Showing posts from December, 2010

Rock Around the Sun

It seems appropriate as we start a new year to look around and see where we are. Okay, where are we?

We are the dominant species on a rock circling a star that is one of 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Billions! Think of that! But it gets better: our galaxy itself is one of 100+ billion other galaxies, making up the enormity that is our known cosmos. Frankly it's impossible to imagine the immensity, too big to comprehend, leading to us shaking our heads and giving up. But stay with me here because its important.

This universe is very old, currently pegged as 13.75 billion years (give or take a billion) since the Big Bang started it all. Even stranger, science is beginning to find evidence that there may be other universes, perhaps as many as there are stars, with new universes popping into existence (their own Big Bangs), lasting mind-boggling amounts of time, and then dying out. As we go about our daily activities on the planet Earth it's both exciting and terrify…

My Missing Grandmother

The three people in the photos (click to enlarge) are my grandparents, all interacting with me in 1944 when I was not yet one year old. The man is John Whaley, and the couple on the ground are Carrie and Roman Kunkel, my mother's parents. The missing grandmother is John's first wife. My 100th post on this blog is about her and her sad story. I'll start by showing you her high school graduation photo:

Mary Frances Ferguson (distantly related to President John Adams through a common ancestor), was born on May 29, 1885, somewhere in southern Indiana (where all of my grandparents were from), probably in Milltown, Indiana, where she's buried. On June 20, 1906, she married John Alvin Whaley.  The above photo is from their wedding day; John is on the far left, and Mary is the third from the right.  John Whaley was not a handsome man (photos of him make it clear that I inherited his large ears, including the prominent way they stick out), but he was described by his br…

Douglas Whaley, Deckhand

 After I left Navy boot camp (see "The Boot Camp Fiasco" (April 21, 2010) and before I was transferred to Bermuda (see "My Year in Bermuda," February 9, 2010), I spent much of a year of my life as a lowly deckhand on the U.S.S. Rockbridge, a troop carrier. The ship's mission was to transport army or marine (typically the latter) troops to a combat site, and then run them ashore in little boats (called "Papa" boats), with a drop-down front ramp—just like ones used at the D-Day landing. I joined the ship at Newport News, Virginia (near Norfolk), in October of 1961. I'd turned 18 while in boot camp, and, quite the innocent, I had no idea what was in store for me.

Assessing my talents, the powers that be immediately made me a deckhand, assigning me to the forecastle (pronounced "folk-sell"), which is the open deck on the front part of the ship; the anchor is stored there when it's not being hauled up or down. Indeed, as one of my duti…

One Year of This Blog

The original Flag Counter for this blog was wildly inaccurate (see my January 12 post: "Flag Counter" for an explanation of the problem), so beginning August 20 I switched to StatCounter which has logged around 700 visitors a month since then, and a large number of foreign visitors (just this morning there were visits from Poland, India, and Mexico!). Extrapolating from that, over 8000 visits have been made to my blog.  As of Sunday, December 19, 2010, StatCounter's new flag count looks like this (click to enlarge):

It's now been one year since I started, and who knew I could have as much fun as I've had writing this blog?
After my heart transplant I was told that following life-altering events one is required by law to begin a blog, and, being a law-abiding citizen, I did as directed. The heart transplant was the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2009, but, in the beginning, the steroids they gave me made my hands shake so hard I couldn't fill out a check, much …

1999-2001: A Dramatic Story

I was a Visiting Professor at Boston College for the school year 1999-2000, and I had a very good time in the great City of Boston. I lived in a rented apartment in the Back Bay with two parakeets. My students at BC were fun to teach, and things went very well until I started developing heart difficulties. I noticed in class that my heart was skipping beats to the point where, more than once, I wondered if I'd pass out in front of the students. But then the badness would pass and I'd continue the Socratic dialogue as usual (see "The Socratic Dialogue in Law School," January 31, 2010).

Off and on I'd had an irregular heartbeat all my life, as had my mother. I'd assumed this was fairly common, but I was wrong. A cardiologist later told me that only about one percent of humans have such a problem. It never seemed to bother me much. When working out with weights, for example, if my heart became too erratic, I'd simply pause for a minute or so until it kicked…

Men, Women, and Pornography

I have a close woman friend who loves pornography and has quite a collection. Jerry, my partner of twelve years, never liked pornography and thought it useless. Since the point of this post is that, in general, women dislike and don't understand pornography while men embrace it, I wanted to start with the obvious: there are exceptions to every rule. When in this post I say "women," I don't mean all women, I mean most women. Similarly, when I say men, I mean the majority. This is also true of other groups I reference below: straight people, gay men, lesbians. A group characteristic doesn't extend to everyone in the group, just the greater number of them.

Having lunch many years ago with a female law professor friend whose judgment I revere, I was startled to hear her say that she thought all pornography should be banned (she was an expert on Constitutional Law, which has always had an uneasy position on the relationship between freedom of speech and porn). When I…

The Carolers: A Comic Christmas Song

If I worked in retail and had to endure the same Xmas songs being played constantly as background music I'm sure at some point I'd just lose it. About the 4,000th time through, say "The Little Drummer Boy," my sanity would snap, and I'd go down on all fours, biting customers on the ankles and snarling like a mad dog until captured and institutionalized. One can only take so many rum pum pum pums.
Through the years I've collected Christmas songs that are not the usual fare. These come from many sources, including Broadway shows, which are a surprisingly prolific source for new holidays music. I'm particularly fond of comic Christmas songs such as "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" (I have several versions, including one sung by The Three Stooges!) or "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (which, when first released in 1952, was condemned as immoral). But only a few of my favorites are funny, and many are quite lovely. Years ago I put the…

"Doug, Take Me With You!"

After I left Bermuda in the summer of 1963 (see "My Year in Bermuda," February 9, 2010), I moved to College Park, Maryland, to finish up my undergraduate work at the U of M. My family was still back in Bermuda (where my sister Mary Beth graduated from high school), and it was difficult to get home for holidays, having to cross half an ocean to do so. I decided that I needed to find a job for the summer of 1964, and after applying around I obtained one as the drama counselor at Jayson Camps near the town of Monterey in western Massachusetts, in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. I was told that in addition to running the drama programs at both Camp Owaisa, the girls' camp, and Camp Monterey, the boys' camp, I would be a camp counselor for one cabin (called a "bunk") of boys for eight weeks.

Hmm, I thought. Live with a lot of kids for an entire summer? I'd had no dealings with children to date, and worried I'd be terrible at making small children ha…

How To Make Ethical Decisions

If you're a lawyer in the State of Ohio you are required to earn a certain number of "continuing legal education" credits every two years in order to retain your license. In the past my law school teaching, lecturing outside the classroom (like that recent trip to Boston about promissory notes and foreclosure), and the publication of one or more of my seven casebooks, have always done the trick, with one exception. The State requires lawyers to take a 2.5 hour course during the period on "Ethics, Professionalism, and Substance Abuse." Today I spent the morning in such a course, and, for a change, it was well done. Two of the presenters kept saying "you know," but let that pass.

Ethical issues are tough, and any lawyer can tell you that when they come along they can keep you up nights worrying about what to do with, say, the client who propositions you, your partner who is drinking too much, the judge who asks for a campaign contribution while hinti…