Friday, December 31, 2010


Haiku Friday: New Year's Resolutions

It's New Year's Eve. Get those resolutions done now! Also, put them into three short lines, and then put them in the comments section. I will go first with one that is about the sentencing guidelines:

I may look vacant
But I have a great idea--
Radical re-do.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: The sources of your information

Journalism isn't dead, but it is changing. Those who remember a day when journalism wasn't commercial are imagining things, of course. Newspapers, radio stations, and television outlets have always been commercial enterprises. If anything, what we are seeing now is a movement away from commercialization, as the internet and the free content we find there displaces more traditional news sources.

Some people hate Fox News and seek to discredit it, while others do the same to media sources like MSNBC.

The truth, though, is that most people I know rely on several news sources which vary in their take on the news. For example, my primary news sources include these 4:

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Yahoo news
The Onion

What do you rely on to keep yourself informed?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


This just in re the Texas Bowl...

It seems that among law schools, Baylor students study the most (by a lot!), while Illinois students study the least...

Check out the stats here.


It's Texas Bowl Time!

Tonight is the Texas Bowl, featuring Baylor vs. Illinois. I welcome any predictions you might have.

In anticipation of the game, I offer up a review of the following suggestions for the Baylor team:

1) Switch to a "Quarterback Vortex" offense

The "quarterback vortex" is a play I originally designed back in the days of Osler League touch football. It involves several quarterbacks running in a cirle behind center until the ball is snapped at random to one of the them. The others, if not too dizzy, spin off across the field for a pass, lateral, or forward fumble (my personal favorite). This system is perfect for a team with five decent quarterbacks. One key is to snap the ball early, before they all get too dizzy. (Note: Brian Serr will not agree to participate in this play. I tried once.)

2) Switch to a "No Quarterback" offense

At the other end of the spectrum, we could run an offense with no quarterback at all. One option would be to permanently run from punt formation, with the punter deciding at the line if the ball should be punted, fumbled, run by the terrified punter, or thrown downfield Garo Ypremian-style.

3) Emphasize fake injuries

There are few plays in football more consistently effective than faking an injury, then jumping up and completing a pass. No team, though, has ever tried doing this on every play. This may be the time to try! Soccer players have the fake injury down to perfection, and may be able to give us tips.

4) Marbles

Many Disney movies feature the heroes foiling the villians by dropping marbles so that the villians trip and fall while comically waving their arms in a windmill fashion. Nothing in the rules of football prevent this from being an effective tactic.

5) Strategic Use of the Golden Wave Marching Band

Having the band march onto the field while the other team is approaching a touchdown is a tried-and-true tactic on defense. Isn't it time we took advantage of every resource at hand?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Edina MN, December 28, 2010

[click on a photograph to enlarge it]
You can walk your dog on Minnehaha Creek...

Of just ski into Arden Park...

Meanwhile in New York...

It's not so nice outside:

But just fine inside:


The Pheasant

I'm back in Minneapolis, which seems surprisingly prosperous after a week in Detroit. Not that things are all bad there; I did sense a certain uptick in optimism there.

But still... things are different, even in Grosse Pointe. I'm not quite sure what to make of this pheasant I spotted behind my parents' house. Aren't the coyotes supposed to take care of that?

Monday, December 27, 2010


Michigan/Minnesota Monday: Travel, life plans, and a gingerbread recipe

Today I am making the long drive back to Minnesota from Michigan. It's good thinking time, I find, and I have a lot to think about. Last night I formulated some ideas on what I want to accomplish in 2011, and I look forward to mulling that over. I think it will be an eventful year.

It was wonderful to be back in Michigan. My mother makes a gingerbread house every year, and this year it was so nice it shouldn't be called just a gingerbread house-- that thing is a gingerbread home. I wanted to move in and live in it!

You may not be ambitious enough to make a whole house, but making some gingerbread isn't too hard. Here is a simple recipe from Better Homes and Gardens:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup mild-flavored molasses
1/2 cup water
Lemon Sauce
1 can Silly String or similar "fun string" can
Thin lemon peel strips (optional)


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x1-1/2-inch round cake pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg and molasses; beat for 1 minute. Alternately add the flour mixture and the water to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm. Spoon Lemon Sauce over individual servings. If desired, garnish with lemon peel strips. Makes 9 servings.
Lemon Sauce: In a small saucepan, stir together 2/3 cup sugar and 4 teaspoons cornstarch. Stir in 1/4 cup water, 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel, and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is slighty thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Gradually stir hot mixture into 2 beaten egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to saucepan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Gradully stir in 6 tablespoons butter, cut up, stirring until melted. Stir in 1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk. Serve warm.

To Bake Ahead: Prepare and bake gingerbread as directed. Completely cool in pan on rack. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, place gingerbread in an airtight container; cover. Freeze for up to 3 months. Prepare the Lemon Sauce as directed. Cool for 15 minutes. Spoon into an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. In a small saucepan, heat and stir over low heat just until warm.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Sunday Reflection: The Feast of the Holy Family

Today I went to Catholic mass, at the big cathedral church by the lake, St. Paul's. As I have written before, going to Catholic church is an odd and often very good experience for me.

One moving part of the Catholic service for me is the Eucharist. Because I am not Catholic, I don't participate. I step into the aisle to let others pass, and then kneel alone in the pew. That moment is when I am perhaps most Christian. For that little slice of time, I get the rare opportunity to be an outsider, observably different and unworthy. In a way, none of us are worthy of God's grace, and that moment reminds me of that fact more than any other. I have come to treasure it, really, even look forward to it.

This morning, there was a little girl two rows in front of me. She was perhaps two or three, wearing an adorable green dress and a bow in her hair. She clutched a pink bunny by the ears and bounced it up and down; the bunny was holding an Easter egg and a goofy grin. She would stand on the pew and look back at me, right into my eyes, and smile and try to get my attention, and then flop down with her bunny.

When it came time for communion, of course, Little Girl did not participate, either. She went up in her mother's arms, baggage really, and returned as I knelt in place. There is a reason small children don't take communion-- they do not understand the theology or meaning of it, really, have not learned or read enough about what is allowed and not allowed. If a child took communion, it would perhaps just be a sweet drink in a big place with the warmth of God in it.

"Just be?"

I am not ashamed to stand with Little Girl, humbled, and come to Jesus as a child.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christians on Christmas

Today is Christmas.
To many Christians, it is an important day.

To non-Christians (and many of us, too), it is easy to criticize what Christmas has become. I can't defend the commercialization and rushing around; as someone I respect has explained better than I can, the best I can do is to ignore it.

But, what is Christmas to us, then? How do we explain it to a non-Christian, other than through the most literal recitation of belief?

Like many of my faith brethren, I am deeply flawed. I know some people who truly are the saints among us: Their lives exemplify Christian morality, and their words are consistent with the very word of God. I am not one of them.

But, for us lessers, Christmas can be this-- a moment that is imbued with meaning. It may be the brief epiphany of sitting in church on Christmas Eve and hearing a baby cry and rather than being annoyed, realizing the shocking truth that God took the most vulnerable of human forms imaginable.

It might be the deep sense of love for someone who understands, a love that makes us want to slip down and fall on our knees and wrap our arms around them, thank God that they exist.

It may be an act of kindness we have given or received, fully knowing what that is.

It can even be that moment, in a beautiful descant, that a voice peals over the others, a voice that pierces the heart with words we have heard our whole lives, words of worship and humility and beauty.

Christmas does not have to be a season or a week or even a whole day; for many of us, at its best, it is a moment, but a moment of purity and light and wholeness, and there is good in that. There is good in that, and there is God in that, and that sometimes can be enough.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Haiku Friday: Christmas Reunions

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

I love Christmas reunions with old friends and family. Last night I invaded the home of my friend and mentor Mark Hauck, and it was so wonderful to visit with him again. Perhaps tomorrow I will head over and TP one of Scott Davis's neighbors (another Christmas tradition). This time of year is ripe with reunions, and the occasional sadness over those we miss.

Let's haiku (kind of) about that. No rules this week-- just make it 3 or 4 short lines.

Here is mine:

My Dad and Elie,
The merchant of wine
We drank and we laughed,
Claret of the heart.

Now it is your turn--

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Big Ten Realignment

I'm living back in Big Ten territory now. Though I never went to a Big Ten school, I have always been a big fan of two of the schools-- Michigan and Northwestern. Now, though, the Big Ten seems to have gotten pretty stupid. With the addition of Nebraska next year, they will have twelve schools, and the plan is to split into two divisions. Idiotically, instead of dividing into logical East/West divisions, they have come up with this scheme involving the "Legends" and the "Leaders":

Michigan State

Ohio State
Penn State

Really, Big Ten? At what point did this seem like a good idea?

My sister Kathy (Wisconsin BA, 1990) and I have a better solution. It is based on the present reality that the Big Ten is naturally divided 6/6 between schools that have fuzzy woodland animals as mascots, and those that have unusual people with big heads. Here is how it would break down:

Fuzzy Woodland Friends Division:

Northwestern Wildcats
Minnesota Gophers
Michigan Wolverines
Wisconsin Badgers
Penn State Nittany Lions
Iowa Hawkeyes

Big Head Guy Division:

Purdue Boiler Head Guys
Indiana Hoosiers
Michigan State Spartans
Ohio State Buckeyes
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Illinois Illini

So you can see what I am talking about, here is the Fuzzy Woodland Friends Division (click on a photo to enlarge it):

Minnesota (apparently, not a real gopher, though he can do his own laundry):

Penn State (I'm not really sure what he is doing here):

Northwestern (a very wild cat, it seems):




And now, the Big Head Guy Division:


Indiana (I think this is a Hoosier...):

Ohio State (maybe the weirdest of all):

Michigan State (is Sparty involved in some kind of riot here?):

Nebraska (this guy looks a lot like the Big Boy):

Illinois (I'm pretty sure this is Illini-Wek's replacement, Super-Bob Barker):

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A different kind of snow

[ok, look, I was just looking for an excuse to post this picture of my niece, Alexa, sledding here in Grosse Pointe. Bear with me. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.]

For my ten years in Texas, coming to Michigan at Christmas was always a fascinating contrast between hot weather (it was 80+ in Waco yesterday) and the colder weather here. Going between Minneapolis and Detroit, though, the change is more subtle. The snow in Minnesota is pure and cold and light, unlike the hard-pack frozen slush that is more common in Detroit.

There is something about snow that is like the people I love the most: They both have the ability to change the way the world slowly through gentleness.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


IPLawGuy 33: The law school makes admission decisions


IPlLawGuy 32: Tyd applies to law school

Between her reference from Hector and her interest in medical marijuana and oven mitts, do you think she will be admitted?

Monday, December 20, 2010


Michigan Monday: The light of home

I got back to Michigan last night. As I arrived, there was this beautiful, familiar light pouring from the dining room at the front of the house and a party already in progress full of friends and family.

That light has always startled and warmed me; it is the warmest light I know, particularly coming over snow as the last light fades from the sky.

Tonight, in that light, I saw the outline of my mother preparing the table, looking carefully down at something, so I stood in the snow and watched for a moment, soaking it in, remembering it, for these days are too few.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Round Two With the Bishop Sisters

Last year, I had the chance to testify in Congress on the subject of juvenile life without parole. I think it is a difficult question, but I am against imposing the sentence of life with no chance of parole on juvenile offenders, for the reasons I set out here.

At the hearing, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins was testifying on the other side. Before the hearing, she came over to talk to me and the two wonderful Baylor students (Kaye Johnson and Chris Rusek) who were with me. I found her to be warm and interesting. When the time came to testify, her presentation was (properly) fierce, personal, and compelling. Her pregnant sister, Nancy, had been killed by a truly deranged 16-year-old, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. You can read her written testimony here. It was a pretty impressive performance.

I now have the chance to speak at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's big national conference in Chicago in January. I'm on a two-person panel talking about victims of capital crimes. Who's the other person? Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins sister, Jeanne, who among other things came through Yale Law a few years before me, and now works as a public defender in Cook County.

Given that I lost round one with the Bishop sisters (at least in the eyes of the Republicans on the committee), you might think that this isn't such a great pairing for me.

If you think that, you couldn't be more wrong. These social justice issues are where faith meets the world, where the challenge of Christ so often conflicts with our own heart-- the debate is too important not to have the most important stakeholders, and the strongest, most articulate among them, be a part of it. Among my many public roles, victim is not one of them, and I must listen carefully not only to those who have survived the violent death of a loved one, but to the voice of God's people in them.

If I am to hear and debate only with those of my own experience and opinion nothing is gained, and if I take on only those of lesser skills I am little more than a coward. Bring on the strong, the smart, and the fierce. The world needs me, but needs people like the Bishop Sisters more, because they fearlessly bring a defining narrative to the table.

Of course, it could be that on the topic we are discussing in January the Bishop Sisters and I are in agreement. If that happens, well, you might want to get yourself to Chicago, because if you get me and some Bishop Sister going the same way we will burn that house down.

And you don't want to miss that, do you?

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Hush little baby bird/Nest in my arms/I'll keep you warm

This is the Christmas song I can't keep out of my head right now:

Hush, little baby bird,
nest in my arms,
I'll keep you warm.
In the night the stars will watch
and guide your spirit.

Oh, your dreams will help you fly
Clementines won't pass you by
The thoughts of years have come
and gone and we are alright,
We are alright.

We still have cinnamon and chocolate,
Holly and thyme
Hearts will warm when fire's burning
Patience there's time

Hush, little baby bird
There is hope to spread across
All the seasons, all the moonlight,
Keeps the secrets
In the still before the dawn
There's the whipser, there's a song
When the morning comes
And night has gone, there's joy
There is joy

We still have cinnamon and chocolate
Holly and pine
Hearts will warm when fire's burning
Cinnamon and chocolate
Holly and pine
Hearts will warm when fire's burning

Patience, there is time
There is time
There is time
When you wait
There is time
There is joy
There is joy
In your heart

Friday, December 17, 2010


Haiku Friday: Love

Advent is a time of reflection and waiting, and one thing I reflected on today was the nature of love.

There are a lot of different kinds of love, of course-- between parents and children, between lovers, between friends. Specifically, I was remembering the true bond of love that tied me together in vocation and mission with two other teachers-- Hulitt Gloer and Randall O'Brien. Those of you who took our Oral Advocacy class may recognize what I mean by that.

All love, if it is love, has this in common: It motivates you to give someone you love what they need or desire. Importantly, what you give might not be what you want to give; the gift is defined by need, not availability. Sacrifice is a part of love, and draws you closer to those you love.

This is a good season to haiku about love, in any form or type. Here is mine:

After his stroke, we
Reached further for his hand
When we three prayed.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday with Guest Blogger My Dad

My dad, I think, ponders politics more deeply than I do-- Deeply enough to put together the sculpture above. Here is what he has been thinking about:

Mark; Two phrases I hear repeated are "the people have spoken" and "we will lose our freedom." Today, when many in our country are in the grip of a national economic emergency, the people who spoke for us were our wealthiest individuals, corporations and industries. With their new found ( post-Citizens United ) ability to speak loudly, they effectively used their outsized power of organized money to speak for us. Their message was to say "hell no" to the Government- to opt out of any national responsibility and object to being asked to share their advantages. Their message to protect "freedom" is to be free from taxes, free from sharing, free from regulation, free to pollute, free to profit from the powerless, and to be free from caring. They spent billions in the past election and they will now receive a likely gift of four trillion dollars for their investment. The enormous transfer of wealth will remain in place assuring us a long period of painfully high unemployment.

Our country will be a better place when we seek instead FDR's four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Freeing ourselves from worry about having health care and job security will allow us to be more productive. Recovery will be accelerated.

I was an Eisenhower Republican, when he proposed health care for all and asked to continue the tax rates on both individuals( up to 91% on the wealthiest ) and industry. These policies brought the country unprecedented economic growth. He also asked for the citizenry to continue to support the government in it's commitment to provide all its citizens the four freedoms, including the freedom from want.

We are told to fear our government. We shouldn't fear our government. We should fear the money that influences our government. We need to be wary of any group or candidate who uses secret outside funding.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A new role for Pickles?

The other day, I realized that not only does the GPS in my car send me on some pretty strange routes, but the voice of the thing sounds exactly like Pickles the Cat. Weird.

[The Pickles video has been removed. She was crashing people's computers. Stupid cat.]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Just up at the Huffington Post...

Up on the religion page now is a story I have been holding in my pocket a long time, and think about every advent.

I hope you enjoy it; please comment either here or over on HuffPo (where, judging by the comments, most of my readers are hostile atheists).

Monday, December 13, 2010


Life with seasons: Minnehaha Creek


Minnesota Monday: The MegaBlizzard!

This weekend was the biggest blizzard Minnesota has seen since 1991. As most people have heard, the Metrodome's roof even collapsed. On Saturday, I made my way down to the local grocery store in the middle of it, and people seemed unfazed. In fact, there was a band playing at the end of the produce aisle [you can click on any photo to enlarge it]:

Say what you want about Edina; the city has some awesome snow-moving equipment. For example, this thing just gets the snow off of sidewalks:

And this!:

Meanwhile, my outdoor lighting (which is on long stakes) now lights the snow from beneath:

But, there are always cozy places to tuck in to-- I love the light coming out of this shop:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Pictures from Atlanta

A few from the Kairos Conference. I got pretty revved up in my second talk; my former students will recognize some of these expressions.


Sunday Reflection: Recipient of Grace

Yesterday, I did something stupid. There was an incredible storm coming, but I still drove back to Minneapolis from Madison, Wisconsin, some 5 hours to the east (in good conditions).

Because things had gone so well in Madison, I was in a wonderful mood. Some of the time, I turned off the stereo and sang, loudly, to no one and everyone.

As I headed north and west and the storm came to meet me, it came with a vengeance. There was nearly no visibility, and there was about a foot of powder on I-94 in many places. Cars and trucks were off the road everywhere. As I hit the storm, I passed a raft of emergency vehicles; a man was being loaded on a stretcher into an ambulance. A truck lay on its side in the ditch, the top peeled back like a sardine can. Cars sat, nose first, immobilized in snow.

I know that I should have stopped and waited out the storm, or better yet just stayed in Madison. But I kept going, following a faint track at 20 mph much of the way.

Getting home was grace; I did not deserve it, as I made the wrong decision. But still, I sang, and received grace even when wrong, and for that I am thankful and happy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


IPLawGuy 31: Pickles' secret

Friday, December 10, 2010


Haiku Friday: Holiday Music

I love Christmas music, advent music, Hannukah music... and I'm sorting through my favorites right now. It's hard to argue with the Maccabeats for Hannukah, though.

What's your fav? What moves you? Let's haiku!

Here is mine:

I watched a choir
They were just practicing, but...
Beauty makes me cry.

Now it is your turn. I will allow some leeway this week on the syllables... just make it three short lines.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: The tax cut deal

Earlier this week, President Obama and Republican leaders resolved, temporarily, a pressing issue.

In short, President Obama wanted two things: to extend unemployment benefits, and to not extend Bush-era tax cuts (which would cut off at the end of the year according to a sunset provision in the original legislation) to people who make over $250,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders wanted to not extend unemployment benefits, but at the same time they hoped to extend those tax cuts for people making over $250,000.

A deal was brokered: Both unemployment benefits and the tax cuts for those making over $250,000 were extended.

Was this a good deal? I'll hang up and listen.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


The Long View

In Arden Park, the whole world has changed. Minnehaha Creek has frozen over, and is now just a path. The snow blankets everything, creating stillness, enforcing Advent. By the bridge, they opened up the fire hydrant and froze the rink, which now glistens in what sunlight there is. And the closed-up building I have wondered about has opened and is full of life; it is the warming hut for the skaters.

I had forgotten this about the change of seasons, that it doesn't just change but transforms the world into something different, beautiful and full in its own way.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Winter picture: Three studies

I took this at distance of a woman walking her dog in Arden Park near my house. It's the same photo cropped different ways to show different contexts.

What intrigues me is how the three versions of one picture are about different things: The top one is about the path, the second is about the trees (which look like an impressionist painting as you move to the left), and the bottom one is about the dog.

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them.


The Last Day

Today is the last day of my my first class at St. Thomas. It's hard to describe the feeling I have about that-- it has been a wonderful time of transition and growth, and these students have been a big part of it. Those of you who have been my students in the past know that I try to do something to make first and last days special, but this is special without any effort.

In preparing for this last class, I dug up the seating chart from the very first class I taught at Baylor-- Crim. Prac. and Pro. in Fall, 2000. What struck me as I looked over that chart was how many of the students in that small class I remember, and still keep in touch with.

I just saw Tresse Golden a few months ago in Waco. She seemed so happy, and that made me happy. It was Tresse, in line at a coffee shop, who first told me about the plane hitting the World Trade Center.
Brad Bogan is a federal defender in San Antonio, and someone I have had the pleasure to see regularly.
Jim Dedman and I correspond often, and I recently wrote a little bit for his firm.
Emanuela Prister, large with child, was my host just this summer in Dallas as I spoke to a group there.
David Moore, of course, is someone I did not lose touch with, as our careers got more tangled up long after that class.
Darrel Spinks, who practices in San Saba and heads up the EMS, actually wrote to me during the class this morning.

There was something deeply moving about seeing that old seating chart, with the names written in the hand of these people I was lucky enough to teach-- Joe Garcia's clear hand, Kimmy Wright's careful script. Tomorrow is another first group, and I don't doubt I will remember them just as well, as they are just as memorable.

Life is good, if perhaps too fast.

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