Friday, December 08, 2006


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.


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:

[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


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


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.