My oldest son, Drew, has been serving a mission in western Ukraine since the summer of 2010. We trade emails with him every week, and we talk on the telephone twice a year: Mother's Day and Christmas. We recently learned that his mission would end on May 30, and we have decided to retrieve him ourselves. I have never visited Ukraine, but I am excited to see the cities where he has been serving: L'viv, Rivne, Chernivtsi, Vinnytsia, and, of course, Kyiv. Here is a photo he sent last week, which made me happy that we are going in summer ...
Since returning last week from teaching in London, I have been asked many times what I most enjoyed about our month in England. While I enjoyed seeing many of the well-known sites of London, three lesser-known stops made the trip particularly memorable:
The Jorvik Viking Centre in York offered a spectacular glimpse into a Viking settlement from the period between 866 and 1066. Having traced my ancestry back into Norway for hundreds of years, I feel some kinship with the Vikings, and it's hard to imagine a more interesting presentation of an archeological site than this one.
The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes makes many varieties of Wensleydale cheese. I am still partial to Wensleydale with cranberries, but the blended chees with balsamic onions was surprisingly awesome. Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a rush when we visited the Creamery, but Hawes seems like a fun village for a day trip.
The Churchill War Rooms in London were the underground headquarters of the British High Command during World War II, and this museum provides an authentic look at the rooms, along with a fascinating audio tour. When I was a young boy, I used to read the entries on World War II in may parents' World Book Encyclopedia. My father fought in the war, and I was fascinated by the personalities, none more so than Winston Churchill. This isn't the best known attraction in London, but for me it was the best.
The NY Times is reporting that United and US Air are in merger talks.
Ten years ago, the last time these two airlines were courting each other, I lived in D.C., and it was that market that caused the most antitrust concerns. United has a hub at Dulles, while US Air has one in Philadelphia and has major operations out of National.
Will this courtship turn out differently? Are the continuing struggles of the airlines enough to overcome union and antitrust obstacles? (Don't ask me. I won't even pretend to be an antitrust scholar.)
Which of the potentially eight hubs of the combined airline (SF, LAX, Phoenix, Denver, O'Hare, Philly, Dulles, Charlotte) would be downgraded? Living in the Southwest, I hope it would be none of the western ones. Phoenix might seem like a good candidate, although the city has stealthily grown into one of the five largest in the country. I am also rooting for Philly to remain viable. The US Air hub there keeps prices down when we fly back to God's Country (aka New Jersey).
Greetings from Durham, Glommers! I just gave a faculty workshop here at beautiful Duke Law School, and got to catch up with Glom friends Kim Krawiec, Mitu Gulati, Steven Schwartz, and others. This was going to be a quick post about workshop format, which I know folks at the Faculty Lounge have discussed in the recent past. This was my first experience with the commentator speaks/author briefly responds, and I loved it! No pressure on me to present the argument, very generous comments from Richard Schmalbeck, and plenty of time for helpful and challenging feedback from an audience who'd clearly read the paper.
Unfortunately, then a snowflake fell in the state of Georgia, paralyzing normal business in my home state. My husband says there's no accumulation yet, but UGA has shut down early for the day and my flight to Atlanta was canceled. So this is now a post about the wisdom of checking your flight status before you head to the airport (whew!) and a query about things to do in Durham when you're here overnight. And if you have any amusing, stuck-somewhere-unexpectedly stories, I'll take those, too.
In a post on New Years Day, I mentioned that my twin sons reached their goal of earning all 121 Scouting merit badges by the end of 2009. (More to come in 2010!) When they established that goal at the beginning of last summer, I realized immediately that the most difficult merit badge would be Backpacking, which requires, among other things, "at least three backpacking treks of at least three days each and at least 15 miles each" and "a backpacking trek of at least five days using at least three different campsites and covering at least 30 miles."
Our first three-day trek was to Yellowstone National Park, where we saw a bear. The boys took two subsequent three-day treks with their Scout leaders -- one to the top of Kings Peak, the highest peak in Utah, and the other in Moab, in southern Utah. That left only the five-day trek, but we had run out of summer, so we started investigating various possibilities for the holiday break.
One of our neighbors suggested Catalina Island, and I was thrilled to learn that the island is transversed by a 37.2 mile trail. which opened just last year. What's more, the Trans-Catalina Trail has a series of campsites at just the right intervals for a five-day trek. Watching the video, I didn't focus on the fact that Catalina has some pretty high mountains of its own. They aren't the Rockies, but when you are lugging a pack, they are plenty steep.
The temperatures dipped into the 40s at night, but the days were mostly in the 60s. We ate peanut butter and jelly tortillas for lunch and freeze-dried food for dinner, but we camped next to the ocean on three of the nights, and we saw some amazing scenery. We finally retrieved the photos of our trip from my son's camera. Here is a taste of our adventure ...
Next summer I will be teaching a course called "Corporations: U.S. and Transnational Perspectives" in Georgetown Law School's London Summer Program. Since 2001 I have been teaching fairly regularly in summer abroad programs, and I am excited for the opportunity to spend four weeks in London. If you are a student checking out summer programs, here is the flyer for this one.
If you are a young professor thinking about spending a summer abroad, the main reason to refrain is that these programs tend not to leave a lot of time for research. You will teach two hours a day, five days a week. When you aren't teaching, you need to spend time preparing for the next day's class, and that also means that this is not equivalent to a European vacation.
So why do I do it? The initial incentive was my interest in comparative corporate law and EU studies. Although most of my scholarship and teaching focus on U.S. law, I have done some comparative writing and teaching, and I am interested in doing more. Summer programs usually provide a nice opportunity to study law in a comparative dimension, and they often involve networking opportunities with non-U.S. professors.
A secondary benefit is that family members always accompany me on these trips. Sometimes the whole family goes, sometimes just one or two children. Although the modest stipend that accompanies these gigs is never enough to cover all of our expenses, I am grateful that my children have been able to experience many countries in Europe, as well as Australia and China. (By the way, I have a son who is keen to visit Greece, so if you know of any opportunities there ...)
Third, even though my days will not be free of labor, many afternoons and evenings, as well as most weekends, are filled with tours, shows, restaurants, etc. We tend to stay close to home base on these adventures, so rather than trying to see all of England, we will spend most of our time right in London. Frankly, I find that experiencing a city in short intervals like this is much more enjoyable than trying to cram in all of the top sights in a few days.
Finally, if I did not love living in the U.S. so much, I would gladly live in Europe, and these summer excursions provide a taste of that life most summers. We always rent a private apartment, condo, or home, and we enjoy shopping at the local markets, riding the public transportation, or relaxing in parks or cafes.
Just writing all of that makes me anxious for London!
I didn't plan to start my first ever blogger stint on the anniversary of the fall of the Wall, but I thought I'd share a few personal experiences from 20 years ago before I move on to law-related posts.
I spent the summer of 1989 in West Germany on a high school exchange program. Towards the end of my stay, my two American classmates and I visited West Berlin for a week. We decided to spend one day in East Berlin even though our German hosts couldn't travel with us. We travelled to the East sector by the subway, passing the old abandoned ghost stations before arriving at the subway checkpoint in East Berlin. The border guards delayed me for several anxious minutes as my passport photo was already several years old (I think it was taken when I was 12). Being alone in the booth with an unfriendly DDR border guard was a nerve-wracking test for my still spotty German.
Finally, the three of us were allowed to explore East Berlin for the day, which we spent mostly on the Unter den Linden avenue from the Neue Wache to Alexanderplatz. It was a strange and unsettling sightseeing excursion. The streets were largely empty of cars and the only people I remember on the streets were two busloads of Russian tourists. We started our walk at the old German history museum and the Neue Wache memorial. Both commemorated the Soviet and socialist sacrifices in defeating National Socialism, but I didn't see any mention of the Holocaust or of the other Allies. After walking through room after room of propoganda in the museum, I will never look at a history museum in the same way.
You could feel the oprressiveness of the city even on a bright summer day. Some of it was explicit -- being told by the police not to take photographs from a bridge on the Museum island -- much of it was just beneath the surface. I was relieved to return to West Berlin at the end of the afternoon and only fully relaxed when our train back from West Berlin to the rest of West Germany crossed the final border several days later. It was only a small taste of what it must have been like to live in that society.
So I was dumbfounded by what happened only a month later when Hungary opened its border with Austria and protest movements began springing up throughout Eastern Europe. That summer I had no sense that any of this was coming -- let alone that the Wall would topple. I don't think anyone did. The shocking suddenness and bloodlessness of the Wall's collapse will always remind me of what it is like to live in history, not just study it from afar. History doesn't follow iron laws, a lesson I try to remember when I write on financial crises.
It was strange to experience the Fall back in New Jersey. Most high school students took the events in stride as if they were just fodder for the new Jesus Jones song. Even stranger is how quickly history buries itself. I've gone back to Berlin every few years since 1989 -- the first time on a fellowship between college and law school and later as a practicing lawyer secunded to Frankfurt (I posed as a hipster and say Christo wrap the Reichstag) -- and the city seemed completely remade each time. I could mark changes in my life and yet find the city changed even more.
I'm taking my wife and two kids to Berlin this summer to do research courtesy of the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst. I am excited to do my research in German and European banking and securities law (I'm still a nerd - some things don't change over 20 years), but am even more excited to introduce my family to a city that stays stuck only in strangeness.
I have been back from Malawi for about a month, and that amazing country is still all I think about. Because I am all-Malawi, all the time, I just finished The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkawamba. William is from a village in Malawi, not too far from the village I visited in the Mulanje district. He was a boy during the famine of 2002, which devastated his community. Although his family survived, he was not able to pay the school fees to attend school (about 1000 kwacha a term, or a little more than $7). Longing for education and distraction, he started reading old textbooks donated by the U.S. government, and found a diagram for a windmill. The rest is an amazing story of how William built a windmill out of discarded rubbish (in a country where no one discards anything of value) and brought electric power into his family's home. A few years later, Western visitors happened upon the windmill, a journalist wrote a story, and African bloggers took over from there. The rest is history, and now William is 22 and finishing high school in South Africa. He would like to attend college in the U.S. William -- The University of Illinois is a great math and science university!!
Here is his blog. Watch the Daily Show clip there. Hilarious. Jon Stewart reminds him that he may have built a windmill out of nothing, but he better study his SATs and get some extra-curriculars if he wants to go to college in the U.S.!
Here is his appearance at the TED conference.
If my kids had the same initiative, creativity and raw intelligence, but with their allowance and Google, they should have built a time machine in our back yard, or at least a particle accelerator.
OK, so "fly the friendly skies" was a United Airlines commercial, but I recently surfed the web while flying through the sky on American Airlines. In "selected markets" American has been testing this service since the summer, but (even after flying between major markets) the first flight I've seen it on was on Saturday from San Antonio, TX to Chicago. The service is called "gogo" and costs $9.95, an obvious price point, and one familiar to travelers who regularly purchase hotel internet service. But, $9.95 for 2 hours is not the same as for 24 hours; however, when one has 2 hours with nothing better to do, the price may seem just right.
Well, I had a trial offer code, so my 7 year-old, Luke, and I fired up my laptop. (The flyer in the seatback warned us about viewing adult material and told us to have consideration for our seatmates. Since the flight was 25% full and we weren't watching porn, we were safe.) My great idea was to get on our Netflix account and watch a kids' movie "instantly." I began to see my future of traveling with kids as brightening substantially -- why haul around DVDs for kids to watch on a portable DVD player every trip when I have the Netflix library at my fingertips already? Well, that brilliant plan did not work very well. After the loading time, the movie stopped about every 3 minutes due to "slow connection," and it would have to "resize," which seemed like reloading. I found this unbearable, although Luke seemed to think waiting one minute out of every four was well worth it to watch a new movie in the air. After awhile, I tried to log on to Webkinz, but that gave me the "loading" message for what seemed like years. I can only guess that internet connection in the friendly skies is to be expected, regardless of the testimonials on the aa.com website: spotty, slow and sort of expensive. Checking your email, OK; watching streaming video and interactive websites, not so much.
This past summer, I went on a three-day backpacking trip to Yellowstone Backcountry with my three sons. For Yellowstone aficionados, we were on the Hellroaring Creek Trail. As we set out, we were all excited to see some wildlife, but I was not at all interested in seeing a bear. I have seen bears in the wild, and they scare me.
On our second day, a group of hikers on the other side of Hellroaring Creek motioned to us. They were yelling "Bear!" while pointing in the direction we were headed and making claw motions with their hands. The creek made verbal communication spotty, but they managed to communicate that the bear was near a bridge that we were planning to cross.
Hmm. What to do with this information? We were heading to a reserved campsite, and we needed to cross that bridge at some point. Do bears move a lot? Do they move quickly (when they are not trying to eat you)? How would we know when the bear was gone?
We decided to take a break and ponder our next move. Within about 15 minutes, more hikers came from the direction of the bridge, and we asked if they had seen the bear. They hadn't, and they seemed a little disappointed that they missed it. They had just crossed the bridge, so we decided to proceed with our hike. In retrospect, that doesn't seem too bright, but how do you avoid bears in the middle of the wilderness anyway? I figured we could have a bear in any direction, so why not go in the direction where hikers had just passed? (We later heard that the rangers had evacuated campers from this part of Yellowstone the day before because of a bear kill. Gulp!)
As we approached the bridge, I was scanning both sides of the trail ... and making plenty of noise. Just before we reached the bridge, I spotted the bear about 20 yards to my left. As soon as I said, "there's a bear!" my sons wanted in on the action.
"Get across that bridge!" I urged.
Ok, I realize that bears can cross bridges, too, but I liked the idea of having a creek in between us. When we got to the other side, we found five or six employees of the Forest Service having a picnic.
"Did you see the bear?" we asked.
They couldn't believe that they were having a picnic right across the creek from a black bear. Fortunately for us, the bear was sitting next to a deer carcass, so he (she?) had no interest in getting to know us better.
The battery in my son's camera had died early in our trip, but one of the Forest Service employees had a camera and agreed to send me some pictures. (Thanks, Sam!) They arrived today:
So, if you've had any kind of conversation with me the past six months, you have probably heard me go on and on about my upcoming trip to Malawi. Well, the trip that seemed a million years away is actually coming up quickly -- we leave on Thursday, September 17 and will return on Sunday, September 27!
I am going with the First Presbyterian Church of Champaign. The trip has several facets to it, but the two that I'm most interested in are the microfinancing project and a water well project. If anyone has "must reads" about microfinancing, let me know -- books or scholarly articles. (I've read the popular Blue Sweater and Dead Aid.) The church partners with Opportunity International, and we will be shadowing some of their borrowers there. I am very excited to learn and observe.
This is my first foray into "extreme" travel -- no fancy hotels here, many times no electricity. There is very little connectivity there, so don't expect any Malawi blogging until I'm back home. But then, be prepared for the onslaught!
Ann Althouse is wondering what makes something "Americana"? This isn't the sort of thing that normally interests me too much, but yesterday I was talking to my 15-year-old daughter, who is excited for our upcoming drive to Wisconsin for a family reunion. I have been making this drive since I was 17 years old and a freshman at BYU. I have traveled every interstate highway between Utah and Wisconsin, most of them multiple times, and I occasionally take the "backroads." But with the exception of an occasional desire to see Mt. Rushmore -- which is somewhat out of the way, but has drawn me to the Black Hills at least ten times -- I generally don't look forward to the sites on this trip. This time will be different: we are looking for an American adventure.
So I have started my search for things to do/see/eat between Provo and Eau Claire. Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska looks like a must see, and it got me searching for uniquely American cultural experiences on the plains. Aside from the usual South Dakota sites, including Wall Drug, however, I haven't had much luck. Suggestions?
As for food, I am having a bit more luck. The Wooden Knife in Interior, South Dakota looks promising. And I am trying to plan the trip so that we reach Rapid City, South Dakota at dinnertime, so we can eat at The Corn Exchange. If we are lucky, we might even spend a few hours at Czech Days in Tabor, South Dakota (what's more American than a small town's heritage festival?), though I don't know how all of this is going to happen over one day. Once we get to Wisconsin, we will, of course, do some variation on The Cheese Trail.
Do people eat in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming? If I can't find anything for the trip back, I may just have to stock up on cheese curds in Wisconsin, though they are never as good after the first day.
Yesterday we took a semi-spontaneous trip to southern Utah to hike The Narrows in Zion National Park. On a day that exceeded 100 degrees, we stayed cool in the shadows of the canyons carved by the Virgin River ...
I wore a Wisconsin Badgers shirt, and several families from Madison hailed us, but it seemed like most of the people in The Narrows were from Europe. We heard lots of Italian and French being spoken, as well as a few British accents. Some of the hikers were walking the river in bare feet, which looked very painful, as the riverbed is filled with large stones. Of course, the stones are mostly smooth, having been worn by the river, so the main risk is twisted ankles.
Unfortunately, I had failed to charge the battery in my camera, and it petered out before we got to the best parts of the hike. Never fear, YouTube to the rescue ...
Earlier this week, I noted that I was spending some time at Camp Steiner in the High Uintas. I returned home for one day, then got on a plane for Laguna Niguel, California, where I am participating in the Kauffman Summer Legal Institute.
Looking back on Camp Steiner -- it was much more pleasant than I expected. The mud was confined to a few patches, and even though we were told that it would rain every afternoon, I didn't see a drop in two days. Gorgeous blue skies and clear, starry nights. More mosquitoes than I expected for a place that got so cold at night, but we were able to fend most of them off with Deep Woods Off.
I set up my tent on a patch of ground at the top of a slope, so I could look out in the morning and see distant mountains over the treetops. The scouts were invariably still asleep, so I would reignite the fire from the night before to provide a warm spot in camp. Most of my days were spent hiking around the camp while my boys were in merit badge classes.
The only negatives were the silly skits performed by the camp staff -- an inexplicably standard part of every Scout Camp I have attended -- and the food. I was horrified to learn that our Scoutmaster had packed all of the food for the week in ice. Which meant that we had frozen eggs, frozen milk, frozen everything! I have never seen anyone peel the shells off frozen eggs, then thaw the eggs to make French toast. But it seemed to work.
After less than a day at home, I took at short flight to John Wayne Airport with my wife, where we rented a car and drove south to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for the Kauffman SLI. This was a trip down memory lane for us: my first summer associate position was at a small firm in Newport Beach, and we passed briefly by Newport Center Drive on our way. That was 20 years ago (!), and I confess that I don't remember many of the details of this place.
Along the way, I was reminded by a billboard of the strangely fascinating Pageant of the Masters. Had we been thinking ahead, we would have purchased tickets for last night's show. But tonight is booked, and we return home to the nest tomorrow.
I have never been much of a beach person. We walked along the beach yesterday, and we enjoyed seeing the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean last night, but I am perfectly happy to have these experiences only occasionally. Call me crazy, but I much prefer prairies and mountains.
I am packing for a few days at Camp Steiner with my twins. Camp Steiner is the highest Scout Camp in the United States (elevation 10,400 feet), and the following was taken from a story in the Deseret News last week:
Camp Steiner, a High Uintas Camp in the Great Salt Lake Scout Council, will still open for the season today as planned, despite unusually wet and muddy conditions there....
Kay Godfrey, spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council, said Camp Steiner is opening at its regular time.
"They'll open up just fine," he said. "A little wetter than usual."
He said the camp still has 2 feet of snow under some trees, but the council punched the road through to the camp a few weeks early this year to ensure it dried out.
From flooding in Wisconsin to a typhoon in Hong Kong to this. I am very much counting on my trip to Laguna Niguel on Thursday to salvage my summer travel.