Is this it?

After months of speculation and media frenzy, it seems that actor-turned US Senator-turned actor Fred Thompson will finally, officially enter the presidential fray.

But didn't we go through all this in July, too? Wasn't he supposed to announce on July 4th?

Sure, but this time is different, right? I hope so - if for no other reason but to end the annoying speculation and fawning by conservative columnists and talk show hosts.

Don't get me wrong, I like Fred Thompson. He's a good actor and I thought he was a reasonably good Senator, nothing spectacular, but solid. The problem is that I don't understand the savior-like reception he has gotten from conservatives.

The standard line from his supporters is that he is a solid, unwavering conservative. Okay, so why did he vote for McCain-Feingold? What is his position on the War on Terror and the War in Iraq? Not just platitudes that we can get from any candidate, what is his strategy, his plan? What about health care? Energy? Taxes and spending?

I don't want to know that Fred Thompson is a conservative because other people say he is, I want to know it from what he says and does. I don't want to hear generic responses or platforms either, I think it's time we start expecting some genuine vision and ideas from our candidates. All of them, not just Thompson.

I'm not necessarily excited about Fred Thompson's entrance in the race, I'm not bothered by it either. I'm going to wait and see if he lives up to the hype or not. It's a long way to go yet in this race and a lot can change.

Judge Edith Brown Clement

Judge Edith Brown Clement, frequent subject of U.S. Supreme Court nominee speculation, stops by Tulane University School of Law.

I give the lowdown.



Introducing USA Law Review

From the mind of the venerable Mac VerStandig comes this new blog dedicated to analyzing and commenting on the legal issues of the day.

I've signed on as a contributor from here at Tulane University School of Law, joining prospective student contributors from a number of law schools around the country. I plan to keep my contributions to the site infrequent and anchored to legal matters, especially given the rigors of my first semester courseload, although it appears we may collectively take on a wide variety of related topics.

While the site doesn't officially launch until later this fall, I thought I would give you a sneak preview, as I made my first post today. Enjoy.


Bush in the Big Easy

The President is in town tonight.

Two things come to mind.

First, the famous image of the Commander in Chief flying over in Air Force One, the damning sense of distance and aloofness inescapable.

Second, the scene in the Katrina-survival documentary "Tim's Island" when the filmmakers, on the roof of their flooded building, actually spot what they take to be Marine One and its escort flying overhead.

What Bush hopes to do here on the eve of the second anniversary beats me - his legacy has clearly gone the way of the notorious Lower 9th Ward. Any words, actions, promises, or funds presented will be weak levees against a surge that has already hit.


What a helicopter-full:

President Bush touched down in New Orleans at 7:11 p.m. this evening, arriving in the presidential Marine One helicopter accompanied by the first lady, advisor Karl Rove, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Gov. Kathleen Blanco...

After jumping into dark blue SUVs, the group joined the motorcade, reportedly heading for their next scheduled stop, at Dookie Chase restaurant.

John Stewart will probably report that once there, they argued over who got war, famine, pestilence, and death.


Spin Cycle, New Orleans

Two years. As of Wednesday.

With Obama's visit to town yesterday (we were eating brunch at Surrey's Juice Bar, a half mile from the church), the question becomes this:

Wherein the greater spin - the winds of Hurricane Katrina herself or here in the swirling political gamesmanship on the second anniversary?

Thoughts: Many people, Obama as their program-promising messianic embodiment, seem to pin all Katrina evils on the President.

While failures by the federal government and the Bush administration should be thrown into the gumbo, they are just part of the tortuous recovery saga.

The slow pace of New Orleans' recovery - and the national perception of a sinister molasses pace - following Katrina results from multiple other factors, too:

1. Poor pre-existing infrastructure (i.e., housing stock and roads). The state of some neighborhoods here is terrible. But what was their state before Katrina? In some parts of the city, there was clearly little feeling of pride, ownership, or investment earlier - or at least little imperative to maintain the physical aspects of a neighborhood.

2. Ineffective local and state government. Like Bush, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin did not provide effective, competent, consistent, visible leadership in the immediate and long-term aftermath.

3. Geographic susceptibility to disaster. Gee, if you live below sea level, there's a chance you will be flooded out during a major hurricane's storm surge. Continued threat of such a disaster, which can never truly be fully eliminated, makes the city excessively risky to some, so some people simply won't return.

4. Attitude. The Big Easy mindset is one that runs notoriously on it's own sense of time. A piece of literature from Tulane told me that the streetcar on St. Charles Avenue was supposed to be up and running again by late 2006. I picked up the brochure in 2007 only to find the line unfinished on Memorial Day weekend. While it is further along now, it is still not finished and estimates tossed around now point to January 2008. The overall attitude accepted here with regards to service expectations has to be considered.

5. Fear stifling investment. Who wants to invest in a place that's ridden with crime? From the dark hours in the Superdome onward, the media has overemphasized the crime here in New Orleans. Crime is up, according to this ominous report, but what about comparing some actual crime statistics pre-Katrina and then post-Katrina?

"Because the population is down, per capita crime and murders have gone up. But the total crime numbers have not increased. People should be able to come down here and not be affected by it. But I constantly tell people to bring their common sense with them." - Joe Narcisse, director of public information, New Orleans Police Department

A Yahoo headline yesterday suggested that the city is "dying." New Orleans dying? Ha! That's laughable - and not due to the attempt at grim irony. Here's what some people in NOLA are saying about NOLA. It's not in tip-top shape, but its doing alright.

Talking to people here in my age bracket - new arrivals from all over the world - we all sense a certain excitement and historicity in being here now. There is a draw for modern-era carpetbaggers looking for opportunity. There's one for "broombaggers," too (what I call people looking to come down to help clean up or do other altruistic works). It's hard for adventurers to resist as well.

I was drawn to New Orleans for a combination of all three. Politicians and political action groups can spin the woes of this city all they want - chances are, they aren't conveying the complexity of the situation. Hell, I know I'm not able to convey it fully.

Some aspects of recovery are simple, however. As mentioned earlier, my Icelandic roommate and I, not exactly flush with cash, scavenged debris piles on the streets. We've since built our own table out of a door and a cabinet. An old school mailbox stands as a bookshelf. An industrial cable spindle makes a nice corner table. Piles of discarded instrument cases serve as end tables. Chairs, desks, couches, lamps have come back to life - trash made treasure.

Even these soggy, mildewed, muddied ashes will have their phoenix.

"One determined Cheesehead"

That's how CBS golf comentator David Faherty descirbed Edgerton, WI native Steve Stricker as he birdied the last three holes of The Barclays tournament to win for the first time in 6 years.

I'm a bit of a golf nut and Stricker, in large part because of his Wisconsin roots, is my favorite PGA Tour player. I've met him twice and played in the same conference as he did in high school - albeit 15 years later - so I was very excited when Stricker won what is the first-ever tournament of the PGA Tour's much anticipated Playoffs.

Stricker is a class act and it's always nice to see a local guy make it big. Congratulations!


Trip Clips - The Streets of Kathmandu, Nepal

Hold your nose and make way for...everything...

Not quite Reading Lolita in Teheran, but...

After three weeks of teaching summer school English in a dusty town on the Caspian, my friend and I needed a good ending. We'd sat through days with no power. We'd sat through days when temps soared to well over 100 degrees, and the wind off the polluted ocean only lent a blast-furnace quality to the dust. Days when even the goats, usually happy to gallivant over the trash piles and drink from the pipe that continually leaks water into the parched ground, could not muster enough energy to move from the shade, unless it was to paw at the dirt to get to a cooler patch.

Through it all, the kids had been great: eager to learn, happy to be there, almost falling out of their desks yelling "muellim, muellim!" ("teacher, teacher!") when they knew the answer. Through the hottest of days, they laughed and played along as we sang songs about the weather, had races to pictures of the Post Office and Hospital, and role-played being a tourist and visiting NYC or Chicago. When a break came after the first 45 minutes, we had to push them out of the classroom; when the end of the day came after the second period, each one shook our hands and wished us a good day: "See you tomorrow!"

We needed a good end.

Do you like American music?

We went with a music lesson. But not just any music lesson: a lesson in the history of American music.

It was an odd thing to put together: how does one sum up,in 10 songs, what American music is? How do you represent rock'n'roll with one song? What do you do when you realize your iPod has virtually no Classic Rock!? These were existential crises, but they were weathered.

The final list:
--Me and the Devil Blues, Robert Johnson [Blues Music]
--Lakes of Ponchartain, The Be Good Tanyas [Americana]
--Move, Miles Davis [Jazz]
--Cocaine Blues, Johnny Cash [Country]
--Misirlou Twist, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones [Surf Rock]
--American Girl, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers [Classic Rock]
--All the Young Punks, The Clash [Punk]
--Hey Jealousy, The Jin Blossoms [Pop]
--Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana [Rock]
--Mistadobalina, Del tha Funkee Homosapien [Rap]

The kids tapped their feet and smiled along with the blues, Americana, and Jazz. By the time Cocaine Blues rolled around, they flagged a little. Some heads went down on desks, and as Johnny sang of shooting "that bad bitch down," some were clearly thinking "what are these fogies playing? When do we get to the rock?" But by the end of the day, when we asked, "What kind of music do you like," one brave lad stood up. He was one of the most straightlaced of the kids - always in a button-down shirt and dark trousers, always struggled a bit, but was earnest to learn.

"I like surf rock."


"You need to have windows, you need to have a door, you need to have some level of paint on your home."

Thank you, Ray Nagin.

As the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina nears, the continued presence of blighted properties and FEMA trailers here in New Orleans is rightly on the agenda:

Nagin said he plans to propose a new law that would require the owners of vacant and unoccupied buildings to begin restoring their properties or face the consequences. Nagin said he will push for the basic requirement that has been in place for the past two years -- to secure flood- or wind- damaged property, clear debris and keep lawns mowed -- to be replaced by an overhauled city building and housing code that demands considerably higher standards.

It looks like Ray is ready to sweeten up the chocolate by any means necessary, however, even a little dose of "imminent health threat" nuisance abatement:

Residents can check the roster of 1,630 addresses slated for demolition at the city's Web site, www.cityofno.com.

Logue said 237 buildings have been torn down by corps contractors under the health-threat law, which the City Council approved in February.

It's a conundrum: how to ratchet up clean-up efforts in the Lower 9th Ward and other tough parts of town without infringing unduly on property owners' rights.

As of August 15, the owners now have greater standards for adequate notice of impending razing and a bulked up appeals process. That's reassuring from a legal perspective, but from a practical perspective, I'm concerned about a property owner who hasn't dealt with an "imminent health threat" of a building after two years has elapsed.

From my conversations with long-time residents, Katrina's devastation seems to have provided an overdue clarion call/excuse to refurbish and restore the city's housing stock, which was in dismal condition even prior to the storm in many areas. Katrina also provided insurance money to facilitate the transformation.

Roaming for furniture - perhaps unadvisedly - in the Broadmoor and Central City areas northeast of Tulane, my roommate and I came upon streets checkered with both crisp, colorful palm-fringed homes with manicured lawns and dilapidated half-shotguns sporting boarded windows, choking kudzu vines, spray-painted rescue messages, and trash-filled yards. Some are still vacant. Piles of garbage line the curb in places as renovation, slowly but surely, continues.


Into the Fire

So that's what Socratic method is like.

Today marked my first true tangle with it in law school. Despite my thorough preparation and genuine understanding of the portion of the case in question, I left class feeling more humiliated than I've ever felt in an academic setting. And a sizable portion of my classmates likely went away thinking me a dullard right out of the gate.

In trying to remain calm in the face of the onslaught, my mind simply froze and went into defensive mode. Oh well. Consider me vaccinated.

Note to self: be ready for absolutely anything if you're foolhardy enough to volunteer the answer to a question.

I forgot?

How the heck do you "forget" that you voted? Apparently that was what a Wauwatosa man expected a jury to believe. Michael Zore was convicted of voting twice in the 2006 general election on Wednesday - after only one hour of deliberation.

Here's his "defense:"
Clark's [Zore's lawyer] "stress defense" claimed Zore was so tense - from his sister's death a week before, from the garnishment of his wages to pay back taxes, from his divorce a year before, and from the cancellation of a master's degree class on election day - that when he found himself, after an errand, in West Allis across the street from City Hall, he forgot he'd already voted.
There's just one problem, he used a false address when he voted in West Allis, does that mean he forgot where he lives too?

I don't think the jury spent the whole hour actually debating the merits of this case.


US News' Rankings evil?

Well, that is apparently what John Wiley thinks. Even though UW-Madison is ranked 38th in the nation - 8th among public universities - our beloved Chancellor would rather US News and World Report would just mind its own business.


Being ranked so highly you would think is a good thing. I'm proud of the fact that we are in the top ten public universities. Could we be higher? Probably, but there is always room for improvement. Also, our engineering and business programs are among the best in the nation, ranked 13th and 12th respectively.

Shouldn't that be cause for celebration, not derision?

I think so. For a more interesting - and pointed - take, check this out from the Beloit Daily News.


A Clean, Well-lighted Place

How is life in New Orleans, you ask?

It's great. It's messy. Steam-cooked. Ramshackle. Loud-hued. Slow-riding. Eccentric. Diverse without trying. Crawling with insects. Tinged with danger to the point of a strangely real hipness. Tree vs. sidewalk - tree will win. The great law school antidote.

We may have air conditioning as of this evening, which would be grand after several scorching days without. We've acquired a few articles of furniture - some mattresses and a coffered door for a table marked the major coup of yesterday's sweep through the streets. My trusty Grand Am did the work of trucks without complaint. And the house now has one bike in the stable to keep the lone car company.

Go four blocks in one direction from here and you're strolling under live oaks beside grand old mansions St. Charles Avenue. Go four blocks in another direction from here and you're in derelict stretches of slum with potholes that could swallow a Hummer.

For now, I'm reading and briefing away under a clicking fan in the sparse, sunny expanse of our enclosed balcony, banks of louvered windows facing the magnolia trees across the street, the first day of class behind me.

The laptop rests on a tv tray. I'm hunkered down on my old orange Kiel Bottling Works crate. The books are stacked, staring me in the face. Sweat runs rampant like the tiny lizards that dart along the walls outside.

There's a little smile on my face, though. Thoreau's quote comes to mind...

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."


Awaiting the Olympic Torch

As the NYT illustrates, Beijing, China is going gangbusters in its efforts to prepare for the 2008 Olympics:

It is a surge that mirrors the frenetic pace, superlative aspirations and architectural zeal of a city looking to shed its reputation for being as gray as a Mao suit.

“A lot of first-time visitors to Beijing are surprised by how developed things already are,” said Damien Little [...]. The city is expected to add more than 4,000 upper-tier hotel rooms this year, Mr. Little said, with 7,000 or so more in 2008.

My visit to Beijing last month certainly included a dose of that suprise. There's a lot of new cropping up here and there in the structural sense.

The "enormous glass-and-titanium bubble" of the National Grand Theater floats directly behind the stodgy Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.

The old hutong alley neighborhoods - where the dining establishments still look a bit like this in the traditional areas -

are razed and others are converted into hip new cosmopolitan neighborhoods like this:

Yet, as Dubai must escape its oppressive heat and desert geography to develop and rise on the international scene, Beijing's headlong rush has one huge obstacle - its air quality. More than anything else, the ridiculously poor air quality of the city will keep me away for the foreseeable future.

So, no matter how many new luxury hotel rooms are built, how many sleek new structures creep onto the horizon, Beijing still has hurdles to overcome in cleaning house for visitors. So far, banning over a million cars with some good old drastic communist action seems to be the only solution. That and controlling the weather.

If you build it, they might come - if they can breathe.

What's Eating Michael Vick

Why, pesky pro-se litigation, of course.


Imbibing Internationally

Sitting down to dinner with one of my new roommates here on Magazine Street (a great long arc in a State Street vein), discussion turned to alcohol.

I mentioned that I asked a lady at a grocery store last evening what time they sold beer until...only to get a befuddled look and the response, "Honey, we sell beer ANYtime." Stepping off the Madison-skewed island of 9 p.m. limits, it made sense. Of course liquor should be available for purchase at any time of day, if the demand exists.

My Icelandic roommate, however, noted that at least Wisconsin has private liquor stores. In his country, as in Canada, the state has a monopoly on alcohol sales. While the system actually provides for great selection at state-run stores (anyone who wants to sell there must be given equal access), the prices do not benefit from competition.

In the meantime, Louisiana seems to have the best system of the three locations. I'm looking forward to a cheap drink at The Bulldog here on Magazine with the one-and-only Austin King when he arrives here in a few days.


Southern Man

Later today, I hope to begin moving into my new home here in New Orleans.

After a full week of living out of my overstuffed car - which looks like the Joads themselves had commandeered it - I'm more than ready to unpack and settle in somewhere. A hearty thanks to Logan, Olin, Jeff, Charlie, Mel, Joe, Jake, and Brian who have graciously surrendered their couches in Baton Rouge and New Orleans over the past seven nights. It has been one fun and memorable little nomadic jaunt.

My new place stands on South Liberty Street - a name which I take as a good omen in itself. It's a nicely updated second story 3-bedroom flat in a decent neighborhood that's not too far from the law school.

A charming 81 year-old lady lives downstairs. She introduced herself to two of us the other night as we reviewed the property one last time, stepping out gingerly from watering her porch plants, white silk nightie hanging loosely about her diminutive frame, chatting up a storm. What an accent - German immigrant mixed with Creole drawl. Her late husband was a Holocaust survivor. A Tulane graduate, she likes to help upstairs tenants with term papers.

She has, in the words of the landlord, "seen all kinds go through upstairs and never complained once." A lovely neighbor, no doubt, for a Wisconsin law student, a Connecticut grad student in public health, and an Icelandic basketball player here to wrap up his MBA.

Orientation concluded today at the law school after three full days. I like the school, especially the people. It's great to be here in the buzz of competitive, intelligent, interesting people from all over the country and world (most students are not from Louisiana and most Tulane Law graduates, statistically, do not practice in-state after graduation). The laidback New Orleans aura, however, trickles in here and there, taking some of the edge off of a stressful scene.

While some students choose to follow the civil law path here at Tulane (the French-Roman based law of Louisiana), most of us are pursuing the common law track similar to that found in any U.S. law school. So, no, I won't be limited to practicing here or somewhere abroad.

During a presentation by the Louisiana State Bar today, however, we were treated to the sight of a few classic Southern lawyers in full seersucker suits. In our discussions about professionalism, one lawyer mentioned a Louisiana domestic attorney who advertised himself as "A pistol in a knife fight," which I found quite humorous. There's a little more color to things.

Speaking of more colorful...I've learned of a few interesting Badger transplants here who might make things interesting. More on that at a later date.



Should a new home precipitate a new blog?

(Pun intended, given my new home)


Meeting the Dean

The one at Tulane Law orientation yesterday was congenial.

Let's hope this one isn't too bad either [crosses fingers...murmurs 'Texas,Texas,Texas...']


Trip Clips - Driving in Dubai

A drive down the skyscraper canyon of Sheikh Zayed Boulevard in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The worldest tallest building, the Burj Dubai, emerges in the distance on the left through the window of my rented car.


House Hunting, Post Katrina

Um, yeah.

Researching the neighborhoods around two of my better prospective apartments here in New Orleans, I decided to pull up the crime statistic displays for a 1-mile radius around both sites for the past year (ht/Blogging New Orleans).

The results were just a trifle disconcerting...but I guess it's all about how you look at things...

Georges Seurat's forgotten pointillist masterpiece?

Bowl of M&Ms?

MORE: TIME's crisp interactive feature about housing, flooding, population in NOLA. The two sites above may be surrounded by crime, but at least they didn't get flooded.

China Rises

To the level of presidential debate, at last.

Since September 11, 2001 - which obscured the spy plane omen like the constant smog/haze in Beijing - China has been on the backburner of America's foreign policy stove.

Surprisingly, Barack Obama occasionally seems to be the most cognizant figure in the field when it comes to recognizing the big picture in Sino-American relations:

''the center of gravity in this world is shifting to Asia,'' [...]

''China is rising and it's not going away,'' said the senator from Illinois. ''They're neither our enemy nor our friend. They're competitors.''

Not suprisingly, however, Obama spreads on the rhetoric pretty thick later in the article:

'We've got to have a president in the White House who's negotiating to make sure that we're looking after American workers. That means enforcing our trade agreements. It means that if they're manipulating their currency, that we take them to the mat on this issue.''

Sure. But doing so will have rammifications - like higher prices for basic goods for those workers here in the states.

Our chief concern should be China's alarming increase in military spending:

Since 2000 China's official military budget has leaped from $15bn to $45bn.

Some US estimates say these figures exclude a range of defence-related outlays such as arms purchases from abroad and put the true figure for China's annual military spending at up to $122bn.

"Hottest on the Rebound"

From the Times-Picayune:

When you think of hot, you might think of a rock star, an oh-so-trendy nightspot or, perhaps, the incredibly glamorous person you could never persuade to go on a date with you. But a college? No way.

Think again. For Tulane University, the 173-year-old dowager of New Orleans' higher-education scene, has just been named one of the 25 hottest colleges in the nation.

She's a sprightly old dame, Tulane...catches the cable car now and then (it should be running soon), heads down to the French Quarter late at night. Or hopscotches from hip shop to quirky cafe on Magazine Street.

Spending last night here in the Uptown neighborhood with a hospitable fellow Cheesehead and some Tulane medical students, it's hard not to feel the vibe that's brought everyone here. It's a real city. It's somehow laidback and gritty. Unsightly and pretty. Change trickles down the storied streets.

Tulane's response to Hurricane Katrina, which inflicted upwards of $600 million in damage on the school, "played a role in Tulane's being selected," Jason Palmer of Kaplan said. "America loves a comeback story, and Tulane is a pretty inspiring comeback story."
Among the features that, he said, appealed to the survey's compilers were a freshman class of 1,400 that is 56 percent bigger than last year's, Tulane's involvement in New Orleans' public schools and the new graduation requirement of public service.

"There's this grassroots movement at Tulane that's moving toward New Orleans' recovery," Palmer said.

True dat. While law school will keep me well occupied, I'm looking forward to getting involved when I'm able.

UPDATE: I should have looked at the entire list...I guess I'm just riding a strange convection current between concentrations of hottness:

Hottest Big State School
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Laura Sullivan was raised on Badger mania. But she was initially afraid that she would get lost in Madison amid 41,000 students, 140 undergraduate majors and nearly 700 student organizations. So when her high-school German class visited, Sullivan says she was shocked to find that she immediately felt at home. The tree-filled campus of nearly 1,000 acres looked to her exactly like a college should. It occurred to her that its enormity actually meant "endless opportunities," she says. It is the old traditions graduates remember most, including Picnic Point, declared by one newspaper to be "the kissing-est spot in North America."


A fascinating peek

behind the Wiki curtain...

ZBT House, Tulane University

Clearly, one or more of the following brothers from Wisconsin visited recently and had a little too much of a good time:

Maurice V
Mikey R
Matt W
David L
Gregg N
Danny B

I have no doubt the culprit or culprits will be revealed in good time.

Rove Resigns

The Architect departs the White House in August.

In the interview, Rove predicted Bush will regain his popularity, which has sunk to record lows because of the war in Iraq.

Rove also predicted conditions in Iraq would improve and that the Democrats would nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, calling her "a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate."

Well, Karl Rove also prognosticated about the 2006 midterms...

In the long run, I wonder if Rove will be seen as designing not only the Bush victories of 2000 and 2004, but also an unsustainable, at-any-cost version of Republicanism that has left a sour taste in the mouths of many.


In a Pelican State

Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light:
Louisiana Saturday night.

Perhaps it was the abondoned cars littering the highway. Maybe it was the growing prevalence of trailer homes. The increase in blues/folk/rap radio stations - and their quality - might have been a sign. Or maybe it was the first Waffle House that reared its greasy yellow sign overhead.

Regardless, I could feel The South slip over me distinctly yesterday as I wove in and out with the Mississippi, racing on along the 1,128 mile interstate journey to Louisiana, breaking only for fuel. One stop fell in Canton, Mississippi, the town 20 miles north of Jackson where I worked on houses in spring of 2003. A rainy side trip from the Canton experience first introduced me to the city of New Orleans.

Illinois is an annoyingly long state. Arkansas is flatter and more open than I recall. Mississippi's interstates seem to run almost exclusively through heavily-forested bona fide boondocks. On arrival, the six pack of New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat went down well in the wee hours.

It's a lovely shade of hot here in Spanishtown, Baton Rouge. The house is cool, wi-fi ready, and rife with good books. Charlie the dog has at last settled down. The Teach for America crew is friendly and welcoming.

Most importantly, the housing search goes well.



I'm off to Louisiana - and I barely fit in the car.

I hope to crash at the Baton Rouge abode of a kind Kielite friend for the evening, if I make it that far.

Farewell, Madison. It's been one long, strange trip.


"Death on Facebook"

Travis Kavulla, a fellow Boys Nation Senator from '01, takes a look at "a different kind of funeral" over at National Review Online.


Introducing Free Trade Stuff

You've heard of the Fair Trade movement. But what about Free Trade?

Welcome to Free Trade Stuff.

Free Trade Stuff is a new business venture with a few friends of mine that launches today. Googling the term "free trade" a few months back, we were suprised to find no alternative branding to the popular Fair Trade tagline - which not everyone ascribes to...

So, if you're a friend of the market, check out our website to peruse our wares. Order online if you like. We have a few of our own unique items in stock at the moment, although we're busy looking at expansion. We try to keep things witty and fun. If you would like to get involved or if you have any questions, get in touch with us at contact@freetradestuff.com.

Here's a sampler of some of our initial screenprinted t-shirt designs:

"You've been slapped by The Invisible Hand."

"Tariffs are for wussies."


History Repeats Itself

On Saturday, I'll be packing my car with everything I can and driving down to New Orleans.

Despite two months of effort and a handful of fellow online house-hunters along the way, I still have yet to pin down a place to live. I hope I don't run into any of the numerous people who flaked out on me and simply stopped communicating during the search - especially the people on the ground in Louisiana best suited to find housing. I might have a few things to say.

Interestingly, this is not the first time in family history for a destinationless trip to Louisiana. My grandmother reminded me of the moment in the mid 1950s when my grandfather was drafted for the U.S. Army. Recently married, knowing not a soul in the South - and without a place to live - they drove south from Wisconsin for excercises with my infant uncle.

Southern hospitality came through, though. They found a family willing to take them in on their first night in the state "just for one night until they found a place." The arrangement worked out so well, however, that the host family all but adopted them and my grandparents lived in the house for the duration of the months-long maneuvers, where my grandfather repaired and drove tanks through the countryside against those invading Soviet substitutes, the "Aggressors."

Packing is underway in earnest here at the delightfully hot, sticky Lucky 13 on the fringe of the powerplant ghetto in Madison. We'll see if I find a similarly copacetic place to rest my head in Louisiania. Regardless, I'm ready to roll with the punches.


"And away we go: another Louisiana hayride."

It's reassuring to read this article under the link headline "Why New Orleans Still Isn't Safe" at TIME.com:

Since Katrina, the Corps has focused on repairing and improving its New Orleans defenses: rebuilding or strengthening 220 miles of the city's 350 miles of levees (about 350 km of New Orleans' 560-km levee system), installing gigantic pumps and gates along the lake and releasing block-by-block maps to publicize lingering flood risks.

Some engineers believe the new levees are still too short and weak—"They're a frigging disgrace," U.C. Berkeley's Bea says—and the new pumps repeatedly malfunctioned during testing. But the Corps is about to unveil its plan for 100-year protection, with a rumored price tag of $15 billion, and the agency says that by 2011 the city will be safe from "severe storms," though not from storms as severe as Katrina.

So, a year after I conclude law school, New Orleans will be ready to handle weaker hurricanes than Katrina. Gives a person great peace of mind.

The entire scenario has the makings of a movie - runaway Army Corps of Engineers, environmental activists desperate to rebuild coastline, battered city that's lost 1/3 of its population in peril of another storm.

Amidst it all, a law student who barely knows one fellow Wisconsinite - and an Icelandic basketball player MBA student he met through Craigslist - arrives in the Big Easy with no place to live.

But I picked my poison. Should be an interesting hayride at the very least.


Peoples of the World

If you've been following along on the trip, you've seen Dan and Ben from England and Joonas and Markos, the Finns I met in Nepal.

Now that I'm back - and finally have the time and capacity - here are a few other photos to flesh out the writings from my journey...

Silence on the Tokyo Metro.

An ancient Chinese man gets up periodically from his wheelchair to practice water calligraphy in Beijing's Temple of Heaven.

People in Tiananmen Square thought my Brewers hat, with its "M" and grain logo stood for Mao. I became somewhat of a tourist attraction, but turned the hat around.

This little urchin in Kathmandu's Durbar Square kept wondering what I was up to amongst the pagodas...especially the one pictured where all the young couples were hanging out under carven images from the Kama Sutra.

The children of the mahouts and the elephants at the Elephant Breeding Center in southern Nepal. For more photos of the elephant safari, check out Canadian Sean Yo's fun report.

Men in Kathmandu playing carrom, a popular male pastime in much of central Nepal. I found I have much room for improvement.

Indian workers, the men who built the Burj Dubai (background), currently the world's tallest building. This group was heading to work near the top. The money is good, but only for large groups, they said. My bartender at a rooftop shisha bar told me later that 2,000 out of 3,000 people in his south Indian village now work in Dubai.

A Hindu holy man at Pashuhpatinah, a temple complex for open-air cremations along the holy river Bagmati in Nepal. I had to pay to take the picture. Hmmm...

Hanging out with some Iranian dhow crewman in the wee hours of the morning along Dubai Creek (they inspected the photo to make sure they showed up). They were loading their vessel in the relatively less scorching heat to prepare for a voyage across the Persian Gulf to Iran the next day.

Roberto, the knowledgeable 11-year old resident of Dubai, who told me all about the new Transformers movie during his lesson and welcomed me to Ski Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Catching up with Paul and Eric G of the most generous Family G in London at the base of the Nelson Monument, Trafalgar Square. Soho was subsequently rocked.

The international crew atop The Great Wall of China. Two Australians. Three Germans. One American. Great things were bound to happen. And did.

Woman carrying water from a well near Kopan Monastery, Nepal.

Ganbei! Shots of "Schlangenschnapps" with Yanik and Martin in Beijing to round out the night. Tasted a bit like cough medicine.



Sorry for not posting sooner.

After a brief, but refreshing meal with my aunt and cousins in San Francisco, the plane did indeed touch down at O'Hare, somewhere around 30 hours into the longest August 1st I've ever experienced. I slept for 16 hours straight yesterday.

Without a watch, a cellphone, a laptop, bottled frappuccino, or even English language newspapers in some places for three weeks, it's crazy to step back in to the world of time and fast-paced news.

Crossing the Pacific on a plane peppered with U.S. Marines from Okinawa, I chatted extensively with Taku, a native of Tokyo heading to study at UC-Davis. It was his first time out of country, first time flying. For me, a trans-oceanic flight seemed old hat by then. It was rather exciting to say "Welcome to America!" to someone who was genuinely excited to arrive.

Generally, I found that most people in the course of my travels understand the distinction between President Bush and the concept of America and Americans. They like America. Our language, music, movies, television, fashion, and news dominate internationally beyond what I could've expected. Except for the Iranian dhow crewmen in Dubai who like stricter embargoes for more business, they don't like Bush, however, and they think he's crazy. I recall one Nepali mimicking a mushroom cloud with his hands and mouth during one conversation.

I met many interesting people on my solo trip - as Joshua Slocum said in Sailing Alone Around the World - my second book of the excursion - "I have found this the way of the world. Let one be without a friend, and see what will happen!"

Well, Mr. Slocum, I've found some will scam you, some will stare, some will take you out to the pub, some will detain you, some will translate, some will laugh, some will try to steal you camera out of your hands, some will trade spots in the immigration line so you don't miss your flight home, some will invite you to play along, some will converse, and some will go out for Peking Duck, chasing it all with friendly shots!

After hitting 109 pages in my off-line journal notebook, it's good to be back home. I'm ready to roll. Clean water, decent food, access to technology, and familiar faces. There are many pictures and videos to post, bills to pay, clothes to wash and discard, e-mails to send...and...

There is a house in New Orleans...to find.