Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memoriam

Remember our War Dead:

Shane Goldman (Zaidan, 4/5/04)
Chris Ramos (Zaidan, 4/5/04)
Matthew Serio (Zaidan, 4/5/04)
Jesse Thiry (Zaidan, 4/5/04)
Bill Harrell  (Fallujah, 4/8/04)
Josh Palmer  (Fallujah, 4/8/04)
Michael Wafford (Fallujah, 4/8/04)
George Torres (Fallujah, 4/11/04)
Noah Boye (Fallujah, 4/13/04)
Kevin Kolm (Fallujah, 4/13/04)
Michael Carey (Karmah, 5/18/04)
Garry Rimes (Ramadi, 4/1/05)
Jamie Edge (Ramadi, 4/14/05)
Kelly Cannan (Ramadi, 4/20/05)
Mary Mortensen (Ramadi, 4/20/05)
Jeff Starr (Ramadi, 5/30/05)
Cesar Baez (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Jonathan Flores (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Jesse Jaime (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Chad Maynard (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Tyler Trovillion (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Dion Whitley (Ramadi, 6/15/05)
Erik Heldt (Ramadi, 6/16/05)
John Maloney (Ramadi, 6/16/05)
Adam Strain (Ramadi, 8/3/05)
Ramon Gonzales (Ramadi, 8/8/05)
Evenor Herrera (Ramadi, 8/10/05)

I caught a clip on NPR this afternoon, featuring LtCol Andrew Bacevich USA(Ret.) about his take on Memorial Day. Also a professor of international relations and frequent author on America's modern wars, Bacevich's perspective on the role of Memorial Day was changed forever when his son, an Army lieutenant, was killed in Samarra, Iraq in 2007.


Young Fellow My Lad

"Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,
On this glittering morn of May?"
"I'm going to join the Colours, Dad;
They're looking for men, they say."
"But you're only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad;
You aren't obliged to go."
"I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know."

* * * *

"So you're off to France, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you're looking so fit and bright."
"I'm terribly sorry to leave you, Dad,
But I feel that I'm doing right."
"God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad,
You're all of my life, you know."
"Don't worry. I'll soon be back, dear Dad,
And I'm awfully proud to go."

* * * *

"Why don't you write, Young Fellow My Lad?
I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so, and I'm awfully sad,
And it's months since you went away.
And I've had the fire in the parlour lit,
And I'm keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home; and here I sit
Into the quiet night.

* * * *

"What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad?
No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away?
I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid."

* * * *

"They've told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad:
You'll never come back again:
(Oh God! the dreams and the dreams I've had,
and the hopes I've nursed in vain!)
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell
That my boy was one of the best.
"So you'll live, you'll live, Young Fellow My Lad,
In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to our lads like you."

Robert William Service

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beach II

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Veni et Illumina

It was with great pleasure that I stumbled upon the blog Veni et Illumina the other day. Little did I know that my littlest sister had a blog of her own, not to mention that she is a great writer. I am sure she will be a little miffed that I outed her, but it is high time that this blog step forth and be illuminated.

More enlightenment here.

PS: It was also cool to have some of my photography featured on the title page. That's Anna gazing across the blue ridge mountains during our trip on the Black Mountain Crest Trail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Christmas in May.

Forget Christmas in July - Santa rocked it out this May. Sorry to Mom and Dad for taking so long to complete my inchoate Christmas gift, but the Samsung PN50C550G1FXZA you got me is just about perfect.

I came.

I saw.

I conquered.

O tannenbaum, O tannenbaum. ;-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Celebrate Law School Graduation

  1. Nice long run by the lake with my dog (to include "bath" of said dog)
  2. Wrap birthday present for my hot-as-tamale wife
  3. Check in on the new "office"
  4. Try to sell my academic regalia on Craigslist 
  5. Not study for the bar exam
  6. Find 6GB of music from college (hey, that was a lot back then..)
  7. Watch everyone else's facebook status change to FirstName LastName, JD (or Esq. )
  8. Mail some thank you notes
  9. Plan the next big graduation in the family (hello, Nassau St!)
  10. Enjoy having such a great family

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Juris Doctor

The older I get and the more children I have, the less I can remember things, especially dates. So now I sequence my life based on events and today was one such occasion that will forever be a mile marker on my life path. My beautiful husband graduated law school.

Three years of legal pads and law books and late night clackety-clacking on his laptop into the late hours of the night have surprisingly gone by in the blink of an eye. Today, with our families in tow, we proudly watched him walk the stage Magna Cum Laude and become Stephen Shaw, JD. Even Jack seemed to feel the importance of his entrance to Pomp and Circumstance which will always give me goosebumps for the instant recognition of the work needed to get to march to that beautiful song.

I just couldn't be more proud of my husband, not only for his accomplishments (which I could list for pages only to get edited off this blog once he saw them posted) but also for the way he's managed to take care of us, his little nuclear family, while he himself was under the strain of pencils, books, essays, and exams.

Perhaps the very best part of this weekend was watching Stephen's father beam with the pride only a father can know whilst Jackson sat atop his shoulders with the carefree glee only a son riding high on his father's strength can feel. It was a generational portrait of the way men are supposed to be raised. Excellence and respect by example. And our son could not be any luckier than to have these men to be his guide.

I also couldn't help but think, as I watched our young little family mingling in the park reception, that it will be way too soon when I am sitting in a living room not yet laid out, with a photo album in my lap, thinking of how much has happened since today and how we had no idea how much fuller and richer our lives were going to get.

Today is one of my milestone days that I will pivot my memory around and I can't thank you enough for it, Matilda. Congratulations and I love you.

[Editor's note: Amazingly, I have refrained from removing anything from this post; more pictures located at /Matilda]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Jack had a good time playing with bubbles the other day, although he was continually drawn to the glory of his new yard tools as well. Ah, summer..

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Maggie's Drawers

It wasn't a total miss, at least, but my attempt at completing a rifle qual down at Camp Lejeune this past weekend was not as successful as I hoped. I tagged along with 4th MLG's HQSVCBN Comm Co. and hoped to be able to shoot the M16 on the KD range, as well as qualify on the pistol. However, due to some unexplained cluster the company only brought enough rifles for about 90% of the Marines, and I ended up in the unfortunate 10%. I did get to shoot the pistol, and qualified as sharpshooter on my first try without a warm-up round. A bit off the pace of my previous 3 expert qualifications, but I hadn't handled a Beretta in over 4 years and the double action speed round gave me some issues.

The known distance range was fun, despite being a mere spectator. I appreciate the fact that Marines still must qualify annually from 500yds, despite the fact that combat optics have largely replaces iron sights due to operational requirements.

In writing this post, I stumbled across these sketches by Kris Battles, currently serving as a combat artist with the Marines. They remind me of the many sketches that color the pages of John Thomason's classic Fix Bayonets!

You may still be wondering about the title of the post. Imagine briefly that you are laying in the hot dust and grass of the range, peering through the rear aperture sight, thinking about your breathing and trigger control, sight alignment and sight picture, and BANG. The shot is off and the target goes down. As it comes back up for your score a few moments later, a bright red flag waves left to right across the target face as the report "No Impact No Idea" rings in your ears. That flag? Those are the bright red underpants of Maggie, the range mistress. Congratulations, you've just met Maggie's Drawers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Happy Happy

It is so much fun to see people you care greatly about find true happiness, and so it was with great pleasure last month when I learned my littlest sister is engaged. It was even more fun than normal to hang out with the newly betrothed at David and Sarah's wedding, and to see the recent shots from their engagement photo session. Felicitaciones, hermanita!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tax Rate Madness

I blogged earlier about a personal record for our low effective tax rate this year - turns out USAToday is now reporting a similar story for America at large:

Tax bills in 2009 at lowest level since 1950 -
"Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found."
Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

Unfortunately, USAToday left a big chunk of math out of their story by omitting the cumulative effect of payroll and consumption taxes. Also, I think it is clear that our world-beating corporate tax rates combined with techniques such as the AMT undermine this sort of celebratory (but cursory) analysis. What we've got is fundamentally a tax policy problem - a cumulative rate (>60% marginal) that is too high, combined with a tax base that is far too narrow. This is a similar problem with NC's tax structure - a policy one of my professors advocates reforming in a recent law review article.

Other articles have previously pointed out that 47% of US households did not pay any income tax this year. Do you realize what is alarming about that - once we get past 51%, its very unlikely that our democracy will vote to change things back to the way they once were.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Textbook Russian Ingenuity

Russian warship Marshal Shaposhnikov (file picture 2003)You really have to appreciate the Russians' pragmatic approach to problem solving. For years, a patchwork of dated law, jurisdictional conflicts and human rights concerns has plagued modern suppression of piracy (and terrorism). Too often, military forces cannot or do not detain pirates because of the unlikelihood of a successful domestic criminal prosecution, the chance that unscrupulous fellows may seek asylum in the host nation, or the risk that turning them over to their own county will result in human rights violations (read: execution) for which the detaining county is potentially liable. Leave it to the Russian Navy to handily dismiss all of those concerns.

BBC News - Freed Somali pirates 'probably died' - Russian source:

Ten suspected Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy last week may have perished after their release, a defence source in Moscow has told reporters. Marines seized them during a dramatic operation to free a hijacked Russian oil tanker far from shore, killing an 11th suspect in the gun battle. They were released in an inflatable boat without navigational equipment.

Within an hour, contact was lost with the boat's radio beacon, the defence source said.
'It seems that they all died,' the unnamed source was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency."

Apparently the Russian plan can be summed up as something like this:

  1. Day 1: "We have captured some insidious pyrates and will try them in a Moscow court of law"
  2. Day 2: "The law in this area is confusing - we will release the pyrates."
  3. Day 3: "Unfortunately, it appears the released pyrates have died." (after being released in a small craft in the middle of the IO, hundreds of miles from shore, without communication or navigation equipement)
  4. Day 4: "What is the big deal? They are pyrates!"

Good job, Russkies.

Friday, May 7, 2010

School's Out For Summer!

Done, sir, done. No more pencils, no more books. No more teachers' dirty looks..

Alice Cooper has said he was inspired to write the song when answering the question, "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?". Cooper said: "There's two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you're just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you're sitting there and it's like a slow fuse burning. I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'"

School's out for summer / School's out for ever ...

Now I just have the bar exam to worry about. No big deal, yo.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

High on the Hog

We in the Shaw clan have long sought out the best BBQ restaurants across the Carolinas. We benefit from the wide diversity of our two states, from Green River BBQ in Saluda NC, BullHawgs in my hometown of Spartanburg SC, Mama Browns in Mt Pleasant SC, Thigs in Richlands NC, and countless others scattered across this particular swath of America. We also take some time out of our busy lives, now and then, to mourn those establishments that are no longer with us - Smokey Joes, in Spartanburg, and a little joint called Yum Youngs off of Hwy 17 near Georgetown SC (whose house sauces were classified as Hot, Beyond Hot, and Beyond Beyond - I never tried the third version)

With each road trip, new entries are added and old favorites moved around, and we have over time built a repertoire of trusted 'cue joints across the southeast. So I was excited last weekend to discover, just off Highway 43 in Greenville NC, a new Top-Tenner: B's Barbecue and Grill. This place reaffirms the long-hallowed tenet of BBQ enthusiasts everywhere - the shabbier the building, the better the 'cue. Inside there's no A/c, no flat-screen TVs, not even a phone - when we were leaving (the last folks there) at 12:45pm, we noticed the sole method of communication with the outside world, a handwritten sign taped to the door that read "Closed - Sold Out of Food." You can tell B's is open when you see a crowd of people standing around waiting for food, starting around 10a.m. And if you show up after 1p.m., good luck, because they sell out every day. The North Carolina BBQ Society has this entry on their NC Historic BBQ Trail:

“William and Peggy McLawhorn started B’s Barbecue in the late 1970’s. Initially William, Peggy, their youngest daughter Tammy and their middle daughter Judy worked in the business. Donna, the oldest daughter was away at school. Now William has retired, Peggy works part-time and their three daughters run the business.

Dexter Sherrod, who has worked with the family cooking the pigs and chopping the barbecue since the business opened, ably assists the girls. Dallas Moore cooks the chicken. Dexter says he cooks about 40 whole pigs per week.
Every time I have visited B’s Barbecue, the McLawhorn girls have been crankin’ it at a 110 mph serving B’s good food to a hungry luncheon crowd. I generally eat the barbecue plate. The barbecue is lightly seasoned and has a hint of wood smoke from the cooking method (open pit with charcoal). The sauce is on the table in whiskey decanters. You don’t need much. The sauce is a vinegar and peppers Eastern North Carolina sauce and it has good flavor. The chicken was very, very good. It’s not overdone and comes lightly sauced.
When B’s runs out of food each day they close the place. Since B’s does not have a telephone, your only notice of this would be a sign on the door and an absence of cars on the lot.”

I think B's will stay on my list for some time to come, if only for the unadulterated character of original Eastern NC Carolina BBQ that it preserves every day from 10 to 1. While I may not make it down east very often, when I do I'm gonna stop at B's.

The Southern BBQ Trail has an excellent oral history site that interviews Judy Drach (co-owner) and Dexter Sherrod (pitmaster).

Photo of Judy by Todd Cook (some rights reserved)

Quoted excerpts above from
The Best Tar Heel Barbecue Manteo to Murphy pages 292-294 (c)

Update: Thanks to Anna for her recall of Yum Youngs in Georgetown - "Yum Youngs BBQ had the "beyond beyond." I just had a bite and it took my mouth a full hour, a bottle of water, and a pack of m'nm's to recover. no lie." I didn't know M&M's had a cooling effect, but whatever it takes, right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Badass Extract

Sweet shot:

U.S. Special Forces are extracted from a mountain pinnacle in Zabul province,
Afghanistan,by a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company A,
2nd Bn, 82nd Aviation Reg't,82nd Combat Aviation Brigade after executing an
air assault mission to disrupt insurgent communication.

The Miranda Two Step

Finally, some 5th Amendment criminal procedure that I can get behind..

From The Volokh Conspiracy:
The New York Times reports about the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested for trying to explode a bomb in Times Square:

"The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was interrogated without initially being read his Miranda rights under a public safety exception, and provided what the F.B.I. called “valuable intelligence and evidence.
After investigators determined there was no imminent threat to be headed off, Mr. Shahzad was later read his rights to remain silent, but he waived them and continued talking, the F.B.I. said. Authorities charged him as a civilian on Tuesday, but postponed plans to bring him to court."

Based on what we know, it sounds like the FBI made a good judgment call here. Shahzad is a U.S. citizen who has been living in the United States and was caught in the United States for a crime committed in the United States: Surely this is a case for federal court

Right on, Feds - that was quick thinking. There will be no "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" doctrine here.

As they say on TV: "Book 'em, Dan-o."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Classic Coming-of-Age Tale..

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.

Like Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield before him, young Jack is beginning to unleash his attitude and shape the world to his liking.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth

At least, he can shape the world to his liking until Doc says "no." But she can't say that forever, can she? A boy's gotta *live*!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

By the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off...

Jackson has never been one to enjoy riding in the car. Even as a very tiny babe, he hated being strapped into his carseat.

We were hoping with the graduation to forward facing, he'd be less inclined to scream and throw things in protest but, alas, we still struggle with trips of greater than approximately 5 minutes. Fortunately for us, though, Jackson has a weakness. And that weakness is Monkeys.

He has two of them. First, there is Little Monkey. When freshly opened from Great Granny Frannie last July at the beach, none of us had any idea that that screeching lavender ball of fuzz would become the one thing in this world powerful enough to soothe our son no matter how dire the tantrum had become. It has long since lost its ability to howl like any self-respecting purple howler (due to the futile attempts at washing out the stench) and the stuffing is all but gone in his neck leaving him rather floppy about the head. His tail is perpetually wet from being chewed on and the smell....well, let's just say that is about the most authentic monkey-part about him. All it takes is to find Little Monkey napping on the floor behind the couch or under a chair in the kitchen for Jackson to giggle and gleefully run to fetch his beloved friend. He is required for all stressful situations and most definitely for napping and sleeping.

And then there is Big Monkey. He is, as described, the bigger of the two. His main purpose is Jackson's night time bedmate, blanket, and pillow. But, as of late, he has also become a daytime companion, coming out to wrestle and hug and kindly offer himself as a warm soft place to sit on cold tile floors. Jack is also partial to the occasional body-slam of Big Monkey from the top rail of the ring. Unfortunately, Big Monkey cannot be washed as his fur is tenuously attached but he does enjoy the occasional tongue-bath from Dean the Dog when no one is looking.

Both by themselves are powerful animals but, when combined, they appear to have truly magical properties. Today is the perfect example. After a wonderful, albeit somewhat sleepless, weekend in Greenville at Cousin David's wedding, we settled in this morning for a 3 hour car ride home. Jackson napped for only the first 30 minutes and then was wide awake "asking" to be let out of his carseat. When he had eaten his body weight in animal crackers and destroyed every scrap of paper I could find to give him, with still 2 hours left to go, we desperately pulled out our secret weapon(s). The Monkeys.

It worked like a charm.

Who knows how long these beloved animals will have their powers. I'm sure one day, probably not in the too far off future, their hair will be loved off, their eyes will be gone, and they will be loose in the joints and very shabby and suddenly will turn real and run off into the woods to join their own kind. But at least, for now, we have a predictable arsenal of mitigating monkeys in the struggle for peace in the Shaw household.