Manilow):

Like a good neighbor
State Farm is there to collect
Your payment each month.
And there was a good one from Mary S.:
No more Rice Krispies
We've run out of Rice Krispies
Eternally stuck.
Christine brought back memories:
Is it my first name?
Or my second name?

We had a treat from Desiree:

Shortest and worst one,
but we all know it, sing with
me now…. Hot pockets.
And this from Your Tim(e) Has Come:
Oh I'd love to be
An Oscar Meyer wiener
Isn't that crazy.

Who also had this:

Have you tried Wheaties
The very first commercial
Jingle in the world.
And this:

I'd like to buy the
World a home and furnish it
With Coke and some love.
And finally, an anonymous (and inevitable) entry:

Ready, set, go: Plop, Plop
Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief
It is! Best Jingle!

Sunday, May 21, 2023


Sunday Reflection: The End/The Start


It was only a few years ago that it occurred to me how odd it is that we call the ceremony at the end of school "commencement"-- a word that literally means 'the beginning.' 
Of course, as Semisonic taught us, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Yeah. 
But it's hard to think that way sometimes, because graduation is often a hard end. Some of these students I will see again, of course, some of them quite regularly, but for some-- including some of my favorites-- the reality is that I won't see them again, and there is a part of that which genuinely makes me sad. There is a special kind of love in teaching when you really believe in it, and a kind of heartbrokenness that comes at graduation.
In the Waco Trib today, my hero and friend Bob Baird jumps off from my piece about Bob Darden to honor two other teaching legends from Baylor, Ann Miller and her brother Jim Vardaman. (You can, and should, read it here).  In terms of teaching, Bob Darden, Bob Baird, Ann Miller and Jim Vardaman were and are light years above and ahead of me, and it is thrilling to just see my name near theirs. In fact, just last week I was speaking at the Univ. of Chicago and one of the other participants was a brilliant young prof. now at the University of Florida, Ben Johnson. His teaching hero and mentor? Jim Vardaman.

Bittersweet is the word for it, I suppose, this commencement business. But a life without bitter and sweet isn't much of a life, is it?

Saturday, May 20, 2023


Titans v. Eagles from Pittsburgh

So, the Tennessee Titans (an NFL team) announced their schedule for the season with this excellent video. They sent a crew to Broadway and asked random people to identify the logo for the opposing team each week. They apparently got zero right. But, man, that November game against "Chester Cheeto" should be interesting!


Friday, May 19, 2023


Haiku Friday: Jingles


If you ever watched TV (and you probably have) at least once you have gotten an advertising jingle stuck in your head. Sometimes... like, for the rest of your life! Let's haiku about those this week. Here, I will go first:
I'm stuck on Band-Aid?
Please get it out of my brain now!
It's been five decades.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, May 18, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Very Big Bill


Very late on Monday night-- actually, in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday-- the Minnesota House passed a gigantic public safety bill that includes an amazing array of reforms. It has gone through reconciliation and passed in the Senate, so now it only needs the governor's signature... which should be coming later this week. 
Here are just some of the provisions:
-- A thorough reform of the clemency process which will replace the requirement of a unanimous vote by the pardon board (the Governor, AG, and Chief Justice) with a 2-1 majority with the governor in the majority. It also creates a clemency commission to review petitions and hold hearings.
-- Creates a "red flag" law to allow an investigation and possible disarming of  those constituting a threat to themselves or others.
-- Also closes the "gun show" loophole for background checks on gun purchases.
-- Boosts funding for Minnesota courts, including a big increase in funding for public defenders.
-- Expands restorative justice programs for juveniles.
-- Allows people in prison to slightly shorten their sentences (up to 17%) by pursuing programming and educational opportunities. (Republicans characterized this, somehow, as the "get out of jail free" provision).
-- Sharply limits the use of no-knock warrants.
-- Funds police recruitment to address a shortage of officers.
-- Allows for prosecutor-initiated resentencings in some cases.
-- Funds direct assistance to crime victims and their families.
-- Creates a new chargeable offense of carjacking.
-- Limits the ability of people to legally possess catalytic converters,  in order to stop the fencing of these high-theft items.
--   Creates a specific crime of "Organized Retail Theft."
-- Limits the use of aiding and abetting to charge accessories as principles in murder cases and makes these changes retroactive.
-- Creates an "Office of Restorative Practices" within the state's Department of Public Safety.
-- Expands victim rights, including the ability of a victim to independently move for a speedy trial of the defendant, even if the defense has not demanded a speedy trial.
-- The membership of the Sentencing Commission will be expanded to include (among others) someone who has been incarcerated.
-- Terms of probation can be no longer than five years.
-- Creates new avenues for expungement, including automatic expungement for some lesser crimes.
-- Creates and funds a large batch of new programming and services in prisons.
-- Makes phone calls from prison free for both the caller and the recipient of the call.
-- Gets rid of the sentence of life without parole for those who committed their crimes as juveniles and creates a review process for juvenile offenders who receive long sentences.
And.... well, there's more. But that's a lot!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Sports Update!


As many of you know, for me in terms of spectator sports the year consists of college football season, March Madness, and the rest of the year. Still, I'm aware there are other sports. In fact, hockey and basketball are fully into their playoffs.
In the NBA, the big news came in the first round, when Eastern Conference 8 seed Miami beat the 1 seed, Milwaukee. We are now down to the semifinals. which will see Boston playing the NY Knicks in the Eastern final, and the Denver Nuggets are playing the LA Lakers in the Western final. So... we could see an LA v. NY championship, or a new version of the classic Celtics-Lakers rivalry that dominated the 80's. Or, the Denver Nuggets. Sigh.

In the NHL, The Boston Bruins cruised into the playoffs, but immediately lost to some team from Florida. Ugh. So now we have the Florida Panthers v. the Carolina Hurricanes in the East Championship, and the Dallas Stars Play the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the West. Not exactly classic matchups!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


Recipe Time! Summer Bruschetta


I don't like tomatoes. It's not unusual to see me pluck a tomato from my burger or carefully pick them out of a salad. But... sometimes, in the summer, I like bruschetta. It's probably because I really like the bread, and the tomatoes are fresh and really good. 
So, here is a bruschetta recipe adapted from the New York Times, which has an excellent cooking section. This makes four servings
1 pound of tomatoes. Get them from the Farmer's Market! If you use plum tomatoes, it will be about four or five.
1 teaspoon salt.
5 tablespoons of olive oil (use the good stuff).
2 large  garlic cloves, minced.
8 basil leaves. 

Grilled or toasted crusty bread.

Using really great tomatoes, olive oil and bread is the key to success.
Core the tomatoes and then chop them up into 1/2 inch pieces. Put them in a colander and add the salt and stir. Then let it sit (and drain) for 2 hours. Patience!
Now warm the garlic and the olive oil in a lil' saucepan over low heat for about five minutes-- this will make the sauce. Stop if the garlic starts to brown. Then set this aside.
Then roll up the basil leaves and cut them crosswise.
Once oil is cool and the tomatoes have been left alone for those two hours, put the tomatoes, oil, and basil in a bowl, the put it on the bread. Add a little salt, maybe. And you are ready to go!


Monday, May 15, 2023


Street Music

 Only a few haiku this week-- but they were excellent!

We had this from Desiree:

Xylophone, guitar,
and harmonica. He plays
them all at one time.
And one from Christine:

Julliard students
Prime locale, subway buskers
Making joyful noise.

Sunday, May 14, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Christian Nationalism

 It's hard to see American Christianity get hijacked in some places by people who are conflating the faith with nationalistic politics. At the heart of this movement is a simple belief: That Christianity (well, a certain version of it) should direct the US government. They would say, in short, that Jesus is the true head of the country.

There are a few problems with that. One is that Jesus taught us not to do the exact things they want: take oaths, judge others, and control (rather than love) our neighbors. 

The second problem is that in Luke 4:5 we find this, after Jesus is sent into the desert to face temptation at the beginning of his ministry:
 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]
 So, it was Satan who tried to get Jesus to have power over governments. That should be pretty directive, don't you think???

Sigh. Anyways, Sweden won Eurovision, but their song was as great as this 2013 Danish winner:

Saturday, May 13, 2023



 When people like George Santos refer to a "Witch Hunt," I'm pretty sure this is what they are thinking of:

Friday, May 12, 2023


Haiku Friday: Best street musicians


I hear a lot of not-so-good street musicians, some good ones, and sometimes some great ones. When I hear someone who is really good, I stop for a while (if I can) and listen and give some money. 

 So let's about them this week-- I'm pretty sure everyone has at least one that is memorable.Here, I will go first:
New York subway, dawn
A mournful song rings out strong
I stop, and I cry.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun! 

Thursday, May 11, 2023


PMT: Evangelical Fade-Out


Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Southern Baptist denomination lost about 1.5 million members since 2018, and 3 million since 2006. To put it in context, there are about 1.5 million Episcopalians in the United States, total.
The denomination seems poised to make it worse, too. They are about to take up a proposal that would bar women from all pastoral positions, not just senior minister posts. (Of course, that is already and always has been the position of the Catholic church, and it's not working out so well for them, either). 
Mainline churches for several decades were shrinking while evangelical churches like the Southern Baptists grew. Now, the decline is becoming apparent across the board.
I see this in many of the friends around me-- church just isn't relevant or important to them.  The churches they used to go to have doubled down on their various orthodoxies, meanwhile. It's a fraying of the social fabric that builds on so many others.

This drift from faith has affected our politics, too. As people become unmoored from institutions like churches, fraternal organizations, and other formal social groups, they become less invested in the success of the society, and more prone to extremism. Those who think that fewer evangelicals will be good for politics might be surprise-- the former evangelicals are likely to be even worse.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023


Trump and the media


In 2015, I often listened to the "Morning Joe" show on satellite radio as I drove into work. I was surprised and then troubled by how often what they were doing was just broadcasting a Trump rally-- hours and hours of them. Sure, they followed it with some snarky commentary, but they just kept giving him free airtime. Lots of other outlets did the same thing, thinking whatever outrageous thing he said constituted "news." And we ended up with... well, you know.
In the Washington Post, Perry Bacon, Jr. had some intriguing suggestions on how the press should cover Trump-- and yes, they should cover him-- this time around. One of his ideas is to focus on the stakes of the next election, not the relative odds of various candidates winning. That's true, of course; the relentless oddsmaking draws us away from real issues, character, and everything else that should matter. And the oddsmakers have been fantastically wrong lately, anyways.
Another of his ideas is that the media should focus on, and take seriously, the agenda that Trump lays out. There is some crazy stuff in there, of course: ie, a mandatory minimum sentence of death for drug dealers. And what that would mean should be played out and taken seriously.
This election really scares me. I am not a fan of Joe Biden, and Trump would wreak destruction if he wins (he seems bent on revenge). Our best hope might be that some other candidate, somehow, emerges.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023


Bob Darden


This past Sunday, the Waco Tribune Herald ran a piece I wrote about my mentor and hero Bob Darden. You can read it here
Of course, I've written about him before....
In 2006.
In 2007
And... again in 2007.

In 2008
Er... again in 2008
In 2009.
In 2010

And... again in 2010.
In 2013
Actually, there was another (really interesting) one in 2013.
In 2014.
In 2016
Oh... I guess twice in 2016
In 2018.

Monday, May 08, 2023


By the water

 I very much liked this anonymous entry:
I choose swimming pool
Back and forth along blue line
Sun dappled water.

Christine, surprisingly, did not describe a pool:
Standing on the beach
A watery horizon
Warm, not refreshing.

And we had this from Your Tim(e) Has Come:

Snake River St. Croix
Mississippi flowing south
To Hannibal MO.

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