Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Everyone can feel free to ignore this entry if you want, because it's just a pile of random crud

So I've finally finished what was easily my most grueling semester of law school thus far. There's still the tiny detail of the paper that needs to be written, but for now we'll pretend it doesn't exist.

I'm so glad that I had Laura around to help support me through this semester. It's amazing how much better law school is when you're married.

Which reminds me, congratulations go out to my sister Emily who got engaged on Sunday night. (Really Zhubin, I'm not copying you). Eric's a great guy, but I still hope she doesn't change her last name, because "Peterson" is just about as plain a surname as you can get.

Back to me now - this was seriously an amazingly intensely difficult semester. It feels terrific to simply let my mind wander...

Here's a random memory that found its way into conversation the other day: I saw Titanic twice in the theaters. Two dates, two different girls. The first girl was a bit, well, let's say of the type easily offended by partial frontal nudity in PG-13 movies, and particularly of her boyfriend viewing said nudity. In order to avoid the issue, I went to the bathroom at the right time, and missed Kate Winslet's ample bosom. The second time, I went with a much more healthily balanced girl, and just watched the flick. The second one was a much better date, though that probably had more to do with who I went with than it did with how many breasts I saw.

I think commercials constitute some of our culture's best artwork. Think about it - in 30 seconds they set a mood, tell a story, sell a product, direct you to a web site, play a song, and tell you that the possible side effects include nausea, mild headache, and stroke.

This weekend there are 7 movies opening into wide release. 7! And they all have to compete with Kong, which from the rumors everyone should see. Also, sight-unseen, I'd recommend The Producers.

My test today required me to write a full court opinion in response to a lawsuit based on a detailed fact pattern. If nothing else, I learned why judges have clerks: writing a full opinion is crappy work.

Ok, that's enough from me. This was a horrible, awful, no good, rotten entry, but I needed to write something, anything, that wasn't a fake court opinion. Everyone can feel free to ignore this entry if you want, because it's just a pile of random crud. You know what, that's gonna be my title.

I work hard every day of my life
I work til I ache my bones

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Well Done Father Bob

On January 15th Father Bob Pierson will be resigning as the chaplain at St. John's University, aka The Closest Place to Heaven on Earth (and not coincidentally where I went to college). As many of you may know, in addition to being home to college football's winningest coach ever, is the birth place of both Big Yellow Ball and Vincent Ball. Each of which rank among the pantheon of greatest sports in all existence. Basically, they're exactly the type of sports you'd expect would have been created at The Closest Place to Heaven on Earth.

Father Bob is resigning in protest to the Vatician's recently-issued rule prohibiting homosexuals from entering the priesthood. Protest may be too strong a word. Here's how Father Bob put it: "Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church's teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign." Regardless, the teaching is pushing Father Bob to move from his current post, and in all likelihood to one within the monastery involving significantly less ministry.

I want to take this chance to applaud Father Bob's actions, and to wish him all the best in future. I didn't know him well, but I certainly relied upon his services in the campus ministry department, attended both Mass and Confession with him, and generally found him to be an engaging and capable priest.

For the record, Father Bob is himself a homosexual. He disagrees that being homosexual is in any way relevant to the priestly duties, and I must say that I concur.

What I do find relevant to the priestly duties is whether or not the priest is celibate. Apparently Father Bob agrees, because in his comments he made it clear that regardless of his homosexuality he remains celibate. Again, I applaud Father Bob, because I think with this comment he draws attention to exactly the point at which the Vatican rule becomes incoherent (and for the record it was really only a clarification, not a strict rule or an Encyclical or anything with any extreme officiality).

Though I am usually a staunch defender of Vatican teaching, I feel there are certainly questions to be raised in response to what they've issued here. The teaching is basically that those with "deep seated homosexual tendencies" should not enter the priesthood (those already in the priesthood are apparently grandfathered in).

I think the problem with this teaching is that there is no concrete reason given that homosexuals are any less called to the priesthood, unable to perform the sacraments, or somehow provide unsatisfactory service to the Church. So long as they remain celibate, the call of all in the priestly vocation, there doesn't seem to be a relevant difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals. After all, the Church itself teaches that homosexuality can certainly be a "birthed" condition (as opposed to a chosen condition). They also teach that being homosexual is not sinful and that only acting on it is a sin. So why, if priests are not acting on their sexual nature, should homosexuals be treated any differently than heterosexuals?

My impression is that the Church, in issuing this ruling, was guided by a certain fallacy of logic which befalls many; it seems to me that the Church confused action and identity. I think that by saying, "those with deep seated homosexual tendencies cannot be priests," the Church meant something active. A less active statement may have been something to the effect of, "those who by their nature are homosexual cannot be priests." This later statement is of course not what the Church said, and I think it's important to note that they didn't use a stronger phrase than the one that they actually did. I mean, they basically said "if you're gay you can't go into the priesthood", but they didn't actually say that, so we've got to give them a little bit of leeway.

But more or less, I think they've come up with a flaw in their thinking. That flaw is that they didn't really stop to ask the question "what does it mean to 'be homosexual'?" Instead of recognizing that people can be homosexual without acting on that, they used a premise more along the lines of "what does it mean to be homosexual if you aren't a practicing homosexual?"

This type of thinking would explain why they say those with "transitory homosexual inclinations which have been overcome" can be priests, and at the same time draw the line at "deep seated tendencies". What's the difference between the two? A transitory inclination is something which isn't acted on. But if you have tendencies then you're more likely than not to act on them. This is probably a weak distinction, and I think the Church needs to immediately revist their take on this issue, but it isn't completely incoherent. However, it's also far from perfect thinking, and I'd guess that conflating action with identity is probably the type of fallacy in reason that led to the position they put forth.

What I think really interesting is that I've seen this same fallacious reasoning applied in opposition to the Church's position that being gay isn't sinful but acting on it is. People who oppose this line of thinking often question whether or not you can "be" homosexual without acting on it. They say that by telling homosexuals their natural inclinations are towards sinful acts they are essentially condemning the condition itself. Basically, the thinking is that you can't divorce the action from the person.

And now it looks to me like the Church made the same mistake when they put out this rule. And that's truly unfortunate because it does a huge disservice to the Church. It hurts the Church's identity when they stake themselves to weak reasoning. It hurts the believers in the pews who rely on all of the faithful servants God has called to the priesthood. And it hurts the men like Father Bob, who truly love their faith, remain celibate in devotion to their vocation, and want nothing more than serve their God.

Not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Some Musings

I once heard a rumor that during your first year of law school they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death.

Clearly this saying has some implications for reincarnation.

But setting that aside, the first two prongs of the saying have definitely proved true in my experience. Coming into the year, I was looking so forward to long stretches of boredom. I had a posh schedule - no class on Thursday or Friday, and indications were strong that the final prong of the saying was also accurate. I even read a news story over the summer which proclaimed that some law schools were toying with the idea of eliminating the third "wasteful" year all together.

Ha!

This has undoubtedly been my most intense semester thus far. Besides the paper I'm working on (and hoping to get published) I have 4 tests, each more dangerous and frightening then the last. Except for the final test, which, despite being the most dangerous, is really only the penultimately most frightening. (Penultimately? Can I adjectivize that word?)(Adjectivize? Can I verbify that word?)

Anyways, these are some dang intense tests. This may help explain the dearth of quality posts on Philosofickle for those who were wondering.

Basically though, I just wanted to call attention to the fact that tomorrow I will be taking a 24 hour test. Well, we have 24 hours to finish it, regardless of how much time it will actually take us. The professor says it can be done in 4 plus time spent editing, but I remain skeptical, as the last 24 hour test I took came with the same estimate, and I spent 18 hours of actual work-time on that sucker.

Given the immense suffering I am about to go through, your sympathies are much appreciated. You can provide them by clicking on the "comments" button, or mail them to:

Poor, poor, Matt
1515 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Apt. 723
Arlington, VA 22202.

Also, I wanted to throw out a comment about the last question I asked. The responses people gave have given me much to ponder as I try to avoid studying for my tests. I really appreciated the creative responses and obvious thought that went into them. If nothing else, it made me miss driving with great music through scenic areas and rocking with a great jazz band. I've been fortunate enough to do both. And thinking back on it, both have been about as close to heaven-on-Earth as I've ever come. Just something so ultimately fulfilling, blissful, and peaceful about both. So a big thanks to everyone who submitted on that post, and an further encouragement for people who haven't, or people with more ideas, to continue to post.

I should also say a word about M. Night Shamaylan (sp?). I was told my twist on the question below was lame (despite the great answers it elicited), like the twists in Mr. Night's latest films. But I need to tell everyone 2 things.

First, his twists were always that lame. Sixth Sense came as such a shock to everyone, but it was totally predictable, and I did in fact predict it long before I saw the ending.

Second, his movies aren't about the twists, or the suspense. They're always about something else that just takes place in the midst of the twist/suspense. For example, Unbreakable is a terrific movie about a man's relationship to rebuild his life with his wife and child after it lost all of its purpose. It's a beautiful story. Or take Signs, in which a man who once lost his faith learns to trust in God again. I mean, that's a brilliant idea because it happens at a time when there is absolute proof that we are not alone in the universe - something that for most people would cause a crisis of faith. And Mr. Night has juxtaposed that beautifully with a man who, through the same phenomena, comes to believe again. That's powerful. So give the man a break - he's not telling stories about a twist, he's telling stories about people. And they're awesome stories at that.

And last but not least, I really hate campuses that have exclusive contracts with a single pop supplier. This may be the topic of a full rant someday soon, but I don't have the energy to be angry right now. Maybe if my campus had Mt. Dew I could manage it, but instead I'm off to bed.

Oh, and don't forget to give me sympathy for my horrible tests.

She's seen her share of devils in this angel town

Monday, December 12, 2005

Question:

What would you like to be doing when you die?

But wait! Imagine for a minute that whatever you are doing when you die is what you will do for eternity. If you're reading a book, you'll read that book forever. If you're sleeping, you'll sleep forever. If you're playing Monopoly, you'll play monopoly forever. And so on and so forth.

So now what would you like to be doing when you die?

(And this is a family blog, so no one can say anything sex related.)(Besides, that's too easy an answer. Even if it's a true response, I'm ashamed at you for not being more inventive. Seriously people, where is your creativity?).

This of course reminds me of the old joke... When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep, just like my grandfather; not yelling and screaming like his passengers.

This gives me a thought for another twist on this question: You have to pick what you would like to be doing when you die, but your death will be activity related. So if you pick reading a book, you'll die from something like massive paper-cut induced blood-loss. And if you pick playing Monopoly you'll choke on the iron or a hotel or something like that. And if you pick sleeping you'll, well, I guess have sleep apnea or something. Hmm, that one is less interesting... Anyways, so detail for us what you want to be doing when you die if 1. you will die from that activity and 2. you will spend eternity doing that activity.

Oh her flowing skirt is blowing in a transcendental wind

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ozzie and the Straw

I've been thinking a lot about baseball lately. Hey, it beats the heck out of Natural Resources Law.

First off, I hate the Boston Red Sox. Last year there was this conflict over who owned the baseball that Dougie caught for the last out of the World Series. Dougie said he did. The Sox organization said they did.
Dougie said, "Tell you what, let's sign this contract which says that you can have it for 1 year to show it to all the fans with the World Series trophy, and after that, if the dispute hasn't been settled, you have to give it back to me, at least until the dispute is settled."
Boston said, "Sounds good."
Now Boston says, "Screw you Dougie. We're suing so that this contract that we signed doesn't get enforced."

It's like Dougie said "I'll let you look if you promise to give it back" and Boston said "Ok, let me see." And then punched Dougie and kept the ball.

And no one has yet said that the Red Sox have ownership. And in fact, it seems that looking at the history of this type of thing, they'd lose. So basically, they stole the ball and are trying to use the courts to enforce their theft.

Worst of all, Dougie would probably sell the ball to them for an entirely reasonable price, but they haven't even offered. They're the freaking Boston Red Sox. They have the 2nd highest payroll in baseball, and they won't pay the guy for the property he should rightly get to keep. The Boston Red Sox are a complete bunch of cheap jerks.

In other baseball news, the Twins are still pursuing some free agents, and I really would love to see them get Nomar. I think he'd be a great addition. We'd still need a DH, and I'd like Piazza, but if we get Nomar, I'm happy.

Also, we have some trade possibilities. In this front, I'd love to see us get Hank Blalock from Texas, but I doubt that'll happen now that we traded away Romero. This was a move I didn't quite get - we could easily have dropped Romero into any trade an upped the quality of the guy we got in return. Instead we got rid of him for an A-level prospect. That's weak, and there's no guarantee that even the best A level people will even make it to AAA, much less the pros. My only thinking is this was a salary dump, since J.C. would have cost something like 2.2 million this year. And if we're dumping salary, could we be trying to clear room for a huge trade? Something like Tejada for Lohse and someone else? Baltimore was interested in our pitching... I doubt it'll happen, since Tejada is so expensive. But a fan can dream.

Right, well, I'll leave you with a baseball question: If the Twins can sign just free agent, who would you want it to be? Your choices are Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, and Nomar Garciparra. I'd go with Nomar, but he probably doesn't have the power we'd still need. All the same, he's my pick.

So I sat back down, had a beer and felt sorry for myself

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Question:

I've got a good life. I've got a beautiful, smart, loving, wife. I go to one of the premier law schools in the country. I have the entire usual set of appendages for a person of my gender. And today I even saw a living advertisement for Mexico's Tourist industry (no kidding, they had a giant "Mexico in a box" parked in front of Chinatown's Wok'n'Roll restaurant. It was a giant glass box on the back of a truck bed in which there were a painful number of heat lamps supplying needed warmth to what looked to be a sizeable chunk of actual Mexican land mass, complete with soil, vegetation, tiny insect, arachnid and reptilian species. And, oh yeah, a girl in a bikini top, and two other people who looked like they were engaged in either a) rock climbing on a horizontal surface, b) the most passive game of tug-o-war ever, or c) attempting to create a human zipline in which they would "glide" down the line by walking. The big sign on the truck said "Travel to Mexico!", and when I walked by the same spot an hour later the truck was gone, and I am left to assume that it simply took its own advice.)(Of course, this raises the obvious question: what kind of gas mileage do you get if you're driving Mexico?)(I'd wager it's still better than a Hummer).

Anyways, the point here is, my life is pretty dang good. But be that as it may I find myself plagued by the recent dearth of comments here on Philosofickle.

Look folks, I may seem successful on the outside, but I'm truly a very desperate man. My entire concept of self worth is tied up in those comments. And now that finals are here, I need as many comments as you can reasonably spare, so that I have something to distract me from the awful reality that is my impending failure of Natural Resources Law. But they've got to be real comments, no namby-pamby crap. Or you could just all update your blogs too. But that must be in addition to commenting, not instead of commenting.

Anyways. I figured the best way to encourage everyone to comment was to specifically solicit those comments with a great mind-bending question. Something along the lines of "who would win in a fight, Joe Frazier circa 1970 or an angry horde of fire ants?"

But not that question, though you can feel free to answer it as well, if you'd like. No, no, here's the question de jour:

You have two options. The first option is to live the best day of your life over and over again. It has to be your best day after you turned 16, because before that age "best" really probably turned on what presents you received, and nothing is going to top that Big Wheel when you were four. So we need to go with a certain maturity, and I'll say 16 is as good a cut-off as anything else. So, you can live this day over and over again, almost like the movie Ground Hog's Day, except it's your best day. And you've still got free will - you can change things around if you want, but you'll always be guaranteed that the result will be good. That doesn't mean you'll necessarily get the result you hope for, but it won't be so bad that it ruins the goodness of the day. No matter what, that goodness will be preserved. You will live this day over and over, always completely happy, going to bed knowing that you've just lived the best day of your life.

The second option is to live the normal course of life, always moving forward, always building on what has come before, and always with an uncertain knowledge about the future. The twist here is that you know you will never again have another day which approaches anywhere near your best day ever. You'll still have bad days, and you'll still have good days, but that goodness will be only "average".

So there's your options. A life of repetitive but certain happiness or a life of uncertain possibility but no chance of anything more than average happiness. Which do you choose?

She's as bored as bored can be

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What's Wrong With These People?

We finally got some snow here in D.C. It wasn't too heavy, but it stayed on the ground in a couple of places, maybe somewhere between a half inch and an inch of accumulation. This all came down over about a 20 hour period, so it was really a pretty light snowfall.

What was strange was, despite the lightness of the snowfall a whole bunch of people pulled out their umbrellas. Oh wait, the umbrellas weren't weird because it was a light snowfall - they were weird because it was snow!

And two eyes made out of coal

I Dream of Aslan

Ok, I'm going to tell you about a dream I had. Normally, I would never do this. But it was so danged allegorical that I just have to share.

In my dream there was a good King, dressed in his robes and crown, but not set apart from his people. He did everything he could for his people, and sought after truth (and he felt thereby justice) in all that he did. The King had ruled well for a long time, and was beloved. But many of those he had set around him, to help him govern, were less noble than the King himself. Though they obeyed his decrees and he saw to it that they treated his people well, many of them felt that their King was old-fashioned and silly in his commitment to serving truth.

In this dream the King had organized a pageant for the people. It was a grand event, and every single person in the Kingdom was in attendance. The pageant told many stories, from the first Christmas to re-enactments of epic battles, to fictions of talking animals, all for the edification and amusement of the people. When during this great pageant the fabric of the world was ripped apart, for Aslan (the lion, appropriated directly from The Chronicles of Narnia, full with His thinly-veiled representation of Christ) wanted to see the pageant. Aslan also wanted to congratulate and advise the King, and to visit with the people.

After a brief comment with the King, Aslan traveled across the audience - which had sat in awe of his appearance - directly from the Good King, to a group of orphans who were, in the convenient imagery of dreams, covered in tattered rags. Aslan then moved, as one might expect Christ to do, from one group of lowly outcasts to another, on his way stopping to say a brief and joyous hello to everyone he passed on his route between the disadvantaged. He knew everyone's name, and the glow of His recognition was immense. Even reflecting on the dream now, I feel the golden warmth from when he turned my way and spoke my name. It was truly powerful.

As Aslan made the rounds, it became clear that not all were so glad to see Him. A large number of the Cardinals - those appointed to powerful positions by the King - grumbled among themselves. "Why is He here? We don't need His help. How can he support our King when our King is a fool?" And so on and so forth.

After Aslan had visited with all the unfortunate souls, He sat Himself near the King, and watched the remainder of the pageant. The show ended, and as people were slowly shuffling out, Aslan positioned himself at the exit - like a Pastor after church - to shake the hands of anyone who passed. Just like with the Pastor, some people - the disgruntled Cardinals - did all they could to avoid the jovial Aslan. And sometimes he caught them just the same, pulling them in and loving them, welcoming them, offering His warmth, despite the treachery in their hearts.

It was a truly moving dream. And one of the most vivid I have ever had. The story you just read is taken exactly from the dream. I don't think I've embellished a single word in translating from dream to blog. If anything, I've sold it short.

I wish everyone could have experienced this dream. And maybe there's some meaning to take out of it, and I suppose it's an easily dissected allegory. I don't know that the King or the Cardinals (a strange mix of secular and theistic, I know) apply to anyone in particular, but I think that's ok. Regardless, there is meaning there. And it isn't every day that people have a dream so rich in emotion and meaning. I feel really lucky.

Nothing left for a dreamer now, only one final serenade

Saturday, December 03, 2005

In Which My Job Search Continues To Suck

On Tuesday I received a rejection letter from the Office for the Comptroller of the Currency. I had interviewed with them sometime in October, and despite what I thought was a decent interview, I wasn't really expecting to get a callback or an offer.

Apparently I set my expectations too high, because on Friday I received a second rejection letter from the Office for the Comptroller of the Currency.

Though I could wallow in my lack of interview skills, I choose to look on the bright side: I must have said something right to get such a strong reaction.

And little streams of alcohol come trickling down the rocks

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This is Marriage

When I got married, I knew life would be different. But I didn't fully understand the concrete ways it would be different.

Like, I knew that I would find long strands of hair that had been shed all over the place. But I didn't realize I'd pull it out of my Administrative Law book in the middle of class.

And I realized I'd have to cook for two, but I didn't realize how kind her taste buds would be to my cooking. I've burnt and mangled all sorts of foods - sweet and sour pork, asparagus and mushroom fettuccine, Campbell's chicken and stars - and she really doesn't seem to mind. She's the least picky eater I've ever met. And when I don't even like what I've made, well, she helps me out.

That's right, my wife cleans my plate for me. No one can ever again say I'm not an enlightened male.

I also vastly underestimated how much harder it would be to shop for/hide Christmas gifts when you actually live with the person.

However, I think the most surprising thing that I've faced to date - that I completely never foresaw - was what happened today. I never thought that when I got married it would mean that someday I'd have to pull a small splinter out of my wife's right cheek. Yes, that cheek. She sat on a chair made of bamboo or something, and the splinter poked right through her pants and into her butt. She ran - more of a hop really - to the bathroom howling in pain, and once she realized she couldn't see the splinter to pull it out, I was called upon to do my marital duty.

Clearly, this is not the sort of thing you expect when you get married.

Of course, I'm sure she never expected she'd have to help me pop a pimple in roughly the same location, so we'll call it even.

When you gonna ring it, when you gonna ring it?