I noted recently an article that said there is some concern in the US that Russian submarines may cut undersea internet cables as part of a preface to nuclear war (I think the writer was being just a little over the top, but hey).

I noticed this because I also noticed that I’m 57, which is way older than I thought I would ever be, and that I have (and have always had) trouble thinking very far into the future.  For me, the future is Star Trek.  It’s never about the next year or the next decade.

And when I started thinking about why I have trouble planning for the future, I realize that it’s because I didn’t expect there to be a future.

The age of nuclear warfare began in 1945, with the US destruction of two Japanese cities. Not long after, the USSR tested its first nuclear weapon. But it was with the advent of the ICBM in 1957 that near-instant nuclear destruction became possible. And that’s the world into which I was born.

It probably didn’t help that I was a science fiction geek, and that in junior high school I read Pat Frank’s amazing and appalling Alas, Babylon. So I had a somewhat, um, apocalyptic childhood. The area where I grew up was also beset with tornados, so it was not unusual to hear the shriek of air raid sirens, either during tests or when the sky turned a sickly yellow-green. These sirens never failed to put my teeth on edge.

I remember one occasion, when my family traveled to Bayfield, WI—then a small town, located near the Apostle Islands. It was late evening, and we were returning to the cabin we had rented, when a siren split the night open. It was 9:00, and Bayfield had a curfew. But I hadn’t known that, and it took a significant time for my heart to slow down.

Each time I heard that siren, a clock started ticking in my heart. I tended for some reason to focus on 20 minutes, which is probably not too far off the mark. During those times, I always hoped to be incinerated in the blast…I was pretty sure I did not want to survive in the benighted world to come (especially after reading Alas, Babylon, which describes the wasting death of a diabetic after the power fails and her insulin spoils).

I suspect that this apocalyptic overhang encouraged me to get involved with charismatic Christianity in high school (the fact that it was espoused by a very attractive girl didn’t hurt). I read the great “end of the world” books and felt reassured. That reassurance was strange, because I don’t think I’ve ever been able to believe in any kind of afterlife or judgment. But I guess I found the certainty of apocalypse better than the mere possibility.

I don’t think there has been any more potentially lethal period in modern history than the decade stretching from 1975-1985. Although others would point to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the later period was full of incidents that involved the nuclear powers, ranging from the Mayaguez Incident through the shoot-down of KAL flight 007 through President Reagan’s “We begin bombing in five minutes.” Comment.

I remember discussing the possibility of getting a vasectomy with friends in the late ’70s.  I had decided that having children was a bad idea.  After all, if I was doomed, so were they.

Take the possibility of nuclear war and the apocalyptic model of the Christianity to which I adhered at the time together and it is little wonder that I never learned to plan. I expected to be dead before I was 30.

Now, having lived more than 27 years past that deadline, I find myself never having developed the habit of thinking of the future. For me, college was not really preparation for a career, because I knew I would never have one. Rather, it was a way to pass time. Indeed, I think that until T and I married when I was 28, it never occurred to me to think past about a week into the future.

Then we saw the world change in the blink of an eye. In 1989, the wall came down. The USSR began to dissolve.

And still, I am not a planner. I have no destination. I am, as the prince says, a journeyer along the way.

I’m not so sure that’s entirely a bad thing.  After you’ve lived with the end of the world hanging over you, everything else is gravy. I don’t especially want to die tomorrow, but, if I did? I wouldn’t have any cause to complain. I’ve had 27 good years past my expected expiration date. Over 29 great years of being married.  And I did end up having kids–the first in 1989.

So if I get on a high horse here sometimes about the future of the planet, it’s not for me that I’m concerned. But I would like this to be a better place for my children and their children.

Let’s begin.

Let’s make a plan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Design: Intention v. Evolution

I’m minding the family history center at my church at the moment, being bored and watching The Practice on Hulu (hey, a bored attorney needs to do something).

This commercial came on…

It’s for a website called, that sells home furnishings.  But what it’s about is how this person designs peoples’ homes to reflect them.  She apparently interviews people and then furnishes their homes to somehow match them, to judge from the commercial, right down to the pillows and sheets.  Then they move in and Instant Home!

OK.  I get that.  You know how my parents’ home was designed?  By the stuff they bought and brought into their lives (and, by the way, are still bringing into their lives) over the course of more than sixty years of marriage.

T and I splurged a little on design when we moved into our current home.  We bought matching bookcases for the living room, and a couch (in both cases, thanks, Ikea!).  The other stuff in that room came with us.  And even then, the bookcases and the couch?  We picked them out.  We figured where they would go.  And we’ve moved the couch.

Design is intentional.  Homes are evolutionary.  That is to say, what we put into our homes reflects the process through which we’ve learned over time what works for us and what doesn’t.  And what doesn’t work for us but that we’ve grown accustomed to–you’ve probably got something like that.  A refrigerator door that doesn’t open the right way.  A drawer that sticks.

Years ago, I watched a show in which the main characters traveled constantly, jumping between similar dimensions, lost, looking for the one that was theirs.  In one episode, they came to a dimension that seemed to be perfect, to be the one from which they’d originally come, and one of the characters is about to walk into his mother’s yard when he notices that the gate doesn’t squeak when he walks in.  That’s all it takes.  Imperfections like that are what make a house a home.

If you have someone else design your living room, even if they’re doing it to “reflect” you, you’re not living in a home.  You’re living in a fancy hotel.  And you probably have too much money.

And not enough time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender…

In 1976, when Jackson Browne’s song The Pretender came out, I was 18 with a bullet.

That is to say, I thought I could do any and everything (except, because I had had diabetes since I was 13, be an astronaut). I spent the summer working in a factory. Not the worst job I’ve ever had, but not exactly what I wanted.

That autumn, I entered the University of Minnesota, ultimately graduating with a BA in sociology. From there, I went in 1981 to the University of Chicago, where I earned an MA in sociology and advanced well on toward my PhD in the same, met and married T, and we had our first child. We moved to upstate New York, where we began teaching and I discovered that I might not be cut out to be an academic. I became a software engineer instead, a cowboy riding the range of the early World Wide Web before Windows 95. When the company was sold, and most of my department laid off (I was one of the survivors) I left with my family to celebrate the end of the millennium in Wisconsin, where I continued to do software work. Then that company was sold, and I decided to go to law school, dragging my family back to the East Coast.

I graduated.

I went to work as a legal assistant.

I passed the bar.

I kept working as a legal assistant.

I hated my job.

I finally quit.

I’m happy.  Relatively poor, but happy.

The impetus for this whole post comes from some Ted Talks and commentary I was listening to this afternoon on NPR. One of the commentators was pointing out that it wasn’t until the advent of the factory as a model of production that we began to believe that people were solely motivated to work by money.

I am now in the midst of my third or fourth or fifth career, depending on how you want to count. I don’t work in a factory any more. And I don’t work as a legal assistant.
I am an attorney at the beginning of my career, an experienced mediator, a sometime website builder and maintainer, a freelance bicycle mechanic and photographer, a musician, a philosopher and blogger.

Karl Mark once observed that an ideal society would be one which

makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

I have a secret for you. We live in that world today. No, it’s not a way to get rich. But I do think that we live in a world where it’s possible to pursue the longing for love, and spurn the struggle for the legal tender.

Dirty Harry once asked a punk if he “felt lucky.” Yeah. I do.

It’s not about the money.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


I really sloughed off on this blog, and I couldn’t figure out why. I think I know now. Too many people thought of it as “just” a bicycle blog.  And “lawschoolissoover” was becoming a bit, um, unwieldy.

So, time for changes.  This blog will continue to cover matters relating to cycling, but those will likely be an increasingly diminshed part. Hence the new name–

Inter alia is an expression much-beloved of lawyers and judges. It’s a Latin phrase meaning “among other things.” What I want to emphasize here is that I’ll be using this site to sort of spout off on whatever is on my mind.

And bicycles.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let me tell you about my Dad.

It’s Father’s Day today, so let me tell you about my dad. Like most people who have lived to my age, there’s a lot I don’t remember before I was 4 or 5, and there’s a lot of things I get confused over as to exactly when they happened. I don’t know if that’s universal, but it’s something I’ve noticed in myself. So please forgive me if things seem strange or I ramble.

My Dad. One of the first things that comes to mind is going to something that was called “Indian Guides” in a neighbor’s basement. This was something for kids who weren’t even old enough yet to be Cub Scouts. We wore headbands and did cool things like wood burning, and it was (as you can see from the badge to the left) specifically designed for fathers and sons. Each of us took an “Indian” name. I think (though I’m not sure, and I did check with my brother, who was also there, on this) that one of us was White Eagle and the other was Black Eagle. What I do feel reasonably sure about was that my dad was Bald Eagle. If you ever met my dad, who now well into his 80s, still has his hair, you’d get the joke. But I digress.

The next thing I remember is going to Cub Scouts, which seemed to me less about learning to do things and more about holding an endless stream of “Derby” events. There was the Pinewood Derby (of course); the Space Derby (for which we built propeller-powered rockets that zipped along a wire stretched across the school gymnasium) and the something-or-other regatta. I remember the Space Derby best (because rockets?); Dad worked, at my direction, to fashion the rocket out of what was, essentially, a pointy balsawood tube. In those days (as it is still) fathers did most of the cutting and shaping. And painting! My rocket had the coolest cockpit windows! But I also remember that Dad, who loved the water, knew that there had to come a time when I learned to do things for myself, and so he let me shape my own balsa boat for the Regatta (he advised, but I shaped it against his advice, and he let me).

We built lots of stuff together. While go-carts (strictly gravity-powered, usually with far too many nail points poking into the interior) were the province of my brother and I once we learned to use a hammer, everything else I learned from my dad. Together we built rockets (the first ones launched with a piece of fuse—very spectacular), airplanes (the one that sticks in my mind is Lancer—a balsa frame covered in tissue paper, later treated with dope. The construction was so light that a rubber band could make it go just about forever).  He taught me to solder and bolt and screw things together, to hammer (see above) and saw.  I watched him fix pipes in our basement, and from that gained the confidence (perhaps foolishly) to do some of my own black-pipe work.  He had this wonderful book of “projects for boys” that my brother and I were totally in awe of.  I don’t think we ever even contemplated building any of those projects, but they had inspired him, and they inspired us.

My dad bought me The Model Rocketeer’s Handbook. He bought me bikes—the blue Schwinn, the gold Columbia, the brown Schwinn and—finally and most memorably—the blue Raleigh that carried me through college and into adulthood. He supported my ham radio hobby, not only buying me gear that—in retrospect—was scandalously expensive, but in helping to put up not only wires across the side yard but a massive 40-foot wide beam antenna on a ten-foot tower on top of our house. He put up with me abandoning classic music for rock, and paid for a number of my guitars. I remember going to B Sharp with him around ’79 when he bought me a 50-watt Peavey amp.

He bought me lots of stuff. That amp, the ham radio gear, my first computer, a car. I’ve been embarrassed many times about how much I owe to my dad financially, and the sacrifices he and Mom have made on my behalf. But I will not deny that Dad has made my life much, much easier than it would otherwise have been.

When I decided to change religions in high school, he was angry and hurt, but he didn’t turn away from me. He let me learn and make (many) of my own mistakes. And he watched out for me when I did stupid stuff. Sometimes, being watched-out-for was embarrassing, but I’m glad he was there.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1971, it was thanks to him and my mom that I didn’t wind up in a hospital, like so many. They recognized what was happening to me, and got me taken care of. Because in those days the regime was to mix short- and long-acting insulin and adjust the dose based on that mixture (typically a 30/70 mix), he found a source for sealed ampules so that I could mix my insulin a week at a time, instead of having to mix it in the syringe each time I took a shot.

My folks drove me down to Chicago for graduate school, and I remember the look of concern on Dad’s face as we drove east along 63rd street, looking at the desolation. I remember him helping me move into my room in International House—I had brought zillions and zillions of books, and he helped get those up to the 7th floor and shelve them.

Dad was and is a great photographer. The walls of the house I share with my spouse and youngest child are covered with beautiful prints of some of his finest work. And there are a few of mine there, too, because my dad presented me, on (if I recall correctly) my 22nd birthday with a gorgeous, compact, Rollei 35 camera. I never developed his eye, but I had a lot of fun with that camera before it was stolen a little over a year later. Dad went with me to pick out its replacement, an all-manual Nikon. But it was Dad and that Rollei that taught me to love photography.

My dad, like all dads, likes to give advice. Is it always good? Nope. But on balance, on the whole it’s been good and comforting. It’s nice to know there’s someone out there ahead of you who has Gone Through Things before.

We haven’t always gotten along. Like (I suspect) most fathers and sons, we have fought like cats and dogs. Over religion, politics (though we’re reasonably aligned there), his stupidity, my stupidity, the best way to do things. But my dad gave me the confidence to know that I could do things, that I could change the world and not merely be changed by the world. From Penrod to Jules Verne. We watched Sesame Street and the Watergate hearings together.

So many memories. So very many. And of course, I haven’t scratched more than the surface here. Fireworks, camping the cross-country family death march, resident fish, trips to Gettysburg and Seattle, our cat, exploring France and Italy and sharing Calvados and Raclette…

Some people aren’t fortunate enough to have fathers in more than a biological sense. Others are estranged, or have lost theirs to time or illness or misfortune. I’m happy to say that I still have mine, and while I cannot thank him enough for all he has done for me and for my family, I hope that I can live in a way that honors him, today, and into the future.

So I’d like to hark back to that basement, more than half a century ago, and thank my dad. I’m old now, a father and grandfather myself. And I love my dad, and I’d like to think that—in spite of all the arguments and conflicts we’ve had over the years—the motto of the Indian Guides still rings true:

 “Father and Son, pals forever.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A False Concept of Value

Just a quickie today.

I love to browse Craigslist for musical instrument.  OK, guitars.  I’ve bought several over the years–it’s a nice way to try things out to see if you like an instrument.  My Craviola was a CL purchase, and I’m very glad to own it.

This morning I was on CL looking at guitars (not to buy; I’m full up at the moment) and this line caught my eye:

“Given their limited run, these guitars are very rare and are likely to increase in value going forward.”

You know what?  That’s a really bad reason to buy a guitar.

I see the same sort of thing in lots of places.  It’s fairly rare with respect to electronic devices (because, you know, electronics) but common with musical instruments, bicycles, artwork (especially).  That’s the notion that whatever it is you’re buying, it’s an investment.

That’s one kind of value.  It’s based on the notion of owning now, selling later.  But I think it’s a poor one, and not only because it’s speculative (nobody knows what the future will bring).

Another kind of value is use value.  That’s the notion that the value of something is what it imparts to you while you own/use it, not in some future transaction.

Obviously, I prefer the latter notion of value.

It militates against buying things for their investment potential, and against buying things that we don’t need or really want.

I suppose that if I was a stockbroker I might feel differently…but what good is a bicycle that I don’t ride?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Confidence, Justice, and Judgment

A friend of mine was recently telling me, over breakfast, some details of a problem that had recently occurred at his institution.

She shared with me only outlines, as I thought was appropriate, and we discussed more generally the cultural implications of what had had happened.  Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing salacious, nothing that wasn’t already in the public domain.

Then she said something interesting:  “I’m telling you all of this in confidence, of course.”

I smiled and told her that if she gave me a penny, I’d be her lawyer.

We then joked around about confidentiality for a moment–she’s a minister, and so she and I (as an attorney) share some special legal privileges.  And then we went on talking.

The thing that struck me as interesting here was this:  Nobody should ever have to say that!

Knowledge is pretty much either public or private, and it’s generally pretty apparent when it falls into one domain or the other.  There are certain bits of information that toe the line, but context matters.  Exchanges between friends about someone removed from the situation generally fall into the edge category, but it’s pretty clear that context moves them into the private column.

Indeed, it is precisely this sort of thing that, when the designation is flipped to public, constitutes what we call gossip.

Herein lies the difference as well between justice  and judgment.  Justice tells you that if you have a certain legal status or relationship, then under the law (e.g., attorney-client) then certain things are definitely private.  Judgment, by contrast, tells you that if you stand in a certain relationship to someone else (e.g., friendship) , then certain things are definitely private, regardless of statute.

Justice requires the law to back it up; judgment does not.

So my friend should never have had to ask, and I shouldn’t have made that stupid joke.

This would be a far, far better world if more of us exercised judgment instead of relying on justice.  Just a thought for the morning.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment