The Hardest Thing I’ve Done as a Parent

Being a parent is all about facing the challenges that come with raising your kid and overcoming them. Sometimes they’re small challenges. Sometimes they’re big ones. But tonight, I and Chelsea experience a colossal challenge: cutting Traven’s hair.

He doesn’t like loud noises, to begin with, so he was less than thrilled about even going near the clippers. Then the battery kept dying out on it, which made the ordeal even longer since we had to stop after a few swipes to let the thing charge back up again. Worse still, I decided to try helping Chelsea out (she has a presentation she has due by 11 pm tonight) and ended up accidentally cutting his hair shorter in the back.

Right now, he’s got a halfway completed haircut with a short patch along the back of his noggin, but we’re getting there. Now that I’ve found the right charger, the clipper should charge up a lot faster. He’s already cranky about the haircut, but now it’s pushing past half an hour since he needed to be in bed. And you can set your watch by when this kid goes to bed and wakes up.

I’ll fix the horrendous thing I did to his head. Definitely will. This ought to be a great experience for everyone, right?

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Busy, Busy, Busy…

This is what juggling several things looks like. It’s that face.

Sorry to everyone who’s been following my blog for not posting in the last ten or so days. As always, law school takes up a tremendous portion of my time, especially now. This semester marked my Jurisprudence class, which was a class dedicated to writing a proper academic paper as part of my graduation requirement from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. Never mind the reading for all the rest of my classes, this has easily been the most time-intensive portion of my semester and my time in law school generally.

I love jurisprudence as a subject because it takes two things that I love and combines them into a single field of study: philosophy and law. I wrote a couple of posts on the topic, but basically: jurisprudence is the study of the why and how questions of law. It’s less about interpreting statute and more about how one goes about crafting law as general principles, and whether or not there is a moral quality to it.

I’ve finished my second draft of the paper (not too soon, either, as finals are coming up here in less than a month). Now that I’m in the home stretch, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but boy, was it tough. Footnotes are no joke.

I apologize for being so woefully absent, but I’m making up for it now! Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me through the drought!

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On Writing Academic Papers

As you guys probably know since I won’t shut up about it, I am a member of The Writer’s Block. I love writing fiction, and I’ve done my fair share of opinion pieces here on Steemit. I love to write. But when it comes to academic work, boy is it another universe entirely.

Writing political opinion pieces is simple enough. Start with a premise, offer the facts that you want to apply your premise to, and then draw the conclusion. There’s plenty of sub-arguments within the span of your main argument, such as making the case why a term should be defined one way as opposed to another, or establishing that part of your premise is true because X, Y, and Z. But ultimately, it’s just a giant syllogism: A is C. B has all the qualities of A. Therefore, B is C.

For rigorous academic writing, the kind that you publish in journals, it’s significantly deeper than that. All the same rules for making an effective argument are still there, but, to put it how my jurisprudence teacher puts it, “no one wants to know what you think.” For legal writing, you need to cite every assertion you make that isn’t your own, and you are not expected to make any assertions yourself outside of your premise and your conclusion. Most of my opinion pieces are based in logical reasoning, to avoid citing to authority and thus undermining the strength of my argument on its own. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury here.

It’s also a different style of writing. In fiction writing, it’s important to show, not tell. Academic writing is the exact opposite. Illustrative facts are really just facts recited from other sources that support your premise. That’s it. Aside from a clever hook at the beginning of a law review article, the roadmap, and the conclusion, everything else is recitation of evidence that supports your premise. Prose doesn’t have much of a place here.

While it is rewarding to make a well-documented piece of work, I’m less enthusiastic about it than good ol’ writing from the hip.

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The Sickness Has Finally Taken Me

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve finally succumbed to the illness that’s taken my girlfriend, her son, and my daughter.

Chelsea and Traven have been struggling with illness for the past few weeks now. For Traven, it started out as a double ear infection, which coincided with him getting a stomach bug. Chelsea contracted that stomach virus from Traven in the process of taking care of him. Thankfully, her illness cleared up after a couple of weeks, though she’s still having coughing fits. Traven’s lasted until the day before yesterday, and Sunday night he threw up several times around bed time. No one was having fun. Still, today, he seems like he’s up and at ’em again, bouncing around without a care in the world.

Same goes for Kate. She was burning up with a fever last week, and she had unpleasant bathroom incidents every day. I’ve had to throw more than one pair of her panties away as a result. This week, though, she’s doing much better. She’s finally turned the corner on it, and she’s back at school, feeling 100% again. I’m glad to see her finally have her energy and happiness back.

So now it’s my turn. The lethargy. The muscle aches. The low grade fever. It’s all started, and it’s lingering on the cusp of going full bore into something like the flu. Honestly, I’d rather it just hit me. The anticipation is killing me, and at least if I’m totally out of commission, I don’t feel quite as frustrated with my inability to do things. When it’s just a minor issue to my productivity, like it is now, I’m actually more pissed off about it.

We’ll see how this next week goes. Got plenty to keep myself busy between school and home, so I’ll just keep trying to be productive while I wait for the inevitable.

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Taking a New Tack

Since law school started, my presence on Steemit was pretty slim. It’s been the single most arduous undertaking of my entire life. Now that my second semester is well under way, I’ve decided to make some changes to my posting habits, so I can be present here more often

A lot of that is going to focus on commenting. I used to comment a lot, and I used to reply to people’s comments often. That’s just being polite, in my opinion; if someone reads what you have to say and leaves a comment, the courteous thing to do is respond to them. They’re not leaving flyers on your door, after all. This last year has been a lot less involved for me across Steemit and Discord, and I’m going to work on changing that.

The other part of this change is going to be in the nature of my posts. When I first joined Steemit, I composed essays about political topics, and attempted to go through a number of series based both on my own experience and other sources. I treated Steemit as a place I could lay down just the really important work; I was still on Facebook for my day to day stuff (and the memes). Since I’ve deleted my Facebook account (or so FB tells me), I haven’t had a social media outlet. So I’m going to be including simpler posts from here on. Updates about my personal life, or what’s going on that day, or any number of other social things, rather than focusing exclusively on political articles and legal essays.

Additionally, I’m going to be present on The Writer’s Block much more than I have been. For the same reasons I turned into a ghost on Steemit, I’ve been equally separated from The Writer’s Block, and I need to change that. For everyone who’s there already, expect me around more often. For those of you who haven’t ever been to the Block, it’s a community we run on Discord to help writers improve their craft and discuss the art of writing fiction. The link to join the server is at the bottom of the post.

Don’t worry. Anyone who is a fan of my Adventures in Law School series will still get all the information I’m planning on putting out. Just going to be adding a lot more content there as well.

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Edmonton, Home of the Largest Mall in North America

I was scrolling through my imgur albums, when I came across a picture I took when I flew up to help Chelsea drive down to the US with me. It doesn’t get more Canadian than the above photo, taken at the airport in Edmonton.

When I first started talking to Chelsea, we talked about Edmonton, the city she lived in. One of its claims to fame (and arguably it’s only claim to fame) is the gigantic West Edmonton Mall. It’s three stories tall, and its list of features and attractions is impressively long.

There’s a bar crawl inside the mall. There are several food courts, including a higher end one in the bar crawl for more discerning fare. They have a wave pool and indoor water park built right into the mall. There’s an amusement park with a freaking roller coaster on another end. They have blacklight mini golf, and their own bowling alley. Hell, they even have a pirate ship attraction with a pool deep enough that you can go scuba diving. Crazy, right?

With three stories, the list of stores is equally impressive. If you want a detailed list of the shops available, click here, but suffice it to say you will find what you’re looking for. From jewelry to children’s toys, from fedoras to adult toys, West Edmonton Mall has at least two of each. They even have a military surplus store inside the mall.

And that’s to say nothing of the hotels. There’s more than one hotel. In a mall.

If you haven’t ever been to Edmonton, I suppose the Mall is the only reason you’d get onto a plane to go. I’ll stick with what I have around town, to be honest.

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Credit Cards: Bane of My Existence

I, like most Americans, have quite a bit of credit card debt. Thankfully, it’s less than $15,000, but it’s still enough that it is the bane of my existence.

Image: Pixabay

I opened my first credit card when I turned 18, with Wells Fargo (my bank at the time). It started out as a secured card, with a $500 limit linked to $500 in my checking account. Of course, that lasted maybe a month an a half before they pulled the stops off and bumped up my credit limit to $1000.

Being a dumb teenager, I was beyond excited. I had $1000 of free money to play around with! Needless to say, I blew through that in the blink of an eye. At the tender age of 18, I felt the terrible burden of owing someone money. I managed to pay it back over a couple of months, but, and I’m sorry to say this, I didn’t learn my lesson.

I didn’t learn my lesson at all. Instead, I kept racking up credit card debt and asking for extensions on my card. Over the course of a year, I bumped up my credit limit to $6000. Each time I’m bumped up my credit limit, I spent more of it. It was nothing short of extraordinary how quickly I drove myself into debt I could barely afford. Thankfully I was still living with my parents and not paying rent, but boy did it hurt. I actually maxed out my card to take out a $450 cash advance to buy myself a car I wanted. Not even a car I needed.

Now, nearly 13 years later, I have three credit cards, only one of which is paid off in full. My Wells Fargo card is chugging along near its limit, and my other card is also near its limit. Thankfully I pay nearly double the minimum monthly payment, so that should help, but as anyone who has a card will tell you: it’s not the payment on the principal that gets you, it’s the interest charges.

Moral of the story: have one card that you pay off completely every month, purely to build your credit score. Otherwise, avoid these things like the plague.

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Sickness Takes Us

Chelsea and Traven are both sick. It’s only a matter of time before the sickness creeps into me, too. There is no hope left.

I’m kidding. It’s not as apocalyptic as it sounds, but both my girlfriend and her son are sick with some sort of bug. Poor kid has been totally uninterested in eating, and as a result his stomach contents are just liquid. This isn’t helping him at all, as whatever he’s sick with is causing that to run right through him. We’ve got pull-ups to spare, so we’re at least not running through clothing like it’s going out of style, but it can’t be easy on him. It’s also making giving him medicine a lot more difficult. He threw up yesterday after trying to give him some children’s Imodium to settle his stomach because there wasn’t anything in there to settle. We’ll see how today goes.

Chelsea’s not doing much better, but she is carrying on like a champ. I help, for what it’s worth, but she has been on the ball with Traven this whole time, and she’s been sick, too. She’s had a fever for most of yesterday and the day before, along with chills and muscle aches, but she’s still going as strong as I could hope her to. I had to insist on taking the laundry out of the dryer.

I’m still doing okay, but I can feel it starting. The weakness. The fatigue. Some muscle aches here and there.

So posting may be a little sketchy over the next few days. Hope for us.

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Today, my lovely girlfriend Chelsea turned 30, and we celebrated it together for the first time.

For those of you who don’t know, Chelsea and I met online almost two years ago. Needless to say, birthdays and anniversaries have been difficult because of the distance. Well, now she’s here with me, and we had the chance to celebrate together!

We had a wonderful time together. We went shopping, I bought her an opal necklace (her birth stone), she convinced me to buy a new pair of jeans (because my ass looks fantastic in them, and I’m all about impressing my lady), and then we had dinner at a restaurant downtown called Wasabi. We’re both huge fans of Japanese cuisine, and this place had some delicious yaki soba. They also had these:

These babies are called Tokyo Tea, and man oh man were they good. They were also strong as hell, so we had to spend half an hour walking around after dinner trying to ease off the buzz. Definitely will have to do that again.

I love you so much, honey. Happy birthday!

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Adventures in Law School – Natural Law Jurisprudence, Pt. 1

It’s been a little while since I announced the relaunch of my series on the law and legal studies, and I think the best way to dive into any serious study of the law is to touch on jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence can roughly be understood as the philosophy of law. Rather than focusing on issues of statutory construction and interpreting the text of law, jurisprudence seeks to answer more general, foundational concerns. One of the persistent and overarching questions in jurisprudence is: what is law? This is a question that has as many answers as there have been scholars seeking to answer it, but the question should give you some idea of the focus of jurisprudence. An understanding of jurisprudence and the theories that have arisen within it provides any person studying law a greater clarity on questions of justice, ethics, and how legal frameworks should function.

There’s simply too much information to tackle in a single post on this very broad topic, so I’m going to be providing primers on various topics within jurisprudence. As natural law theory is my favorite jurisprudential theory, I’m going to start with that.

What is Natural Law Theory?

Natural law theory is a legal theory that focuses on universal rules of conduct, derived from some rule set that exists outside of man-made (or positive) law. These theories are generally normative in nature, though they contain descriptive elements. In other words, they’re concerned with what the law ought to be, and they necessarily combine moral evaluations with any evaluations of law. Unlike utilitarianism or legal realism, natural law theory does not discount the moral content of law, nor does it think this is even a good idea. For natural law theorists, law is an expression of a larger ethical framework and does not exist independently from it.

Early Natural Law Theorists

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)
While it would certainly be prudent to start with Aristotle or Socrates, classical natural law theory was condensed neatly by the Roman orator Cicero. He offered what was essentially a restatement and synthesis of Stoic theories of natural law, based heavily on classical Greek philosophers. For the Stoics, there was less interest in a comprehensive system of law than there was for a comprehensive ethical system. As stated above, for natural law theorists, law is just one part of a larger whole.

According to Cicero and the Stoics, there is universal law that binds humanity a priori, or that is true prior to being proven true. The focus of these theorists was on how one could discover this universal law. For this, the focus was on the use of practical reason. Humans had the unique feature of reason and logic, and if one applied these to the natural world around oneself, one could derive rules of conduct that applied to all people. There was also a focus on living the good life; a life of virtue. For the Stoics, this was the pursuit of knowledge and the adherence to reason, alongside other more material concerns like good health and sustainable living. Another aspect of the good life was living for the good of one’s community. For the Stoics and Cicero, an individual pursuing good according to natural law was not seeking it only for himself; he was also seeking the good of his community.

The strong emphasis on nature and deriving rules from nature also came with moral implications. The justice of a law depended heavily on whether it conformed to the natural rules one could discover with reason, and they had to comport with the virtues of the theory employed to discover them. Laws that were not in accordance with this reasoned view of human nature were accordingly unjust.

It is important to note, however, that a law being unjust did not mean that it should not be obeyed. To the contrary, in Plato’s Apology, Socrates rejects the notion that he should escape prison and avoid the sentence of death imposed upon him by the Athenian government. For this line of theory, an unjust law was still a law laid down by an authority, and whatever the injustice in this particular case, it should be followed to avoid eroding trust if this was an otherwise just authority.

Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274)
Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic scholar who synthesized prior natural law theories with Christianity. While the Stoics were deists, their natural law theory arose from a much different place of understanding than any theory based in the Christian faith. This set a wall between their view of practical reason and their set of virtues and those of Christianity.

To do this, Aquinas devised four groups of laws. First, there is the Eternal Law. This is the will of God in Aquinas’ framework, and it is the law that rules the operation of the universe. Second, there is Divine Law. Divine Law consists of the explicit commandments and proscriptions handed down by God to mankind, such as in the Ten Commandments and through the teachings of Christ. Third, there is Natural Law. Natural law in Aquinas’ view is remarkably similar to that of earlier philosophers, and it is here that he drew on them to bring them into the fold of the new Christian paradigm. Through the use of practical reason, a person could observe the natural world and derive rules of conduct inherent in nature. Lastly, there is Human Law. Human law is simply the positive law that mankind creates through its enactment of edicts and promulgates (spreads word of) in formal structures.

“Good should be done and sought and evil is to be avoided” is the best summation of Aquinas’ view on ethics, and one that he derived himself. However, on the topic of law, good refers specifically to just law. Positive law can either be just or unjust, and the metric for evaluating the justice of a law is whether or not the law comports with both the Divine Law and the Natural Law. Any legal framework should seek to be just, and thus should seek to comport with both of these legal components.

It’s important to note, though, that this does not mean that human positive law must only be natural and divine law in order to be just. Where there are no discernable specific rules of conduct, human positive law can take whatever form it wants to, so long as it doesn’t violate either the natural or divine law. For example, a law prohibiting murder is obviously just, as it comports with both the divine prohibition on murder and avoiding the evil of destroying life. A law declaring a certain speed limit on a road, on the other hand, does not comport with any specific divine rule, and the only evil that speed regulations prevent is avoiding the harm that reckless driving causes. Neither natural or divine law say what that speed should necessarily be, so it falls on human beings using practical reason to come to a reasonable speed limit.

Aquinas recognized that unjust laws were not laws in the true sense of the word. To quote Aquinas, “[i]f, however, in some point [human positive law] conflicts with the law of nature it will no longer be law but rather a perversion of law.” Whereas just laws created a moral obligation to obey them, unjust laws imposed no such obligation. This did not, however, mean that one should disobey unjust laws in every case. To the contrary, Aquinas took the same view that the Stoics before him did: unjust laws should still be obeyed if disobedience caused some greater harm to come to pass. Since evil was to be avoided, resistance to unjust laws, however morally justified, should still be avoided if the act of resisting caused some greater calamity.

That’s it for the first part of this article on natural theory jurisprudence. In the next article, I’ll be discussing later natural law theorists, particularly John Locke, before moving onto John Finnis, the man leading the modern natural law movement.

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