Sunday, October 22, 2006

Señor Limpio's First Law

This occurred to me while listening to a sermon recently.
If you think everyone else is prideful, you are the prideful one.
The possibility that people are actually prideful, though, gives rise to The First Corollary to Señor Limpio's First Law:
To first see the pride in someone else, find your own pride and confess it. Only then can you see theirs clearly.
The alert reader will note that I have plagiarized Matthew 7:1-5. Good work! Have a cookie.

I'm happy to countenance suggestions on how to improve the usefulness of this maxim. Also, translations into (particularly) French and Latin are welcomed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An Idle Brain...

... leads to little blogging. I'm particularly busy at the moment, so I can't really blog much. As the school year begins, postings will begin to trickle in, but it will only be a trickle.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First-Year Lesson, Part 6: Outlines

What is an outline? It's a concise, organized compilation your class notes and content from an entire class. It should note the key issues, the key facts, and give you an easy-to-read reference tool during the exam.

How do I go about creating an outline? The first step is to take really good class notes. If you don't do that, then you're sunk. It's essential to write down virtually everything the professor says about facts, law, and the application of law to fact. You'll eventually cut this down later, but especially in your first semester, be prolific. Use your 80 wpm typing skillz to keep up. Get it ALL onto your computer. When you're taking notes, try to do the basics of a rough outline even there. It will eventually be cleaned up and polished, but you need to keep yourself organized. I find the Microsoft Word Outline mode to be invaluable. (Go to View->Outline.) It allows me to organize each line by narrowing level of generality, and it makes it easy to move around a line of text during class when I'm trying to keep up.

Once you have your class notes for an entire conceptual unit of your class (like the "jurisdiction" unit of Civil Procedure), commit a day to outlining it. Set aside 6 or 8 hours the first couple times and get ready to wade in. First, read through all your notes, a couple times if necessary, so you can see how the unit fits together as a whole. That should give you an idea of how to structure it. Next, organize the notes by legal topic (like "subject matter jurisdiction" or "venue"). Don't edit yet (except for correcting irritating typos) since you'll still be cutting things down, but look around in your notes for things that are redundant or irrelevant in context.

After you've gotten a re-arranged copy of your notes, start the hard part: condensing. You should be aiming not for a list of bullet points (which is understandable only to the trained eye), but a comprehensive, substantive compilation of all the legal concepts you've been taught. It's also helpful to include references to specific cases that apply the law (for use during the exam). Take a look at this example outline to see what your first-cut outline should look like. Go through each section and break apart the subtopics, elements, and other doctrine.

As you go, keep in mind that this is the hardest part of the outlining process, because you have to examine how each case fits into the overall doctrine. Use a supplement to guide yourself, but not as a crutch. It's valuable to be able to see how a newer case doesn't replace an older case, but modifies key terms. I find Emmanuel's especially good for this purpose, since the case summaries are so complete. (Gilbert's are more variant.) Go through all the cases in the section in chronological order, noting any variants of the doctrine applied. Make note of policy justifications or criticisms, as you may be able to use these in writing your analysis of legal issues.

Ultimately the outline should be complete, but organized. You don't want paragraph after paragraph of text, because you don't want to have to read all that during the exam. Make it complete, coherent sentences, but be concise. Check it against the leading supplements (which may be on reserve with your law library) to make sure you've stated the doctrine correctly. Make sure that you are not using an outdated doctrine. This is where supplements are especially helpful, so make use of them.

Your big outline is what you will use to do your studying for the final exam. If you keep up with the big outline over the course of the semester (by conceptual unit), then you'll be able to spend more time at the end of the semester fitting it all together and honing your exam-taking skills.

How do I use the outline to study? An excellent question indeed. In the last couple weeks before exams start, create a new, smaller outline that you will use as a quick-reference. Methodically step through each part of your outline and crystallize each doctrine into a few words. Make sure your words are correct, but note the elements of each doctrine carefully. Use phrases or terms of art that you will need to know on exam answers. Pay special attention to legal issues that are testable (like subject matter or diversity jurisdiction) and organize your outline around those issues. Start to turn your small outline into a checklist, which is a roadmap for how you tackle an issue-spotter exam question. The process of paring down your large outline is, in my opinion, the best way to study for the final exam. Take practice exams along the way (using your large outline for reference), and check your answers according to BOTH your outlines and the answer key provided by your teacher.

Exam time is coming! Yes, it is. Make sure you know how your mind works. If you're like me, you have mental triggers on issue spotters, and if you've already triggered all your issues, then you start forgetting doctrine when you analyze an exam question. Know thyself! Look over your outline carefully so you can re-set all your triggers, if you need to (especially if it's a closed-book exam).

Are there other resources? You're probably asking this because my description seems odd and vague. Well, yes. Each person outlines in their own way, so my prescription is not dispositive. However, I took great inspiration from Heidi's blog. She wrote about the outlining process a while back. You can read some of her other great thoughts about 1L year on Blawg Wisdom.

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George Allen's Race Problem

Brendan Miniter has a column explaining George Allen's problems with race. In a nutshell, Allen is far too insensitive to Virginia's racial history. Read on for more.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

McCain Mustering Support Despite Biased Media

This is an interesting article, well worth reading on its own, about how McCain is trying to grab all the fundraising talent he can before anyone else can. But read this clip:
He is reaching out to Christian conservatives, who helped sink his 2000 presidential bid, by enlisting the aid of figures like Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah and former Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, both of whom have strong evangelical followings.
Why describe evangelical supporters as a "following?" It makes it sound like evangelicals are warriors in some vast right-wing, um, conspiracy.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Creative Anachronism

I bet you knew that Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863. But did you know that he also had a secret prototype of a laptop, and a screen projector? Yes, it was The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.

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Friday, August 18, 2006


Over at Seeking Justice, Tom McKenna has a terrible reminder of the terror of death. Warning: it is a disturbing video and audio clip. Do NOT watch it if you have any qualms about hearing a 9/11 phone call to New York City's 911 line.

This sort of clip reminds us of the urgent need for people to be reconciled to God before they meet Him on the last day. Our failure to bring the Gospel to those we know is ultimately a failure to love them.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

ObamaNation - Obama on the Move

Barack Obama is headed to Africa for a tour. According to this article, his parents "divorced early in their marriage." Um, didn't they divorce late in the marriage?

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Qui Pro On Hiatus

Today (!) at 4:30 AM I head out on vacation. I won't be posting much, but if I get the chance, I'll drop a note. See you in a week.

Reading List:
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Applied Discernment: Blame it on the Brain?

When I say that I want something, who is "I?" What is the relationship between the flesh, soul, spirit, brain, body, and heart? These are questions that Ed Welch tries to tackle in his book Blame It on the Brain?: Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience. The book is directed at the narcophilia of modern psychology and psychiatry, hoping to bring Scriptural authority to bear on the tricky overlap between mental health and Biblical counseling.

For starters, Part One tries to explain how the "heart" interacts with the body. Any such attempt is fraught with definitional peril, and Welch does his best to steer around the obvious dichotomies. Ultimately he is left with an incomplete picture, but it's more persuasive than the available secular models. In Part Two, Welch examines specific instances or types of brain disorder and provides guidance in how to relate to people exhibiting symptoms. He covers Alzheimer's and Dementia in detail, as well as Head Injury, ADD, and Depression (which just happens to be A Stubborn Darkness). The final two chapters address Homosexuality and Alcoholism, which are apparently emerging trends in the mental health sciences.

There are all sorts of interesting or novel facts, each backed up with citations to (mostly secular) research. For example, Welch notes that with most psychiatric patients, the affected brains are apparently no different than healthy brains. By contrast, Alzheimer's Disease includes demonstrable physical and neurological decay. The tips on how to address someone with a possible brain problem are quite helpful. Step 1: Understand the position of the person you are trying to counsel - make sure you know what their condition's experience is. Step 2: Distinguish between spiritual and physical issues. Step 3: Deal scripturally with the most obvious spiritual issues (rebuke, encourage, exhort, etc.). Step 4: Encourage and show compassion. If things worsen, get medical attention.

Ready, set, counsel!!! CCEF rocks.

4/5, 202 pages.

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Newsweek and Billy Graham

In an interesting interview with Billy Graham, Newsweek declares: "He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative . . ." Perhaps Graham actually posed the dichotomy that way, but it is probably also a result of the interviewer's failure to understand what Christians mean if they say that the Bible is "literally" true. Of course, Newsweek thinks this is "progress." (It is because of that easy misunderstanding that I hate using the word "literal" to describe the correct Biblical hermeneutic. "Plain" is far better. But enough of me.)

"Literal truth," as it describes interpretation, does not mean that a text can't be figurative (see Galatians 4:21-31), it merely means that the Bible is true about what it says, subject to the limitations of figures of speech and analogy. When Jesus says in Matthew 13:31-32 that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, he doesn't mean that the kingdom of heaven is exactly like a mustard seed in every way, he is using a simile. Remember those from 6th grade English class, where you illustrate using "like" or "as?" The analogy illustrates an attribute of the kingdom of heaven, no more and no less.

It's an interesting interview. Graham has indeed conceded much to the years.
"I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord," Graham says. "This is a little difference in my thinking through the years."
That's too bad. I think Graham may not understand interpretation. That is a weighty charge, I know, but this part of the interview really sounds like Graham is confused about what the terms mean.

There is another section where Jerry Falwell hangs himself (figuratively) (again).
"You are an evangelist; I am a pastor. I have prophetic responsibilities that you do not have." Falwell is unapologetic about his own calling. "I have spent the last 30 years forming the religious right," Falwell told NEWSWEEK. "I write a letter every week and send a newspaper every month to 200,000 pastors who are broadly called evangelicals, bringing them up to date on what is happening in Washington, in the state capitals, in the culture, and what we need to do about it. And of course I'm criticized for it, and of course I have calculated the positives and the negatives, but I have long been at peace with what I do."
So Falwell claims to have a prophetic calling, but he rolls over for Reagan? Talk about confusion.

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Profundity in Odd Places

Every once in a while, a random comment in an odd place strikes a chord. Today I experienced that sort of randomness.

This afternoon a friend and I went to see the new Will Ferrell movie, Talladega Nights (PG-13).Without spoiling the movie for you, there is a scene where one character says to another something along the lines of: "You win so you can get love." I've certainly seen that tendency in my own life. As a normal, achievement oriented Establishment Kid (see David Brooks article, Atlantic Monthly from 2000, though I can't find it on Lexis), that is the sort of reflexive approach that I bring to most pursuits. Cause and Effect: Success --> People Like You.

In relationships, however, the work ethic is counterproductive. The most important ingredient in a successful relationship, whether with a boss or spouse or whomever, is grace. We must give and accept grace. It is profoundly humbling to practice this, but it is the way of Christ, who has shown us such amazing grace through His own death, resurrection, and imminent return.

Did we deserve His love? No. Did we deserve anything other than His righteous wrath? No. But because of His great love for us, He forsook the heavenly realms to redeem a people for Himself by sacrificing Jesus Christ on our behalf. We can accept His love in one way, and one way only: simple faith. That is the most humbling way, because it requires everything from us, and yet nothing. We must forsake all pretense of righteousness, every appearance of our own worthiness, and kneel in humble faith before the God who has redeemed us. We can bring nothing to Him but our trust, and even this is a gift from God.

Adding my work ethic to God's accomplished redemption calls my faith into question. Wasn't Christ's work enough? Did God redeem us for our own glory, or for His? Is my love for Him conditional on whether He gives me what I want? Am I projecting my own works-righteousness onto God, and asserting myself as His judge?

The old hymn reads:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

May we all come to Christ in such simple faith.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Separated At Birth?

Do these guys look like brothers, or what?

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Jer 29:7 - But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,
and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.