Monday, January 31, 2005
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I was blessed, I suppose, with a naturally cheery personality, though I do tend towards melancholy some of the time. As my gentle readers know, the past few years have seen some real challenges:
A broken lightbulb --
his breezy optimism
shattered on the floor
I love this little poem that the poet wrote while visiting an old battlefield:
all that remains of great soldiers’
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Saturday, January 22, 2005
My apologies for yesterday's spree of posting and deleting. I was traumatized yesterday by having my supervisor pop into my office several times for this, that, and the other. His visits naturally coincided and interfered with my web-surfing activities. Again, my apologies.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Aw, heck! I just took a test online that makes me look like an effete snob:
And to think my dream car is a 1972 GMC pickup with a gun rack in the back window. I did grow up in Oklahoma.
Big, blue Western sky:
open, clear, calm, infinite
At peace with myself.
Panic attack hits --
mind like a radio dial;
heart like a fast car.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
We had some fun at the park yesterday. Adam insisted on trying to slide down an embankment like the teenagers were doing, so I walked up with him and spent the better part of an hour working with him on it:
We slide down the hill
on scraps of cardboard, and I
am a "typical" dad.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Friday, January 14, 2005
Reason, not emotion;
I am purely logical.
My dreams defy me.
I put all of that
into a psychic dumpster.
My dreams deny me.
many years ago, or not.
My dreams remind me.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Yesterday and today everybody in my office has been discussing the Supreme Court's opinion in United States v. Booker, which amounts to a full-employment act for us for the next few years.
A little background first. In 1984, Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act, which set up a commission to write guidelines for the sentencing of criminal defendants. The Sentencing Guidelines that ultimately resulted were made mandatory, and sentencing judges were required to use them. The way it worked was that 1) a defendant either pleaded guilty or was found guilty; 2) a probation officer prepared a presentence report, taking into account many factors and setting forth relevant facts for the judge's findings; 3) the judge made findings as to relevant facts and imposed sentence accordingly, using the Guidelines. A few years ago, in Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court determined that any sentencing fact not found by a jury that took a sentence beyond a statutory maximum violated the Sixth Amendment jury trial right. Last year, in Blakely v. Washington, the Supreme Court surprised us by holding that a state sentencing scheme similar to the federal sentencing scheme was unconstitutional. In that case, the Court held that the maximum statutory sentence was in fact the maximum guideline sentence.
In Booker, the Supreme Court found that the statutory provision making the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines binding on sentencing judges violated the Sixth Amendment's right to a jury trial. Most observers expected that holding in light of Blakely. However, what we did not expect was the remedy imposed by the Supreme Court. I feared a situation in which every little fact relevant to sentencing would need to be put before a jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt, something that would be terribly unweildly and inefficient.
Justice Stevens wrote the opinion on the constitutionality of the relevant provision, joined by Justices Scalia, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg. Dissenting were Justices Breyer (who helped write the guidelines before he was on the Supreme Court), Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Kennedy.
However, Ginsburg switched sides when it came to what to do about the unconstitutionality of the statute, giving Justice Breyer an opportunity to salvage what he could of the Sentencing Guidelines. Breyer, therefore, wrote the part of the Supeme Court's opinion on the remedy for the constitutional violation. Stevens, Scalia, and Thomas wrote dissenting opinions about that part. Breyer determined that the statute making the guidelines mandatory had to be cut out of the statute, and that another provision having to do with the appellate standard of review had to be deleted, but that otherwise the use of the Sentencing Guidelines is okay. So now the guidelines are advisory, not mandatory, and appellate courts review for reasonableness.
So, we end up with sentencing judges being able to make factual findings and being able to use the Sentencing Guidelines the same as before, except as "advisory" guidelines. There are other factors they can consider, but I suspect most judges will just keep on doing what they've always done.
So, in the end, a major Supreme Court decision will end up changing almost nothing.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
This was our backyard pool at the end of summer 2004. Adam enjoyed throwing handfulls of mud and gravel from our French drain into the pool. I took it down shortly thereafter, but I wanted to immortalize the summer of mud with a photograph.
Miranda directed my attention to this nerd test, and I discovered I'm not as nerdy as I thought. Of course, the fact that I took the test in the first place suggests that I am a nerd. I mean, I studied hard at a party school and got good grades while everyone around me was getting drunk and laid eight ways to Sunday. But not me, I had my head in the books; I ... Oh, well, here's my score:
A coworker just alerted me that the University of Utah football team won the national championship in one poll: http://www.theedgeinteractive.net/utah.htm
In light of this shocking development, I'll bet Urban Meyer is already rueing the day he accepted the head coaching position at the University of Florida.
The words are all there --
I just have to scribble them
in the right order.
This poetry thing is really fun. It's weird -- I employ words for a living, yet this is the first time I've really played with them. Anyhow, I've been using the 5-7-5 haiku rule as a challenge to express my thoughts as economically as possible. It's also a challenge to come up with words with the right number of syllables to make things work.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Demons, once suppressed
rattle around in my house;
the place is a mess.
Two hundred one pounds!
How did that happen to me?
I'd like fries with that.
Apologies in advance to my non-LDS readers:
Man can be like God!
Our eternal progression.
Do we still teach that?
I usually wake up in the morning and have to hit the ground running. I'm way too neurotic to rest in bed like a normal person. Thus, this poem:
The feel of her skin
against my own as she sleeps;
coffee beckons me.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Friday, January 07, 2005
I've thought it all through and, as painful as it is, I'm leaning towards sending Adam to St. Mary's school for a while. He would benefit greatly from the structured program there and from association with other children, especially his older brother, whom he adores. He has progressed in many ways in the past year or so, particularly in play skills and his sense of self. Still, he needs to learn to control his violent and self-injurious impulses, and he has a long way to go to be able to really interact with other kids and to function "normally" out in society (not that I always manage that myself, mind you). Also, we've mostly been impressed with Toby's stay there thus far.
The things I feel the worst about are: 1) how Adam will feel about going there -- will he feel abandoned? Will he hate us? and 2) to what extent is this a selfish thing on my part? It hasn't escaped my attention that I will have more time to myself should Adam go off to boarding school. The fact that I noted that made me feel an extra dose of guilt. However, I felt comfortable with the decision after sitting zazen yesterday morning. It really cleared my head and let me think things through as objectively as possible.
Thanks to everybody for your kind words and support.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Today I killed time in the jury pool room at the St. Tammany Parish courthouse. Yes, I’ve got jury duty this week. I have three major strikes against my being selected: First, I am a lawyer. Second, I work for the federal court system. Third, I sat on a death-penalty jury in 1984. None of those amount to legal disqualifications, so to the courthouse I went this morning. I get to go back there tomorrow.
Now for some bad haiku, based on yesterday morning:
Cool, gentle wind blows
January in the park
Pine scent fills the air
Damp Sunday morning
Fire engines with lights flashing
Despite the fire engines, it didn’t look like anything too terrible had happened to the building, thus my lighthearted attitude.
I came across a poem this morning while sitting in the courthouse that I found quite lovely, though a bit depressing:
A falcon hovers at the edge of the sky.
Two gulls drift slowly up the river.
Vulnerable while they ride the wind,
they coast and glide with ease.
Dew is heavy on the grass below,
the spider’s web is ready.
Heaven’s ways include the human:
among a thousand sorrows, I stand alone.
– Tu Fu (712-770)
The portions of the poem referring to animal actions remind me somewhat of the LDS temple film and its line about all life being created to live out the fullness of its creation and have joy therein. I’m no scholar of ancient China, but I can’t imagine that life there was terribly pleasant for most people, not even poets.
However, the thought of standing alone amidst sorrows is rather depressing, even as a impermanent, transient state. I do know that feeling, but my impulse is to reach out rather than to stand entirely alone. As a matter of spirituality, I understand that ultimately each of us works things out individually. Nobody – not even my own DW – possesses my unique mind or spirit. I suppose that is in part what Tu Fu is getting at when he says he stands alone.
But why must he stand among sorrows? Perhaps because Buddhists teach the four noble truths: 1) life is suffering; 2) there is a cause of suffering (mostly delusions and attachements); 3) there is an end to suffering; and 4) there is a path to the end of suffering (namely, Buddhism). Suffering is defined to include everything in the life of an unenlightened individual. But if Tu Fu has achieved enlightenment, he should not see anything in his own life as sorrowful, should he?
Mahayana Buddhists, including Zennists, teach that the “Self” is actually a life-force (emptiness) that forms the substance of every sentient being. Thus, because his Self includes everybody and everything, Tu Fu cannot achieve Nirvana (end of suffering) until everybody else does. Therefore, Tu Fu stands amidst the suffering of the unenlightned. My question is this: If the concept of the Self set out above is correct, then can a Zen Buddhist ever truly say that he stands alone? Moreover, I wonder whether there is a certain ego-centric element is this concept of standing alone. That would be a delicious irony in a philosophy that eschews ego and emphasizes ego-abandonment. Just a thought.
It might be nice if Buddhism had a more positive vocabulary to express its core concepts. The notion that everything is suffering kept me at a distance for a while, until I came to an understanding of what that meant. Also, the loneliness suggested by Tu Fu, while not false, could perhaps be designated with some other label. Finally, it seems a little odd to label the life-force of the universe “emptiness.” But I digress.
I sense another Zen concept in the poem – that of just doing whatever it is you’re doing at any one time, and nothing else. The animals do what they do; they don’t do anything else. People, however, are different due to our ability to think and delude ourselves into believing all sorts of crazy things and to become attached to objects and concepts.
See what happens when you get nailed with jury duty? Don’t you hope you get your summons in the mail really soon?