Friday, May 08, 2009

Job Search Complaints

So what's up with people requiring you to mail in your job application? A lot of the jobs I'm applying for don't want just a resume and cover letter; they also often want a writing sample. A long writing sample. One that results in extra postage and the application package barely fitting in the envelope. I can understand wanting something sent by mail or fax if you want to make sure you're getting a copy of the original, like the front page of your DC bar application to show you're DC pending. But why can't I just email you the writing sample?

While I'm complaining, what's up with absurdly long unpaid positions? I can understand summer internships being unpaid. But I'm not in law school anymore, I don't have loans I can live on. So even if I'd like to work for, say, the Baltimore Attorney General's office in their associate program, I simply can't afford to work for 10 (10!) months without pay. Who do they actually get for this? Rich people who's parents can afford to subsidize them? Moochers who are happy to just let their big law wife/husband pay for them? It just doesn't seem realistic.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Cheesy Goodness

I just tried making fondue at home for the first time. It turned out fairly well. I was nervous about using a makeshift fondue pot, since I've never had much luck with that in the past. But I figured I'd give it a shot. I used two saucepans, about the same size, to make a sort of double boiler. It worked out well -- not only did the cheese melt the way it should, but the warm water helped keep the fondue warm (and therefore melty) while I ate! I'll have to try it again once my fiancee is around...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reflections on Law School

It's been a long three years. It is perhaps not a wholesale exaggeration to say that it feels like I've been in exile. St. Louis has never felt like home the way Grand Rapids or even South Bend did. But thankfully there has been a fiery pillar to lead me out.

I began law school half-mad from loneliness, not only because I didn't know anyone here, but also because I had not made many, if any, close friends in graduate school or college. Thankfully the Lord provided me with companions on my journey. I have made many close friends here, closer than any I have made since high school. And, of course, the gift of A was pure grace.

Intellectually, I can't honestly say it's been the best three years. Law school occupies the unenviable position of providing neither practical training nor intellectual stimulation. But the last three years have seen me make great strides in my emotional and spiritual development, which may be almost as important as being smart.

Overall, I'm glad for the last three years. Law school itself has probably done more harm than good. But the things I've learned from my church, from my friends, from my internship, and from A I think have all contributed to make me a better person than I was three years ago.

On a different note, this will be the last post I'm making on this blog. I've started a new blog, where you can read future posts as well as my reasons for ending this one. It's located at Happy reading!

Edit: I've decided to continue this blog here, mostly because it provides a general outlet, but also because I like the name. Hopefully someone's still listening.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

4th edition

DISCLAIMER: (1) These comments are based on the notes I took and my own recollection of events. They have therefore been filtered by my own faulty memory. If there are mistakes about 4th edition, they are most likely my own, and not due to the DMs. (2) I'm mostly going to write about my impressions, not the rules, as I am sure those are all going to be posted on or If you have questions, post them in the comments and I'll try to answer them. Again, answers will be based on my own, possibly faulty recollection.

The biggest issue for me coming into DDXP was streamlining vs. simplification. As anyone who's played 3.5 knows, there are a lot of rules options that are great to have, but are far too complicated. So the news that 4.0 will streamline a lot of these is good news. But there's the worry that in streamlining the rules, WotC will actually create a simplified system, without the crunch that makes DnD so great. I'm happy to report that that's not actually happened. The changes generally work to make combat more crunchy, while also making it move faster than it did in the past.

I played three tables of 4.0; the two LFR mods, and the dungeon delve. For the record, the LFR mods were run by James Wyatt and Michael Mockus. I played the cleric in the first mod, the wizard in the second, and the ranger in the delve. I liked how the characters were done; especially with the cleric, it felt like I was playing a cleric, and doing cleric-y things, but still able to do damage, and not merely buff the party or heal all the time.

The powers in general gave you more tactical options. Some will move either you, an ally or an opponent. One of the best moments for me was when I used turn undead to push a number of skeletons off of a cliff, making the encounter much easier. (And for those who think 4.0 is going to be too easy, a number of tables had problems with this encounter, even though it wasn't the last encounter of the mod.) And the guy playing the warlock at our table really enjoyed teleporting around whenever he killed something.

A worry some have is that 4.0 will eliminate the need for resource management, but this didn't seem to be the case. Certainly the existence of per-day powers will require the choice of when to use it (and, for the wizard at least, which to memorize). Even per-encounter powers have to be managed well. the cleric has a set of three powers, and can only use one of them in the encounter. Healing, as always, needs to be timed well.

Attacks are all handled the same way; it's an attack roll against a number. People have four numbers -- AC, reflex, will, and fortitude. The players often forgot to declare which number they were attacking, but I assume this will become second nature once we're more familiar with 4.0. Saving throws are now simply a roll of the d20. On a roll of 10 or higher, you save. It's not quite as simplified as it looks. Many creatures and characters have various bonuses. At least one of the dragons we fought had +5 to all of its saves, and the eladrin ranger had +5 to any saves against charm.

It was interesting how they dealt with sleep; it's less uber than it was, but at the same time, more useful. Gone is the HD limit it used to have, but it no longer immediately puts mobs to sleep (some DMs didn't realize this). Instead, if the attack hits, the monster is slowed, and then if he or she fails the first save, he is put to sleep. Fun to try on the dragon -- I gather that one of the groups that killed it did so by putting it to sleep.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me was how 4.0 deals with skills. Many skills have been combined together to form one, new skill, which can be used in numerous ways. On one level, this oversimplifies things. But generally it seems to just streamline them. For example, spot, search, and listen have been combined into 'perception', and jump, swim, etc. have been combined into 'athletics'. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Skills can be used in many ways. At the con, the most important use I saw was in what the DM called a 'skill challenge'. Skill challenges vary in complexity and difficulty. As they vary in complexity, they require a greater number of successful skill checks to be successful. As they vary in difficulty, the DC of the skill checks goes up. Skill challenges require a fair amount of creativity on the part of the DM and the players. Our skill challenge was 'get away from the guards'. And so the players did a number of different things. A couple of the characters hid, one ran, and one used his street smarts to find a shortcut. It worked well, but could work less well if either the DM or the players are dense (or if the DM is mean).

Overall, I'd have to say I really enjoyed my first experience with 4.0. I'm still really curious to see how character creation works, but I think 4th edition is definitely going to be fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Keeping Pure

My discussion groups for fans of C. S. Lewis is having a discussion on the notion of 'keeping pure'. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the core idea is that as Christians, were supposed to be engaged with the world, but not to be corrupted by it. One of the posters on the list, Donald Williams, wrote a post that I found interesting, so I asked him for permission to repost it here.

How do we maintain Christian virtue in a corrupting
world which is dangerous to us but which we must know
and touch in order to reach? Three passages are
essential to any biblical view.

”I have given them thy word; and the world has hated
them because they are not of the world, even as I am
not of the world. I do not ask thee to take them out
of the world, but to keep them from the evil one”
(John 17:14-15).

This is where we get the formula “In the world but not
of it.” Forbidden are two approaches to the world:
identification with it and isolation from it. There
is a sense in which we do identify with the world: in
its need and its suffering, as our Lord modeled. But
we do not find our identity in the world, we do not
allow it to define us, and we do not allow ourselves
to be forced into its mold (Rom. 12:1). We identify
not with the world but with Christ. He defines us, he
transforms us, and we find our identity in him.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to avoid identification
with the world is to try to withdraw from it, that is,
to practice isolation. We create our Christian ghetto
and withdraw within its borders so we won’t be
corrupted. We write our own music and books and
create our own TV, all of which somehow turn out to be
strangely cheap imitations of what the world is doing.
But this is a false approach, and Christ makes it
clear he does not mean us to take it, both by his
prayer here and by his example, hanging out with
publicans and sinners and scandalizing the religious
of his day.

Somehow we must be “in” and “not of” at the same time.
But that is difficult. Instead, we create our
(partially) insulated parallel universe, with borders
guarded by ever-increasing lists of Rules. “We don’t
cuss, drink, smoke or chew, / and we don’t go with
girls that do.” But we can do all of that in the
flesh. We do not have the ability to be “in” and “not
of” at the same time. That requires the wisdom and
power of God; that requires discernment. And so it is
not to be thought of by half-hearted Christians; and
so it is seldom seen.

Yet that is precisely what is commanded: not isolated
prepositions in the flesh, but the integration of the
two prepositions in the Spirit. But how can we do
that? A good question: it leads us to the next verse.

”Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if
there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of
praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil.

What kind of command is this? It is a positive
command. It is about what we are positively supposed
to dwell on. But in our application we have almost
universally turned it into a negative command, about
what we are not supposed to read, watch, or listen to.
Why have we been so inattentive? Because the
negative approach is easier. It is easier to boycott
all movies than to use discernment; it is easier to
swear off of “secular” music or “rock” than to listen
critically to what the world is actually saying in
these media, understand with empathy the cries of its
lost voices, but then choose the good, and dwell on

I repeat: this verse says not one word about what we
cannot read, watch, or listen to. It says not a
single word about what we must turn a blind eye to,
pretend isn’t there, or be ignorant of. It says a lot
about what we should nourish and feed our minds on. I
read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings twice in 1968,
the year I discovered it, and have read it annually
since. That is what the verse is talking about.

I am not saying there is nothing so raw, so evil, so
corrupting that we should not expose ourselves to it.
But our strategy is too often negative, while the
Bible’s is positive. This makes Phil. 4:8 the answer
to the dilemma raised by Jesus in John 17. How do we
live “in” the world without becoming “of” it? Do not
focus on what you can not read, watch, etc. Rather,
positively feed your mind on what is Good, True, and
Beautiful, and then it will respond rightly to the

”If you have died with Christ to the elementary
principles of the world, why, as if you were living in
the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as
‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ . . .
These are matters which have the appearance of wisdom
in self-made religion, self abasement and severe
treatment of the body, but are of no value against
fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:20-23)

It is not just that the negative approach is less
valuable. The Apostle says it is of no value at all!
Why? Because you can abstain not only from Rock but
also from Country--hey, Mozart and Wagner were
supposed to be immoral people, so we’d better abstain
from Classical too. You can abstain from everything
except the Psalms in the original Hebrew sung to
Gregorian Chant, and still be proud, envious,
wrathful, slothful, greedy, gluttonous, and lustful.
The absence of the Evil (or even the Questionable)
does not equate to the presence of the Good (or
Virtue). A negative photograph of the “world” is not
necessarily a positive portrait of Jesus.

O.K., so what does work? Phil. 4:8. The cornerstone
of our approach to maintaining Christian virtue in a
corrupt world should not be the things we do not read,
watch, or listen to. It should be a mind really fed
on and nurtured by the Good, the True, and the
Beautiful, as we find it in Scripture and in the best
of the Christian and classical traditions. You cannot
keep the “impure” out of your mind. But you can keep
the fresh water of Scripture flowing strongly through
it, so that the impure is constantly being washed
away. And that is the only way to keep it pure.

CONCLUSION: Milton asked, “What wisdom can there be
to choose, what continence to forbear, without the
knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and consider
vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet
abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer what is
truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian.” He
concludes, “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered
virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies
forth to face her adversary, but slinks out of the
race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not
without dust and heat.”

Feed your mind on the Good, the True, and the
Beautiful, and it will respond properly to the rest.
Develop uncloistered virtue: positive, discerning,
unafraid. Then we may say with Bunyan’s Pilgrim,
“Apollyon, beware what you do; for I am in the King’s
highway, the way of holiness; therefore take heed to
thyself.” And the gates of Hell will not prevail
against us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bash quote

Since I was bored in class, I thought I'd post one of my favorite quotes from My apologies if I've posted it before. You can find the original post here.

DragonflyBlade21: A woman has a close male friend. This means that he is probably interested in her, which is why he hangs around so much. She sees him strictly as a friend. This always starts out with, you're a great guy, but I don't like you in that way. This is roughly the equivalent for the guy of going to a job interview and the company saying, You have a great resume, you have all the qualifications we are looking for, but we're not going to hire you. We will, however, use your resume as the basis for comparison for all other applicants. But, we're going to hire somebody who is far less qualified and is probably an alcoholic. And if he doesn't work out, we'll hire somebody else, but still not you. In fact, we will never hire you. But we will call you from time to time to complain about the person that we hired.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Rant on the Purpose-Driven Life

This rant is brought to you courtesy of the letter Q.

Recently I saw Avenue Q, which I found to be a wonderful musical. But it reminded me of the idea some people have that they have a Purpose in life, which they somehow just have to find.

In itself, I suppose that the idea isn't too bad, but few people believe that their purpose in life is to answer phones in an office, or to make auto parts. They are here to change the world by opening a pre-school, or becoming a supreme court justice, or president, or something. But not everyone can be a supreme court justice. And so, when they have a bit of life experience, and discover that they're meant to be an average lawyer in Springfield, IL, they get a bit depressed.

The idea, I suppose, originates in the evangelical Christian idea that God has a purpose for everyone. And it's quite natural for everyone to believe that God wants them to do great things. But God's idea of great things isn't our idea of great things. And so if we dwell on the idea that we're meant to do great things, we're bound to become bitter when we discover that we will never do anything we consider great. The other difficulty is that this concept leads us to believe that certain parts of our life (commonly, college) are mere preparation for the great things we will be doing later in life. And we don't do the things we should be doing at the time. We're so busy waiting for great things to come along for us to do that we don't do the good we should be doing now.

The better proposal, I think, is to 'live for the moment'. I don't mean to discard any sense of permanence or commitment in life. Rather, I mean we should look to the good we can be doing right now, to do well by our partners, our family, our friends, and our bosses, rather than viewing our life as preparation for some great event that will never come. We should accept our lot in life, not with resignation or bitterness, but with the joy that comes from knowing that it is here, and nowhere else, that we can do good.