Category Archives: Personal

True Enough to Hurt

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Mentioned in Dispatches

Today had more than its usually dollop of ‘net-fame, in that I was mentioned by Robert Paul Wolff at The Philospher’s Stone and by Cory Doctorow at boingboing.

As for me, I spent a good chunk of the day mastering Expresso and Scholastica and sending off my new article to law reviews. Maybe law review editors read boingboing?

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Speaking at American University on Friday

I’ll be presenting my latest draft paper, now entitled Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements at a faculty workshop at the American University Washington College of Law at lunch time on Friday. So I’m off to DC early Thursday morning.

This will likely be my last chance to learn what I may need to do to punch up the paper before I send it out to law reviews, which I plan to do very soon. I’ll post a link to a draft of it here once I’ve incorporated the next round of comments.

As far as sending papers to law reviews is concerned, I’ve actually been very spoiled: almost all my work for the past decade has been book chapters or conference papers, so I have not had to send them out en mass to law reviews the way most law professors do most of the time. In fact, the last time I sent a paper out to law reviews seems to be … in 2003. (Has it really been that long?) And in that case, I was even luckier, as that paper was picked up by the Harvard Law Review.

I really think this is the best paper I’ve written in many years; that of course doesn’t necessarily tell one much about where it will end up. It isn’t short (23,000 words and counting), which is unfashionable. And I think it has two ideas, which could make it unwieldy. The political feasibility of what I propose is certainly open to question. But I think it might be somewhat original.

After this, there’s another paper in the pipeline on a very different topic. It’s good to think that I’m over the productivity hiccup caused by my aortic dissection almost exactly four years ago. Coincidentally, I had been scheduled to fly to DC on Feb. 12, 2010, the day I collapsed, but the conference I was planning to attend was snowed out. Had I gone, my aorta likely would have burst in the air, or I would have likely not gone to a hospital quickly enough had it happened in DC. In either scenario, I’d be dead as once it bursts you have less than an hour to be treated or it’s curtains.

So I guess I’m hoping it is the 2003 history, and not the 2010 history, that repeats itself.

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Today’s Procrastinator

Take the The New York Times’ interactive regional dialect quiz.

Not surprisingly I confused the heck out of it. After all I have non-native speaking (but very very fluent) parents, married a Brit, grew up in NY & (mostly) DC, then spent seven years in New England, intermingled with five years in the UK and a year in Chicago and another in DC, followed by 20+ years in South Florida. It’s no wonder I talk a bit funny.

It did find some New England in my diction, and also did identify one apparently distinctive word I use as coming from Arlington, VA (which is pretty close to DC), so that’s something.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Happy low-sodium, low-sugar, low-cholesterol, low alcohol, measured Vitamin K, Thanksgiving!

(Turkey, at least, isn’t on any of the lists of proscribed foods. Cranberries, alas, are.)

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Do You Think I Look Short in this Photo?


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Edmund S. Morgan, 97

Yale historian Edmund S. Morgan died yesterday. He was one of the leading historians of US colonial and revolutionary history — and also one of the greatest teachers in a great college. I not only got to listen to his lectures as an undergraduate, I got to listen to them again a few years later (with several quite changed) during my year as a Teaching Assistant for him while in law school. Listening to him recreate the sometimes quite alien perspective of figures ranging from Cotton Mather to George Washington was often the high point of the day. And his final part of his final lecture of the year was personal, and included a call to be sensitive to the injustices of the moment. The example has emboldened me, more than once, to be similarly personal at the end of a semester.

As a supervisor of his TAs Morgan was unfailingly gentle; he trusted our judgment more than I thought I, a rank beginner as a teacher, deserved.

Edmund Morgan was the author of several very scholarly and yet highly readable books that taught two generations about our history. He was also (as I later discovered) the author of the colonial/revolutionary section of one of the leading high school US history text books. That part of the text was, when I came as a parent to read it many years after college, a wonder: so concise, so pared down, so optimized for the capacities of its readers, and yet still rich. Even its generalizations were carefully crafted to be faithful to the twists and turns of more specialist knowledge. Long after Morgan retired officially to Sterling Emeritus status he kept writing books, and also important essays for the New York Review of Books. And he set up a wood shop in his basement.

Ed Morgan did not think law school was perhaps the best way for a person to spend his time. His father had been a major Evidence scholar, and being around law faculty had not given this otherwise sweet and charming human much liking for the subject, or I suspect the breed. He treated my interest in law as bemusing, but we usually avoided the topic.

One of my Ed Morgan anecdotes is pure hearsay, but I have it from a a History graduate student who claimed to have witnessed it regularly: Ed Morgan, she told me, was a great fan of Yale Hockey, and could regularly be seen cheering the Yale team as players delivered a particularly vicious hit on the opposing team. It was hard to imagine the elfin, gentle man, the giver of meticulously prepared eloquent lectures, roaring at a hockey game. But people, as Edmund Morgan taught us over and over, are complicated, and only if you take them as you find them can you hope to understand.

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