Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve!

Today, I took a Christmas present in to Lonnie Leukins...

I admit I had an idea for a thoroughly depressing entry when I was writing this, but I was interrupted by my mother.

The story would have gone like this:

What a disastrous Christmas is lying in the wings. It started well enough: I drove a gift to Lonnie Leukins. Ninety-six years old, she invited me in. Slightly torn, I eventually decided to go chat with her for a bit.

My mom is always stunned by Lonnie, who though close to a century old has perfect mental clarity, never repeats herself, and seldom forgets. I attempted to enter the conversation occasionally, but she simply pretended not to hear me and skipped to another topic, whether it be her children, or their children, or any generation below that, or the Iraq war (she opposed it), or WWI (she was too young to have an opinion), or the book of Revelations, or the new minister, or my grandmother's sciatica, or my great aunt's house, or music, singing, piano, or trips to the barber, or pneumonia, or getting up and down the stairs, or hospitals, or ungrateful husbands who joined a cult and went to California (does this start to resemble a Ginsberg poem?), or how happy one can be for a life.

After an hour, I cut her off and excused myself, first making a date to take her to the optometrist in a few days.

That woman has lived my lifetime four times over.

Marnie and Ed joined us for dinner. But things aren't so smooth. A brother's having trouble with a girlfriend. And mom arrived home from the evening church service, sat down next to me, and lamented how horrible she felt to look out on the congregation and see all the families together in the pews, with her being all alone.

"Mom," said I, "Richard, David, and I believe what we believe. We didn't choose those beliefs to hurt you, and if we could believe otherwise so as to make you happy. But we can't."

It came out in a patient tone, as dry as it sounds, and she walked away without a word. I vented to Richard, we vented to each other. "I will not be emotionally guilted into believing something."

I start my depressing entry, which would be punctuated by the admission that--as I have no money--I didn't buy anyone gifts this year.

But Mom came down, interrupted me, and there we sat, her, Richard and I, talking for a couple of hours, about all manner of happy things. Relatives past, jokes heard, things I can't remember, Mom drinking cognac, me drinking water, Richard with a Corona.

And, when it was done, everything was right.

At times my family drives me mad, and at times I love them until my heart breaks.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Strangest thing. I laid down to go to sleep and nothing happened. I feel at the moment, as alert as radar, though I've been up 32 hours.

These are interesting sensations I'm having now. The silence sounds fuller, like it's breathing. Thick and rank, as if it's old.

I find times like these indescribable, where I feel like another person and yet still somehow me. As if the world had been turned precisely ninety degrees. It's the feeling one gets when they stand up too fast.

I imagine this is mysticism. Indeed, I profess that it does feel as if a profound realization is within reach. But I imagine that's not because I'm moving closer to anything deep--rather, I'm simply seeing things differently than normal.

Cha Cha Cha!

Well I'm done for the year and I haven't slept in a long time. I gone from that place of euphoria all the way down crazy street to loopy apathy, and took an elevator to Man, it's depressing Drive and then I got stupid. I am full of caffeine. Also merlot and Doritos.

In my latest paper, I managed like every paper to insult both Richard Posner and Duncan Kennedy. Cass Sunstein escapes unscathed again! But I will you get you, you equivocating bastard, and your stupid little minimalism, too. Incompletely theorized arguments indeed. Moral relativists can hash it out in hell. Marx was wrong, but at least he took a stand.

All I got.

Computer Crime Paper

Here's the introduction to my Computer Crime Paper:




I. Introduction.

a. The Internet.

I spend a great deal of my life in a realm that I neither understand nor want to, a realm where social interaction is bizarre, communication odd and inefficient, where 99% of the information acquired is thoroughly corrupted, suspect, or simply irrelevant, and danger seems to lurk in a billion shady nooks.

Luckily, exiting this realm is easy. One merely opens a computer, finds a wireless network, and connects to the Internet, where things make sense.

Like the archaic realm of reality, the Internet is interesting, mainly because we have to share it with a billion other people, some nasty, some nice, and the majority with simply abhorrent grammar. And in virtual reality, as in real meat-and-potatoes reality, the trick is figuring out how to get along with those people. Theories of how to do this are plentiful. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, Moses laid down some suggestions on how to deal with one’s brothers. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Cain had another, slightly more direct, idea.

Regardless, we’ve had 100,000 years to figure out how to get along with one another, and minus the Crusades and a couple of world wars, we’ve pulled it through. But the Internet is fresh and new, and the race has had little more than a decade to explore, navigate, and mozilla it. And there was nothing on the Decalogue about trolls.
So it’s no huge surprise that we turn to the old world to explain the new. If you want to know how to treat email, you look at how we treat real, tangible mail. eBay is an auction house, Travelocity is a travel agent, homepages are homes. We compare and contrast, we analogize, we’re loose with our “as if’s” and “effectively’s.” Sometimes the comparison resonates, and sometimes it’s, to be generous, an awkward fit.

This paper probes one such analogy. I seek nothing less, and certainly nothing more, than a Lockean theory of cyber-property. I do not propose to settle the great philosophical debates of Western culture, nor do I aspire to solve the enigma of law, and I have neither the time nor ability to discern the natural order of the entire Internet and propose its ethical implementation. I will not even pretend to develop a fully-fleshed theory of property—this theory pays no mind to Rawls’ maximin, it may or may not perfect the greatest good for the greatest number, and if it should lead us to the final communist anarchy of Marx, I shall be, at the very least, somewhat surprised.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

For Mom

Having pretty much no money at the moment, I am, like most cheap bastards, reduced to sending people third-rate poetry on various memorials. I sent this to my Mom for her birthday. Being at heart and brain an unabashed elitist, I freely admit I have all the skill with verse that one would expect from an amateur, and cannot compare to the learned studiers of an art, e.g., Scoplaw.





Poem on Her Birthday


Memory is the universe’s way of filing its mistakes.

I give you the case of the eldest of three sons
Who wandered some underground path while the world above bloomed and withered two dozen times
And now could recite back, if you ask, one black backstab upon another,
But probably would miss the mother who loved him each time
With the enviable perfection of a stock character.

So it goes.

But maybe it’s to God’s benefit: why remember the things He got right on the first try?

Still, it’s not cosmic tragedy. I can hear the way she held me and, if I focus, I know still how she called those days asking if I was ok.

The deepness of this life is that it is because of you it is the life it is.
The rich and royal heart is the heart you gave, and
The—however fragile—conclusion that even the storm is beautiful after its fashion, is of course, premised on a clue you gave.
The one crystal fact for all wonder is that I was loved.

Mom, I’m glad I got your hair. I hope I get to keep it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Broadway I've Been Listening To

Rent's good, though the second act pales to the first. One doesn't mind the prevalence of STDs, nor the omnisexual cast--kind of fun, actually, but one can't ignore the occasional lame rhyme and trite lyric.

Sweeney Todd, however, is the best thing I've ever heard.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I get the feeling I just blew another exam, this one I studied for slavishly for a week. I'm not sure what this means.

Law school has been a long erosion of my own valuation of my intelligence. I rationalize--it was because I was going through a breakup, or because I was new in the city, or because I was getting used to tax or was busy elsewhere. Harder and harder to swallow.

Hell, I don't know. Still feels like I could excel with proper effort--but, hell, I'm out of time here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Skiing

I studied until I broke out crying. And then I studied some more!

Today I discovered the composer Boris Tishchenko (spelling of his name varies: my favorite one I've happened upon thus far is "Tischtschenko") through two of his concerti, which popped up on shuffle.

Even for a grumpy, things-were-better-one-hundred-years-ago no-matter-what-the-date-is conservative, they were very enjoyable. Interesting scoring--the first was his Cello Concerto No.1, for solo cello, 17 wind instruments, percussion, and harmonium and the other a Harp concerto for chamber orchestra.

I also bought Jay the greatest gift ever purchased, which I will give to him tomorrow.

Oh, also, now that I think about it. My family's going skiing the first week in January. Anybody want to come? I'm serious--four days or so in New Hampshire, at Mt. Washington Valley, with a brother, my parents, and me. We drink, cook, play games and ski like demons. I know, I know, it's weird to hang out with someone else's family--but not mine. Mine is hospitable to a fault. And we always have room. So someone come.

Night all.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Metro

En route to piano lesson, en metro.

Nate: So what else is going on in your life?

Me: Nothing. It's so sad, I get home at evening, try to blog, and nothing happens. I'm so starved for material I'll probably talk about how you asked me to throw the medicine ball at you in the gym.


Earlier in the gym.

Nate: Thanks. [for throwing the medicine ball]

Me: No problem. Turns out I really enjoy throwing things at you; I'll have to do it more often.


Also today!

Scott and Jay talk of Billie Holiday. Scott approves, Jay disapproves.

Scott inquires of Swedish piano professor of the intercommunicability of Scandinavian tongues. Turns out Swedes can understand Norwegians and Danes, but not Finns.

Jay spends time better spent studying by messing with reading room occupants by means of green laser pointer.

Jay and Scott discuss physical capabilities of Chuck Norris. Jay asserts that Chuck Norris will survive where Schrödinger's cat died 50% of time. Scott asserts that Chuck Norris can--at the same time mind you--know the speed and position of a particle.


Then!

Scott: You should get a Skype name.

Jess: why?

Scott: I hadn't anticipated that question. Touche.


And in conclusion!

[10:34:54 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: NIN suck.

[10:35:01 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Sucks.

[10:35:07 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: Nails is plural.

[10:35:29 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: But it's a band. And it's a person. It doesn't matter what words are used in the name.

[10:35:38 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: The Beatles sucks?

[10:35:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You don't use plural verbs with "Jesus."

[10:35:41 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: You got to be kidding.

[10:35:45 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: The Beatles sucks.

[10:35:52 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: The hell it does!

[10:36:43 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: The British use plural verbs with collective nouns, but Americans generally use singular verbs when the members are acting in concert.

[10:38:17 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: The Ramones sucks?

[10:38:23 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Yep.

[10:38:30 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: You're an idiot.

[10:38:48 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: There are probably style manuals on this. Is there a Bluebook in here?

[10:40:29 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences#Singular_and_plural_for_nouns

[10:40:56 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Seems to agree with you.

[10:41:04 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Proper nouns which are plural in form take a plural verb in both AmE and BrE.

[10:41:25 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: NIN suck.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Snow!

Ten to fifteen glorious minutes of flurries!

Past that, I studied international tax. There's very little to philosophically reflect on in that.

So my tax classes turn out to be stocked with LL.M.'s, which, when the curve is quite important, makes one pause.

Man, it's sad when that's all one can say about one's day. Tell you what--tomorrow I'll be on the second floor of the reading room (I'm the one with the bulging pecs and the Santa Hat--look for the hat); everybody feel free to swing by.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Esoterics

Like most Christmases, I've taken to a wearing a festive and rather itchy Santa hat. Remind me to take a picture. Professor Ginsburg found this most delightful.

Professor Ginsburg: If we ever start a joint venture together, you can be in charge of amusing the children.

Me: I'm actually not allowed around children.


Professor Ginsburg: My wife's former boss--you know, Chief Justice Rehnquist--showed up one day with stripes on his robe, and my first thought then is my first thought now seeing you in that hat. Did you lose a bet?


Professor Ginsburg:You know, believe it or not, I'm not legally dead.

Me: I'd like to see that doctor's report.


Also, Delegation and Privatization class went like this:

Sasha: Poems today?

Me: Well, here's a cute cheerful poem fitting for the holidays.

WHENEVER Richard Cory went down town,


[Sasha and Jay start laughing]

We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.


Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Schrödinger's Statute

[2:27:38 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Can someone explain to me how a single bill can have two Title XIVs?

[2:29:24 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: Easily, assume that the Bill was in a box, and it was attached to a mechanism that would determine at random whether to change clause V of Title XIV. 50% of the time the clause would be changed, and 50% it would stay the same. Until we open the box, we must assume (if we are to be good modal realists) that both possibilities obtain, and thus the bill in question has both altered and unaltered Title XIV.

[2:29:43 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: But the box is open.

[2:29:52 PM] Scott D. Scheule says: Then I got no idea.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Explanation by Existence

A surprising amount of people arrive here following a Google search for, e.g. "trial by existence meaning." Surprising, because I didn't expect anybody to actually know the obscure Frost poem I named my blog after. I only happened upon it myself while reading randomly through my Frost anthology.

I don't know if you're researching English papers or what, but here's what it means.

Nozick described his state of nature theory thus:

State-of-nature explanations of the political realm are fundamental . . . even if incorrect. We learn much by seeing how the state could have arisen, even if it didn't arise that way. If it didn't arise that way, we also would learn much by determining why it didn't; by trying to explain why the particular bit of the real world that diverges from the state-of-nature model is as it is.


If a state arises differently than the state of nature tale, our current state is "process-deficient."

EVEN the bravest that are slain
Shall not dissemble their surprise
On waking to find valor reign,
Even as on earth, in paradise;
And where they sought without the sword
Wide fields of asphodel fore’er,
To find that the utmost reward
Of daring should be still to dare.


Well, Frost's poem about angels returning to earth, is, in the same fashion, a fundamental explanation of life. It may not be true, and it may not have really happened, but it could have. The trial by existence is a process-deficient explanation of life. Things may not have happened that way--in all likelihood we did not choose the life we currently live while in heaven, and God did not lovingly send us here--but, if it had happened that way, it would have made sense. And that Frost provided an explanation for the universe that makes sense is important in itself.

Why does it make sense?

I wondered what Heaven was like. When very young, it was a childish place, with clouds and winged folk wandering about. Over time I took the idea of Heaven as perfection more seriously. Heaven would have to be a very individual thing, full of experiences tailored to the particular soul.

The angel hosts with freshness go,
And seek with laughter what to brave;—
And binding all is the hushed snow
Of the far-distant breaking wave.


My view of Heaven grew more amorphous as it grew more personal. For me, friends were there--adventures were there. Everything good. That lasted for a time, but, thought I, wouldn't complete bliss get boring? Boredom hardly sounds like a pleasing way to spend eternity--if Heaven's all it's cracked up to be, maybe we'd need some sadness to keep things from devolving into boredom.

But if a little sadness is good, why restrict it to that? Pain is good after a fashion--obstacles are good too: they feel good to overcome. Challenges are good. Complete misery can even be desirable--it makes us more real, marks important events, makes happiness brighter in comparison. And risk--what makes life exciting is the risk of pain and defeat and death.

The tale of earth’s unhonored things
Sounds nobler there than ’neath the sun;


If Heaven's perfect, it's going to have all these things in some ratio.

Of course, by now, our view of Heaven looks a lot like Earth. Life is Heaven. And if life is Heaven, then what's left for Heaven itself? Maybe a pit stop, a place where we enjoy omnipotence--but only for a while. We will need our challenges and risks.

The only way for risks to be meaningful is to give up our omnipotence. The only way to live is to give that up.

And the more loitering are turned
To view once more the sacrifice
Of those who for some good discerned
Will gladly give up paradise.


Once we get to Heaven, in time, there's nothing to do but go back.

But if we arrived on Earth knowing that perfection was waiting for us, we'd realize the risk was illusionary. If we knew this was all a passing dream, we wouldn't care for the outcome in the deep way that mortality makes us care. To live, we'd need to be ignorant of what was to come, of the truth. Life depends on not being omnipotent, not being omniscient, not being God.

But always God speaks at the end:
’One thought in agony of strife
The bravest would have by for friend,
The memory that he chose the life;
But the pure fate to which you go
Admits no memory of choice,
Or the woe were not earthly woe
To which you give the assenting voice.’


So we come back, forever and forever, forgetting perfection, because the ignorance is, quite simply, life. So here we are, caught in a perpetual maelstrom between perfection and imperfection, made tolerable, made beautiful, by our faulty memories.


‘Tis of the essence of life here,
Though we choose greatly, still to lack
The lasting memory at all clear,
That life has for us on the wrack
Nothing but what we somehow chose;
Thus are we wholly stripped of pride
In the pain that has but one close,
Bearing it crushed and mystified.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pavane pour a Dead Princess

So Professor Dahlman and I were talking about composers who've come to hate their works, like Ravel with his Pavane and Boléro, or Debussy with the Rêverie. She told me Chopin asked one of his relatives--sister perhaps--to burn a bunch of manuscripts after he died, including his Polonaise-fantasy. This would have been a loss (though my friend David would probably disagree). We agreed that composers often aren't the best judges of their work.

Of course, my professor and I both have a healthy respect for the composer's original wishes. She suggested getting an Urtext edition of the Beethoven Sonatas, and I did (and I'm glad--it's so pretty), because in many an edition--my previous one was Schirmer, I believe--you can't tell which dynamics are the composer's and which are the editor's. I can't stand this. I believe (somewhat tentatively) that music is essentially a communication between the composer and his audience, and some third party shouldn't go screwing with that more than need be.

So in light of that, here's a little hypothetical I've thought about. Brahms burnt all his early work--we don't know what we've lost. All the youthful endeavors, the juvenile drafts that would have showed him developing his skill--gone. The result of this is that there is no bad Brahms. Some of it's craggier than others--the piano sonatas and the string quartets have never really achieved popularity--but none of it's actually bad.

So let's say, you found one of his early works, buried in a book at Brahms manor or something. Let's say it's clearly something he would have incinerated if he'd remembered it. Do you save it, or burn it? The tension's obvious: if you respect the wishes of the composer, you burn it.

But it would be invaluable.

I just might burn it. I probably wouldn't. God knows what masterpieces are out there that the composer might wish unwritten. If I had to justify such a move, rationalize rather, I'd probably say that we should trust a composer's musical choices, such as his dynamics, et al, but when it comes to his desired immolation of his own works, we're dealing less with music and more with the symptoms of poor self-esteem or brooding genius, choices we need not respect.

Tough to say what we should do with Bruckner then, whose low self-esteem led him to continually revise his symphonies, altering his musical choices. Seriously, if one of his students would make the least criticism he'd run crying to his office, to fashion his work anew. Luckily, I don't listen to Bruckner's symphonies. (I do recommend the motets though, and his string quintet).

Also, Professor Dahlman said, on her first hearing me playing the Pavane, that my touch was "beautiful." And Professor Dahlman seldom gives compliments--to me, at least. Which of course makes them all the more gratifying on their rare occurence.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Posture

A couple of months ago I realized I had the posture of an 80-year old woman and, as this was neither visually impressive nor particularly attractive, took it upon myself to remedy this (though of course the only reason I stoop is because my friends have a silly habit of being a foot beneath me). While it does take a bit of mental effort to remind one's self to stand up straight--tough to do while sitting down--the trickiest part by far has been maneuvering stairways without looking at my feet. One has to develop a feeling for just when the stairs end so as not to be shocked when discovering either the floor has arrived a step too early, making your kneecaps tingle with the impact, or a step too late, making you stumble for a heart-stopping half-second through mid-space.

At this point though, I've gotten the hang of it.

Have spent an entire day within library, taking an hour out for the gym, meticulously outlining International Tax text, fighting off the urge to continually hit the refresh button on Defamer and seeing who the most recent young starlet is to disembark a vehicle while bearing a dromedary nether knuckle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thanksgiving and Crap!

Last Tuesday evening I went home for Thanksgiving, and Jay, being invited, followed. I got lost on the way to DC, putting me ten minutes behind Jay, which was enough to let him skim through Delaware traffic while I got stuck. You want government incompetence? Who decides to do road work requiring reducing I-95 to a one lane bottleneck two days before Thanksgiving? So I took my computer out of my bag and watched Fierce Creatures as I inched along.

Anyway, spent most of the time studying and outlining, taking time off for Thursday's feast. Saturday we had a stunning quintuple birthday of my cousin Steven, my twin brothers, great Aunt Peggy, and Dad. Here are some pictures!


Cousin Michael, deep in thought.





Richard has fun with his birthday present: dice. As gambling is the only vice Richard has yet to cultivate, it seemed the right gift.





From right to left? My new grandfather, my old grandmother, and Aunt Peggy.





Steven!






For most of my childhood, Dad was somewhere in the Delaware Bay fishing on a party boat. Because of this, all his gifts tend to be nautical. Aunt Suzy to the left.






Another example. Aunt Peggy is known for her utterly bizarre gifts. Here's one for my Dad, a fish made out of the remains of a 2 Liter bottle of Mountain Dew.








David reading a card.






Birthday folk, lording their birthdays over the rest of us.






Jay had to go back to DC Saturday, but he missed us, so we videoconferenced him into my computer and set him up at the table with a microphone attached.






Apparently Jay snapped a shot of me when I was stalking the wild turkeys that frequent our backyard. Not catching one, we had to get our turkey from the supermarket.






Marnie with spends some time with her evil cat, Twinkle. Marnie's new husband, who is my new grandfather, is allergic to cats, so she let us have Twinkle, which isn't really a gift, since Twinkle has only one expression used to convey whatever emotion she happens to feel: a fang-bearing hiss. Whenever Marnie comes over Twinkle runs for her, probably to complain about her new caretakers.






Suzi and Aunt Peggy (the latter being fully Peggy Creighton, with the fitting sobriquet of P.C.)






Michael pretends to be me while having a Skype conversation with Jay. As the phrase, "This is Scott--really Scott--and I am a giant butt" is not part of my vocabulary, Jay quickly discovers it is not the true Scott at the keyboard.






The green casserole vied with the butternut squash mush for best side.






My beautiful mom.






My mom.






Suz, Grandmother, Pash.






Jay communes with his roll.

So that was pretty much it. I took a week off from going to the gym because I was having trouble with my forearm (let the jokes fly). It's from preacher curls, but I'm not sure how to avoid it in the future. This evening Jay and I argued in Billy Goat over the wisdom of drinking whole milk, making the clerk laugh.

On the composer discussion board someone started a thread on pronunciation of composer names, leading to this comment from me:

Quote from: bwv 1080 on Today at 11:50:43 AM: How far should an English speaker go in non-English pronounciation? Some Anglicization ought to be encouraged. It always irritated me when professors made a point of sounding like they were hocking a loogie at the end of pronouncing "Bach" or when the local newscaster rolls the "r" in Burrito


Me: That is a problem, as we somehow try to balance precision with snobbiness. Perhaps a good dividing line would be to only use English phonemes, and thus using, try to get as close to the pronunciation within the original language as possible. So, for instance, we would try to get the stress right in Ravel (though we'd use an English R), and we could give a pretty accurate representation of Beethoven, but since we don't really have the ch hiss in English, we'd simply pronounce Bach as "Bah k".


Sounds reasonable to me.

Also today I was reading the Wikipedia entry for Adam West, followed a few links, and then I found the funniest pilot never picked up. Lookwell.

In Defense of Consequentialism

I've got stuff to write about Thanksgiving, but haven't had time to get to it yet. Tonight perhaps. For now, here's an essay I wrote for our Milton Friedman memoriam for Catallarchy. On the surface, it doesn't have much to do with Friedman, but it's completely a personal investigation of an interesting divide among libertarians (and many other groups), which Friedman was often in the middle of.

This basically sets out my current view of morality.



Men of Goodwill May Disagree

In Defense of Consequentialism,

For Milton Friedman



I readily grant that the ethical issue is difficult and that men of goodwill may well disagree. Fortunately, we need not resolve the ethical issue to agree on policy. Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse--for both the addict and the rest of us. Hence, even if you regard present policy toward drugs as ethically justified, considerations of expediency make that policy most unwise.


Prohibition and Drugs
by Milton Friedman
From Newsweek, May 1, 1972




Milton Friedman has died. Libertarians mourn a champion; non-libertarians mourn a man who, though at times disagreeable, couched his arguments in terms so good-natured it was impossible to dislike him.

But—no matter the ideology—the cost of moderateness is the charge of heresy (and the danger of dogmatism the label of lunacy). Compromise is a euphemism for abandoning the principles you believe in.

Was this pragmatism hypocrisy? Was it simply a rhetorical tactic?

I call it humility. Now, there is right and there is wrong. Morality is absolute and natural, mapped by reason and intuition. And there is room for consequentialism.

I. Morality, an Observation


The idea of no moral truth is unacceptable. The idea of no moral apparatus with which to perceive that truth is unacceptable. This is especially true among those interested in politics, a realm ruled by notions of what should be. Relativists have no business here.

I test this by summoning up various nightmares: children being tortured, women being raped. Is the cringe such situations produce a mere result of some social conditioning? Is my preference for such things to be avoided arbitrary, as unprincipled as a favorite color? Do I have any room to criticize those with the opposite preference?

Yes. The sun exists, those who deny this are wrong—its existence not merely the false consciousness of a billion observers. Women should not be raped, and those who deny this are wrong. Not eccentric.

We surrender only to the moral relativist the possibility of being wrong, as we surrender to the skeptic the possibility of the sun being illusory. Nonetheless, we maintain, if for no other reason than the strength of the feeling, that certain things are right and wrong. And the sun will rise tomorrow.

II. For Marxism, Libertarianism.


Perhaps you grant moral truth, perhaps you grant moral perception. Nonetheless you deny some particular moral theory because of its hard cases—or perhaps you’re skeptical of things you can neither see nor touch, like rights. And we know how we see the sun, we know how eyes work—how do we sense right and wrong?

I don’t know the latter—but nor did Galileo understand how his vision operated. Not to be flippant: epistemological questions are real and pertinent. But the idea of no means of tracking moral truth is more problematic. We choose the least flawed choice.

As to the tough cases—e.g., how much labor must be mixed with how much land for possession to occur?—tough cases always form at the margins. At times they necessitate more complex theory to fill in the gaps, and sometimes vagueness is simply the nature of the beast. But such conditions are not unique to moral theorizing.

Oftentimes the intricate rules of a moral system start to seem artificial. Maybe morality, undoubtedly extant, does not follow rules. Every situation is unique, with its own moral solution unlike no other. But this is doubtful. Similar cases probably display similar results, and if so, given enough cases, rules start to emerge, something rigid and general enough that it is the exception that must be explained. The physical sciences proceed in the same fashion.

Rules can be used to produce more rules, meta-rules emerge, and different starting axioms may produce wildly different systems. Observe Marxism, observe libertarianism. Social contracts and veils of ignorance. Find enough internal inconsistencies, enough holes, enough discrepancy with reality and the grand theory is rejected. Or, if solid enough, used to make accurate predictions.

Fallibility is an argument for theory, not against it.

III. The False Hope of Pragmatism


The pragmatist eschews theory. He does not deny morality—he cannot. To take an opinion of how things ought to be is to take a moral position. He cannot deny moral perception—he must explain how he has arrived at that particular position or admit his is baseless. The pragmatist has no higher ground, he cannot claim to be arguing in a realm less intangible than those who argue morality—his oughts occupy the same level.

The pragmatist has followed us most of the way—he does not deny morality, only that it is governed by rules. We can present our previous case to him, we can question how he expects us to solve hard cases without the formation of rules, without comparing and analogizing, and how we are to convince one another without them. If he is unpersuaded, there is little more to say.

And his defense of his position may be quite strong. He may argue, and he may be correct, that people can more easily recognize what is moral than decode it using a rule-based system. We disagree here, but perhaps our disagreement is intractable.

Nonetheless, we must let him find no refuge in a lodestar of economic efficiency or in utilitarianism proper, both systems eminently rule-based and controversial. Adopting either would subject him to his own critiques.

IV. Against Libertarianism


Relativism is unacceptable. We have defended moral rules. We have met the pragmatist and pointedly disagreed with him. The stage is set to devise a moral system.

We collect data points. We summon up nightmares, we cringe and make a note. We group like cases and look for trends. We run into some hard cases. Some can be solved by our new rules, some remain mysterious: we will save these for later, perhaps for other theorists. We proofread our work. We find how consistent our theory is. Perhaps it ends up rotten to the core and we wipe the slate clean to start again. Perhaps it’s simple, elegant, and produces accurate predictions. Or the flaws that exist are repairable.

Maybe we’re Lockeans. Maybe we’re social democrats. We might be Communists or utilitarians or environmentalists.

Maybe, like Milton Friedman, we’re classical liberals. We do not believe this theory to be arbitrary, but rather an accurate depiction of objective morality. And so far as the theory contrasts with other theories—Marxism, utilitarianism, et al—those theories must be false, if ours is true.

If we believe it true, then why, as Milton did, do we place our arguments elsewhere?

There is no contradiction in believing in moral truth and at the same time being wary of our own fallibility. Humility here is no flaw.

We are, perhaps, classical liberals. Classical liberalism suggests Policy A. But, though we are classical liberals, we are nonetheless skeptical of classical liberalism (however, assumedly, we are more skeptical of other moral systems). We also are not utilitarians, but we admit there is a chance utilitarianism is correct. If both utilitarianism and classical liberalism suggest Policy A, that is a stronger argument than either ideology in isolation.

We’ve committed no hypocrisy—we have not abandoned any of our principles, simply made two realistic admissions: we may be wrong and the detractors may be right. We have not become relativists, and we certainly have not admitted that utilitarianism is correct.

V. Consequentialism


Yet, in most fields, we do not bend so easily. We are humble, but we do not easily discard complete theories. Nor should we. It is in morality that humility is uniquely called for.

One reason for caution is that, as a matter of personal observation, moral theories are radically incomplete. We needn’t tick off the tensions of libertarianism, nor the monstrosities of utilitarianism to show this. Another reason is that divergence among people is large—what moral sense exists is obviously a shaky mechanism. And here we have another reason to argue within another’s system—not simply for the tactical reason of convincing them and getting their support for what we want—but rather because we know they too can make moral judgments, judgments there is no weakness in relying upon. Two opinions are often better than one.

We have now arrived at a vague meta-moral state, a place where we value one moral theory as true but others as valuable for their possibility of truth. What theories we slip in as our candidates for true theories, and the weight we attach to each is undoubtedly something that will vary from person to person—though not infinitely.

This place, consequentialism or pragmatism or whichever name you desire, is by necessity vague and subjective. At times, the “consequentialist” may be hard to pin down, simply because it is difficult to attach a concrete probability of truth to a theory, and one’s vintage of consequentialism will vary from group to group. The consequentialist Marxist will contrast with the consequentialist Rawlsian.

Nonetheless, he is neither poststructuralist nor nihilistic, neither a liar nor a coward.

Postscript:
Some of my terminology is atypical. Some may consider pragmatism and consequentialism synonyms, for example. Do not attach too much to the names I have chosen—consider instead the positions I use them to represent.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stop Laughing, It's Not Funny... heh



Michael Richards (finally) apologizes. Let the awkwardness stop your heart, as the audience can't figure out if this is genuine or a really good, Andy Kaufmanesque bit and laughs throughout, finally admonished by Seinfeld himself.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cosmo

Professor Ginsberg: I had originally planned to spend 2.3 days on this chapter, but I've decided simply two will suffice.

Me: You can carry forward that .3 for up to ten classes.

Class: [simultaneous groan]

Also, apparently Michael Richards has decided to drive the last nail into the coffin of his dead career.



Now granted, there's not much inherently funny about Cosmo Kramer screaming racial epithets and recalling good old days of African-American lynching and tushie-spearing, but I guarantee we could bring out the hidden humor in this clip by dubbing in the Seinfeld electric bass slide. Botch--choo, choo, bop-choo, boo. This is an idea for someone else to realize.

UPDATE: It's been realized.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Zebra

Scott: I'm leaving.

Jay: Hold on, I just got to kill this Zebra creature in Warcraft.

Scott: Make sure you skin it. Lots of people like zebra pelts. My roommate has a zebra skin couch in the kitchen.

Jay: I know.

Scott: When I first moved in, there was a zebra that would wander around the living room downstairs. Then, after a few months, I came home one day, and I couldn't find it. Then I saw the zebra-skinned couch, and I put two and two together.

Jay: ...

Scott: Bob obviously sold the zebra and used the money to buy a couch.

The most interesting thing that happened today was that I realized I had a half gallon of expired milk in the fridge. I took a whiff. It smelled like it had about an hour before it turned rancid. So I took it up to my room and drank the entire thing while watching Family Guy.

Niente

I accomplished absolutely nothing today. Still, I had a wonderful coffee with Lyco. We talked about the new Bond flick, and she raved enough that I decided I had to go see it. I made Jay stop studying so he could join me.

Very well done, easily one of the best of the franchise thus far. A new, colder character, and action without all the cartoony frills of the Brosnan years.

Talked Jay into spending Thanksgiving with the family, which is great. Any other friend without plans is welcome to come up as well.

So very peaceful, sitting in this classroom in an empty building, with Bread playing (some song that Nick made me download in college).

Peaceful moments come out of nowhere and make the world seem right.

And Aubrey was her name.

Love you all. Good night.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dune

I ran into Jed on the way back from my piano lesson. He said he was going to dinner, and I tried to think up a lie, but alas, too slow, spit out the truth: "I'm going to go drink Scotch with Tamboli and watch Dune."

I'm pooped. Lousy piano lesson--I want to scream at my fingers sometimes, but that makes people on the metro look at me funny.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sonatine

I walked miles today, lugging a backpack and a heavy book. I swung by the tobacconist, picked up an edition of Ravel solo piano sheet music from the main library. There are some truly gorgeous pieces in here. I'm going to try the Pavane, and maybe the Sonatine later. Then took the metro back to campus in time to catch Jay before he got home so we could call a missing friend and leave him a voicemail of off-key singing, wishing him a happy birthday.

I'd like to smoke my pipe in the room I rent, but I don't know how to ask my lessor if I'm allowed without it being awkward.

Milton Friedman has passed away. I suppose with Nozick and Hayek, the last of the libertarian pedestals has now gone. I would have loved to have met the man. Few people I've never met have moved my life so.

We find these rough alliances, with conservatives who love values and liberals who love democracy--the fit is never comfortable, even if expedient. But Milton, he actually loved freedom. For better or worse.

You couldn't have done more with a life. Still.

I'll miss you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Guinness Extra Stout

Nothing happened today. Sorry.

That's not true. I did memorize a poem by Lisel Mueller, and argued with some people about the quality of music. Gym, piano, South Park. Sudoku. Gershwin preludes are the shiznit! Also, this album is absolutely fantastic.



JAY:
Seeing the food in your mouth is disgusting.

SCOTT: What's disgusting about it? It's just like normal food, but mixed up more. Is it the entropy that disturbs you? Or is it the fact that the more I chew it the closer it gets to being poop?

Look, I'm not proud of saying that, but I said it.

I drink a beer every evening. I find this an immensely pleasing habit that I shall have to plan for and continue.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Paxil

That was the worst episode of nip/tuck I've ever seen. The show may have jumped the shark.

How beautiful the world was today.

I swung by Student Health today for a prescription. I had expected to have to set up an appointment and have some things faxed from home, but the visit turned out easy. The receptionist was out but the doctor was in the waiting room. She asked if I'd been here before, and I said, yes, she had seen me last semester for a particularly horrific case of strep throat. She remembered me and wrote me a prescription on the spot. We had an enjoyable talk about what an effective and lovely drug Paxil is. She said many she'd talk to had said it changed their lives, and I told her I shared a similar sentiment. And we talked of the bad press it gets because of the devastating effects it sometimes has on people who suddenly go off it. I told her how it's nothing like the stereotype people have of antidepressants--it's so much more subtle than that.

There is an obvious tension here, for a man who, while sympathetic to utilitarianism, rejects it on the grounds that utility is not the end all. There is a tension for a man who thinks people who would hook up to the experience machine are making the wrong choice, when that man himself refuses to experience reality through his untampered emotions but rather prefers drugging himself, ever so slightly, for a more enjoyable ride. (Incidentally, the linked-to Wikipedia article is rather poor, and mischaracterizes Nozick's thought experiment, somewhat.)

This tension is only superficial. Let me explain what the Paxil does--to me, at least--and why it does not move me away from reality. Without Paxil, I enter a biweekly cycle of moods. Without fail, I spend 3-7 days happy, and then 3-7 days miserably depressed. Sometimes, during the happy part of the cycle I get really wild, completely extroverted, full of energy. I can make jokes easily, draw connections quite quickly. Usually there is no transition between the moods; the world just suddenly seems different. When depressed my thoughts tend to stick on certain things: I get very shy, unable and unwilling to talk to others. There's a feeling of heaviness and sometimes pain in the chest. I sleep a lot. I usually think of suicide constantly, and if not suicide I at least have a continual urge to cut parts of myself. I sometimes have mental images of blood, just gushing out of some part of me, skin ripped off or wide open.

Once I started taking Paxil, three years ago or so, the cycle vanished, or at least became much less dramatic. I still get happy, sometimes excessively so, and I still get sad, sometimes quite miserable. But the difference now is that my emotions are actually responding to the proper cues. Whereas before I'd get sad for no external reason, now if I get sad there's usually a cause, and so with happiness.

I contend that Paxil is to one's emotional response as glasses are to eyes. My emotions are still there, deep and low and light and airy at times, but now focused. And having a proper emotional response is near essential to having a worthwhile life. I don't take Paxil to escape reality or its sadness, I take it to bring reality into greater focus. Sometimes that means I'll be happier as compared to without the antidepressant--and sometimes sadder. But for the right reasons.

So make no mistake, I have no wish to rid myself of sadness, even were such a thing possible. I want to be sad when I should be sad. If a loved one dies, if a relationship ends, I want to properly respond to that event. With tears, if need be. The utilitarian cannot say such things, at least not without positing that perhaps a little sadness makes it possible for greater happiness later, and thus some sadness does increase happiness, on net. But for me the goodness of the response doesn't depend on the dubious proposition that it increases happiness later--I am saying that the pain is good in and of itself. And the joy.

Nozick speaks of this in The Examined Life, about the urge for emotions that properly map reality.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fortunes

Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you people? Not even Scoplaw, who knows something about poetry, likes Eliot.

Prufrock is a masterpiece. It should depress, haunt, frighten you. Scattered couplets should stay crouched on your tongue for hours. It is impossible to say precisely what I mean!/But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen... You should feel trapped in immutable social niceties and graces, bound into a meaningless life where you rationalize away your regret as best you can and then stew in the failure of your own indecision--and how unimportant it is, measured out with coffee spoons. And would it have been worth it after all? You'll fear the loneliness, doubt the cure. Will they sing to you? Do you even deserve the song? That's Prufrock, an impotent hell, which I now have memorized.

Cheers to Courtney for her perceptive taste.

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but a few weeks ago Jay and I were at Eat First, catching the lunch special as is our custom and both of our fortune cookies said the same thing (I've kept the fortunes in my wallet):

There is a true and sincere friendship between you both.

We decided that the waiters had seen us come in often enough that they rigged our fortunes.

SCOTT: They think we're gay.

JAY: Get your arm off of me.

Today it happened again with the fortune: Friends long absent are coming back to you. I can only hope this refers to a friend of ours who about a month ago stopped coming to class and seemingly vanished off the face of the earth.

I've got like twenty minutes worth of poetry memorized at this point.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm kind of bummed lately. A friend is missing, I've got Prufrock's lovesong half-memorized, it's rainy out.

Check back in a day or two.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy 77th

I'm so close to falling asleep, but I wanted to just check in first. I went up north to celebrate my uncle's 50th and my grandmother's 77th birthday.

My family is awesome. Unfortunately, I had too much to drink, so I don't know what was going on in most of these pictures. I do remember reciting, from memory, Dylan Thomas' Poem on His Birthday for my grandmother and playing Piano Man. Most family gatherings seem to end with me playing Piano Man.

Man, it was fun.




That's my cousin, Emily, and the birthday girl.








I knew a guy who remembers when there was hair covering that crystal ball.






Paydirt.






I can't remember what offensive thing I said, but it would appear I said an offensive thing.






What the hell are you doing, Mom?







Cuz Joey.






P.C., Aunt Caron (that's my guess on spelling, but it may be Karen, or Charon, or Cairn) and David.











Just the trunk of my car, completely empty--wait, a minute. I think I spot a stowaway.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Into the Woods

My roommate's brother and sister-in-law are staying with us. They're very friendly. I can hear him snoring through my wall. This usually scares his wife down to the living room to sleep on the couch, which means when I want a snack I have to tiptoe around in the dark.

I love musicals. They always impress me: so much coordination. The hours of work are readily apparent.

I should relate that during this particular production of Into the Woods, during one of Cinderella's dialogs with her helpful birds, from the orchestra pit came the expected sound effects of chirps and tweets, and then--unexpected, but very audible--a massive moo.

Wrong button. The band was in hysterics.


JAY: Did you hear about the Topology Journal?

SCOTT: Is that like, the beginning to a joke? Like I say no, and you say, "It's bent out of shape"?

JAY: No.


SASHA: Have either of you seen this before? The final number has a tune that sounds just like The Candyman. "Sometimes people leave you..." Which of course is the same notes as "Who can take a sunrise..."

SCOTT: I guess this proves once and for all that Sondheim is a hack. "Who can steal a melody..."

The Beardless



JAY: I miss your beard. I liked your beard; I demand you bring it back.

SCOTT: I needed to know if it was me people liked--or just the beard. Anyway, it turned out to be the beard. Whoops.

Also, while I'm dumping crap out of my camera, here're some photos of the zoo. I go to the zoo often, so it's questionable which trip this was. But chances are Jay was there, because--let's face it--if we lived in Massachusetts, Jay and I would probably be celebrating our second anniversary.




The tortoise was frightened of us, but in the half hour it took for it to run away, I managed to snap a shot.




This is an Indonesian honeybee. It feeds primarily on Indonesians.




A rare cat-snake. It's a snake that looks like a cat.




No idea.




Queen of the crustaceans: the spiny lobster. In Melville's sequel, Moby Douchebag, Ahab hunts one of these as vengeance for his stolen watch.




What might be a sliver of hippo!




So utterly elegant.




We found this thing in Jay's apartment.




This was in a bird cage, or monkey cage or something. When we saw it, Jay said, "So that's what happened to my package."



Crazy-looking bird: I recall liking the first season of Alias. But then it just started to go downhill.

Monkey thing: Look, I'll give you that, but I think the second season was worthwhile too. The third sucked.

Bird: Sucked.

Monkey: So did you see the Office last night?

Bird: No. You know everybody says I should watch that.

Monkey: Do you like the whole Christopher Guest, mockumentary, genre?

Bird: Mockumentary?

Monkey: Yeah. Like Spinal Tap.

Bird: Never saw it.

Monkey: Or Best in Show.

Bird: Oh. Yeah, I remember liking that.

Monkey: Well, then, I think you'd like--wait, a pair of homosexuals are taking a picture. Squawk at me or something.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wolff

I was studying in Wolff this evening (Structuring Venture Capital turns out to be a stimulating class if one has the reading done) when I heard a gasp, and looked over to see Jay, frozen in position, eyes wide.



I snapped a picture. You see, I've been to the Midwest--and I knew I'd seen that expression somewhere before.



Jay Goodman Tamboli: I had a really interesting idea.

Scott D. Scheule says: Did you hear a coyote? Was that the idea?

But go easy on Jay. Today he and he alone came to class in a Halloween costume.

I don't get Rautavaara (but I will be getting some Finnish hits after mentioning the name). Granted, I've only listened to his Symphony No.7, and Annunciations, but those are supposedly some of his best stuff, and, with the former at least, all I hear is a bunch of breathy sugar.

Now, Copland on the other hand, is very fine. I've been listening to his early orchestral works--spiky, concise, punchy and spooky. None of the corny socialist stuff, but plenty of the modern socialist concrete and steel. The Symphony for Organ is lovely, and the Piano Concerto quite fresh.

EDIT: At the proper volume, Anunciations is well worth listening to.