International House of Dan

Monday, December 07, 2015

2015 List of Christmas Demands

It's that time of year again!  As we await the mysterious return of the Christmas Gargoyle, I hereby issue the 2015 edition of my List of Christmas Demands.  You should know the drill by now, the demanded items are listed in no particular order, and you should get me at least one of them:

1. Argentina Rugby World Cup jersey. I can't get myself one of these because I despise Nike - but I want one.  Also, they are very hard to find online for some reason, but some of you are probably going to be outside the U.S., so just pick one up at any sporting goods store.

2. Interesting beers. I traveled a lot this year, and got to sample lots of interesting beers.  For example, in a recent trip to Louisville, I got to have Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  It was good, it was different.  Get me beers I won't likely find on my own.


3. Books. I don't have time to read for leisure, but I still like receiving and owning books.  I'm still picky about books, however, I do not like all books, and I still tend to shop for obscure little reads that nobody else likes at used book stores that sell them for far less than they are worth. The following selections are made in no particular order (do not worry about duplicating a selection, booksellers are excellent about exchanges and I promise I'll exchange the other person's, not yours!).  The books marked with an asterisk (*) are still on my list since last year:



*a. "Coincidentally" by George Rutler
b. "Mariachi Skull: Observations from the only gringo in a Mexican kitchen" by Gary Every
*c. "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets" by Simon Sing
*d. "Interesting Collection Of Curious Anecdotes, Scarce Pieces, And Genuine Letters: In Which Some Obscure, But Important, Historical Facts Are Cleared Up, And Set In A Just Light (1790)"by John Mansfield
e. "Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody" by Susan Terrio
*f. "El Principito" by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (in Spanish, s'il vous plait)
g. "Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics" 
*h. "The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals" by E. P. Evans
*i. "At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1883-1943" by Erika Lee
j. "How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written", by Sterling Archer?
*k. "Immigrants in the Lands of Promise: Italians in Buenos Aires and New York City, 1870-1914" (Cornell Studies in Comparative History)
*l. "The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel"by William Goldbloom Block
m. "A Game for Hooligans: The History of Rugby Union", by Huw Richards
*n. "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate" by Robert Kaplan
*o. "Con el Deporte No Se Juega - 2" by Caloi


4. Clothes. In the continuing process of becoming more of a grown-up, I am still accepting dressier sweaters, slacks, shoes and shirts.  Of course since the process is gradual, I continue to pretty much just wear Adidas Sambas with everything. Email me for details on sizes, etc. 


5. Minions. Someone needs to get me an Equal Justice Works Fellow for my office.  I've met several of them this year, and they do outstanding work to improve people's lives.  Ok, fine, just sponsor one of them somewhere and we'll consider it a gift to me.



6. Charitable Donations. Speaking of giving money to other people on my behalf... as most of you know, I am personally involved with a handful of Chicago non-profit organizations that can always use help - just to highlight a few:  I am on the board of the Argentina Chicago Foundation, a local organization that raises funds in Chicago to help repair schools in impoverished parts of rural Argentina.  Each year we select a project and raise funds toward its completion.  I am on the junior board of Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit that runs health, education, and character development programming for kids in 22 of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). With participation in soccer programs as an incentive, kids are empowered to live a healthy lifestyle, value education, and enhance their personal and social development.  I'm also on the Spanish Advisory Board for Illinois Legal Aid Online, an organization that uses technology to make the law accessible to unrepresented Illinois residents.  Finally, I used to be on the Attorney Committee of Safe Humane Chicago, an alliance of non-traditional partners that recognize the connections between animal abuse and interpersonal violence and the benefits of the human-animal bond.  SHC runs a number of programs, including the Court Case Dogs, where canine victims of neglect and abuse who have been rescued by police and animal control are paired with volunteers who socialize and train them so they can be adopted by loving homes.  


7. Trips. Please note that any international travel you get me should be a family trip.  I think we'd all enjoy going to a Super Rugby match in 2016, to watch the Argentine team - either at home or away (and away probably means South Africa).  As usual, I would also accept work-related trips, such as to the AILA Mid-Year Winter Conference in the Bahamas next month, or if you want to pay for my flight and hotel to the 2016 AILA Annual Conference in Las Vegas next June, I suppose that's ok too.


8. "Statue of Frogs". Yes, this again.  One of my professors in law school had a small metal figurine on his desk, it was three frogs dancing on a base that read "Statue of Frogs" (a brilliant play on UCC 2-201!!). I have searched far and wide for one of these, for several years, but to no avail. I STILL can't even find a picture of it. I want one.


9. Office Furniture and Supplies. Basically, I need new chairs, and probably some filing cabinets - maybe a couch.  Something like this would be pretty sweet, but I should probably stick to more traditional styles.  Oh, and as far as supplies - I go through plastic tabs a lot.  If you can find the red/blue/green sets, get them.  


10. Thomann Beer. Yes, this again too.  There is a small brewery/restaurant in Wiesen, Germany, (a borough of Bad Staffelstein, in Bavaria) called Brauerei-Gasthaus Thomann. I have no reason to believe that I have any ownership stake in or direct family relation to the owners of this establishment, but I am very interested in sampling their hefeweizen. Failing that, they apparently have coasters. Some of those would work until I get myself to the brewery one day.


11. A Walnut Bowl. Because Paula Aguilar basically dared me to and I'm calling her bluff.


12. Sports Memorabilia. As most of you know, I am a big fan of various sports teams - you name the sport, country, and league, and I probably have a team I really, really like, and a team that I really, really dislike. Adulthood, however, means I'm probably done with jerseys, hats, key-chains, and the like.  The loophole I have found is that tasteful and/or autographed memorabilia that can go into my office is probably ok.  Please continue to be mindful of my team allegiances, however (MLB: Yankees, Cubs, Royals; NFL: Chiefs, Bears; NHL: Flyers; NCAA: Mizzou; world soccer: Argentina; Argentine soccer: River Plate; La Liga: Barcelona; world rugby: Argentina; F-1: McClaren; world polo: Ellerstina; Uruguayan amateur rink hockey: Platense - any other sports or leagues, please confirm with me first).  Oh, and note that some players transcend team membership and even expand my options as they go into new leagues (for example, Matias Almeyda coaching Chivas means I now have a Liga MX team and also a Liga MX hated rival; same with Andres D'Alessandro playing in Brasil Serie A).


Happy shopping!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Christmas Gargoyle

During the holidays last year, I had an epiphany like the one that led Frank Costanza to create Festivus, and I discovered the Christmas Gargoyle.  Like any responsible adult, I am concerned about the many potential dangers of perpetuating the Santa Claus myth.  I decided to learn more about the Christmas Gargoyle to see if it could serve as a more practical 21st Century alternative to Santa Claus.  The good news is: it can!

The Christmas Gargoyle has probably been around for centuries, quietly going about the task of delivering presents to deserving children, while Santa Claus in his various forms took all the credit.  The Christmas Gargoyle presents a far more plausible alternative for children across the globe.  Gargoyles are found in basically every country on earth, regardless of whether Christmas takes place during Summer or Winter.  The same is not true of reindeer.  Children see gargoyles from time to time, but they only see "Santa" for a short time during the year, and only under controlled circumstances.  Even a child knows that it makes more sense for her gifts to have been bought and delivered by one of those stone creatures that they have personally seen than assembled by unseen elves and delivered by some random fat man in red.

Children will never see "the" Christmas Gargoyle.  It's just the way it works.  If there should ever be a guy in a gargoyle suit charging admission at the mall, parents can confidently assure their kids that he is NOT the Christmas Gargoyle, and move along to wherever an actual stone gargoyle lives, so kids can tell IT what they want.  Kids want a picture with the Christmas Gargoyle?  That seems silly, but again, parents should just explain that it's physically impossible for them to ever see the Christmas Gargoyle but that the Christmas Gargoyle enjoys seeing children place Santa hats on regular gargoyles and take pictures with them.  Maybe the Christmas Gargoyle is omniscient, or maybe the regular gargoyles tell it about the pictures - who knows?  It's not important, but it can be part of the mystery.  Either way, the kids get a picture next to something or someone in a Santa hat.

The role of regular gargoyles adds another benefit: a year-round incentive for children to behave.  It's certainly just as plausible for the Christmas Gargoyle to work through the millions of existing gargoyles across the world as it is for Santa Claus to have any connection to the various impostors at malls and shops in only a limited part of the world and during the last few weeks of the year.  Unlike with Santa, though, the gargoyle in a nearby stone monument does not falsely claim to be the actual Christmas Gargoyle.  What is Santa trying to hide by deploying an army of impostors?  The Christmas Gargoyle has nothing to hide: "no, that church gargoyle is not me, but he will pass your message along to me."  Is that base level of transparency too much to ask of Santa?  The closest thing Santa can provide is the "Elf on the Shelf" - a grotesque and commercialized figure that is so creepy that its presence can only be tolerated for a short period before Christmas.  Gargoyles, on the other hand, have an established place in human society.  Their presence is accepted and welcomed around the globe, and has been for centuries.

A word should be said about the donation and message jar: Each home should have a designated jar or receptacle in which children can deposit loose change and notes for the Christmas Gargoyle.  You see, the Christmas Gargoyle has limited resources and logistical capabilities.  Children around the globe contribute to the Christmas Gargoyle, and the Christmas Gargoyle uses their contributions to pay for the gifts children receive.  Let's face it: your child will not receive a hand-carved wooden toy or a hand-sewn doll.  Your child will receive a store-bought gift.  What makes more sense?  Santa's elves managed to build and package that toy, or the Christmas Gargoyle bought it with the money from the jar?  It's a no-brainer.  The Santa myth promotes copy-right infringement and piracy, the Christmas Gargoyle teaches children about saving and sharing with the less fortunate.  The jar can also be used for children to leave notes for the Christmas Gargoyle, such as to request gifts, or to explain misdeeds.  The Christmas Gargoyle believes in due process, and thinks children should have an opportunity to explain their actions before they are deemed undeserving of gifts.  This makes the Christmas Gargoyle a useful tool for parents by teaching children to think about their actions, and encouraging moral accountability.

The fact that children can communicate with the Christmas Gargoyle through regular gargoyles (or by leaving notes in the designated jar) adds to the immense feasibility of the myth of the Christmas Gargoyle.  Parents have access to children's communications with the Christmas Gargoyle, ensuring that (unlike Santa) the Christmas Gargoyle does not over-promise and under-deliver.  Will your child ever be good enough in a year to get that pony she wants?  Let's be realistic: no - she won't.  I mean, she might be that good, but you're not going to get her a pony (and neither will Santa).  The Christmas Gargoyle would not set your child up for such bitter disappointment, because the Christmas Gargoyle shops locally and has to buy toys for all deserving children, and since the Christmas Gargoyle operates through messages and agents, it's important that children make realistic requests.  That's why parents should know what their children are asking of the Christmas Gargoyle, so they can ensure that the requests are compliant.  Consider the following exchange:
Little Timmy: Daddy, I want to tell that gargoyle in the park what I want for Christmas.
Responsible Father: Ok, I'll come with you.
LT: No, I want to tell it in private!
RF: Ok, but then you might not get what you ask for.  The Christmas Gargoyle has strict gift parameters, and if you don't meet them it just can't bring you what you want.  Wouldn't you rather be sure that what you're asking for is appropriate?
At that point, Little Timmy may insist on going solo, and then Responsible Father won't know what Little Timmy wanted.  Well, then guess what - Little Timmy isn't going to be getting what they asked for anyway.  So when Christmas rolls around, disappointed Little Timmy can be told: "well, your gift request must not have been compliant - that's why I wanted to be there when you asked the gargoyle."  Little Timmy should know better the following year.  On the other hand, Little Timmy might allow Responsible Father to tag along, and then Responsible Father can intervene if Little Timmy's request is unrealistic.  "Where is the Christmas Gargoyle supposed to find a robot with feelings?  Why don't you ask it for that train set instead?"  Here, again - Little Timmy might insist on an unrealistic gift, and there will be a reason for his disappointment, or Little Timmy might temper his expectations and be pleasantly surprised to learn that the Christmas Gargoyle has brought him exactly what he asked for (affirming Little Timmy's concept of fairness and trust in Responsible Father).

Finally, the Christmas Gargoyle's limited resources can also work to your advantage.  The Christmas Gargoyle wraps its own gifts, and it's a gargoyle.  So if you lack Martha Stewart's gift presentation skills, then that's ok: "the Christmas Gargoyle has stubby stone fingers, cut it some slack, kid."  Did UPS fail to deliver the gift by Christmas?  (or did you forget to order it on time?)  That's ok - the Christmas Gargoyle strives for timely gift-delivery, but it's not part of the commercial Christmas establishment the way Santa has been for generations.  You can explain that: "the Christmas Gargoyle must have sent the gift by UPS, let's see if it arrives on Monday."  Children will learn patience and gratitude, the wonder of Christmas might be extended for a few days, and your failure to get your shopping done in time will be excused instead of causing the ruin of another holiday.  Santa doesn't leave room for human error.  He's magic, and gets all the deliveries done in a 31 hour span (if you allow for time zones), remember?  So how are you going to explain to your child that Santa brought all the gifts to all the good children in the world on time - except for hers?  Santa might be magical, but you aren't.  The Christmas Gargoyle lives in our world, and works with your limitations.

So if you're not quite tired of lying to your children about the holidays, but would prefer a lie that's more plausible, more hassle-free, and can come in handy year-around, then consider the Christmas Gargoyle.  It is exactly every bit as real as Santa.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Dan's 2013 List of Christmas Demands

It is time for what I believe is the 8th public iteration of my List of Christmas Demands. As usual, you are not all expected to get me all of the things on this list, it only matters that they are all gotten; if one of you wishes to tackle the whole thing, that's ok, and it's ok if each of you takes on a single item. I only ask that each of you finds the gift level you feel is appropriate... and then exceeds it!

I realize that the list has become the only thing I ever end up publishing on this blog anymore, so I've gone through and actually changed a lot of the usual categories.  This year you will find a lot more Adidas stuff, and also more techy-type stuff.  Happy Holidays.

So, without further ado, and in keeping with tradition, I will now help you decide not just whether to get me something, but also what to get me by issuing the following List of Christmas Demands (in no particular order):

1. Adidas "Star Wars" AT-AT t-shirt. I saw someone wearing one of these in Buenos Aires and thought it was pretty cool.  I want one.

2. Items with the 1580 Buenos Aires coat of arms. Usually, this is where money goes, but it takes me forever to find weird currencies that convert to a dollar, and the people who get me money are not readers of the list, so I've decided to free up the slot for items bearing the 1580 coat of arms of the City of Buenos Aires.  I think it looks very cool and should be on t-shirts and such.

3. Books. I still like books, but still not all books. I'm still picky about books, so I still tend to shop for obscure little reads that nobody else likes at used book stores that sell them for far less than they are worth. The following selections are made in no particular order (do not worry about duplicating a selection, booksellers are excellent about exchanges and I promise I'll exchange the other person's, not yours!).  The books marked with an asterisk (*) are still on my list since last year:

*a. "Coincidentally" by George Rutler

*b. "The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy" by James Evans

c. "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets" by Simon Singh

*d. "Interesting Collection Of Curious Anecdotes, Scarce Pieces, And Genuine Letters: In Which Some Obscure, But Important, Historical Facts Are Cleared Up, And Set In A Just Light (1790)" by John Mansfield

*e. "Birth of the Chess Queen: A History" by Marilyn Yalom

f. "El Principito" by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (in Spanish, s'il vous plait)
g. "Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics"


*h. "The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals" by E. P. Evans


i. "At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1883-1943" by Erika Lee
j. "The Story of Beta Theta Pi", by Francis W. Shepardson

k. "Immigrants in the Lands of Promise: Italians in Buenos Aires and New York City, 1870-1914" (Cornell Studies in Comparative History)
*l. "The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel" by William Goldbloom Bloch
*m. "The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England", by Robin Oggins

*n. "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate" by Robert Kaplan
*o. "The Miniature Schnauzer" by Anne Fitzgerald (bonus points if you can find the 1935 edition)
p. "Con el Deporte No Se Juega - 2" by Caloi
4. Clothes. In the continuing process of becoming more of a grown-up, I am still accepting dressier sweaters, slacks, shoes and shirts.  Despite Ellerstina's disappointing performance in the 2013 Argentine polo season, I am still a fan of Etiqueta Negra, so anything similar will probably work. Email me for details on sizes, etc.

5. "The Simpsons" Gear.
DVD's, collectibles, games, apparel... these are always a good bet.

6. Charitable Donations. As most of you know, I am personally involved with a handful of Chicago non-profit organizations that can always use help - just to highlight a few:  I am on the board of the Argentina Chicago Foundation, a local organization that raises funds in Chicago to help repair schools in impoverished parts of rural Argentina.  Each year we select a project and raise funds toward its completion.  I am on the junior board of Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit that runs health, education, and character development programming for kids in 22 of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). With participation in soccer programs as an incentive, kids are empowered to live a healthy lifestyle, value education, and enhance their personal and social development.  I am on the Attorney Committee of Safe Humane Chicago, an alliance of non-traditional partners that recognize the connections between animal abuse and interpersonal violence and the benefits of the human-animal bond.  SHC runs a number of programs, including the Court Case Dogs, where canine victims of neglect and abuse who have been rescued by police and animal control are paired with volunteers who socialize and train them so they can be adopted by loving homes. 

7. Trips. I'm actually doing pretty well as far as travel goes.  Surprisingly, I do not wish to go to Brasil for the World Cup - I'd rather watch all the action from the comfort of home (though I would probably accept a trip to Buenos Aires for the final if it looks like a repeat of 86 is inevitable).  I will, however, accept work-related trips, such as to the AILA Mid-Year Winter Conference in the Cayman Islands next month, or if you want to pay for my flight and hotel to the 2014 AILA Annual Conference in Boston next June, I suppose that's ok too.

8. "Statue of Frogs". Yes, this again.  One of my professors in law school had a small metal figurine on his desk, it was three frogs dancing on a base that read "Statue of Frogs" (a brilliant play on UCC 2-201!!). I have searched far and wide for one of these, for several years, but to no avail. I STILL can't even find a picture of it. I want one.

9. Non-Nike Running Stuff. My dislike of Nike is a matter of public record, but they have unfortunately aligned themselves with the i people so that any device that plays music for running has to use Nike.  Fortunately, Adidas has something called "MiCoach," which includes a watch-like device that appears to do all the fitnessy stuff and also play music.  I'm not sure how the music is loads onto the thing, but it seems to think it can play it.  A more convenient idea may be for me to upgrade my Blackberry to one of those Droidy things and hook it up to the MiCoach app, but then I would have to give up keys on my phone - and we all know that's just silly.  Another option for you to get me non-Nike running stuff is to pay for some of my races in 2014.  There are many to choose from around Chicago, so email me about scheduling if you see one you would like to pay for me to participate in. 

10. Thomann Beer. There is a small brewery/restaurant in Wiesen, Germany, (a borough of Bad Staffelstein, in Bavaria) called Brauerei-Gasthaus Thomann. I have no reason to believe that I have any ownership stake in or direct family relation to the owners of this establishment, but I am very interested in sampling their hefeweizen. Failing that, they apparently have coasters. Some of those would work until I get myself to the brewery one day.

11. A Tablet. I think one of these gizmos might be useful to me for my law-talking career.  They seem light and have keyboards, and appear easier to carry than bulky laptops.  I could take it to court to get work done during down time, and its large screen would let me navigate my calendar more easily than my Blackberry does.

12. Sports Memorabilia. As most of you know, I am a big fan of various sports teams - you name the sport, country, and league, and I probably have a team I really, really like, and a team that I really, really dislike. Adulthood, however, means I'm probably done with jerseys, hats, key-chains, and the like.  The loophole I have found is that tasteful and/or autographed memorabilia that can go into my office is probably ok.  Please continue to be mindful of my team allegiances, however (MLB: Yankees, Cubs, Royals; NFL: Chiefs, Bears; NHL: Flyers; NCAA: Mizzou; world soccer: Argentina; Argentine soccer: River Plate; La Liga: Barcelona; world rugby: Argentina; F-1: McClaren; world polo: Ellerstina; Uruguayan amateur rink hockey: Platense - any other sports or leagues, please confirm with me first).

Happy shopping!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dan's 2012 List of Christmas Demands

I know it seems like I haven't written anything here in 2 years, but what really happened was that my 2009 list was incorrectly labeled "2010", and the 2010 list was labeled "2011" - so I decided it would be best to wait until the list dates would synch up again, which is now.  A lot has happened since - for example: I got married!  Other stuff has happened too: Osama Bin Laden was killed, Mizzou moved to the SEC, U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, Argentina joined the Tri-Nations, the "Arab Spring" happened, I got the President re-elected, Leo Messi beat Gerd Muller's 40-year old goal record, and much, much more... but enough about that - let's get to my presents!

Preliminary Note: While some of the following language and gift categories are the same as the "2011" edition of the List, you should all read it carefully, as many of the items in question have changed (and improved!). Arigato.

In years past, this list was only made available via email to a select crowd. Around 2006 I decided to be more inclusive and share with any and all of you the opportunity to revel in the joy that is giving Dan presents. You are not all expected to get me all of the things on this list, it only matters that they are all gotten; if one of you wishes to tackle the whole thing, that's ok, and it's ok if each of you takes on a single item. I only ask that each of you finds the gift level you feel is appropriate... and then exceeds it! Happy Holidays.

It is that time of year again, when all of you begin scratching your heads for ideas of what to get me for the Holidays. In keeping with tradition, I will help you decide not just whether to get me something, but also what to get me by issuing the following List of Christmas Demands (in no particular order):

1. "Pucara" Model Airplane Kit. I think I had one of these models when I was a child.  There are different brands, of course, and I don't need it to be as nice as this one, but it should definitely have Argentina decals (the FMA IA-58 Pucara is a great little airplane - several countries use it).

2. Money. Money is always an acceptable gift - I only ask that you stick to conventional currencies (USD, Euro, gold ingots, etc.), although other items of monetary value will do as well (platinum ounces, manganese nodules, priceless art, etc.). Just remember the conversion rates for your more exotic currencies... I will not be fooled by 1,100 Iraqi Dinars, 1,500 Burundian Francs, 5,000 Zambian Kwacha, 6,900 Guinean Francs, or 8,000 Laotian Kip - I know these are all just under $1 USD.

3. Books. I like books, but not all books. I'm picky about books, so I tend to shop for obscure little reads that nobody else likes at used book stores that sell them for far less than they are worth. The following selections are made in no particular order (do not worry about duplicating a selection, booksellers are excellent about exchanges and I promise I'll exchange the other person's, not yours!).  The books marked with an asterisk (*) are still on my list since last year:
a. "Coincidentally" by George Rutler

*b. "The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy" by James Evans

*c. "International Law Stories" by John Noyes, Mark Janis, and Laura Dickinson

*d. "Interesting Collection Of Curious Anecdotes, Scarce Pieces, And Genuine Letters: In Which Some Obscure, But Important, Historical Facts Are Cleared Up, And Set In A Just Light (1790)" by John Mansfield

*e. "Birth of the Chess Queen: A History" by Marilyn Yalom

f. "Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China's Peasants" by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao

g. "The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics"

*h. "The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals" by E.P. Evans

*i. "Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning", by Richard H. Allen

j. "The Mizzou Fan's Survival Guide to the SEC", by Higgins, Richardson, and Matter

k. "The Evolution of Polo" by Horace Laffaye
*l. "The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel" by William Goldbloom Bloch
m. "The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England", by Robin Oggins

n. "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate" by Robert Kaplan
o. "The Miniature Schnauzer" by Anne Fitzgerald (bonus points if you can find the 1935 edition)
p. "An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't" by Judy Jones
4. Clothes. In the continuing process of becoming more of a grown-up, I am still accepting dressier sweaters, slacks, shoes and shirts.  I have become a fan of Etiqueta Negra, so anything similar will probably work. Email me for details on sizes, etc.

5. "The Simpsons" Gear.
DVD's, collectibles, games, apparel... these are always a good bet.

6. Charitable Donations. As most of you know, I am personally involved with a handful of Chicago non-profit organizations that can always use help - just to highlight a few:  I am on the board of the Argentina Chicago Foundation, a local organization that raises funds in Chicago to help repair schools in impoverished parts of rural Argentina.  Each year we select a project and raise funds toward its completion.  I am on the junior board of Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit that runs health, education, and character development programming for kids in 22 of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). With participation in soccer programs as an incentive, kids are empowered to live a healthy lifestyle, value education, and enhance their personal and social development.  I am also on the board of American Friends of WOTR, which supports Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), a not-for-profit, NGO currently operating in five Indian states that aims to reduce poverty by helping individuals and communities to regenerate the eco-spaces or watersheds they live in.  Additionally (or instead) please consider making a donation to the Macomb Public Library's Campaign for the Future.  My wife is a librarian with ties to Macomb, IL.  The 108-year old library is in need of repairs and expansion to serve a growing community, and is raising funds in order to qualify for state grants that will make the expansion possible.

7. Trips. I can have a pretty nice time just about anywhere.  Lodging should be included, though a meal stipend is not necessary, oh - and the trip must be for two (now that I'm married). If you insist on my leaving the country for a while, there has been talk of finally making a return visit to Buenos Aires this year - and of course, I'd be happy to attend the 8th International Penguin Conference in Bristol - it's near my birthday, too!

8. "Statue of Frogs". Yes, this again.  One of my professors in law school had a small metal figurine on his desk, it was three frogs dancing on a base that read "Statue of Frogs" (a brilliant play on UCC 2-201!!). I have searched far and wide for one of these, for several years, but to no avail. I STILL can't even find a picture of it. I want one.

9. Evening Wear, etc. Ever since the wedding I've been asking myself why I don't own a tuxedo - and then I remember: I can't justify the expense of one because I never go to any black tie events.  You can address both of these issues.  I prefer a classic tuxedo, single-breasted jacket, with a shawl collar.  Hugo Boss makes a nice one, so do Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren.  If you're shopping online, Macy's and Nordstrom have surprisingly good selections.  Then there is the matter of events to wear my tux to.  Chicago has a number of black tie events each year, but a good starting point would be the PAWS Fur Ball, Adler Planetarium Celestial Ball, Botanic Garden Harvest Ball, and (of course) the Lyric Opera's Opening Night and Opera Ball.  Please keep in mind that that tickets to these things can be very expensive, so I'll need two of them (I'm married now, remember?). 

10. Thomann Beer. There is a small brewery/restaurant in Wiesen, Germany, (a borough of Bad Staffelstein, in Bavaria) called Brauerei-Gasthaus Thomann. I have no reason to believe that I have any ownership stake in or direct family relation to the owners of this establishment, but I am very interested in sampling their hefeweizen. Failing that, they apparently have coasters. Some of those would work until I get myself to the brewery one day.

11. Polo Lessons. Yes, with horses and everything.  These start in April at Barrington Hills Polo Club, but it's not clear yet that my knee will be sufficiently well for me to ride a horse by then (I had ACL surgery a few weeks ago) - so if you would like to buy this for me, please let me know and then check in with me in a few months to see whether I am physically able to use your generous gift.

12. Sports Memorabilia. As most of you know, I am a big fan of various sports teams - you name the sport, country, and league, and I probably have a team I really, really like, and a team that I really, really dislike. Adulthood, however, means I'm probably done with jerseys, hats, key-chains, and the like.  The loophole I have found is that tasteful and/or autographed memorabilia that can go into my office is probably ok.  Please continue to be mindful of my team allegiances, however (MLB: Yankees, Cubs, Royals; NFL: Chiefs, Bears; NHL: Flyers; NCAA: Mizzou; world soccer: Argentina; Argentine soccer: River Plate; La Liga: Barcelona; world rugby: Argentina; F-1: McClaren; world polo: Ellerstina; Uruguayan amateur rink hockey: Platense - any other sports or leagues, please confirm with me first).

Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dan's 2011 List of Christmas Demands

Preliminary Note: While some of the following language and gift categories are the same as the 2010 edition of the List, you should all read it carefully, as many of the items in question have changed (and improved!). Mahalo.

In years past, this list was only made available via email to a select crowd. Around 2006 I decided to be more inclusive and share with any and all of you the opportunity to revel in the joy that is giving Dan presents. You are not all expected to get me all of the things on this list, it only matters that they are all gotten; if one of you wishes to tackle the whole thing, that's ok, and it's ok if each of you takes on a single item. I only ask that each of you finds the gift level you feel is appropriate... and then exceeds it! Happy Holidays.

It is that time of year again, when all of you begin scratching your heads for ideas of what to get me for the Holidays. In keeping with tradition, I will help you decide not just if, but what to get me by issuing the following List of Christmas Demands:

1. A very wealthy client who will pay me very handsomely to attend occasional meetings around the world. Let me be very clear: I've been incredibly lucky since starting my own practice in the people who have hired me to represent them - my clients and I select one another - but I am only human, and like all humans, I dream of a steady source of substantial income in exchange for limited but interesting work. Basically, I need one of you to become the next Richard Branson and hire me as your big-picture legal guy. Failing that, I suppose that if the current Richard Branson wanted to take care of this particular item, that would be ok as well. This position should allow me enough time to focus on my volunteer and non-profit work without having to worry about things like rent, bills, student loans, or other living and social expenses.

2. Money. In lieu of the aforementioned work arrangement, the underlying purpose of it will suffice as well. I ask that you stick to conventional currencies (USD, Euro, gold ingots, etc.) but other items of monetary value will do as well (platinum ounces, manganese nodules, stocks and bonds, etc.). Just remember the conversion rates for your more exotic currencies... I will not be fooled by 1,800 Colombian Pesos, 2,100 Venezuelan Bolivares, 8,900 Indonesian Rupiahs, 10,000 Iranian Rials 19,000 Vietnamese Dong or 32,000 Romanian Lei (old Lei, not New Lei). I know these are all just under $1 USD.

3. Books. I like books, but not all books. I'm picky about books, so I tend to shop for obscure little reads that nobody else likes at used book stores that sell them for far less than they are worth. The following selections are made in no particular order (do not worry about duplicating a selection, booksellers are excellent about exchanges and I promise I'll exchange the other person's, not yours!):

a. "International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals" by Philip Alston, Ryan Goodman, and Henry J. Steiner

b. "The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy" by James Evans

c. "International Law Stories" by John Noyes, Mark Janis, and Laura Dickinson

d. "Interesting Collection Of Curious Anecdotes, Scarce Pieces, And Genuine Letters: In Which Some Obscure, But Important, Historical Facts Are Cleared Up, And Set In A Just Light (1790)" by John Mansfield

e. "Birth of the Chess Queen: A History" by Marilyn Yalom

f. "At Home: A Short History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson

g. "All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge"

h. "The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals" by E.P. Evans

i. "Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning", by Richard H. Allen

j. "The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, Second Edition: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind"

k. "The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International Law of Peace" by Brierly (any non-fiction book entitled "The Law of Nations" is a safe bet, the older the better!)

l. "The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel" by William Goldbloom Bloch

m. "Man on trial: History-Making Trials From Socrates to Oppenheimer" by Gerald Dickler

4. Clothes. In the continuing process of becoming more of a grown-up, I am continuing to accept dressier sweaters, slacks, shoes and shirts. I was recently informed by a reliable source that a number of my sweaters are "Cosby-esque", so sweaters should be given priority. Email me for details on sizes, etc.

5. "The Simpsons" Gear.
DVD's, collectibles, games, apparel... these are always a good bet.

6. Schnauzer Paraphernalia. As most of you know, there is now a black miniature schnauzer living with me. Consequently, I am a fan big fan of schnauzers. This is an "advanced" gift item though - as one would have to know me relatively well to select an appropriate schnauzer gift. A clever bumper sticker may work, but a creepy nutcracker ornament is simply unacceptable.

7. Trips. I can have a pretty nice time just about anywhere. However, since I work alone, it's probably best to stick with weekend getaways and open-ended dates. I expect lodging to be included, though a meal stipend is not necessary. If you insist on my leaving the country for a while, I would suggest Argentina, particularly my mother and sister's birthplace of San Juan - home of some of the world's best wine and roller hockey, and host of the 2011 Roller Hockey World "A" Cup. Another option is Wiesen, Germany (see #10, below), and though I generally oppose New Zealand and most things Oceania, I suppose I would be willing to check it out in the fall...

8. "Statue of Frogs". One of my professors in law school had a small metal figurine on his desk, it was three frogs dancing on a base that read "Statue of Frogs" (a brilliant play on UCC 2-201!!). I have searched far and wide for one of these, for several years, but to no avail. I STILL can't even find a picture of it. I want one.

9. Furniture. It seems by now that I will not be moving offices any time in the near future. I have most of the necessary furniture in place, but not all of it is mine. Specifically, my desk and a big, glass coffee table were in the office when I moved in. I could stand to replace these, and I could also use a small couch to put along the back wall. If you would like to buy me furniture for my office, email me for measurements and styles. Oh, and a coat rack. I also need a coat rack for my office. The standing kind.

10. Thomann Beer. There is a small brewery/restaurant in Wiesen, Germany, (a borough of Bad Staffelstein, in Bavaria) called Brauerei-Gasthaus Thomann. I have no reason to believe that I have any ownership stake in or direct family relation to the owners of this establishment, but I am very interested in sampling their hefeweizen. Failing that, they apparently have coasters. Some of those would work until I get myself to the brewery one day.

11. Penguin Encounter. I expect that this will be as great as it looks, so please feel free to purchase multiple packages.

12. Sports Paraphernalia. As most of you know, I am a big fan of various sports teams. You name the sport, country, and league, and I probably have a team I really, really like, and a team that I really, really dislike. The links at the margin of this blog should help in this regard (River Plate, Yankees, Mizzou, etc.), but a clarification needs to be made: the new Kansas City Wizards owners changed the name and logo of the team a few weeks ago (or as they put it, "rebranded" the team). I am not happy about this, and while I may continue to support the team, I have no interest at this time in acquiring anything with that new logo on it. Wizards gear is ok though, and may be available at a discount now that the team name changed!

Happy shopping!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

"the definition of insanity..."

... is NOT "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result", or any variation of that.

Also, Einstein did not first use the phrase, Ben Franklin did not first use the phrase, Mark Twain did not first use the phrase, and an unknown author of Chinese proverbs did not first use the phrase. Rita Mae Brown (Martina Navratilova's ex) did use it in her 1983 book "Sudden Death", and Alcoholics Anonymous seems to have used it since the early 20th century. There are other verified early uses of the phrase, and some unverified attributions - including to Einstein - but the author of this annoying phrase remains unknown (intentionally, I suspect...).

So, what IS the definition of insanity? Merriam-Webster contains the following entry:

\in-ˈsa-nə-tē\
1 : a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
2 : such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
3 a : extreme folly or unreasonableness b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable

Nothing there remotely close to "doing the same thing over and over again" - but Merriam-Webster also contains the following entry:

\ˌpər-sə-ˈvir-ən(t)s\
: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness

"Perseverance", you may recall, is the virtue behind "practice makes perfect", and what kept Abraham Lincoln running for office over and over again despite losing over and over again (or something like that). Perseverance is the idea that by working at something we can expect better results, or that things worth attempting are worth attempting more than once. Perseverance is not "insane", we praise perseverance - but perseverance can go too far, and become something else: perseveration.

Again, Merriam-Webster:

\pər-ˌse-və-ˈrā-shən\
: continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point

There is an informative piece in a Psychology Today blog from last year about this "insanity" quote. It stresses the difference between "perseverance" and "perseveration" and points out that the quote can have a destructive effect when people "use it in the service of avoidance, which is a defense mechanism." Of course that's not to say that perseverance can't be dangerous as well: at what point did Steve Urkel's infatuation with Laura Winslow cross the line between "perseverance" and "stalking"?

The point is that the use of quotes such as the one about "the definition of insanity" has the destructive effect of reducing dialogue and thinking to thoughtless slogans - something that happens too much in our society as it is. When people use that quote they eliminate the opportunity to discuss options and to properly assess situations. When you work on your jump shot, you are not necessarily just shooting a ball at a hoop 100 times and irrationally hoping it goes in after missing the first 89 attempts, you are making subtle adjustments to your timing, release, follow-through, etc. When you run for office a fifth time after losing the first four times you are not necessarily just irrationally throwing your name in the ring again, you may be counting on changing issues, context, and voters to pitch a platform that may have finally grown on people. When you run for office a fifth time after winning the last four and you still haven't been able to fix a problem it doesn't mean the voters are insane - the reality is that political climate, outside events, and other politicians may have prevented you from instituting your agenda.

The quote also has a destructive effect on language - I mean, doing something over and over again and expecting different results is literally not "the definition of insanity" - but I think it has the most destructive effect on our nation, because politicians use it instead of ideas and we let them get away with it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dan's 2010 List of Christmas Demands

Preliminary Note: While most of the following language and gift categories are the same as the 2006 edition of the List, you should all read it carefully, as many of the items in question have changed. Mahalo.

In the past, this list has been made available via email to a select crowd. I have decided to be more inclusive and share with any and all of you the opportunity to revel in the joy that is giving Dan presents. You are not all expected to get me all of the things on this list, it only matters that they are all gotten; if one of you wishes to tackle the whole thing, that's ok, and it's ok if each of you takes on a single item. I only ask that each of you finds the gift level you feel is appropriate... and then exceeds it! Happy Holidays.

It is that time of year again, when all of you begin scratching your heads for ideas of what to get me for the Holidays. In keeping with tradition, I will help you decide not just if, but what to get me by issuing the following List of Christmas Demands:

1. A very wealthy client who will pay me very handsomely to attend occasional meetings around the world. Let me be very clear: I've been incredibly lucky since starting my own practice in the people who have hired me to represent them - my clients and I select one another - but I am only human, and like all humans, I dream of a steady source of substantial income in exchange for limited but interesting work. Basically, I need one of you to become the next Richard Branson and hire me as your big-picture legal guy. Failing that, I suppose that if the current Richard Branson wanted to take care of this particular item, that would be ok as well. This position should allow me enough time to focus on my volunteer and non-profit work without having to worry about things like rent, bills, student loans, or other living and social expenses.

2. Money. In lieu of the aforementioned work arrangement, the underlying purpose of it will suffice as well. I ask that you stick to conventional currencies (USD, Euro, gold ingots, etc.) but other items of monetary value will do as well (barrels of crude, manganese nodules, stocks and bonds, etc.). Just remember the conversion rates for your more exotic currencies... I will not be fooled by 1,500 Lebanese Pounds, 2,100 Venezuelan Bolivares, 4,700 Zambian Kwacha, 9,400 Indonesian Rupiahs, or 28,700 Romanian Lei (old Lei, not New Lei). I know these are all just under $1 USD.

3. Books. I like books, but not all books. I'm picky about books, so I tend to shop for obscure little reads that nobody else likes at used book stores that sell them for far less than they are worth. The following selections are made in no particular order (do not worry about duplicating a selection, booksellers are excellent about exchanges and I promise I'll exchange the other person's, not yours!):

a. "After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory" by John Casey

b. "The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy" by James Evans

c. "Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires" by Walter Scheidel

d. "International Justice In Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials & the Struggle for State Cooperation" by Victor Peskin

e. "Birth of the Chess Queen: A History" by Marilyn Yalom

f. "Original of Laura (Dying is Fun): a Novel In Fragments" by Vladimir Nabokov

g. "Waiting for Godot: A Bilingual Edition" by Samuel Beckett

h. "The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals" by E.P. Evans

i. "The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike" by Peter Baldwin

j. "Ancient Literacies: The Culture of Reading in Greece and Rome" by William A Johnson

k. "The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International Law of Peace" by Brierly (any non-fiction book entitled "The Law of Nations" is a safe bet, the older the better!)

m. "Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism In Sub-Saharan Africa" by Kamari Clarke

n. "Man on trial: History-Making Trials From Socrates to Oppenheimer" by Gerald Dickler

4. Clothes. In the process of becoming more of a grown-up, I am now accepting suits, dress shirts, dress shoes, dress socks, ties and dress belts. I am also now accepting dressier sweaters, slacks, shoes and shirts (I am probably old enough to start reversing my wardrobe's current casual-to-dressy ratio). Email me for details on sizes, etc.

5. "The Simpsons" Gear. DVD's, collectibles, games, apparel... these are always a good bet.

6. Trips. I can have a pretty nice time just about anywhere. However, since I work alone, it's probably best to stick with weekend getaways and open-ended dates. I expect lodging to be included, though a meal stipend is not necessary. For those of you who simply must get me international escapades though, there IS an upcoming gathering in South Africa that I would not mind checking out. I'm also open to New York City visits involving Yankees' games.

7. "Statue of Frogs". One of my professors in law school had a small metal figurine on his desk, it was three frogs dancing on a base that read "Statue of Frogs" (a brilliant play on UCC 2-201!!). I have searched far and wide for one of these, for several years, but to no avail. I can't even find a picture of it. I want one.

8. Penguin print polar fleece footed pajamas. Seriously. Like in Zoolander. There are also non-polar-fleece summer ones, but I don't need those by Christmas.

9. Furniture. My place is pretty well set up by now, but there are some transitional items that need to be replaced eventually (ie. plastic shelf thingies are in the place they need to go, but should be replaced by similarly shaped and colored wood shelf thingies, etc.). Email me before your next Ikea trip and I will provide you with specific items to buy me.

10. Food and Drink. These always make for good gifts. My only rules are: no vegetables (vegetables are not food, vegetables are what food eats) and no Brazilian steak places (long story - it has to do with not wanting to destroy the world, and also, it's like being in Europe and going to a Canadian restaurant for Mexican food).

11. Fencing Equipment. I have been meaning to get a tool and testing kit (with the point repair kit and wire). Also, I go through a lot of blades in a year. Epee blades, senior (#5). If you want to get me a new weapon or two, I use "German" wiring, tips and sockets, and pistol grips. I could probably also use a new glove (right-handed).

Happy shopping!

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