Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sorry Melbo

So back when the wife and I were dating, we used to reel off lists of Hollywood celebs we found attractive. At the top of Melbo's list was former SNL'er Jimmy Fallon (I believe she described him as 'geeky' cute) . If the choice strikes you as an odd one, take it up with her... I'm just here to break the news that he's finally hitched. Sorry Melbo.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Guess Who's Back... Back Again...

I'm back in the saddle after a blogging sabbatical of nearly a two months. I never really intended to leave for that long, but work got out of control there for awhile and during the down times I just couldn't motivate myself to blog. I've got two months worth of posts simmering on the backburner though, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lance Armstrong Has Issues

I'd chalk this one up to a mid-life crisis, but he seems to have already had a couple of those (e.g., here and here).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Rudy Giuliani is probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency.... There are only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11."

Senator Joe Biden, at the Drexel University Democratic Debate, October 30, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Love-Hate Relationship With Art Fairs

A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I hit up a huge artisan fair in Alexandria. The afternoon stroll from booth to booth looking at all the handmade arts and crafts reminded me of a realization I came to in Europe over the summer. While in Switzerland and Italy this August, we had welcomed the opportunity to meander around the numerous street markets, where scores painters and craftsmen would peddle their wares. Although we ended up purchasing a handful of choice finds, I decided that I had a what you'd call a love-hate relationship with these sorts of fairs.

On the upside, I'm a big fan of good art work, even though our collection right now is pretty meager. When we can afford it, I'd love to have my house filled with nice photography, paintings, pottery, and sculptures. But for now, outside of a few nice pieces, we rely pretty heavily on mass-produced prints and products. Here's where the artisan fairs and markets come in. Original works of art and handicraft sold by the artists themselves at prices that typically blow anything you'd find at an art store or gallery away. Unfortunately, however, that's also the downside. See, I'm pretty particular about the kinds of art I like, and artists, in their drive to be original... let's just say the quality or appeal of their work can run the gamut. In my experience, avant-garde is often code for "weird as hell." So the trip to an artisan fair can end up being... well... awkward. As I stroll, I often find myself reticent to enter a lot of booths and look closely at too many items because, as I disinterestedly set down a particular work or quickly walk past a set of paintings, I'll feel the artists eyes burning into me. I'll look over, meet their gaze, and usually manage a weak smile while rejecting their work through my indifference. Sometimes I'll mutter something about the art being "really nice" or, in particularly exigent circumstances, I'll baldly lie about coming back after I check with my wife.

So if I find it so excruciating, why do I go? Why do I willingly submit to the torture? I'm not exactly sure of all the reasons why. But I think its because a good find can usually make it all worthwhile. If you come across something that's your style and that you actually are interested in buying, it's great. You get original works at a great price while also having the opportunity to shoot the breeze with the artist. We came across this one guy in Rome whose work we loved. We probably bought six or seven paintings and sketches from him without breaking the bank and ended up talking with him for the better part of half an hour.

These good experiences, however, can be tempered somewhat if you're also bargaining over the cost. The quibble over prices, for me, opens a whole 'nother can of worms. Instead of just implicitly rejecting someone's work, I'm now telling them to their faces that they aren't worth what they're asking. I try to rationalize that they've likely hiked up their prices in anticipation of such bargaining, but I never fully convince myself of it. I end up thinking of all the time they must put into their craft and what a paltry income they probably make. While I've been known drive a hard bargain on some things, haggling over prices for art just seems different than pushing someone hawking pirated watches and handbags for a better deal.

So, you don't have to tell me. I know that I'm an oversensitive schmuck. I'm never going to see these people again, they're expecting a lot of foot traffic at these events from people who don't plan on buying anything, and, in reality, they typically only need to sell a handful of works each day to consider their outing a success. I've told myself this all before, but it doesn't seem to help. I still end up feeling bad. And, like a masochist, I still end up going back for more. Like I said, it's a rocky relationship... and I don't have much hope that it's going to improve.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elder Kirby?

Robert Kirby. If you don't know who he is, people might characterize you as either sorely deprived or mercifully blessed, depending on their perspectives. For those unfamiliar with Kirby, he's an LDS columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune who has been compared to both J. Golden Kimball and a modern-day Korihor. He ends up seriously rankling some readers and is adoringly heralded by others. I tend to love the man... or at least his columns related to Mormonism.

In short, Kirby's a humorist who makes fun of just about everything... and everything frequently includes various aspects of Church culture. A former police officer who started writing a weekly column for the now-defunct Utah County Journal (this is his first article... now a cult favorite), he eventually got picked up full-time by the Tribune. As I see it, the Trib' probably liked the fact that, as a Mormon, Kirby had a longer leash to poke and prod on some issues than the paper's editorial staff. I think he's usually pretty good about not crossing "the line," but there are those who clearly feel that he should be strung up and shot (or at the least given his packing papers).

This divide in perception was made all more interesting by General Conference two weeks ago. Since then, I've been debating whether Kirby now carries a sort of unofficial Church imprimatur.... I mean, given that one of his columns was basically recounted in its entirety by Richard C. Edgley and served as the foundational lead-in for Edgley's talk (Here's the talk in case you missed it). Today Kirby posted some reader feedback he's received about being quoted by Edgley, including my favorite: "Polygamy, blood atonement, and now Kirby in Conference. I can't take it anymore. I have to leave the church."

Me personally... I could get used to hearing Kirby in Conference. Kind of gives Saturday morning a little spice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waiting to Exhale

Worst Feeling in the World: Looking at the bar examination results list online and thinking you don't see your name.
Best Feeling in the World: Realizing that you merely glanced over your name in your state of anxiousness.

And... exhale. Whew.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cutting Out The Crap

I've been wrestling with the question of balance in my life since I started working full-time about a month ago. I've got to admit that the transition from the flexibility of student life to the structure of the salaried workforce has been a bit of an adjustment for me.

Over the past few years, the frequent break and detour have become my signature move... so much so that Melbo has fondly taken to calling me "Captain Distracto." Unfortunately, that sort of routine doesn't really jive with what's expected of me these days. At least not if I want ever want to see my son or enjoy a home-cooked meal with the family.

So I resolved to change my ways. The resolving was easy. It's the change that's been hard. A creature of habit with a law degree is prone to revert to familiar ways. We're taught to be persuasive... and persuasive we are. I can hardly say no to myself, and it's hard to feel bad after I eventually cave in because of who I was up against. Me. I can rationalize with the best of them.

And so it happens that I meander over to a nearby office just "for a second" and end up rehashing the weekend in sports for thirty minutes. I get online "just to check an email" and get off having responded to three while also having skimmed the front page of the Washington Post, New York Times, Deseret News, and the Drudge Report. I convince myself that a particular bill has to be paid "right now" or that I need to call and consolidate my private student loans "before I forget." And on and on. The end result is often me getting home later than I had hoped and bringing home more work than I otherwise would have to (errr... don't tell the wife).

Sadly, this cycle doesn't end at work. By the time I get home, I'm often so worn out that all I feel like doing is vegging' out with Melbo in front of the tube. We end up watching a lot of crap instead of things we always talk about doing (e.g., writing in our journals, working on our photo albums, knocking out a few more books on our reading lists, or saving the world).

Seeing me flailing about, pathetically trying to steady myself, God had mercy and told Dallin H. Oaks I needed some counsel. Several millions of people may have been listening to General Conference last weekend, but it's clear that Oaks intended his remarks for me personally. Maybe it's because, as a former lawyer himself, he understands my struggle, but he didn't characterize my distractions as bad; instead, he merely suggested that they weren't the best use of my time. He said:

We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives...
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice [may be] more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom" (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).
At some level, I already knew all this. But hearing it struck a chord. I've resigned myself to the fact that balance is likely to be a life-long struggle for me, but Oaks gave me hope. While I'm not convinced an animal like myself can easily change overnight, I'm optimistic that, with time, I can at least learn to chose the better, if not the best. Tough questions still loom, however, like whether this blog rises to the level of a good or a better ('Cause there's no way in hell it's a best).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

"My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined.
I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."

Senator Harry Reid,
addressing students at a BYU Devotional on Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Just Thinking Back...

One big reason I decided not to go to BYU Law School.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Remixing the Sabbath

So Woo has the scoop on what we might expect from Quentin L. Cook, the newly-ordained Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"My Cheap Friends"

So apparently I'm a cheapskate.

My friend Anderson would claim he's known this for years, dating back at least to the time we bickered about gas money after an impulsive road trip to California. Last night, however, it was a nationally renown and best-selling author leveling the accusation.

The wife and I went to D.C. to hear David Sedaris read some stories he's been working on for an upcoming book and a few magazine articles (here are some samples of commentaries he's done for NPR). The material was up there with his very best. He had us all bowled over laughing and managed to steal two hours from us before we knew it. He wrapped up the lecture by answering some questions and recommending a few books to the crowd, including a favorite that he keeps extra copies of on hand for those "emergency" situations when he unexpectedly feels obliged to proffer a gift.

Afterward, Sedaris stuck around to sign books and fraternize. Melbo and I waited over an hour for our shot at him. We had copies of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Naked for him to sign and, as we approached him, I mentioned to him that it was ironic that he had plugged his "emergency" gift book that night because our emergency gift book just so happened to be his Corduroy. I explained that about a year ago we'd found it on clearance at Borders and had purchased 12 copies; I then pulled the four remaining ones we had had left in our basement out of a bag that Melbo brought.

Sedaris laughed and thanked us for pointing out that Corduroy was now considered a remainder book at a major book retailer like Borders. We tried to save face by pointing out that we'd actually bought a couple his other books at full price. But the damage was done. Everyone in line now knew that David Sedaris was sitting there staring at a stack of books that we'd paid a quarter of the list price for and now seemingly wanted him to sign. To assuage our guilt, he reassured us that he still got paid the same regardless of what price the retailer sold the book at. We agreed that that was all that mattered, and he insisted on signing the lot of them.

Believing we'd smoothed over my witless remark, we slid our library of books over to him, and he signed away while we curiously asked him questions and engaged in some good-natured small talk. We then thanked him for his kindness, stowed our newly autographed, clearanced-priced wunder-gifts, and went on our way.

It wasn't until we were contentedly driving home from our enjoyable evening out that my wife finally showed me how Sedaris had signed our copy of Naked:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Childrens do learn"

George W. Bush, during a speech today touting the importance of
education and
pressuring Congress to extend "No Child Left Behind"
(Reuters Wire, September 26, 2007)

Monday, September 24, 2007

So I Married An Axe Murderer...

You want to know what one of the weirdest things about having a full-time job now is? Life insurance. I've never had it before. Well... actually that's not really true. My credit union kicked me out a free policy that I accepted, so I think I've been covered for all of one grand these past few years. If I died, my lucky wife would have had a whole quarter of my casket paid for, or perhaps even three or four nice floral arrangements.

Now I've got the real deal though. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000. It's kind of eerie walking around knowing that my death will trigger a small, tax-free jackpot. I broached the subject with a friend tonight and joked that it probably meant I had to keep a closer eye on the wife. I was touched when he said he didn't think I had to worry. That killing me wasn't worth a few hundred Gs. $5 million maybe... but not a few hundred Gs.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

God Has An Attorney?

So a couple of weeks ago, some joe-blow state senator from Nebraska filed a lawsuit... against God. This man, Ernie Chambers, claims to have done so as a way to protest the filing of another high-profile lawsuit he sees as frivolous while at the same time highlighting what he considers to be one pillar of our judicial system, the fact anyone can sue anyone in this country... even God (If this logic makes any sense to you, please take a moment to explain it to the rest of us).

In his complaint, the senator seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to stop "making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons," including Chambers' constituents, "who [Chambers] has the duty to represent." The complaint also alleges that God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like" which have resulted in "the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."

Chambers claims he's tried to contact God numerous times, but the "despite reasonable efforts to effectuate personal service upon defendant 'Come out, come out, wherever you are,' has been unable to do so." In light of this, Chambers has requested that the court waive personal service because, since God is omniscient, it should be assumed that he has actual knowledge of the action. He's asked the court to grant him a summary judgment.

Well... God apparently knows a few lawyers and it seems he has, among other things, motioned for the court to grant him a special appearance just to contest jurisdiction. Even if this thing goes to trial though, God should make out alright. The thought of deposing Him has got to intimidate even the most seasoned trial attorney, and you have to figure that God's gonna' have an in with the judge and jury. On top of that, God's court submission purportedly includes a witness list with heavyweights like St. Michael the Archangel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kind Of What I Expected

So it's here. Tomorrow, as they say, is the first day of the rest of my life. My first 'real' job starts at 9am sharp.

No more school as a crutch to fall back on. No more waffling over what I want to do 'when I grow up'... because, apparently, I'm all grown up now.

Only this isn't quite what I'd expected being all grown up to feel like. I guess it never feels like that though. College. Mission. Marriage. Sex. Kids. Preconceived notions continually blown to smithereens.

I suppose if it were otherwise, life would be pretty dull.

So instead of bored, I sit here anxious. Hoping for the best. But not really knowing just what to expect from the next few days, weeks, and months...

Which, ironically, is kind of what I'd expect the night before my first day of 'real' work to feel like.

Go figure.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Repackaging Disney

Back in high school, one way my friends and I used to entertain ourselves on slow nights was to raid the Disney movie collection of whatever house we were in and show anyone who hadn't seen them all of the "subliminal" messages in the animated films. Yeah... we were a rowdy bunch. Our favorites included:

  • Near the beginning of the film, Aladdin's small monkey Apu, while jumping from rock to rock to avoid some menacing lava, pretty discernibly says "Oh Sh*t."
  • During a scene outside of Princess Jasmine's window, Aladdin appears to say "Good teenagers, take off your clothes."

The Lion King:
  • As Simba begins growing weary of his "Hakuna Matata" lifestyle, he retreats to a secluded cliff to reflect. In the plume of dust he kicks up as he lays down, you can kind of make out the word "Sex."
The Little Mermaid:
  • The cover art was a veritable playground of phallic symbols and, according to some, you could also make out the F- word in the splashing water that frames the cover's central picture.
  • During the wedding scene at the end of the film, the Priest performing the ceremony seems to get a large erection.

Good times, eh? So imagine my surprise when my wife and I recently purchased the Special Edition DVD of The Little Mermaid and found that not only had the cover art been completely redone to excise the offending images, the entire scene with the Priest at the end had been cut.

Is this an admission of guilt or has Disney simply decided to clean its house of misperceptions? Think of what other hidden treasures might now gone as well?! Have I been scouring Finding Nemo in vain?!!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why We Need More Colin Powell

"What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it’s terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?

"I would approach this differently, in almost Marshall-like terms. What are the great opportunities out there—ones that we can take advantage of? It should not be just about creating alliances to deal with a guy in a cave in Pakistan. It should be about how do we create institutions that keep the world moving down a path of wealth creation, of increasing respect for human rights, creating democratic institutions, and increasing the efficiency and power of market economies? This is perhaps the most effective way to go after terrorists."

Colin Powell
Circa September 10, 2007
(More of Powell's wisdom in next month's GQ)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Italy In A Nutshell

I've been meaning to throw up a few blog posts about Europe for about a week now. Since it's hard to know where to start though, I thought I'd begin with a brief recap and then segue into a few random observations and hidden gems we ran across on the trip.

We embarked on our celebratory post-bar trip at the beginning of August. After bumming around in Switzerland for two weeks, we made our way to Italy. Our first stop was Florence. If you've never been, it's truly worth a visit. Our initial impressions, however, weren't so gushing. Perhaps it was the city's stark contrast to Switzerland as we drove through a ridiculous maze of streets in trying to track down our bed & breakfast. Bern might just be the cleanest city on earth while, as we drove in circles through Florence, the place seemed overrun by graffiti with shops everywhere closed up. Luckily, the city's charms quickly grew on us though. Our hotel was just two blocks from the famed Il Duomo (one of the largest churches in the world), which allowed us to spend a lot of time wandering the narrow downtown streets. The archaic street layout that so frustrated us on our arrival is actually pretty endearing. They've tried to keep it from changing too much in order to maintain the city's ancient character. There's a mess of history there, a lot of it awe-inspiring. From the famed Medici palaces, to the picturesque Ponto Vecchio, to the perfection of Michaelangelo's David, to Machiavelli's tomb. We also found out the reason for all the closed up shops we noticed on our way in... despite August being Florence's busiest tourist month, half of the city heads out on vacation. Go figure.

Next we drove the Chianti road through Siena to Rome, a city that is everything it's cracked up to be. We relished our time there... outside of having our camera ripped off that is (those damn Gypsies). From the Vatican to the Roman Forum, few cities have such a sense of antiquity. I could honestly sit inside the Pantheon for hours. One of our favorite things was all the amazing artists that lined the streets and piazzas peddling their works. We came home with more than a few pictures to frame.

After four days of tromping through Rome's many museums, cathedrals, parks and ruins, we broke for Naples. Now I'm not sure what you've heard, but I think you should know that Naples is essentially the butthole of Italy. It's only worth going to because of how close it is to so many other choice spots. We spent our two short days there first taking a boat to Capri to hit the beach and then driving the Amalfi Coast. With no time for things like Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, or the Blue Grotta, though, we promised ourselves we'd return.

Last but not least, we returned to Switzerland by way of Milan. We only spent one night there, but as Melbo can attest, the shopping was fantastic. Melbo already wants to go back.

Some random highlights and lowlights:
  • Word to the wise... most of Italy hasn't heard of toilet seats yet.
  • The Italian police... whose idea were the hats?
  • Just in case it seals the deal for you... rest assured that there are segway tours of Florence.
  • One fine piece of ass...
  • A great place to buy "David-inspired" paraphernalia for the kids.
  • Even McDonald's got a Gelatoria.
  • Hands down the greatest statue I have ever seen in my entire life. Buy your own replica here.
  • Choice menu items... although I've got to tell you, the boiled ox tongue isn't all it's made out to be.
  • Italians love kids. Almost everyone we passed seemed to coo at E and we were stopped more than a few times by passerbys who wanted their picture with him.
  • And finally a spoiler alert. Erich's true identity... Emperor Palpatine

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bar Exam... Or An Eight Foot Tiger Shark

Okay, okay… I’ll admit it. I’m guilty of some pretty severe blog-neglect these last few weeks. I've thought of posting several times, but I could never bring myself to do it. I chalk it up to post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m coming up on three weeks since the bar and I’m just now beginning to decompress. Kind of surprising considering I've been tromping around Europe for almost two weeks now.

Actually, kicking back in Switzerland has done wonders for me, but every once in awhile the muscles in my back freeze up and I begin to panic thinking that instead of whatever I’m doing, I should really be brushing up on what Virginia's statute of limitations for defamation is or whether a bona fide purchaser of real estate takes property subject to a prior owner's unrecorded mortgage (Just typing that made me queasy). As my wife will attest, it’s not a pretty sight.

The good news is that I survived. That doesn’t mean I necessarily passed (won’t know that until mid-October), but I did manage to make it through both days of that miserable exam with my sanity intact (for the most part). And that’s actually saying a lot considering I had to spend two days in Roanoke wearing a suit.

In hindsight, I feel alright about my performance. There were a couple of afternoon essays on the first day, however, that really threw me for a loop. An email from my wife that night helped to put everything in perspective though:

I know you're miserable, my love, but it could be worse... This is James' brother!”

Yup… you heard it right (that is if you actually clicked on the link). My brother-in-law’s brother was bit by a freaking shark last month. Unbelievably, he escaped "relatively" unscathed. Outside of a pretty nasty bite on his leg, he’s actually alright. He’s expected to walk again and has one helluva' war story to tell to the grandkids one day.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that my brother-in-law’s brother is also a lawyer, so he probably had it coming. It happens to be a timely red flag for me. The wife and I are heading to Italian Riviera next week, so I now plan on being extra careful since I’m not sure whether sharks distinguish between lawyers who have passed the bar and those who haven’t (For you naysayers, the Mediterranean does indeed have its fair share of sharks).

I’m getting ahead of myself though. The human psyche is an odd thing when you think about it… sometimes just being reminded that you could be a whole lot worse off helps you feel a whole lot better about a crappy situation. My wife and her opportune email hit the spot and put an end to my post-day-one obsessing. All things considered, you gotta’ admit that being sharkbait tops taking the bar exam on pretty much every list of crappy things a person could go through. I guess if I really want to know definitively, however, I'm gonna' to need to ask my brother-in-law’s brother (I guess I should probably thank him too).

Anyway, in addition to the article above, here’s a CNN news clip as well as a few post-surgery pics’ courtesy of my sister-in-law (view at your own risk here and here).

For those of you concerned by my lengthy blog-silence, rest assured that I’m alive and well and hope to keep posting regularly. I've put the bar exam behind me (for now) and haven’t been eaten by any sharks… yet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Revisiting "And into whatsoever house ye enter"

More on the new missionary housing policy I blogged about last month. The LDS blog By Common Consent today linked to a copy of guidelines relating to the policy that are apparently being distributed to Stake and Mission presidents.

It looks like housing missionaries will generally be a calling with those called receiving a $75 a month reimbursement. It seems that most family arrangements are fine as long as missionaries are not living “in a home where unmarried people of the opposite sex live or where the spouse of [their] own sex is frequently absent.” There is also an exception that allows Elders to “be housed with a widow who is over 60 years old.” Beyond family makeup, according to the guidelines, the structural requirements for housing missionaries are:

A private bedroom with twin beds or a bunk bed and a clothes closet.
A study area with a table and two chairs.
A private bathroom.
The use of a kitchen for meals and some refrigerator and pantry shelf space. Providing meals is not required or expected.
The exclusive use of laundry facilities on preparation day.
Space to park a mission vehicle and secure two bicycles.
An environment that protects missionaries from watching TV and videos/DVDs, playing video games, listening to inappropriate music, and using computers.
Posted cleaning schedule and reminder of house rules.
Cell phones will be provided to missionary companionships being housed with members. Ideally a ward should have a pool of two to three qualified homes as a backup in case missionaries need to be moved from one home to another quickly. Members should not be asked to house missionaries longer than two years at one time.

The stated justifications for the change include:

Missionary support cost can be greatly reduced.
Missionaries [living with members] are generally more obedient, clean, and safe.
Member missionary work can be stimulated.
Flexibility is provided in assigning missionaries based on need, not on lease agreements.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shameless Plug

My older sister has hit the big time. She's senior editor of a new start up that's debuting this month called Organize Magazine. A type-A personality with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and a Master's in English, it's a job she was born for. The magazine seems pretty nifty, so I thought it worthy of a plug (There was a write up about it in the New York Times a few days ago). So check it out if you happen past it. The magazine should be available at any bookstore... and if organizing is your thing, you can thank me later. (PS - I'm proud of ya sis').

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Church, Politics, and Damon Linker

A quick post while I should be studying for the bar exam.

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published the first in what is to be an in-depth, six-day series on Mitt Romney. While the article was fascinating in its own right, exploring Romney's childhood and upbringing on through the beginning of his Latter-day Saint mission to Paris, what caught my eye was a letter the story linked to from then-LDS Apostle Delbert L. Stapley to Romney's father, George Romney, then-Governor of Michigan. George Romney was a well-known moderate in the Republican party at the time and an ardent civil rights advocate. In 1964, Governor Romney made a trip to Utah and, while there, gave a speech in support of the civil rights legislation that was making its way through Congress at the time. After that trip, Stapley wrote to Romney in reference to his remarks on civil rights. While making clear that he was writing as a friend and not as a Church official, Stapley's letter was clearly an attempt to influence Romney on this very hot-button issue. Stapley went on to characterize the pending civil rights legislation as contravening the will of the Lord, and he seemed to attribute the deaths of several well-known civil rights leaders to the fact that they were pursuing a course which was against the decrees of God. While Stapley's opinions here were clearly his own and didn't seem to have any effect on Romney's public position on the civil rights, the incident plays into an current debate on what sort of influence the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its officials would exercise over Mitt Romney if he were to be elected president next year.

Last fall, media allegations surfaced of some purported collusion between the Romney staffers and Church officials. And earlier this year, Damon Linker, a former visiting professor at BYU, published an editorial in The New Republic arguing that Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency should be carefully scrutinized because Mormon "theology" and the Church's belief in modern day prophecy and revelation raised the specter that Church officials might improperly influence Romney in political decisions. This charge spawned a vigorous debate that quickly led to a New Republic editorial countering Linker's premise and an online exchange between Linker and Columbia History Professor (and active Latter-day Saint) Richard Bushman). Concerns of this nature, however, have not fully been put to rest and it has led to repeated calls for Romney give a "Kennedy" style speech in which he proclaims his political independence from the Church (see, e.g., here).

The publication of Stapley's letter, a pretty clear instance of a Church leader trying to use doctrinal interpretations to press an elected official on a political issue, has the potential to add fodder to these resurfacing claims, even if the letter was written as "a personal friend" rather than in Stapley's "official Church position." Ironically, I'm certain most members of the Church would clearly be very uncomfortable with the content of Stapley's letter, both as to the claims he makes and the influence he tries to exert. While I personally would have a difficult time seeing a Church official today, especially one of Stapley's stature, push a political issue in this way, I say that as an active Mormon who comes from within the religious tradition. Others outside of that tradition may not be as convinced. Even with the strong emphasis the Church has recently put on political neutrality, the heavy conservative tilt of its membership causes some to wonder whether Mormonism carries with it a de facto partisan dictate, the Harry Reids of the world notwithstanding. Beyond partisanship, others worry about what other de facto dictates Mormon doctrine might carry with it; which creates an odd situation where both secular liberals and religious conservatives are aligned as having an underlying suspicion of active Latter-day Saint candidates. The question is whether this letter, even though it's 43 years old, will exacerbate those suspicions.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Apparently bumper stickers are "last season" (scroll down to the right).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rock-a-bye Baby

Erich slept THIRTEEN hours last night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"And into whatsoever house ye enter"

We had the missionaries over for dinner last night, and they dropped a bombshell of sorts. It's kind of relative I guess because my wife didn't seem all that fazed by the news. Perhaps one has to have served a full-time LDS mission for the magnitude of it really to sink in.... or maybe I'm just weird.

The blockbuster news according to our Elders is that, apparently, all state-side missionaries are in the process of moving in with local ward members. Not all at once of course. As apartment leases expire in each area of each mission, the Bishops of those wards, I am told, are being charged with finding families in their congregations for the missionaries to live with. I use the term "family" liberally here since those boarding the missionaries have to either be a single sister over 60 or a retired couple (or something along those lines). Our missionaries' lease expires next month so we were discussing their future housing prospects. We apparently don't have an eligible retired couple on hand, so the Elders say their fate has boiled down to one of two single sisters in the ward.

All I can say is AWKWARD. I can't imagine, after each long day of missionary work, having to head home to some ward member's house every night. You'd never get to fully decompress. Retreating to the friendly confines of the ole' missionary apartment, with its cheesy displays of Mormon stock-art, motivational posters, and the assorted collection of sidewalk furniture, was how I recharged for yet another day of brutal tracting in the blistering humid heat of the Virginia summer. It was especially choice to live with another set of Elders and get some break time from your companion, no matter how much you might have liked him.

With this new policy, although it might vary depending on who you live with, generally speaking you're ALWAYS going to have to be on your A-game. I know, I know, missionaries should be living up to a higher standard anyway, but even for missionaries that's asking a lot. Structurally, I'm told, the only requirement for the accommodations is that the missionaries have to have their own bedroom and bathroom. Which basically means they could have a shadow watching their every move. They'll most likely be sharing a kitchen, fridge, and cupboard space, not to mention the common areas. I can't see sitting around the house on a P-day having quite the same allure anymore.

Despite my aversion to the idea, the move makes sense on several levels. Economically, it's a boon. The D.C. South Mission alone has to rent some 50 apartments in and around Northern Virginia and that has to add up to around $75,000 to $100,000 a month. That's not chump change. You've got to figure each state-side mission will probably net anywhere between $400,000 to $1,000,000 or more in savings a year. According to Uncle Wiki, there are currently around 105 state-side missions, so the rental savings should total up to well over $50,000,000. That's a lot of scout camps, ward Christmas parties, and wheat for the Bishop's storehouse.

The policy also will likely result in more obedient missionaries. With Sister So-and-So lurking over their shoulders, it's a good bet that missionaries will be a little more precise about when they roll out of the sack, how they do their studies, when they leave their apartments, when they get back home, and when they sign off for the night. Oh... and those Elders who might otherwise be tempted to take a midnight stroll to the bowling alley down the street probably won't be so brazen (or so we hope).

Assuming the news is true though, I guess my only question is whether it's worth a missionary's sanity?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

All In The Name Of Networking

So I'm now officially on my way to becoming a lawyer... and it's not because I've graduated law school or am frantically studying for the July Bar. Just how is it then? Well, I got my first set of golf clubs yesterday. A nice Tight Lies starter kit from Adams Golf. It's a graduation/birthday gift from my parents and grandfather (nicely paired with a set of six lesson at a local golf course courtesy of my wife).* I'm now well-positioned to neglect my family on beautiful sunny afternoons under the guise of "networking."

First things first though. I very much need the golf lessons. There are two things that my dad wasn't especially big on as I grew up. Guns and golf. As a result, I never got my Rifle Shooting Merit Badge as a Boy Scout because I failed the target test, and, miniature golf excepted, I've been golfing all of twice in my life (both times at Cascade in Orem so I'm not sure they really count). If you hand me a gun or a driver you're taking your life in your hands. Ironically, most of my friends are avid golfers. Perhaps that fact further dissuaded me from trying my hand at it. Who wants to be the slug with a 35 handicap?

The downside to all of this is that golfing in D.C., like the price of houses, is twice as expensive as in Utah. Good thing I've got a cush job at a D.C. law firm to help pay for my new recreational hobby. Of course that financial freedom did require selling my soul. Between my 75 hour work-weeks and my future golfing exploits, I wonder if the wife really knows what she's gotten herself into with this gift.

Sorry honey, no take-backs.

*Thanks be to BA for shepherding my family through their respective purchases.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Only in Utah my friends... only in Utah.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quote of the Day

"God has spoken to me. I listen to God and what I've heard is that I'm supposed to devote myself to rebuilding the conservative base of the Republican Party."

Tom Delay, Former House Majority Leader
Quoted in "Party Unfaithful" by Jeffrey Goldberg
New Yorker Magazine,
June 4, 2007 Issue

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caffeinated Mormons

I recently came across a post on the LDS blog By Common Consent that featured the caffeine content of a variety of popular drinks. One particular comment on the thread got me thinking about how many of these drinks stack up to some popular chocolate products on a caffeine per ounce basis. The results are sure to keep the debate on whether caffeine is prohibited by the Mormon Word of Wisdom raging on...


Caffeine per Ounce

Starbucks Coffee

23.3 ML

Brewed Coffee

13.4 ML

Rock Star

10 ML

Red Bull

9.6 ML

Mountain Dew

4.6 ML

Dr. Pepper

3.4 ML

Sunkist Orange Soda

3.4 ML

Coca Cola

2.8 ML

Barq's Root Beer

1.8 ML

Hot Cocoa

.63 ML

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

"We had five boys that were 10 or younger.... I was willing to change the urine-soaked diapers, but the messier types gave me dry heaves. So my wife allowed me to escape that."
Mitt Romney
Interview for GQ Magazine's
Upcoming Father's Day Issue

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Open Letter To John Ashcroft


I owe you an apology big man. Your former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee convinced me that I may not have given you a fair shake as Attorney General. I used to think of you as a narrow-sighted rubber stamp who was too tightly-wound and carried a rather prickly demeanor. I'm here to say I was mistaken. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still not a fan of your politics. The original Patriot Act had some pretty troubling issues and your proposed Patriot Act II seemed like one hefty push toward a police state. Plus, you have to admit, draping a curtain in front of the Spirit of Liberty in the Justice Department was just a little weird, and, the fact that you lost to a dead guy in the 2000 Senate election and were subsequently confirmed as Attorney General three months later by a meager 58-42 vote in the very Senate you just left suggests that neither your former constituency nor your former colleagues were really itching to have you back.

But James Comey's riveting testimony (you can watch it here) does speak volumes about your integrity and your respect for the law. I'll admit to being surprised, but it was refreshing. I found it inspiring that you stood up to an attempt by the White House to take advantage of you in a gravely ill state and at a time when you had temporarily ceded your powers of office to your Deputy, Comey. To lock horns with the full force of the Executive Branch as Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card attempted to sidestep your Deputy and a Justice Department determination that the Surveillance Program had no legal basis is no small thing. But, despite your weakened condition, you held your ground and refused to re-authorize the Program. Comey describes you as having "stunned" him:
[Attorney General Ashcroft] lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact... and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, "But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general."
When the White House reauthorized the program anyway without any signature from the Justice Department attesting to its legality, the fact that you stood ready to resign, along with most of the Justice Department's leadership, made clear to me that I'd sized you up wrong. We may not agree on all the same policies, but it seems that we do see eye-to-eye on the need for the rule of law. When the Administration backed away from its position and changed its Program to secure the Justice Department's blessingultimately deciding to submit all of its surveillance requests for judicial approvala Constitutional crisis was averted and the Executive branch maintained its legitimacy.

So a belated thank you John Ashcroft. On this decision, you were right on key and you truly Let The Eagle Soar.



Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rate Bohn's Spam

Over the past few years I've developed a habit of sorts... I periodically email out news articles that I come across to people I think would be interested in them. Some might call this spam, but I like to think of it in a more positive light... as something more akin to a listserv.

It started out as just a few emails here and there to a couple of family members and a few friends. Over time, however, it's become a much larger list of family, friends, classmates, and associates. The articles I send out sometimes cover funny stories of general interest, occasionally something betraying my political bent, but, more often than not, they tend to deal in some way with Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I readily admit that I've unilaterally opted most of the current "News Group" onto the list (though a good handful or two have requested themselves on), but I tell myself that everyone must enjoy the emails since I have yet to receive any cease and desist orders. That's not saying much though. My emails very likely might be flagged and filtered as spam by some who don't want to risk offense.

Others might take a more low key approach in the form of subtle mockery. One friend, Woo, actually started a pretty entertaining blog devoted solely to chronicling and abridging "the hundreds of uninvited emails of varying quality from Marc." For a time, he essentially lampooned every one of my emails on the site (though I did manage a few positive reviews, see here and here). He's thrown in "the proverbial towel" on his gold standard of one post for every email, but it seems as though he still plans on gracing us with commentary from time to time. We'll see if he can keep a handle on inflation and manage another statistical analysis of bohnspam (my personal favorite). I should note that I've specifically asked him if he wants off the list and he didn't bite, so perhaps he enjoys the emails more than he lets on.

In any event, for those that want off the list, feel free to let me know (no offense taken). For those who appreciate the additional opportunities to bag on me, have at it. And for those who are curious enough now to want on the list, just say the word (I promise I won't tell anyone).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hello World...

Hello world. I'm back.

I've weathered yet another round of finals and managed to tie the bow on three years of law school.

Three years down... just like that. Don't get me wrong, by all accounts law school was a pretty miserable experience, but I'm still surprised by how fast it flew by. I haven't quite adjusted to the idea of moving beyond academia into the professional world, but I'm betting that preparing for the bar exam will disabuse me of that hesitation.

For the time being, I'm just relishing the post-finals (and post-law school) lull. I submitted my bar application today, and I tell ya', life is good. The difference between this week and last week is simply remarkable... No worrying in the back of my mind at all times about papers to write, reading to catch up on, outlining to do, or essay questions to prepare for. Best of all, no "next semester." I've got myself a job lined up this fall; I've passed the mantel on all of my extra-curricular responsibilities; and I've got the satisfaction of having finished one of the hardest things I've ever undertaken. I honestly think it's the first time I've fully relaxed in almost three years.

While I'm well aware that the stress is certain swing back full circle as my bar studies ramp up, it sure is satisfying to catch my breath.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Have no fear. I haven't abandoned the blog. I guess you could say I've just been lurking in the bushes a bit of late. Know that I have a few posts simmering, though, which I hope to throw on the front burner soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Romney Explained

As some of you might have noticed, I haven't been the most prodigious blogger of late… at least not on this site. I’m going to just come clean and admit it. I've been unfaithful to my blog. For the last two months I've been contributing to another site called Law Students for Romney. Since that might strike those of you familiar with my liberal leanings as a little paradoxical, allow me to set the record straight. I am not really a law student for Mitt Romney. I am, however, an avid Romney watcher who was invited by a friend to contribute on a Romney-themed blog. I accepted, and that's that.

While I am admittedly something of a political junkie anyhow, much of my interest in Romney actually stems from the fact that he's a Latter-day Saint. As a result, I've been especially attuned to how he's presenting himself as a candidate and how the media has portrayed him and his faith.

So just what do I think of Romney and his candidacy? Frankly, I'm disappointed. I actually used to like Romney a lot. I even encouraged my sister in Massachusetts to vote for him back in 2002. Politically he was a centrist then; not overly ideological and very pragmatic. Romney was the problem solver. He spoke of compromise and bridging differences, and his rhetoric was overwhelmingly positive. Today, however, he stands in stark contrast to his former self. In less than four years he's become a staunch conservative, shifting his policy positions on a broad range of issues including, but not limited to, campaign finance, affirmative action, taxes, gun control, stem-cell research, gay rights, immigration, bilingual education, and, most well-known, abortion. He's gone from rejecting the "Reagan Republican" label, to embracing it. Now, to make clear, I'm fine with policy shifts in and of themselves. In fact, one of my criticisms of the current administration has been its stubborn resistance to change. Flexibility can be a good thing sometimes, but in Romney's case, the timing of his many position shifts raises the specter of political expediency. Add to this the hard line Romney's begun to take on important issues like immigration, foreign policy, economics, and the environment, and, for me, his candidacy really begins to lose his luster.

Chuck Todd, the incoming political director for NBC News, captures my feelings well in a recent article he wrote about Romney and John Edwards' political shifts:

[Romney] is widely respected in the business community as someone who knows how to tackle a problem, and he seems to have applied this mindset to his ideology. Technically, he's doing all the things that should please the right and make himself more palatable to conservatives.

But the mistake Romney appears to be making is that as he's fixed all the little problems with the sale of his product (in this case, himself) to niche markets, he's done serious damage to the overall brand of what he represented previously.

Romney's best traits, arguably, are the outsider tag and his problem-solving skills. But he's so bogged down in proving his bona-fides to conservatives that questions about his overall authenticity are now damaging his reputation as an outsider and a problem-solver. By getting into bed with many conservative elites, is he no longer an outsider? He's literally checking every box (NRA membership? Check; Heritage Foundation contribution? Check; and so on). The more he plays the flip-flopper and finger-in-the-wind, the less his best traits come through.

It's still early, but both Edwards and Romney need to recognize that if they lose the personal connection that once made them seem like naturals, it won't matter how well they answer the NRA or SEIU questionnaires. Voters will punish the candidates for losing touch with the people they most need to stay in touch with -- themselves.

Even more disconcerting to me is the rhetoric that has accompanied Romney's conservative turn. Rather than elevating the debate and focusing on substantive issues, Romney has adopted the hyperbole of the far right. In several of the speeches and interviews I've seen over the past few months, he's sought to demonize the left with broad, over-reaching generalizations on values, security, and economic policy. A recently leaked internal campaign document of Romney's lists France, Massachusetts, liberalism, and "Hollywood values" as "bogeymen" he intends to target. The document also lays out how Romney plans criticize the European Union for wanting to "drag America down to Europe's standards." In his speeches, Romney all too often caricatures those with whom he disagrees, erecting strawmen out of targets like France, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, and the so-called "liberal media," which he easily knocks down for cheap applause. In the Republican primary campaign, he’s also begun to fight a somewhat dirty campaign, going so far as to unapologetically misrepresent the positions of his competitors at times.

I've never been a fan of partisan warfare, but I recognize that the realities of running a presidential campaign require a certain amount of stereotyping, generalizing and even mudslinging. That said, as I’ve listened to Romney, I've found myself much more comfortable with the rhetoric of several of the other candidates on both sides of the aisle. John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Richardson, and especially Barack Obama have, on the whole, run campaigns that pander less and maintain a more elevated political discourse than Romney's (whether this continues to hold true remains to be seen, but it's something I hope the candidates continue to strive for).

The worst part for me is that I think Romney had the potential to be a great candidate. I believed his executive experience and his pragmatic approach set him apart as someone who could really affect positive change in Washington. Now I feel like Romney is becoming just another ideologue who grandstands for the party base. My father, a political scientist, thinks that Romney believes it is the only way he has a chance with religious conservatives who are already wary of his Mormon faith. Perhaps Romney is just being "pragmatic" in how he's choosing to run his campaign, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about his candidacy. I vigorously defend Romney when his faith is attacked, but I have a hard time defending many of his policy shifts. He’s boxed himself in on a whole variety of issues. I don’t think it’s possible for him to go back to being the pragmatist that he was anymore without sacrificing all of the credibility he’s attempted to build with this rightward shift in the first place.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Wife

Thought I should plug Melbo's triumphant return to the blogosphere.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My New Favorite Ice Cream

I haven't tried it yet. But I have a new favorite ice cream. It's vanilla with bits of fudge-covered waffle cone and caramel. It sounds good enough, but what puts it over the top for me is a healthy dose of "liberty".... it's Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream. In a statement released in response to this latest Ben & Jerry's offering, Colbert said "Dessert has a well-known liberal agenda. What I hope to do with this ice cream is bring some balance back to the freezer case." I say it's about time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fair, Balanced... and Funny?

After struggling with "Fair and Balanced" for 10 1/2 years now, Fox News has decided to get into the "funny" game too. Apparently Dennis Miller's occasional guest rants weren't enough for the network... so now it's had Joel Surnow, executive producer of Fox's "24", create a "right-leaning" Daily Show knock off called "The 1/2 Hour News Hour." To promote this Sunday's premiere, Fox has been floating a couple of clips online that feature a bevy of Barack Obama jokes, a couple of predictable swipes at Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi, guest appearances by both "President" Limbaugh and "Vice-President" Coulter, and a hearty-sounding laugh track (which, from the looks of these teasers, they'll probably want to keep handy). Call me presumptuous... but I don't think the Daily Show has much to worry about.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Back From The Dead

It's good to have you back out of the blogging graveyard Hobby Horse and BillieJean.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Mighty Wee Block

You know the recycled bit on television shows and in the movies where some inexperienced character finds themselves changing a newborn boy's diaper only to have the little kid squirt directly up in their face? I'd always written the scenario off as a bit of over-the-top slapstick that wasn't all that funny... but the fact is, it's not that over-the-top and actually can be kind of funny.

A little background might help. Our second day home from the hospital, my in-laws and I were kicking back in the family room watching something-or-other we had tivo'd when we hear an anguished cry from upstairs. Melbo had been in our room with the baby Erich and, from the sounds of it, was now trying to teach him several words that babies probably shouldn't know. I exchanged glances with Melbo's mom and brother and we all bolted for the stairs, thinking collectively that something had gone terribly wrong.

What we found was urine. A lot of it. On the wall, the bassinett, Melbo, and lil' Erich, though Erich didn't seemed to mind much. He actually looked suprisingly content.

Like I said, not over-the-top and, in the end, pretty darn funny... at least the first time.

Which brings me to one of the world's all-time greatest inventions... the Wee Block. Days earlier, a close friend had given us a Captain Blast Off (essentially an athletic cup of sorts made of thick absorbent foam and cloth). We were grateful when we received it, but I don't think we knew how grateful we'd be. Melbo hadn't thought to use the block that first fateful time and, in truth, it probably wouldn't have made much difference because technique is rather important. But once you get it down, you're golden. Or not golden. Which is my point.

Long live the Wee Block.