Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another bad feeling about this

After the field goal kicker finds his mojo, the quarterback loses it . . . and we start turning the ball over and piling up penalties again on the road.

Oh, Irish, you're killing me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Policy preferences

I'm disappointed that Obama won last night, not least because I think if Mr. Hope'n'change has any vision at all for this country besides promoting vacuous feel-goodism, it's probably a severely leftist vision with which I'll almost entirely disagree. Obama spent a lot of his Illinois and U.S. Senate career studiously avoiding taking a position on issues by voting "present" or not voting, which was convenient for his later political career as it meant there was less of a record hindering him. Yet when he did stake out positions through his votes - and since then occasionally in his speeches, or inadvertently - it often revealed an ideological-left orientation.

For one thing, Obama is the most pro-abortion candidate the country has ever elected to high office. (Kerry would have been, but of course he stayed in the Senate in 2004.) Where even the most hardened pro-choicers in the U.S. Senate voted for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, Obama went out of his way to vote against an identical act in the Illinois Senate. That means he voted against legal protections - basic attempts at medical care - for babies who happen to be born alive following botched abortions. He heard testimony from nurses who had personally witnessed live babies being left alone to die - and still voted against an act that would guarantee at least an attempt to save the lives of such innocents. He's promised Planned Parenthood that his first act in office would be to push to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, eliminating every existing federal and state limitation on abortion that states and Congress itself have managed to pass since Roe - including, for instance, parental notification laws, waiting periods, and bans on partial birth abortion. This would also almost certainly reinstate federal funding for abortions, and Obama would also allow federal funding of abortions abroad, meaning our tax dollars will directly support unfettered rights to abortion on demand. I believe no pro-life person can fail to be horrified at the possibility of such sweeping support for abortion becoming even more entrenched in the law than it already is - even the Supreme Court, which started the whole problem, has allowed many small but meaningful restrictions to stand. Obama's stated policy preference is, simply, abortion on demand. I think 45 million plus is enough already.

For another area I disagree with Obama on, I think his comment to Joe the Plumber about how he really doesn't want to punish success, he just wants to spread the wealth around, was quite telling. That vaunted "top 1%" of taxpayers that everyone thinks it's fine to target for more taxes? They already pay FORTY PERCENT of all income taxes in the country. The top 5% pay 60% of the taxes. The top 50% pay 97% of all taxes in the country. In other words: the top earners in the country pay way more than their fair share of all taxes in the country already. How can Obama give a tax "cut" to 95% of Americans if at least 45% don't pay any taxes at all? (I'll tell you - it's not a cut, it's free money, just like the "rebate" earlier this year that sent checks to millions of people who hadn't paid any taxes at all in the first place, and gave no rebate at all to anyone in the top 10% that had actually paid out those taxes.) Moreover, how it is not punishment of success to further tax the top earners that are already funding most of the federal government? Throughout the campaign, Obama and Biden progressively (heh) shrank the number at which they consider people to be "rich" and thus due for tax increases. $250,000 - $200,000 - $100,000 - well, eventually the "rich" will include everyone who's paying any taxes at all already, and we'll all be due for significant increases. I don't mind paying taxes to fund the military, the roads, and other valid governmental programs. I do believe I'm entitled to keep the bulk of what I earn, though, and that I am a better steward of my own money than the government. I believe small businesses should not be disincentivized to grow and succeed by knowing they will face progressively higher taxes and regulatory costs the better they do. Beyond extremely prescribed limitations, I don't believe that the government should be taking my money and, essentially, cutting checks to people who pay no taxes at all. How is that not the definition of socialism? "Spread the wealth" - the government is fat and bloated already. If liberals want to give more money to the government, they're free to send extra money to the government. I'd rather direct my funds elsewhere, such as to Catholic charities, for instance, or maybe just my own savings account for my rainy day fund or retirement. I think that's my right.

Those are just two major principles. Ultimately, what I see as an observer of Obama is that I think he's a pretty standard-issue liberal law professor, of the sort with which I am all too familiar. He thinks it's perfectly reasonable to use the courts to advance liberal policy preferences (usually the kind of radical but oh-so-earnestly-reasoned hogwash that wouldn't ever succeed outside the pages of law reviews, but for sympathetic judges). He wants judges to be "empathetic" towards the so-called little guys - never mind if judges have to go outside the actual law to achieve desired results. He voted against Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito despite their impeccable legal credentials, because he thought they wouldn't support Roe, which was an outcome-based deal-breaker, apparently. Diversity and affirmative action are core American values, fine by him. Guided by the likes of the New York Times and David Brooks's Bethesda "bobos," he also cares too much about "world opinion" - by which we may quite well assume he means liberal Western European opinion and not, say, Russia's - which I fear may put him in conflict with what is best for American interests. French newspapers and The (London) Times may sneer at American attachment to fossil-fuel-based energy production - would Obama be partly swayed by their approval to impose punitive taxes on our energy industries here? He's already said he doesn't mind if his policies bankrupt the U.S. coal industry. (I don't think the New York Times minds either, of course.) Of course Western Europe has frequently been critical of the War on Terror and Obama seems more in line with their views (and admittedly also, with those of his base) on the war than with this country's - he opposed the surge, which has proven to be a necessary step and strong success in Iraq.

I do recognize the symbolic achievement of Obama's election. In the spirit of the Vatican's telegram to him today, I will wish him well and hope for the best - (hope'n'change!). But for me, the "best" in this case would be that Obama actually decides to govern from the pragmatic center, and not the ideological left he seems to be at home with.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Musical follies

The music situation at our new parish has, if anything, become even harder to bear over the last few weeks than when we first started attending. I usually love singing at Mass, but I can’t bring myself to sing most of this stuff at all, much less with any enthusiasm, simply because it is so bland and/or even inappropriate for Mass. Two weeks ago there was a choir-only song at communion, with the first line “This iiiiiiis, the moment of graaaaaace,” which sounded for all the world like a Broadway number. Standard sweeping piano intro, soft start, rousing chorus, etc. A pure performance piece. In fact, when I googled it later, it sounded quite a lot like Jekyll and Hyde’s “This is the moment.” (Or Spamalot’s “The song that goes like this” - heh.) I like Broadway quite a lot. I don’t find it particularly liturgical, though.

Last week, in addition to the standard Gloria and Sanctus that involve multiple gratuitous repetitions of, for instance, “blessed is he, blessed is he, blessed is heeee” and “hosanna (ho-sa-ha-na), hosanna (ho-sa-ha-na), hosanna,” we had the regular children’s liturgy song for children to process out. (”Children, listen to the word of God!” - complete with “Children’s!” ™ type happy piano music.) We also had two hymns that were so awful liturgically that I was still shaking my head for days afterward.

The first was called “As a fire is meant for burning,” text by Ruth Duck, arrangement by Marty Haugen. Misleadingly, the tune was actually a traditional one, but the lyrics involved such choice lines as how we go out into the world “not to preach our creeds or customs / but to build a bridge of care.” Gee, I thought the Catholic Church actually cared quite a bit about our creed. Right? We do recite it every week. And “bridge of care”?? The hymn also contained a feel-good reference to being “seekers” and creating oneness “'mid earth’s peoples, many hued.” Yeah, diversity! (I only get this, oh, everywhere on a weekly basis since school ended, thanks to academic and legal profession publications, etc.) You could not come up with a better collection of hippie-type platitudes in this hymn if you were trying hard to parody it. A bit of research determined that Ruth Duck is exactly who you might come up with if you were trying to create a parody of a hippie-type “womyn’s” liturgist. Duck, who very unfortunately actually has an M.A. from Notre Dame, is an ordained UCC minister (hence the no-creed stuff - fits right in with the UCC, which honestly is great for her, but not the Catholic Church!) who lives with her “partner” (at least he’s a guy) in a liberal Chicago suburb, has written a book about revising the names of the persons of the Trinity to not be so male, and has made part of her approach to hymns to be to “revise old hymns that would provide an alternative to traditions showing God as exclusively male.” I could not roll my eyes any more than I am right now. Her music is used in many denominations, which - again, honestly - is great for her, but her theology is clearly not Catholic. I simply have no idea how this has worked its way into Catholic hymnody.

The second awful hymn last week, liturgically speaking, was called, “Let us be bread.” This starts off with “Let us be bread . . . life for the world / Let us be wine, love freely poured.” Okay. Well, while we are part of the Body of Christ, I’m pretty sure we aren’t the bread or wine ourselves. I’m pretty sure that’s just Christ. But move on to the first verse: we switch from at least singing in our own persons, to singing in the person of Christ (which we’re really not supposed to do), “I am the bread of life, broken for all / Eat now and hunger no more.” Back to chorus. Another verse: “See how my people have nothing to eat / Give them the bread that is you.” Again, this is a confusion of persons - I’m not even sure if this verse is supposed to be spoken as if Christ was saying to us, or what - ? What is this stuff? Whatever it is, the focus is certainly on us, much more than on the actual Body and Blood of Christ that we are supposed to be focusing on during the Eucharist. The writer of this hymn actually is Catholic, and unfortunately also has a degree from Notre Dame in music and theology. The focus is just unfortunate - I have to assume it’s the same poor catechesis so many of us have had in the last forty years.*

Here’s the thing - music during Mass is not supposed to be about drawing attention to the choir. It’s not supposed to draw automatic applause every week. It’s not supposed to be about telling ourselves how great we all are. And it’s not supposed to rely on sappy platitudes (contained in treacly musical numbers) that are completely devoid of any theological substance. It’s supposed to integrate into the liturgy as part of the prayer and worship, and it’s supposed to help us orient ourselves interiorly and exteriorly towards a more reflective, reverent posture in the Mass. I like participating in singing, but not at the expense of abandoning good music and good theology.

In any event, rolling my eyes throughout Mass is not a good posture to be assuming. I know that. So last week I decided to try and do something about it, and have reached out to my new music director to see if we can visit a bit and discuss the music at the parish. I have tried to take a very respectful, conciliatory tone, and he has been surprisingly receptive so far (and hey, we even got a "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" yesterday at Mass - a good sign!). Even if it eventually comes to nothing, I appreciate the music director's willingness to listen - and at least I’ll have tried!

*For instance, one random thing I realized last week at Mass was that the first time I ever heard the words “dona nobis pacem” and sang them was in my eighth-grade public school choir. (!!!) The next time probably wasn’t until I moved to Maryland after law school and started attending my little parish there - I distinctly remember that I had to pay attention to learn “qui tollis peccata mundi”. Even at ND, attending the more informal dorm Masses every week (which I did love) the traditional Agnus Dei was rarely heard (though I have good word it is heard regularly at all of the Basilica Masses).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Alaska moose rap

I think Sarah Palin showed herself to be a great sport on SNL last night. Amy Poehler's Alaska moose rap was pretty entertaining, but just watch the Governor dancing along. Heh.


This blogger has more analysis and the first "press conference" skit as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting it

Surprisingly nice video from MSNBC on how Sarah Palin has connected with other parents of special needs children around the country. I keep thinking she must be overwhelmed by the response to her (since she's only six months into being such a parent herself) but the joyful way she reacts to and engages with such other families indicates rather that she's probably encouraged herself by this community of parents.


Here's the transcript of her speech in Johnstown, Pa. (that the excerpt is taken from in the video) where she spoke more at length about how she reacted to news about her son's Down syndrome and why abortion is the wrong answer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not Murphy's Law

There must be some other name for the football law that says, pretty simply, the team with the fewest turnovers wins. The Irish were able to escape that situation against SDSU this year, but otherwise, you can pretty much be assured that if you turn the ball over five times in a game (while not taking it away the same amount), you're going to lose. Which is what happened Saturday, as the normally extremely accurate Clausen made a couple of common mistakes and threw some ill-advised passes. The most devastating was the first pass of the second half, and out route that should never have been thrown unless the lane was completely clear, because it's far too easy for an LB or safety to step right in the lane and return it straight back for a touchdown, which is what happened. That ended up being the difference in the final score. Argh!!

One offensive note this week. Even with the interceptions, Clausen had yet another career passing day, with 383 yards and a pair of beautiful touchdown passes. Among the regular completions were a 47-yard completion to Tate. I know rushing is absolutely essential for a team to be successful over the long term (especially given what it says about the offensive line's effectiveness), but an effective passing game is so much fun to watch. It did lead to a solid halftime lead on the road in this case, before the turnovers did the Irish in in the second half - though even then, Clausen was cool enough to direct one last long drive down the field in the final 1:45 before coming up short in the (crazy) finish.

For the record, on the crazy finish, I thought Floyd was trying to flip the ball up to the refs so it could be spotted, my husband thought Floyd fumbled, and lots of other people, including the players, thought Floyd was trying to lateral to a teammate to keep the play going. If it was that unclear to all of us, there's no way this was an indisputable call! The refs may have blown it in how they handled the replay because of when the whistle blew, whether the Irish had snapped the next play, etc., but in the end - you just don't win with four turnovers in the second half, so no sour grapes here. The Irish just need to go out and beat Washington 50-0. I'm pretty sure we have a good chance of that.

-

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Showing up an aspirational peer

A few thoughts on Stanford:

- It didn't take long for Clausen to have another career day. The run game receded a bit this week from the showing against Purdue, forcing us to rely more on the passing game, but - we have an increasingly effective passing game, and it's outstanding to watch. Spreading the ball around to seven different receivers - WRs, RBs and the tight end - show Clausen is seeing the field well. (Weis said he was happiest about a check-down short pass to Allen that Allen then turned into the game's first Irish touchdown.) The audibled bomb to Floyd was perfect. I even saw Clausen shrug off a pass rusher this week like Quinn made a habit of doing so well by his senior year. In short, while the offense has not yet been consistent throughout an entire game - causing the lackluster and shaky efforts I noted in the SDSU and MSU games earlier this season - Clausen is looking every bit as sharp and composed as anyone could have hoped he would this year.

- One point I thought, after watching the Purdue game in particular (with that fantastic fourth-and-seven TD reception) but also the other ones this season, is that Grimes has stepped up his game a bit with the emergence of Floyd and Tate (and also now Rudolph). Having solid receivers on the outside allows him to play the middle a bit more and get open himself. His seven receptions Saturday for a solid 60 yards fit him comfortably in the mix of this newly-effective offense.

- Special teams overall has been improved this year. (In particular, it has been great to watch walk-on Anello being the first guy to the return man on almost every kickoff, and even when the coverage isn't great he's still impressively determined. On one fourth quarter Stanford punt, Anello missed the first shot, but jumped up and ended up in on the tackle most of the way back across the field. Not a great result for the Irish, but I can certainly admire the pursuit.) Nonetheless, Saturday wasn't the best game of the season for this unit. Walker's unfortunate mental block on field goals will inevitably cost the team again this season if no solution is found, and kickoff coverage was not as strong as it has been to date.

- The defense has also been a bit confusing. Sometimes we're better defending the run, other times the pass. The opportunism in creating/taking advantage of turnovers has been exciting to watch, but the tackling often leaves a lot to be desired. Weis tried putting this in perspective during his press conference Sunday:

You know, defense yesterday in the first quarter, our run defense was bad. I mean, they had a bunch of long runs. They rushed for over a hundred yards. I mean, they were gashing us pretty good. We didn't handle the shifts and unbalanced very well.

But you realize after the first quarter, they averaged two yards a carry in the run game. So you say, Well, how can we be getting gashed like this? Okay, but for the rest of the game, they had one long run in the fourth quarter, 27-yard run at the start of that drive. But including that one long run, it was two yards a carry for the rest of the game after the first quarter.

So I think he's concerned, but there's still some good results to be found. UNC will be one of the tougher rushing opponents we face this year (like MSU), and on the road (also like MSU), so the team has to find an effective way to shut down the run.

- Finally, 4-1 after five games? You betcha I'll take that! :)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And we're back


This past weekend provided a MUCH better experience in South Bend than last year's sole trip, which was (sadly) to the USC game. Saturday, we had the best offensive showing in two years. After a slow start, the defense (led by true freshman Blanton's interception return for a TD) kept us enough in the game that when the offense finally started to click, it was a great thing to behold. In particular, Armando Allen finally showed the speed we had been promised since his first appearance, with over a hundred yards rushing and even more all-purpose yards. Clausen had a career day (although I'm sure there will be more to come) - he rarely misfired and a few of his tougher passes were so perfectly thrown, they couldn't have been done any better. His third quarter touchdown pass to Grimes on fourth-and-seven was dropped in perfectly in stride. I think even Quinn didn't have that same touch on long passes. Finally, Kyle Rudolph marked our return to having a good blocking/receiving tight end, which I'm always happy to see, and the offensive line did a quite creditable job of giving Clausen time to see the field and move around. The defense did follow a bend-and-don't-break strategy (intentionally or not), but Purdue always seems to rack up passing yards against us. Scoring defense and a few big plays along the way did the job. So, a beautiful day in South Bend! (And best seats I have gotten to be in, also. Check out the view!) Go Irish.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lackluster

Well, after an exciting day with Michigan last week, where everything seemed to come together great - offensive effectiveness, solid and opportunistic defense, and great special teams work, especially from Mike Anello - nothing's working that well at Michigan State. I'll change my tune if we break a few big plays here in the fourth, but in a game where we're only down two scores but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers, the offense is decidedly blah today. Clausen has made some uncharacteristically bad throws, and despite the protection not being too bad - the spread worked to beat the pressure several times up till now - he's been pressured far more than in the first two games and not done a great job of evading it. Two intentional grounding penalties and a couple of sacks shows that. He's still mostly accurate, and the spread is working well enough, but it's got to kick into gear here. We don't look like a team that should be shut out here. Come on, Irish!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sloppy, sloppy

Well, Saturday's game wasn't much fun to watch, and the end feeling was not so much of confidence but of uncertain relief. In retrospect, I feel a bit better about things, but of course it will all be contingent upon fixing the easy errors that so managed to kill our momentum that we scraped by with an 8-point win instead of skating with a 22-point win. An easy 15 points were left on the field by two red zone turnovers and one botched hold. So - what I didn't like is obvious:

- Turnovers and penalties. I'll grant that I thought this was one of the more poorly officiated games I've ever seen (put me in mind of the infamous Grimes catch at Stanford last year). Replay standards mean nothing if the refs won't implement them correctly, but when you can see, Phelps-winning-the-gold-like, in freeze frame, Hughes's knee down at the goal line while the ball is still in his hand, how is that not indisputable video evidence he's down? That was at the end of a solid, extended drive that would have changed the tone of the game for good. But setting that (and some phantom penalties - on both sides, I admit) aside, there's no doubt our other three turnovers were of the plain-stupid variety - bouncing a missed catch high up in the air, total miscommunication on an out route, and not wrapping up the ball before a hit. The botched hold also ruined another trip to the red zone. Combined with a relatively high number of penalties, this game was too sloppily played to have allowed us to emerge with a win against any other team. It made me afraid that even against wholly-depleted opponents with no quarterbacks, lots of injuries, new coaches, etc. (see, e.g., Michigan), we could still manage to make them look like geniuses.

But - there were many things to be pleased about in the game as well. A few, briefly:

- We have a quarterback. He may look like a Viking or some Euro-thug from a standard-issue action movie (i.e., he needs a haircut), but Clausen can play and seems to be validating the positive signs we were starting to see last year. (It helps to have no sacks - a definite plus.) I only counted two or three passes where I would say he was really flat off on, including a miss to a pretty wide open Tate in the end zone in the second quarter, but other than that he had a good touch on threading-the-needle type slants, fades, long balls, and sideline routes. He apparently audibled the first touchdown to Floyd. (Go Floyd!) He stares down his receivers too much still, but moves around pretty well and I saw him look off receivers a few times as well. He led the team on a couple of long drives, and as Charlie pointed out:

Jimmy finished that 8 of 9 stretch for about 100 yards, a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and he completed over 60 percent of his passes. . . . I think that with a game under duress or with him being under duress, for him to calmly march us down the field in six plays for 80 yards for a touchdown and then come and follow right back with a 14-play drive for another touchdown I think showed a lot about the ability of the kid to lead the team when things aren't looking so good.

- Receivers were hit or miss. Golden Tate looked much improved over last year in his ability to run routes, and he made some great catches down the stretch. It was nice (great!) to see Michael Floyd make that fantastic touchdown reception in his first game as a freshman. Kamara made one or two good catches in the beginning, but made some poor decisions. Hopefully he'll start remembering to catch with his hands and look more for the ball.

- Defense played pretty strong, especially in the first half. They didn't record many sacks at all, but were in the backfield quite a bit, and only let a couple of long plays (shovel pass?!) by them. Otherwise, they kept the SDSU third down percentage low (5 for 16) and held down the score. Tackling was pretty good overall, and there weren't too many passes where the corners and safeties were out of position.

I don't know how to evaluate Michigan at all, except to feel confident we'll score more points than last year (UGH). A win? Oh, I hope so. But this team mentally has a long way to go yet....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hope springs eternal

For everyone else the college football season kicked off last weekend, but the Irish have had to wait one more week. I've seen some of the practice videos and read the press conference transcripts from the past month and believe there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that this season will be a definite improvement over last season - maybe even a success by the Irish faithfuls' exacting, always-high standards :) We certainly have the talent, and now a lot of it should be seasoned by, basically, a year of getting pounded into the ground. The biggest keys to improvement this year will be the offensive line - creating some push off the line to allow the running game to get established, and giving protection to Clausen so he can continue to develop as the sharp passer we saw flashes of last fall.

The Irish don't usually play softer openers along the lines of Kent State or Louisiana-Lafayette, which I usually take some pride in, but I can't help thinking if we ever needed a year with a confidence-booster as the first game, this one's it. We should be able to beat San Diego State no problem with the talent and coaching we have - even NDN, which with clear-eyed assessments last year accurately predicted us losing most games, thinks this one should be straightforward. That's not to say there isn't a lot to be looking for in this game - we need to see all that improvement in the offensive and defensive lines, running game, receiving game, etc. and also, ideally, see some consistency in the performance of all these units. But hopefully having this team as a softer opponent, opening at home, will give the Irish a chance to come out and show everything they've learned from the tough times of last season. (If they don't, my husband is already worried the severe distress would induce early labor. So come on, Irish - help me hold out till the Boston College due date!)

Heading out to the Dallas club game watch soon. GO IRISH.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

All Favre, all the time

A few weeks ago, ESPN added a "Favre" category to its league scrolls. That's right . . . NFL, NCAA, AL, NL, FAVRE. Good grief. What is up with the worshipfulness? (My favorite quote from Al Michaels last year is recounted in this post.) And this summer, it's for a guy who did in fact retire in March and has just been jerking around his former team for over a month now. I'm not the only one who can't possibly roll my eyes any more. Joe Sports Fan has posted some very funny limited-edition trading cards of People Who Love Brett Favre. (Warning: some minor vulgarity.) Oh, ESPN just bumped Baseball Tonight for the BREAKING NEWS! that Favre has been traded to the Jets. I hope he has fun in Jersey (what am I saying? - of course he will, he's always "just having fun out there!"). I'm sure Peter King will at the Meadowlands every week and they'll be very happy together.

(Meanwhile, in my team news, J.T. O'Sullivan (who? exactly) will be starting the preseason for the 49ers Friday. Should be another fun season :)

Cape Town Bound

I made a happy discovery last Tuesday - Ewan McGregor (he of my ongoing minor crush) and Charley Boorman did another cross-continental motorcyle trip last year ("Long Way Down"), this time from Scotland to South Africa, and it's just starting to be aired in the U.S. on Fox Reality Channel. I never heard of the channel until I stumbled across it last week, but again, it was fortuitous because Thursday night there was a one-night-only showing of a two-hour cut of the series in movie theatres. One was in Dallas, so we headed off to watch what, as expected, turned out to be another highly entertaining documentary by the pair. I particularly enjoyed when they stopped at the Tatooine set in Tunisia and took pictures like a regular pair of tourists excited to be at a movie set - except Ewan was on the posters on the wall, too. (I don't think he ever actually filmed any scenes in Tunisia, since the last scene of Episode III added him in later.) He later poked fun at himself by saying he had rather arrogantly assumed he'd be mobbed. "I found it very amusing. I didn't get recognised once! I was going up to people, you know, doing the Obi Wan Kenobi voice, and I put a beard on, but still nothing. I was so gutted!" Heh. It was also cool when they saw a baby gorilla in Zambia. Can't wait to watch the extended series over the next few weeks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Final countdown: T minus 29 days

I'll try to make this the last post about bugs, but I can't help it. I'm just disgusted by it, and counting down the days until I can move into our new house (with which, the sellers told me, they almost never have had bug problems). Every morning I either get completely dressed before coming downstairs, or if staying in pajamas, at least freshen up and make use of the flip flops I leave at the bottom of the stairs. I don't like walking around barefoot down here in the mornings or not having contacts in glasses on, in case any roaches happen to be scurrying away or lying belly-up in the middle of the floor when I flip on the kitchen lights. So what happened this morning? I came down the stairs (dressed and with shoes on) to see that a roach had walked onto my flip flop before flipping over and dying. Yeah, good morning to you, too, sweetie. I'm calling the exterminator again.

Note: If my in-laws are reading this, my house is PERFECTLY CLEAN and I am glad you're coming this weekend. You really shouldn't have any problems! And we have bug spray if you do :) (You lived in New Orleans once, I hope you understand.)

EDIT: Turns out the bug was not quite dead yet. But it was stone dead in a moment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vanity of vanities

Reading this post and comments from a "mommy blogger" about children's oh-so-humbling effects on their post-pregnant moms just makes me cringe. And then laugh. I will confess I'm not humble enough yet to be sanguine about the weight gain thing - but it'll come, I have no doubt, as this little guy only gets bigger:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Side effects

I went to the eye doctor this evening after work because I noticed on Saturday night some serious blurring in my left eye, and this after a lot of redness a few weeks ago and ongoing sensitivity and watery eyes at night, etc. I thought originally it was just more severe allergies than normal this spring, but it turns out no, it's another side effect of pregnancy. Seriously? Apparently so. I never heard of this before, but the cornea can decrease in sensitivity and be much more easily irritated and damaged by contacts. That's what has happened to me. (The optometrist scolded me for not coming in sooner, but last time I brought it up with the obstetrician he thought it didn't look so bad - at least I came in as soon as the actual vision problems started!) The doctor prescribed some drops I'm supposed to take for the next week, which will hopefully clear up the problems with my eye and let me see clearly again. Everything seems to say be careful with using the drops during pregnancy, but it's okay if they are necessary. I'm glad there's a solution, but I'm off contacts indefinitely, which I can't help feeling somewhat grumpy about. My glasses are an older prescription, so I can't see as clearly with them, but I can't get new ones until my eyes clear up. I also can really only drive with sunglasses. I just got some cool new ones last week, too, but now until I can get a new glasses prescription next week (and maybe possibly get prescription sunglasses as well), I'll be stuck driving with a fugly plastic insert that goes on my nose behind my glasses. Boo. Oh well - again, I'm glad there's a solution for the blurry vision, so I'll be grateful for that. And hopefully by Christmas I can wear my contacts again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another adult step

So, aside from moving to Texas, changing work environments completely, getting knocked up, taking another bar exam and everything else going on this year, we have also decided to embark on another "adult" step in our lives, and buy a house :) I did end up giving up on the dream house ideal, but given the restricted universe of 1970s suburban ranch houses we became limited to, I'm very happy about the house we did find. It has been very well maintained (which doesn't stop me from wanting to redo the bathrooms - I already understand the homeowner's impulse to upgrade) and it has a pool, which is great. That would never make sense in Ohio, but in my first six months in Texas, we've already had unbroken week-long strings of 95+ degree days several times. When the swimming season lasts for a full six months at least, I think this will be a lot of fun to have. (Another future home improvement, though, will be a pool fence once the kid is old enough to be mobile.)

Closing went pretty well. It was my first residential closing, and of course also the first closing where I was signing the loan documents, not drafting them for someone else to sign. The title commitment and survey came in first, and I marked up the title commitment the way I usually do. The only exception documents were the subdivision covenants, which were interesting. I deleted most of the survey exceptions since even the limited, ca. 1986 survey didn't show any required exceptions, if the title company was going to accept it. They didn't provide the deed, so I asked for that. The title officer wrote me back and cracked me up by saying something along the lines of, "Yes, here is the 'vesting deed' you requested." I'm guessing they don't get many requests for these, but hey, it's due diligence to check. She also told me "we don't do 'proformas' for non-commercial closings under $500,000." Which makes perfect sense, and you only learn by asking. I did appreciate that she revised the title commitment for me, though, and did delete the survey exceptions. I just couldn't stop laughing at the quote marks around "proforma" and "vesting deed." I think she wanted to pat me on the head while she was at it.

I read over the closing docs on Tuesday night when the title company sent them and had to keep fighting off the urge to mark up the (draconian) deed of trust with my comments. No negotiating at this end of the spectrum: I am the little guy. The bank is the big guy. They set all the terms, take them or leave them. I did make sure to put in no prepayment penalties ahead of time, and declined escrow, which helped some with closing costs. It was still the single biggest check I've ever drawn (or expect to draw) on my bank account. And our estimated costs for the things we'd like to do later on this summer when we move in - like scrape all the glitter popcorn ceilings (que?) - is pretty high also. But, that's what we've been saving for, right? And this a long term investment, not in terms of any intended economic return, but in terms of building a place to settle in and raise our family. So I think it'll all work out :) But I'm still planning to pick up any extra needed furniture on Craigslist - so don't worry, I've still got the "cheap" instinct.

Friday, June 13, 2008

There can only be one

Sitting at work yesterday morning - trying to review a few surveys and keep up with the massive amounts of email coming in for this New York deal - I felt this 'pop - pop' feeling a bit lower than where you would normally feel gas bubbles. It was an odd realization, that the movements I have been on the lookout for had suddenly arrived (or I was suddenly aware of them - maybe I missed them earlier on). But I think that is the official "quickening" that you always read about. Since then, I feel pretty constantly aware that there is something doing somersaults down there. It's pretty crazy. I have always wondered what this felt like - what can it possibly be like to feel something moving around independently in your abdomen? - and now that it has happened it surprisingly doesn't feel all that strange. When I saw my stomach moving a bit this morning, though, that was strange. I think it only gets more like "Alien" as you go along, right? Because eventually I'll be able to see elbows and knees and shifting around pretty clearly. Crazy.

Except for all the tiredness and indigestion, this has been a pretty good pregnancy by any measure so far. I am pretty excited about the upcoming ultrasound in a few weeks. Last time they did one, the baby was the size of a kidney bean. My disappeared waist is testimony it's already a lot bigger than that now! (I'm going to have to abandon my nice darted button-down work blouses from here on out, I think - the one I had on today was stretching too much. Boo.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome, Pope Benedict!

I'm very happy about the pope's visit to the U.S. this week. While I can't go to the Mass at RFK on Thursday or see the pope along his route at all, probably, I am excited that I get to attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Friday morning in D.C. - I was invited by a pro-life policy group that I recently did some pro bono work for, which is extremely nice of them (the invitation, I mean, not the sublease :). So, I'll be working out of my old office on Thursday and Friday (although they gave my actual old office to someone else), and attend the breakfast on Friday morning, where we will pray the rosary, hear Bishop Robert Finn and another speaker, and then watch the broadcast of Pope Benedict's address to the United Nations. It will be wonderful to be a part of a group equally as happy to have His Holiness here in America - and D.C. being as small a community as it is, I probably should expect I might even recognize a few faces there. (I've run into a surprising number of people I know at Federalist Society events, blogger meetups, National Review meetups, etc. Am I phrasing that right? I mean to say the same conservative Catholic types seem to show up at all these events. One of the many reasons I'll probably always miss living in Washington!)

EWTN has posted an interview with the president that Raymond Arroyo conducted in advance of Pope Benedict's visit. President Bush is, as Arroyo notes, amazingly on-message in all of his replies, bringing most things back to Iraq and the war on terror (where I believe he has made some moral misjudgments), but he also makes several comments that remind me why I still admire his character in many ways. I certainly appreciate his admiration for the pope, and found this comment impressive:

And I don't know what's going to happen in American politics, I really don't. I do know that in order for a President to be effective he better bring a set of principles from which he will not deviate, and articulate them as clearly as he can -- or she can -- and then not worry about immediate popularity, because popularity comes and goes, but what doesn't change are solid principles. And I'm going to remind His Holy Father how important his voice is in making it easier for politicians like me to be able to kind of stand and defend our positions that are, I think, very important positions to take.

(That view of leadership has always been something I like about President Bush.) The statement that he values the pope taking strong stands on moral issues is also interesting. Does the president really feel that because popes speak strongly on matters of life, he has more confidence in taking his own positions? I'm not entirely sure with regard to Bush in particular, but I hope it's the case for other pro-life (for instance) politicians. (Not to mention bishops.) In any event, I look forward to reading more of what the Holy Father has to say this week. And happy 81st birthday to him, too!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Easter


Happy Easter! This weekend my brother-in-law was confirmed into the Church, so we went to see him at Kansas, where he is a student. It was my first trip to that state and the campus seemed pretty nice - not unlike most other college campuses, but, surprisingly to me, hilly. The Catholic church on campus, St. Lawrence, was pretty stripped down, but it did have good artwork, a lovely organ, and important details such as, you know, having the tabernacle in the right place. It also had a hymnal I haven't seen before - the St. Michael Hymnal - which, while unfortunately retaining a few Haugen classics like "On Eagle's Wings" - mercifully kept those to a minimum and actually seemed very solid.* Quite a few chants were included, and several hymns were older Latin ones. It's great to have the options - sometimes I think that efforts to reform ordinary parishes are hampered just by the tools they have (you can't sing the Sanctus in any traditional settings, even if you want to, if the ubiquitous "Breaking Bread" doesn't even have it). The prayers for Stations were much better than those I've seen in recent years - no focus on how I'm feeling and what I'm doing, but rather almost entirely composed of Scripture and petition prayers. Following up on the strong musical and prayerful indicators here, Saturday's Vigil was absolutely beautiful. The choir and organist were amazing. I got a bit emotional both with joy at the power and beauty of the "Sicut cervus desiderat" (Psalm 42) in particular - and sadness at the fact that so many, many churches in this country are so far away from it. It was also unusual in that the seminarian, who is being ordained in just a few months, sang the entire introductory part of the Mass and the gospel as well. I usually only ever see that on EWTN with the Vatican Masses. He said afterwards that he is learning the Extraordinary Form but he is excited to be a part of the new generation of clergy that is truly restoring reverence to the Ordinary Form as well. What a blessing to the Church!

My brother-in-law picked St. Thomas More as his confirmation saint. I've always liked his motto of "The King's servant, but God's first." It was fitting for someone who wants to go into government. It was a great thing to witness his confirmation and the baptisms in the quiet of the darkened church. Christ is risen!

*Their website says "We believe that it is very usable in a parish that would like, without moving precipitously, to reclaim and restore some of the traditional music of the Church." So for the liberal parishes resisting traditional music, it keeps some contemporary hymns in there, but the majority is more solid. Sounds a bit subversive! That works for me :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Irish day


This morning we headed out to the Sam's Club parking lot on Greenville and Park to "tailgate" for the St. Patrick's Day parade with the ND Club. Thanks to my sister the coordinator, the Club had a float with some food, t-shirts, plenty of ND-Irish decorations and beer. The staging area was next to the Hare Krishna float. (?) But we were clearly more Irish. It was so much fun to meet new people, including one family with 5 (and almost 6) six kids, another with an adorable baby boy, and a few transplant couples with kids out of the house (including a few working in D.C.). That was one thing I noticed, by the way - an awful lot of people are transplants here and a lot of people seemed to have lived in D.C. at some point. The other main place of origin seemed to be Chicago (well, with any ND Club that makes sense). I guess Texas is a pretty welcoming place.

The tailgating was so much fun, I wanted to watch a football game afterwards, but unfortunately, it's March. Instead, we jumped onto the flatbed and rode (near the back of the parade) a few miles down Greenville, throwing beads and dum-dums to all the parade-watchers. The route was pretty packed. It was a beautiful day and really a fun event. Yay to my sister for planning such a successful Club event!

Now that I somehow survived the bar exam, I feel like I am starting to settle in here (except for the bugs, who keep making unwelcome appearances - ugh, time to call the exterminators back). It's nice to have people to go to lunch with at work (and visit with during not-lunch times while the market's slow!). We're also starting to drive around and look at neighborhoods so we can find a house by end of summer/fall. I'm excited about the process but I'm trying to set myself up for compromise in terms of the house itself. The problem here is that my "Not So Big" houses, which I have loved ever since I read about the concept and could put words to why I hate two-story foyers, are actually not completely the stuff of future dreams here, but are available and in our relatively modest price range (like, $200,000 or less for a four-bedroom - inconceivable in D.C.) from certain builders. Walking through some of these models is fantastic - cozy spaces, good sight lines, open floorplans, spaces with multiple purposes. So it would all seem to be within reach! Oh, but the catch is, none of these is in the established school districts, and/or has much longer commute times. I may end up just being practical for the sake of the future family, and stay within the better school districts closer in - and get a completely uninspiring house. But we'll see...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flotsam and the bar exam

I have made it seven weeks through this move, job transfer, studying, and two days of the bar exam without a meltdown, but I don't think I can make it through tonight. This test is just really difficult, and tomorrow is twelve essays that you can pretty much guarantee will include some issues that I just flat have no idea where to even start on. At least you can get partial credit (I hope!). Who knows if that's enough to pass?

Seriously, I found myself buying conspiracy theories yesterday because the Texas Procedure and Evidence exam included questions that weren't even of the "I recognize this, just can't quite remember the answer" variety, but were of the "I have never seen or heard of anything that would answer this question" type. I went back and verified in our BarBri lectures on a couple - flat out no reference to them at all. And I thought: do the bar examiners get copies of the BarBri books and then deliberately try to write questions that aren't in the study materials or past exams, just to think themselves all clever and to stump us? Like it's not enough material to pull from already - there were three, three-hour lectures and 130 pages of notes on crim pro, two three-hour lectures on civ pro, and two entire days of a review - plus multiple past practice exams, and hours of individual review. And are they happy they came up with some things nobody's ever seen? Well, bully for them. Way to NOT test what people have been studying (it's hard enough to get down the main testable areas in each of a dozen subjects) or what they might actually know. Memorization of stupid little details really are the true measure of a lawyer, after all. I'll be so excited to encounter that tomorrow on the essays. "Hey! They'll never get THIS arcane rule on probate!"

No conspiracy theories necessary for multistate. Those questions are just designed to be obnoxious and test the twists of all the rules -- you read through a fact pattern and think you recognize the rule they're looking to test, and then the question deals with a completely unrelated matter that just throws you for a loop. One thing that kind of surprised me this time around was that the subjects I thought were hardest three years ago - evidence, real property, and criminal law - were actually stronger for me on all the practice tests, where contracts and con law just seemed harder. (Also intentional torts, though negligence seemed fine.) There's just no way to know how you did on this until you see the grade, given the number of questions with hard to distinguish "right" and "also right but slightly better" answers.

One thing I notice during tests is that once my brain starts focusing and being active, all sorts of weird stuff floats to the surface along with (hopefully right) rules of law. So, Kanye West songs were playing in my head all day today (I know: que?) along with dinner options, house flipping TV shows, friends I need to get in touch with, and other things that just raced through along with contract formation, mortgage deed recordations, specific intent crimes, and strict liability theories. But that's all gone now. Time for wills and consumer law and commercial paper and oil and gas. Oh yeah, and my horrendously high electrical bill and house that I haven't had any time to help clean in weeks. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

No, that's not a reference to the latest amazing message of "hope" from the Dems (although, even more than when John Edwards promised to make the lame walk, Obama's promises to "heal a nation and repair the world" - and attendant Messianic swooning by voters and media alike - are both hilarious and cringeworthy).

Ahem. But, this post is supposed to be about football. Having put last year's excruciating season behind us, the Irish had an excellent day at National Signing Day two weeks ago, and we have a few graduated players with good prospects at the NFL combine coming up. At National Signing Day, the Irish landed a balanced class - ranked in the top two recruiting classes in the country by most observers - of 23 very promising players. Blue-Gray Sky ran profiles of each player when they originally committed, and they have a nice roundtable summing up the outcome. For myself, I've enjoyed watching the highlight videos of Dayne Crist in particular (and also WR Michael Floyd - great receiver, and doesn't go down easily!), and his enthusiasm for coming to Notre Dame is a great thing. He commented (although I can't get the video to play on NBC) that he isn't fazed at all by coming in only a year behind Clausen, because he thinks the competition will be a good motivator for both of them and he welcomes the challenge. With regard to coaching, Charlie Weis has already made a lot of changes for the coming year - e.g., he'll step back from offensive playcalling and focus a bit more on special teams; Jon Tenuta is joining the staff as assistant head coach, but will work with the linebackers in particular - which hopefully will have the effect of correcting a lot of last year's problems.

Finally, for the few players we have heading to the NFL, check out Trevor Laws's blog here. He always seemed to have a lot of energy on the field and in interviews - it absolutely comes through on his blog, too! Good luck to him - and to Zibby, Carlson, and Sullivan, who are also preparing - at the combine.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sunday school teacher smackdown

Inside Catholic tracked down this great clip from the Colbert Report the other night. He discussed the Fall with Philip Zimbardo, a guy who apparently argues Lucifer didn't act wrongly because God was being unjust, or something like that. I was watching the show after class (I can be awake for it now that I live the Central time zone - ha) and remember sitting forward a bit stunned at the intensity of Colbert's explanation of how Hell was created that he launches into at the end of the interview:



This is from a guy who's recited the entire Nicene Creed on his show in thirty seconds before. Now, he can mock Christian conservatives and Republican right-wingers quite a bit on the show - but sometimes he turns those parodies on their head and makes some pretty good points while people are laughing at him. Nicely done.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BarBri's over

Next step, bar exam. I'm running into an unexpected impediment to studying, though: this *!@#$$%^ dog next door to our townhouse, that starts barking incessantly every morning around 7:30 and won't shut up. Wow, it's annoying - and really hard to shut out. Earplugs aren't helping at all. In the neighborhood we're in, I'm not really inclined to try knocking on the neighbor's door, either. During my first summer in D.C., I once had to take a final exam with jackhammers going on the roof above us in the classroom building at GWU, but even that wasn't too bad since a steadier sound like that can kind of fade into the background. But not barking. I may have to retreat to a library or Panera someplace.

The last few days of class went well enough. The lecturer for Texas wills, trusts, guardianships, community property and family law (he did all of them!) was pretty good, although he never explained who the "Hobie Gates" of his hypotheticals was. (He said it would come to us in a revelation someday.) One thing that struck me during family law, as it did during the Florida segments a few years ago and would with any other state too, is how sad it really can be. Aside from the much more brief body of law dealing with marriage or adoption, the bulk of this law deals with divorce and its related subjects (spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, etc.). Once you get divorced and especially if you have kids, the government thereafter gets to be involved in your life indefinitely, weighing the "best interests of the child" standard, making social services visits, dividing time between parents, evaluating parenting skills, sometimes terminating parental rights, withholding money from paychecks, and holding hearings upon various life events (new spouse, new kids, new cohabitations, underemployment) to adjust the withholdings. And throughout, the kids get shuffled back and forth between houses ("between two worlds," as Elizabeth Marquardt puts it). The lecturer said you can always tell when it's visitation weekend in Texas (first, third, and fifth weekends of the month I believe), because the Southwest terminals are full of kids travelling solo. How sad is that? No matter how common divorce may be overall, it's still a tragedy for most of the individual kids who have to go through it. (Not to mention the 1/3 of American kids who are born out of marriage in the first place, who get the often tougher situation right from the beginning.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

For a relatively political person, I paid little attention to the 2008 race all of last year because I was annoyed it had started so early. Now that actual primaries are happening, I've missed them all between work and class. Mostly, I'm still bummed Fred Thompson never took off; Romney is otherwise closest to my positions, and I would vote for him in Texas if my registration is processed in time, but now it looks like McCain will finish strongest tonight. His next question will be, can he make nice with all the conservatives who, while respecting him personally and for many of his votes, are quite skeptical about issues like illegal immigration and campaign finance?

Multistate musings

On January 2, we packed up the apartment. On January 3, we drove to Nashville, and on January 4, we arrived in Dallas. On January 5, I encountered my first Texas-sized bugs - several of 'em - running across the kitchen floor in the empty townhouse we were renting, and I promptly freaked out. Luckily I'd brought the roach spray in the car with us. Before starting at BarBri and at work here, before the movers caught up to us, the first trip was to Target (purchases included roach bait) and the first call was to the exterminator. Well, yes I'm a wimp, but when I thought we'd move away from a "luxury" apartment into a perfectly fine-but-not-luxury much cheaper place here, I didn't intend to sign on for the bugs. So, they had to go. Things are much better now! (Our stuff made it all right, too.)

However, I'm still in BarBri, getting ready for the bar exam. It's about as much fun as last time, which is to say, not at all. At least all the MBE topics are sort of coming back to me - the practice test was all day Saturday, with review all day Sunday and yesterday, and I did all right. The review person, Rafael Guzman, was the same as three years ago; I imagine he does this every six months. He's pretty helpful for doing a 16-hour wrapup of topics. I remembered Joe Tom Easley's property review as well - apparently he does multiple states. (Even though I am a real estate lawyer, it doesn't mean I know anything at all about the Rule against Perpetuities.) But the Texas torts and evidence lecturers weren't as memorable as the Florida ones. I suppose it's a testament to how good the last guys were that I can actually remember some of their anecdotes. Does anyone else remember the example of fettuccine alfredo being used as a memory aide for a little old Italian lady witness for present recollection refreshed? Or the loathsome disease of the pox for defamation? Okay, maybe that's just me. (Ah, I just googled torts guy: Professor Roger Schechter from GWU. That guy was funny :) He does have other fans out there. Looks like evidence was by Professor Faust Rossi.) Class has been about every day since I arrived after work, and Saturdays. Still three weeks to go to study Texas subjects and do a few performance test practices. I just took tonight off since it's the first weekday in four or five weeks without class. Three weeks to go... Welcome to Texas.