Sunday, December 20, 2009


Twenty-four hours from now I will be heading to the airport, bound for Inyokern, CA. I do not think I have looked forward to a break more in the thirteen consecutive semesters I've completed in the last six years. Law school is draining in a very unique way, but more on that when I have time. This is just an anticipatory post, one reminding myself that this last final, tomorrow morning, is the end of this semester. A little unreal.

Snow is blowing outside as I write a few things that I'm looking forward to over break:

1) Family!!! & Friends! I've missed everyone so, and every year, every thing I learn just builds the love that I have for them & my yearning to spend time with them.

2) Reading: one super-awesome thing about law school, is that we get actual breaks... I think this will be my first break in three years where I haven't had some sort of writing project to accomplish by the beginning of the next semester. Sure we have job apps but those pale in comparison to the amount of work a 30 page research paper or half-hour academic presentation can take. Here are the titles I'm planning on imbibing:

  1. All Hallow's Eve by Charles Williams. I've started this one, over a nice break for Jury Duty in November and it is one of the best I've ever read. Without giving anything away, Williams can blend spiritual and physical reality so well, when you 'come back' to the 'real world' you're not sure it is.
  2. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun by JRR Tolkien. As you all know, my favorite author of all time and this book is his retelling/mix of two old Norse sagas, probably my favorite era of literature. Should be blazingly awesome.
  3. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. As a avid fan of Russian literature (Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Solzhenitsyn in particular), that this book has slipped by me (how?) is a crime deep and terrible. Luckily one of my lovely friends from law school Alisa has illuminated my path and even provided me a copy of her most favoritest book to glory in over break. I'm stoked, to say the least. Expect raves.
  4. War in Heaven, another Charles Williams :) and an early Christmas present.
Usually I would list many more, but, attempting to be wiser every year, I figured that break being from December 22nd to January 10th, that is a manageable chunk that I can hope to tuck away.

3) Cycling & Running: I've actually been pretty good about both over the semester, until these last few weeks where all my energy was directed at my books. But it will be nice to cycle a good hundred road miles or so in the Mojave, mountain bike a few trails in the Pacific Northwest & trail run in the Sierra Nevadas, as well as the Cascades. Nothing refreshes and rejuvenates like miles flowing under my feet.

4) Coffee: I've stocked up on a few cafes I need to snuggle up w/aforementioned books and sip dry cappuccinos:;; One old favorite, two new storied locales :) looking forward to bringing beans back. Cuppings in the spring for sure.

Those are the stand out things at the moment.

What are you looking forward to my friends? Namaste

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The First Week & Thoughts

Hello Friends,

As many of you know, I just started at Boston College Law School, indeed, this is my second day of classes. After two days of orientation and one of class, I am happy to say that I am really excited for the next three years! This venture is unlike any I've encountered so far, in that it commits me to a relatively solid path for the next three, and more likely seven years.

In many ways it is like undergrad in that the course load is similar, classes are often and in the morning, and the mix of people is, if anything, even more diverse. When the Dean of the School introduced our class, it was humbling to hear the impact my classmates have had on the world and thrilling to realize that I'll be working with them closely for the next three years and beyond.

Two things I've gathered in my very short time here are that
1) Law School is all about method, learning a new, precise, and powerful method of reasoning, namely legal reasoning. I'm interested in seeing how this style of thinking differs and coincides with my studies on cognitional theory and epistemology. The thing about inculcating a method, is that it takes a lot of work and time... hence the infamous 1L year :)

2) (and perhaps this is just my current orientation, but) Law School emphasizes relationships much more than I anticipated. The law community is a small one, and everyone ends up working with and knowing everyone else. Sure there are abuses and many of the negative images associated with lawyers show keen insight, however, those images do not represent the majority of lawyers.

A few unrelated thoughts:

I've been attempting to choose between Google and Bing as far as reliablity of searches go, and have yet to make a decision... I feel that Bing is indeed better, but, alas, I have adapted so well to Google that I can often find things faster and more efficiently with the scatter-gun approach. Hmm... try it for yourself :)

As I may have mentioned, I'm training for the 2010 Laramie Enduro. Having added cycling to my running has really improved my running speed and lower heart rate endurance. I've cycled to the BCLS campus every day this week over Heartbreak Hill which, with 20-30lbs of books on my back, has and will be good climbing training for next summer!



Friday, August 28, 2009

Use and Philosophy


This post is occasioned by a few hours of peaceful reading at 1369 Coffeehouse in Cambridge, MA in which I blazed through a few chapters of the forever insightful Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America. Two thoughts occurred in conjunction with this passage:

"The disease of the modern character is specialization. Looked at from the standpoint of the social system, the aim of specialization may seem desirable enough. The aim to see that the responsibilities of government, law, medicine, engineering, agriculture, education, etc., are given into the hands of the most skilled, best prepared people. The difficulties do not appear until we look at specialization from the opposite standpoint-that of individual persons. We then begin to see the grotesquery-indeed, the impossibility-of an idea of community wholeness that divorces itself from any idea of personal wholeness.
The first, and best known, hazard of the specialist system is that it produces specialists-people who are elaborately and expensively trained to do one thing. We get into absurdity very quickly here. There are, for instance, educators who have nothing to teach, communicators who have nothing to say, medical doctors skilled at expensive cures for diseases that they have no skill, and no interest in preventing. More common, and more damaging, are the inventors, manufacturers, and salesmen of devices who have no concern for the possible effects of those devices. Specialization is thus seen to be a way of integration and scattering-out of the various functions of character: workmanship, care, conscience, responsibility.
Even worse, a system of specialization requires the abdication to specialists of various competences and responsibilities that were once personal and universal. Thus the average-one is tempted to say, the ideal-American citizen now consigns the problem of food production to agriculturists and 'agribusinessmen,' the problems of health to doctors and sanitation experts, the problems of education to school teachers and educators, the problems of conservation to conservationists, and so on. This supposedly fortunate citizen is therefore left with only two concerns: making money and entertaining himself. He earns money, typically, as a specialist, working an eight-hour day at a job for the quality or consequence of which somebody else-or, perhaps more typically, nobody else-will be responsible. And not surprisingly, since he can do so little else for himself, he is even unable to entertain himself, for there exists an enormous industry of exorbitantly expensive specialists who propose to entertain him.
The beneficiary of this regime of specialist ought to be the happiest of mortals-or so we are expected to believe. All of his vital concerns are in the hands of certified experts. He is a certified expert himself and as such earns more money in a year than all his great-grandparents put together. Between stints at his job he has nothing to do but mow his lawn which a sit-down lawn mower, or watch other certified experts on television. At suppertime he may eat a tray of ready-prepared food, which he and his wife (also a certified expert) procure at the cost only of money, transportation, and the pushing of a button. For a few minutes between supper and sleep he may catch a glimpse of his children, who since breakfast have been in the care of education experts, basketball or marching-band experts, or perhaps legal experts.
The fact is, however, that this is probably the most unhappy average citizen in the history of the world. He has not the power to provide himself with anything but money, and his money is inflating like a balloon and drifting away, subject to historical circumstances and the power of other people. From morning to night he does not touch anything that he has produced himself, in which he can take pride. For all his leisure and recreation, he feels bad, he looks bad, he is overweight, his health is poor. His air, water, and food are all known to contain poisons. There is a fair chance he will die of suffocation. He suspects that his love life is not as fulfilling as other people's. He wishes that he had been born sooner, or later. He does not know why his children are the way they are. He does not understand what they say. He does not care much and does not want to know why he does not care. He does not know what his wife wants or what he wants. Certain advertisements and pictures in magazines make him suspect that he is basically unattractive. He feels that all his possessions are under threat of pillage. He does not know what he would do if he lost his job, if the economy failed, if the utility companies failed, if the police went on strike, if the truckers went on strike, if his wife left him, if his children ran away, if he should be found incurably ill. And for these anxieties, of course, he consults certified experts, who in turn consult certified experts about their anxieties."

For the most part, I think Berry, with his usual clarity, has described the root of many of the social problems we are faced with now. As my brother-in-law notes, in the words of Heinlein: Specialization is for insects. But what of the particular specialization I have majored in, and gone on to earn a Master's in, and intend on pursuing to the bitter end in a PhD and teaching career?

I think that philosophy can be the ultimate of either side of the coin: an ultra-specialization or the ultimate anti-specialization. As a specialization, not only is it divorced from other pursuits in the classic absent-minded professorial way, but also, the system of reality proposed by many philosophies is so abstracted from reality, that the person living within a particular system can never find the "ground". Our absent-minded professor has no "reality" to return to. Not only can this specialization talk in it's specialized language about other things, but, unlike other specializations, this specialization can talk merely about specializations. A meta-abstraction problem if you will.

The other side of the coin is the way in which (as Berry does, in a very real sense) philosophy can analyze the problems of those disciplines which are not self-reflective. Most specializations do not have corrective mechanisms within themselves such that becoming immersed in the specialization would be apparent or seen as a bad thing. As a sort of birds-eye view, philosophy can "stand outside" the other disciplines (and itself for that matter, which makes those philosophers who pursue mere abstraction so much worse) and help them realize their mistaken orientation to the world.

Of course, it isn't the specializations themselves that are a problem. Specialization in and of itself is a good thing; it creates a very particular forum for answering very particular questions. The problems arise when, rather than being an occasional mode of thinking, a specialization becomes a way of living, the fabric of community, and this, I believe, is the evil that Berry is pointing out.

(This thought touches on the understanding of general bias as developed by Bernard Lonergan, an essay I've written on the topic with respect to the I-1000 in Washington State can be found here.)

The other thing that came to mind in that reading session came in reading this passage:

"One reason that an organization cannot properly enact our relationship to the world is that an organization cannot define that relationship except in general terms, and no matter how general may be a person's attitude toward the world, his impact upon it must become specific and tangible at some point... The conservation movement has never resolved this dilemma. It has never faced it... With the increase of pollution and mining, their interest has become two-branched, to include, along with the pristine, the critically abused. At present the issue of use is still in its beginning."

Berry goes on to describe how "conservationists" will buy a large chunk of land, and just leave it to the wild. As people who know land will tell you, there is a sort of three-level 'being' to land where the middle ground is "untouched" wilderness. The lower level is effected by man in the form of ecological rape, however the upper level too is effected by man in the conscious, humble, respectful cultivation and care of land. Land left to its own resources (which, I believe is an impossibility these days, given the widespread effect of our lifestyles), simply does not take care of itself as well as a properly oriented human being.

How then, are we to understand "use?" When I use the term "useful" or "use" what comes to mind? With many people, I find, "use" has many bad connotations: "using" another person, or what's the "use" of something. I agree, but also I think there is an important element of "use" that is neglected.

As Aristotle notes in his three levels of friendship (utility, pleasure, and virtue) at the end of Nicomachean Ethics, each of the lower levels can be sublated/incorporated/'taken up' into the higher levels. Thus, when I pick up my wife from work in our car, even though it is a short walk away, she is deriving some use from me, though neither of us look at it that way at all; our friendship of virtue has changed the whole relationship such that use does not enter in, save in analysis.

I believe the key, and I think Wendell Berry approaches this understanding in a sideways manner, is entering into relationship with land in its full "thing-ness," into relationship with everything about it, asking all the proper questions, being in love with the earth and the beings that inhabit it. Only this relationship can transform the notion and reality of use into its proper form, that is, consciously, organically, interacting with life, writ large, around us in the fullness of our creative intelligence, a creative intelligence that, in the end, is a creative love.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ndiara Estate, Kirinyaga, Kenya

The second coffee I've been imbibing this month is a Kenyan (I try and mix up the continents when I get coffees, of late. Eventually I'd like to stick to the same country and discern differences) from the Ndiara Estate. George Howell tells us that,

"Ndiara is another powerful coffee from Kirinyaga, easily an equal, in my opinion, to Mamuto and very different. If ever there was a coffee that should be called 'jammy', this is it! It presents a massive body with a berry fruit-basket of flavors. If you have not tried it you should.

Ndiara is an eight acre farm in the Kirinyaga district on the southren slope of Mt. Kenya at 5,500 feet. It is named after a pre-historic site nearby. Mr. Daniel Waruri Muriuki started it in 1979 when he acquired the land and planted 6,000 Bourbon SL-28 and SL-34 coffee trees; he later added an additional 500 trees."

You may be asking yourself, what do those designations Bourbon SL-28 and SL-34 mean? They are essentially the pedigree of the type of coffee, what in coffee jargon is the "varietal" or "cultivar". Here is a nice little primer on this sort of language:

I found this coffee so sweet it was like it had sugar in it, bright and airy. Taste went something like this: Sweet - Mellow - Tangy/Nippy mix... it was hard to characterize with the strong aroma of blackberries. Reminded me of our five acres where I spent a good bit of my formative years... ah. Tasty!

On a related note, I briefly stopped by one of my all-time favorite cafes: 1369 Coffeehouse (two locations) in Cambridge, MA. They are a fantastic shop, full of all that is Cambridge (awesome tattoos, mustaches, avant-garde clothing, posters for local bands, taro card readings, and goth raves). The coffee is delicious, particularly their espresso & espresso drinks. Their house roasts tend to be on the darker side, certainly in the dry distillation range, but that is their expertise (after the European fashion) and they are quite good at it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Draft of a Dream


While proctoring an LSAT at the Cambridge Kaplan Center yesterday, I read the majority of a delightful book by Hilaire Belloc entitled An Essay on the Restoration of Property and it sparked a solidification of many ideas that have been mulling for several years now. I thought I would share them with you all, and give a few titles that have contributed to these thoughts.

Some/many of you have heard us mention/discuss/rave about an idea we've been kicking around about a community of families, living in rough proximity to each other, working in the world yet, at the same time, maintaining a strong spiritual, economic, ecologic, and familial haven for the growth and development of ourselves, our friends, and our children. In our increasingly complex world, it is becoming harder and harder to live a fully integrated and moral life within the structures, the schemes of recurrence, the webs of the world. Tracing the lines of each decision leads to places many of us only experience first-hand in our nightmares. Hence this withdrawal from practicality to save practicality.

Having seen The Village and read stories about super-families w/in strange cults, I want to dispel any ideas that this will be "cut off" from the world in that sense. While some geographic and certainly ideological distance will occur in the implementation of this dream, the key feature of it, is to "rest up," to change, to enrich, to reinvigorate in the micro in order to bring about change in the macro, in the short term in order to bring about change in the long term. Utter removal from the course of world is a good thing, in many respects: just look at the rich monastic traditions in the world's great religions. However, for the family, I do not think that such a choice respects the freedom of the children, nor fully understands the call (inherent to many of the great religions, particularly to Christianity) to change the paradigm we live in.

What would this community consist in? Here are a few (by no means exhaustive) features that have arisen in conversation over the several years we've considered it:

  1. Food: Having read Omnivore's Dilemma, and the host of excellent literature surrounding that tome, we're more than a little leery of the whole food situation in the US. Having a farm to grow nearly all of the food we would need is high on our list of priorities. Better health, better lifestyle, better whole.
  2. Green: I know the whole "green" lifestyle is really in, for a host of good and poor reasons. Our reasons for going green, really green, even really, really green, are legion, but primarily, we're not fans of paying for things we can produce ourselves without damage to the ecosystem, other people, and life in general. See the whole "oriented toward the long term" speech above.
  3. Community: We've found that community is a vastly important element in real, holistic, human living and this community would provide a source to foster that growth in a host of ways, from geographic proximity, to a sharing of costs in a Schumacherian land/house buying scheme, to providing shared resources in farming/schooling/living.
  4. Spiritual: Having an organic basis for life helps reorient one's whole being to the most fundamental aspects of life, the Great Dance to which we are all called to be a part, but are so often driven away by the urgent unimportant.
  5. Social: As I will show later, once the groundwork for this community is laid, like the smaller unit of the family, it has the potential to be a profound source of solace for anyone coming into relation with it: guest houses, homes for the elderly or homeless, soup kitchens from our local produce... once the means of production has left the hands of the macro and been taken back into the hands of the micro, the family, the possibilities move at the speed of thought.
Anyway, that is a short list of ideas that come along with this notion of a community.

Pipe dreams, Taylor, Pipe dreams! Perhaps, but I think not. Here is a plan to make it more concrete, I did, after all, minor in Entrepreneurial Leadership and am heading to Law School in the fall... though Philosophy can be concrete too ;)

Concreteness: (for the Good is concrete)

I've broken up the venture into three primary phases: 1) Beginnings, 2) Building, 3) Giving.

1) Beginnings: Like any venture, the first phase will be the most difficult, so first, a note on organization.

We'll begin by forming an LLC, that is, a limited liability company, to buy a significant amount of arable land, near a relatively large urban center. (Amount & arable-ness is important for the farming aspect, the urban center for jobs, particularly university... though the exact location is easily negotiable). The beauty of the LCC structure is that it allows people to buy in or out, really own the land, have a better tax position, establishes a formal relationship between community members, and provides for a intelligible unit for dealing with "outside" entities, such as the IRS, or other things.
The startup phase will require the most resources as well, because of the slow transition to farming, the need for a large amount of land, and the usually high startup cost of many renewable energy sources. Also it will require a lot of patience with the transition to a radically different lifestyle.

2) Building: To a certain extent, there is no definite line between these two phases, but they are distinct in practice.

Once our schemes of recurrence start kicking in: food, energy, and housing costs will shrink dramatically, allowing for our disposable income to develop more communal aspects and set up the conditions for the schemes to recur. How will the costs shrink? Partially due to the land/housing setup, partially due to very low energy costs, partially due to negligible food costs, and largely due to our hard work in both starting this community and still working "real" wage-paying jobs.

3) Giving: The Saving, Giving, Developing Stage.

Having set up our own recurring scheme, we can solidly begin really reaching out as a community and building resources for the future of the community and our children.

Speaking of children, a side note on them: a danger of this setup is the preparation of our children for a solid economic transition to life, education, work, etc. once they are ready to set off into the deep. Many of the communities like the one we are discussing, do not really respect the freedom of their children, in the sense that life within the community is set up, but there is no real, healthy way to transition to life "outside" the community. College costs are high, little work experience, culture shock... the list goes on. Part of this problem will be solved by having a more permeable barrier than most communities, the other part will take careful work through all three stages, but particularly in stage three. Building resources for an easy transition for our children, or those whose work we see as valuable and worth supporting (eg scholars, not-for-profit orgs). Freedom from debt is a huge gift in helping people begin life, not just economic life, but moral and spiritual life as well. Planning and sacrificing for this is a necessary element in the recurrence of this scheme of community. However, an element of this community and the strength of communal living, while still participating in the world is the way in which resources can build. With little to no housing, energy, and food costs, we will be able to sock a lot away.

Is this idealized? Are there going to be hard questions that arise? Of course. Nothing worth having is ever easy. But, it is possible, and oh, so worth trying.

A Short Reading List:
The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs
The Unsettling of America, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher
An Essay on the Restoration of Property by Hilaire Belloc
The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Musings on Twitter and Intimacy

Hello All,

Here's a collection of random musings for your enjoyment :) I'm working on balancing the various elements of homework/sleep/class/eating/fun/friends but I'm hopeful for catching up on my blogs, as I promised at the beginning of the year.

Taking what Life Without Pants said sometime last month to heart, I have decided to stop spending so much time worrying about what to write, and just focusing on the writing. As an old philosophy professor once told me, "the best way to move forward is to make as many mistakes as fast as possible. then you know what not to do."

Twitter and Intimacy.
Do you think that letting all your little stories go abroad to the hoi polloi of the world via Twitter change your close relationships for the worse?
I came home the other day and realized that a flurry of tweets had exhausted my store of stories for the day. Stories I used to tell to my wife as we shared our days, I now share with a little blue bird who scurries off to deliver that wee missive to a number of good friends, solid organizations, and random people. I've made some awesome friends via Twitter, but am I losing ground in others?

It seems like not talking about Twitterable things might deepen and enrich our conversation, ridding it of the mundane, the 140 character worthy. We could explore deeper issues, get at the heart of matters, having already been abreast of the little things in each other's accounts all day. It seems too that it could make us more attentive in our day-to-day activities, because we would be more conscious of the stories we tell. We're made of stories, stories are who we are, and developing that element, telling the stories to two audiences could be powerful in shaping our daily experience. We'll see. It will take work to follow those routes. What are your thoughts?


Thursday, July 30, 2009

La Soledad, Acatenango, Guatemala


A new shipment of George Howell's arrived fresh yesterday (roasted Monday)! I order two pounds every four weeks, I find that is about the time it takes to really soak in the flavor and nuances of a particular coffee.

I tried the La Soledad first and am sipping it as I write. Guatemalan coffees have been my favorites for a long while now, because of the "crisp acidity." A little on Guatemalan coffees from Kenneth David's quintessential resource Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying:

"The highlands of Guatemala produce several of the world's finest and most distinctive coffees. The mountain basin surrounding the austerely beautiful colonial city Guatemala Antiqua produces the most distinquished of these highland coffees Guatelmala Antigua, a coffee that combines complex nuance (smoke, spice, flowers, occasionally chocolate) with acidity ranging from gently bright to austerely powerful.
Generally, Guatemala has preserved more of the traditional typica and bourbon varieties of arabica than many other Latin American countries, which may account for the generally superior complexity of the Guatemalan cup. Most Guatemala coffee is grown in shade, ranging from rigorously managed shade on large farms to the serendipitous thickets of small growers."

La Soledad contains Bourbon, Pache, and Caturra varieties, and is produced in the Acatenango region of Guatemala, near the city of Guatemala.

Interestingly, there are three live volcanos around the region, which might explain some of the coffee's complexity... (reminds me of a personal story about forest fires and apple cider... mmm). This region is on the other side of the beautiful ancient city of Antigua’s two (of three!) volcanoes, one of which is currently spewing smoke.
La Soledad’s quality dominates this coffee region, having received several Cup of Excellence awards over the years. The 270 acre farm averages over 5,000 feet in altitude and is heavily shaded with soil-enriching leguminous trees.
Henio Pérez's family has owned La Soledad, named after his grandmother, since 1895.

Anyway, back to the coffee.

Howell describes this coffee as "full bodied, honeyed, smoky-orange and dark chocolate notes, balanced with that classic razor-fine acidity." A gem of a Guatemalan coffee all around.

Using the nifty wheel from my last coffee post, I came up with much the same thoughts, though I thought that though the coffee's taste was certainly sweet-acidy-piquant, that there could be hints of a winey-tang. As far as aromas go, La Soledad deftly bridges the gap between enzymatic-fruity-citrus-apple and sugar browning-chocolaty-chocolate-like-dark chocolate... The depth and complexity of Guatemalan coffee is hard to beat. Mmm! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I was walking to work today along the B line, around the reservoir, up Beacon, sipping the last of my Konga Coop and saying my chotki when I was overwhelmed by the number of people I missed. So many people from so many different pages of my life. I decided that this longing is yet another personal, experiential proof for the existence of God (and an afterlife I suppose). It is such a strong longing that, in my mind, it cannot but have an end. Like several other experiential proofs I've encountered and encounter often - Annie being the strongest & most often, trance being numbered among them as well - in the words of GK Chesterton, "it is the place where the walls of this world of ours wear thinnest and something beyond burns through."

I miss you all, love you much, and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers on a nearly daily basis. Namaste & Christ Be with you :)


Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Update: Law School, Work, and Thoughts

Hello Friends,

Just thought I'd put a sort of summative note up for those who are interested :)


I'm finishing up my job at Boston College's Office of the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, a year in the same position! It's been a lot of fun, at time a lot of work, and occasionally a lot of stress. I redesigned their entire site within a basic framework, invented a newsletter design (in the process teaching myself CSS and relearning HTML), learned to write according to strict principles, and learned a lot about working for Jesuits. I'm looking forward to being done, but at the same time, I'll miss it.
A few weeks ago I started working for Kaplan in earnest, teaching the LSAT to an awesome group of 7 students at MIT.
It has been great working with people again, rather than spending 8-10 hours in front of a computer. :) I've been relearning a lot of what I knew about teaching in Civil Air Patrol and really prepping well for Law School as well.

I'm not planning on working (really, I might have an "on-call" sort of position with the Lonergan Center, but we'll see) during Law School b/c the first year is notoriously hard, time-consuming, and crucial for a lawyer's entire career. It'll be nice to focus only on school for the first time since freshman year in undergrad!

Law School:

I'm going to Boston College Law in the Fall, as many of you know. For more information: ; ; I'm really excited for it! It's an awesome school, Annie and I are already enculturated into the city, and we won't have to move. :)

I just finished Law Preview, a course that my good friend Dave recommended to me and I learned many things that will have a huge impact on the next several years:

  1. The first year is very time consuming, so much so that, honestly, for the next nine months I anticipate spending a good half of my total time on homework. The reason for this is two-fold: first, the grades made in the first year of law school direct the entire remainder on one's law career; second, it's 15 graduate credits a semester.
  2. Law school is expensive, not a whole lot of aid because the schools know that the average salary right out of law school is $160,000/yr which pays off student loans pretty swiftly. (I'm still seeking out and applying for all the scholarships I can find, of course) I was aware of this but also am looking to go into the public/not-for-profit sector which pays a quarter to a third of that figure. Often law schools will assist their students in paying off their loans if they choose a public service type job so until taking this course, I was planning on that route. However, (see next number)
  3. I learned something about working at large firms where the median salary is $160,000 a year: their training is the best in the industry. So, if I ultimately want to work in human rights, does it behoove me to have the best training in the industry or not? It's a deep question, which doesn't need to be answered now, but at the moment I'm leaning toward a 2-4 year jaunt in "big law". Doing so would help to set us up after a good 9 years of school, moving back to the West Coast, setting up our farm community, and provide awesome training for the remainder of my legal career.
  4. What about the PhD in Philosophy one might ask? Integrating that in has become a little more difficult, but I still plan on doing it, when has just been made a little more vague. Most likely after the jaunt in Big Law if that happens. I plan on staying in touch with the philosophical world as well though. With an MA I can "legitimately" write in journals and present at conferences, especially on the combined law/philosophy topics.
  5. I'm of the belief, having had a good introduction/preview of law school, that their emphasis on writing will really help in my writing in all areas. This is good.
  6. The possibility of transferring after my first year is still a strong one, however, I learned that it is not worth doing so unless one is making a jump of some 20-30 ranking points. This being the case, I intend on applying to Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley next summer. Whether I get in or not isn't too much of a concern for me at this point. BC is a great school and produces a good number of law professors in its own right.
All thought out? Certainly not, but there is a lot to consider... the first year is the crucial part and determines a good bit of the further pertinent questions.

*Note too though, even though law school is a lot of work, tucking one's head and blocking out all else is a bad idea, so don't fear, I still plan on seeing you all, having the occasional beer, hitting up the BSO, and movies as well. :) (as if any of you doubted that Taylor the Social would ever wholly become a library ghost)


So far we've visited both sides of the family and had wonderful visits both times! Keeps us certain that the West Coast is to be our home. Sure, our ideal would be the Seattle area (with a cabin on the beautiful Lake Chelan to write disserations ;) but God knows best. I'll be done with UMM the first or second week of August and Kaplan by August 24th. It'll be nice to have a few days off before the plunge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Konga Cooperative Reserve

After my last coffee post, one of my very good friends, M sent me this beautiful wheel, whereby I will be able to include more tasting detail in my coffee blog posts! Thanks M!

Today's coffee, one that I have been sipping for awhile now, Konga Cooperative Reserve produced in Ethiopia. Terroir Coffee says this about the beans:

"Konga Cooperative Reserve, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia (Fair Trade, USDA Organic)

We paid extra for this small specially prepared lot from the Fair Trade certified Konga Cooperative. The coffee is organic as well. The Konga Cooperative has 1683 farmers of which 133 are female heads of family. The average size of a farm is 1.25 acres on which coffee and various foods for the local market are grown. Yirgacheffe is amazingly lush with vegetation. The coffee is grown at over 6,000 feet in altitude. This Konga also has that lush full-bodied apricot core with exceptionally pronounced clarity and sweetness.

Yirgacheffe is one of the great aromatic coffees of the world. It is often used in the finest Italian espresso blends, such as Illy, to add a critical floral element. The scientist- quality coffee pioneer Ernesto Illy (Illy Coffee) stated at the SCAA Conference in Boston, 2003 that the coffee of this region shared an aromatic component found in Darjeeling tea and Chanel #5.

Favorite of Food & Wine Magazine, March 2006

Roast Style: Full Flavor Roast
Harvest: 2006
Altitude: over 6,000 feet
Soil: volcanic
Arabica Variety: Ethiopica"

Using my nifty wheel, I'd have to say it's nose is certainly fruity, almost to the flowery point, giving me a scent of cherries rather than apricots. The taste is a sweet-mellow-delicate, especially brewed with a Swissgold filter.

One of my very good friends, J came over for dinner last night and had a few questions about espresso makers. She is heading to Marquette in the fall for a PhD in Philosophy, looking to have good coffee on a budget (aren't we all), and driven to the point of really desiring a good espresso maker by the lunatic ravings of our mutual friend P who is currently filling the tweetosphere with mocha talk...

A noble enterprise to be sure. I pointed her to this fabulous site: which has a solid offering and even better guidance in purchasing a good machine. I use the stovetop brewer personally, primarily because my tastes still lie in the full flavor roasts, which espresso doesn't bring out well.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Toraja Tocaro


At long last, given the amount of coffee I consume and the number of coffee shops I frequent, I have decided to keep a coffee log. Should the whole grad school thing not work out I can fall back upon this blog, perhaps... (:D)

In my search for good local coffee, I have come across a true gem of a roaster, George Howell, who roasts mostly single origin coffees at a lighter roast that keeps many of the bean qualities. The result is a strong, rich cup that hearkens to the far-flung areas of the world from whence it has come.

Before I continue my review, here is what Howell has to say about today's cup:

"The coffee formerly known as Celebes returns and it is a far better quality version than ever before. Toraja Toarco has taken on a certain legendary status amongst the coffee cognoscenti. It has been impossible to get any in the US because Toarco was developed and financed by Japan’s Key Coffee Company which sold all its production to the Japanese market. Coffee is grown there from moderate elevations to six thousand feet. Toarco works with over 7000 families to produce this coffee.
The coffee cup exhibits notes of malt and nutmeg-spiced dark honey. The beans are peaberries which are round shaped; they have been separated from the common flat beans using sieves. Peaberries grow in single seed coffee cherries, as opposed to paired, and typically develop near the tips of a coffee tree’s branches. A coffee tree will produce about 5% peaberries. They often have a slightly higher acidity than their flat bean counterparts. This lot has a very pleasant smooth fruity liveliness in the cup."

While I can brew three different ways (Melitta, french press, & espresso) I find that for the single source, full flavor roasts, the best brew method is Melitta (either gold or paper filter). Espresso is definitely only for dark roasts, and the french press I find best for blends. Anyway, that is mostly personal preference.

The water to whole bean ratio I use is 2 tablespoons per 6oz of water, though occasionally, for a strong coffee, I'll bump the water up to 8oz.

The Tocaro peaberries aroma is unmistakably rich, and the body calls to mind a mix between African and Guatemalan coffees: bright, yet earthy. It's the youngest coffee I've tasted, but neither the brightest, nor liveliest.

After several weeks of attempting to characterizes tastes more closely than this, I've decided to forego my own length analysis and serve mostly as a showcaser and highlighter of particular coffees. I may be able to taste nuances, but unless this forum develops my abilities, I have yet to be able to articulate these nuances :)


Friday, May 29, 2009


For those of you who have not experienced the wonder that is Manalive (by GKC) do yourself a favor and toddle out and read it; it is out of this world in order to return to it. I've just finished it myself (after much coaxing by my loving wife)!

Here are a few choice quotes:

"A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea. In a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon, and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion, littering the floor with some professor's papers till they seemed as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the candle by which a boy read Treasure Island and wrapping him in roaring dark. But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives, and carried the trump of crisis across the world. Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked at five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small, sick tragedy; it was as if she had hanged her five children. The wind came, and they were full and kicking as if five fat imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her fathers when the elves still dwelt in the homes of men. Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled garden had tossed herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames; and that wind rent the waving wall of woods and lifted the hammock like a balloon, and showed her shapes of quaint clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below, as if she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk or cleric, plodding a telescopic road of poplars, thought for the hundredth time that they were like the plumes of a hearse; when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed them round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings. There was in it something more inspired and authoritative even than the old wind of the proverb; for this was the good wind that blows nobody harm."

"'Yes,' he said with a huge sigh, 'I am free in Russia, you are right. I could really walk into that town over there and have love all over again, and perhaps marry some beautiful woman and begin again, and nobody could even find me. Yes, you have certainly convinced me of something.'
His tone was so queer and mystical that I felt impelled to ask him what he meant, and of what excattly I had convinced him of.
'You have convinced me,' he said, with the same dreamy eye, 'why it is really wicked and dangerous for a man to run away from his wife.'
'And why is it dangerous?' I inquired.
'Why, because noboday can find him,' answered the odd person, 'and we all want to be found.'
'The most original of modern thinkers,' I remarked, 'Ibsen, Gorki, Nietzsche, Shaw, would all say rather that what we want most is to be lost. To find ourselves in untrodden paths, and to do unprecedented things; to break with the past and belong to the future.'
He rose to his whole height somewhat sleepily, and looked around on what was, I confess, a somehwat desolate scene; the dark purple plains, the neglected railroad, the few ragged knots of the malcontents.
'I shall not find the house here,' he said. 'It is still eastward-further and further eastward.'
Then he turned to me with something like fury, and struck the foot of his pole upon the frozen earth.
'And if I do go back to my country,' he cried, 'I may be locked up in a madhouse before I reach my own house. I have been a bit unconventional in my time! Why, Nietzsche stood in a row of ramrods in the silly old Prussian army, and Shaw takes temperance beverages in the suburbs; but the things I do are unprecedented things. This round road I am treading is an untrodden path. I do believe in breaking out; I am a revolutionist. But don't you see that all these real leaps and destructions and escapes are only attempts to get back to Eden-to something we have had, to something at least we have heard of? Don't you see one only breaks the fence or shoots the moon in order to get home?'
'No,' I answered after due reflection. 'I don't think I should accept that.'
'Ah,' he said with a sort of sigh, 'then you have explained a second thing to me.'
'What do you mean,' I asked; 'what thing?'
'Why your revolution has failed,' he said...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thoughts on Transition


It has been far too long since my last post, but school and work will do that to one. For the record, this semester was the busiest of the 12 (twelve!) semesters I've experienced thus far, for both happy and sad reasons. One of our mothers fell asleep in the Lord (and that is not a euphemism, it is closer to reality than "death" is), Anne's mother, mine for a brief three years. I worked 20+ hours a week with University Mission and Ministry, completely editing their entire website and creating and publishing two campus-wide newsletters. I presented an academic paper on Aquinas and helped plan a workshop showcasing Marginal Theory. I completed and passed six weeks of Kaplan teacher training for the LSAT. I thoroughly studied (with "a little help from my friends") for and passed comprehensive exams and completed the coursework for an MA in Philosophy. We've awaited (and are awaiting) law school responses, witnessed baptisms, and look forward to four weddings. We've had awesome conversations with better friends, beautiful times with family, and powerful experiences that have helped bring life into focus and guide us "on the way."

Being the Philosopher that I am (entitled now), I've pondered all these things (treasured them up in my heart as it were) and come to some small conclusions:

1) I've read A Severe Mercy, I've read A Grief Observed, I know that those that die experience a reality that we dream of achieving all our hours on this earth... but that does not make the death of a loved one any easier. We're biological creatures, matter and form, creatures of habit, and when a piece of that manifold, that vasty interconnected web of human relationships is no longer there, even in the physical world... we miss him or her. There is no one on the other end of the phone, no one to ask for help, no one to request that you build a fence, no one to hold where there has always been someone before. It's more than that though, as CS Lewis knew so well, we miss that she is not there for the other strands of the web that were even more closely connected than we were: "You do not know loneliness until you've lost a spouse." I know I cannot explain it to someone who has not lost a dear loved one. I had not until March 11th and could not know before then. 

2) Our culture, our society is not set up to care, primarily because the things worth caring about (indeed, those that everyone still does care about whether they admit it or not) are shunted away precisely because of their "careful-ness". We fear death, mortality, life, youth, age, so much... but it is what we care about most as well. To distract us from these "first things," these "urgent importants" we work, we set up schedules and deadline, we smoke, drink, fornicate, we drive fast and honk loud, we increase the ease of slipping into the biological pattern of experiences because it is our only "escape". But it is an escape just as much as shooting yourself is. It's giving up on the joy of living, it's giving up on the "battle to the death", it's giving up on yourself. Pull out, pull up, uproot before the poison gets you. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam and ask the further pertinent questions of your situation. Don't live the subtle, oh so subtle lie.

3) In studying for comps and in having a conversation with Dr. Stebbins, I realized the crucial, enriching value of understanding the history of ideas, not just history, not just philosophy, but the whole kit and kaboodle of human living through time. You've heard of Great Books programs and how valuable they are, but their value isn't in what is usually touted. Some of the primary reasons I've heard are: the value of a classical education, in reading "good" material, working through ideas somehow making you a better person... which are all noble and valuable things in themselves. The two primary (and operative is some way whether recognized or not) reasons are these: 1) in understanding history writ large you come to an understanding of yourself in the here-and-now in every decision you make, and 2) following along in a dynamic fashion with the flow of ideas, questions, and answers throughout history, your own questions and answers change. More on this later... it's the topic of a inchoate essay.

4) I find that my quality of life improves roughly in direct proportion to the amount of time I spend with friends and family. My GPA improves, I'm happier, more peaceful, more communicative, get more done... thank you all for your love and friendship! :D

Anyway, back into the rest of this post. I've created a reading list for the summer, and I thought I would share it because you all have such good comments and suggestions on further good reads! Here goes (don't laugh; I know I prolly won't finish it all this summer either):

More on the academic side of things:
Norris Clarke: (finish) Person and Being, The Philosophical Approach to God, The One and the Many
Von Hildebrand: Man and Woman, (finish) Transformation in Christ
Barzun: (finish) Dawn to Decadence
Benedict: (finish) Truth and Tolerance, (finish) On Conscience
JPII: (read again) Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility
Lonergan: (finish) Method, Way to Nicea
Maritain: The Person and the Common Good, Man and State
Fortin: Human Rights, Virtue, and the Common Good; The Birth of Philosophic Christianity; Dissent and Philosophy in the Middle Ages

More on the novelish/easier reading side:
Joyce: The Dubliners
Chesterton: (finish) Manalive
Berry: The Unsettling of America
Pollan: (finish) The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food
Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking

As you can easily see, I need some more good novels... I'm always up for increasing my knowledge of the solid classics, as many of you know from my love of Austen, Hugo, Dostoevsky, Cooper, Chekov, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Dickens, and many others. Suggestions?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Lorica

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,    

Through belief in the threeness,    

Through confession of the oneness    

Of the Creator of Creation.     

I arise today    

Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,    

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,    

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,    

Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.     


I arise today    

Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,    

In the obedience of angels,    

In the service of archangels,    

In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,    

In the prayers of patriarchs,    

In prediction of prophets,     

In preaching of apostles,    

In faith of confessors,    

In innocence of holy virgins,    

In deeds of righteous men.     


I arise today    

Through the strength of heaven;    

Light of sun,    

Radiance of moon,    

Splendor of fire,    

Speed of lightning,    

Swiftness of wind,    

Depth of sea,    

Stability of earth,    

Firmness of rock.     


I arise today    

Through God's strength to pilot me:    

God's might to uphold me,    

God's wisdom to guide me,    

God's eye to look before me,    

God's ear to hear me,    

God's word to speak to me,    

God's hand to guard me,    

God's way to lie before me,    

God's shield to protect me,    

God's host to save me,     

From snares of devils,    

From temptation of vices,    

From everyone who shall wish me ill,    

Afar and near,    

Alone and in a multitude.    


I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,     

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,    

Against incantations of false prophets,     

Against black laws of pagandom,    

Against false laws of heretics,    

Against craft of idolatry,    

Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,    

Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.     


Christ to shield me today    

Against poising, against burning,    

Against drowning, against wounding,    

So there come to me abundance of reward.     


Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,    

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,    

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,    

Christ when I lie down,    

Christ when I sit down,    

Christ when I arise,    

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,    

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,    

Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me,    

Christ in every ear that hears me.     


I arise today    

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,    

Through belief in the threeness,    

Through confession of the oneness    

Of the Creator of Creation.