Amy Coney Barrett was my rather amazing law school classmate.

At one time we both had the same grade in Constitution Law, for just a few moments.

At the University of Notre Dame Law School, each class year is divided into two sections to take the mandatory Introduction to Constitutional Law course.  My section was taught by Professor John Garvey, now the President of Catholic University, and the other section was taught by Professor William Kelley, former White House Deputy Counsel. In each class, one student is given the American Jurisprudence (“Amjur“) award for the top student. I won the award for my section and Amy Coney Barrett won the award for the other section.

Needless to say, she’s done a bit more in the field of Constitutional law since then…

Notre Dame Law School

So yes, to the people who have asked me, Amy Coney Barrett was my classmate at Notre Dame. I must admit though, we didn’t know each other that well and did not hang in the same social groups, though given the small and collegial size of Notre Dame Law, everyone ‘knew’ everyone in some regards. Our first year, due to the way they structure classes, I think we only had one class together, but as both of us continued our studies, and focused more on Constitutional law, we did share some additional classes in the First Amendment and Natural Law (taught by Oxford professor John Finnis). 

So what were my impressions of Amy Coney Barrett?

Judge Amy Coney Barrett

First, to be blunt–flat out the smartest, most academic student I have ever encountered during my career or ever heard of in any academic setting. She was simply a level above everyone else in her class, and her questions and discussions with professors revealed a deep understanding of the subject matter beyond whatever the rest of the students had ‘crammed’ into their heads a few hours before class. She wasn’t one who talked for the sake of talking, as was the case with many in law school. She was at a professorial level while still just a student. I recall one day with Professor Finnis in Natural Law where she was going back and forth with him on one point and I said to myself “maybe she should be teaching this class and I definitely shouldn’t even be here as I have no clue what they are talking about.”

Her depth of understanding was not just in the field of Constitutional law, as was made obvious with the aforementioned Amjur award. While I managed to win one, and only one, during my three years of law school and a ‘strong’ student might win a handful or so, Amy Coney Barrett basically won them all. Honestly, she must have over a dozen or two “top student” awards in a setting where you only had 30-odd classes. Her depth of knowledge and organization applied to all the classes she took.

The second observation I would make is that Amy Coney Barrett was just an all-around nice person. She was nice to me in our few interactions outside the class, chatting or a friendly hello, and she was nice to other classmates that she encountered. She wasn’t political that I could tell—there were no rampant partisanship arguments in class that often occur in controversial subject matter and I don’t think I heard of her participating in things like College Republicans or College Democrats. She was just the type of person who was pleasant to all, even those she didn’t know that well (like me). I recall after winning the Conlaw award I ran into her in the hallway. She offered congratulations and I thanked her, then asking her in sort of a sheepish way “so what are we supposed to do now that we won the award?” She suggested sending a thank you note to the professor and letting them know you appreciated their class and the award as it was the “polite thing to do”. 

At our graduation, Justice Anthony Scalia spoke to the graduates and I think this might have been one of the first times the two of them met (she later went on to clerk for Scalia, where she made quite an impression on the justices and other clerks). Since graduation we haven’t been in touch much, save for the random Facebook likes on each other’s photos now and then (although she deactivated Facebook though a few years ago). I stopped by the law school on our cross country drive a few years ago and said hello to a few former professors, but she was out of the office that day so we didn’t get a chance to catch up.

From what I’ve read, both the observations I formed in law school remain true today. She has been widely published as a professor and is a favorite amongst students who named her the top professor on three different occasions. Her personal behavior remains noteworthy, with this anecdote shared by a fellow professor (though politically opposite) who supports her nomination.

“A few years ago, a blind student matriculated as a first-year law student at Notre Dame. Upon arrival, she encountered delays in getting the technological support she needed to carry out her studies. After only a few days in Barrett’s class, the student asked her for advice. Barrett’s response was “This is no longer your problem. It is my problem.” Barrett followed up with the university administration herself, got the student what she needed, and then mentored her for three years. That student just completed her service as the first blind female Supreme Court clerk in U.S. history.” (read more from this Clerk, Laura Wold, who published her own moving reflections of Amy Coney Barrett)

That sounds like her.

Professor Garvey kind of summed up Amy Coney Barrett in a one-sentence recommendation letter he wrote to Anthony Scalia.

“Amy Coney is the best student I ever had.”

So in the end I would have to say she is eminently qualified and personable. It’s kind of neat to personally say at one time (a very very short, brief, fleeting moment) I had the same grade as a Supreme Court Justice in Constitutional Law, but it’s also sort of reassuring to know that she is the one being nominated after her decades of hard work and innate understanding of the law and Constitution.

Best of luck with the battles ahead.

How a coronavirus snuck into the bathroom.

During the SARS crisis in Hong Kong, a housing estate called Amoy Gardens suffered a disproportionately higher number of fatalities than other facilities in the city. Scientists were baffled as to how the disease was spreading, as people on different floors and eventually different units were all coming down with the SARS virus without ever being in direct contact with one another. As they sought out a variety of solutions, eventually they discovered the problem lay on the floor of the bathrooms.

Many bathrooms in Hong Kong (and even the USA) have a floor drain: a small drain embedded in the floor to allow runoff water to drain off quickly. In the old days, a person could dump and entire bucket of water of the floor and swish it down the drain, quickly soaking and washing the floor in one fell swoop. Over time though people used mops to clean and started not to soak the floors with water.

Why did this matter? Because the floor drain in the bathrooms is a standard P-trap drain that relies on a standing amount of water in the drain to prevent smells and critters coming back into the bathroom. Without a regular soaking of the floor drain, the traps dried out and the pipes were directly exposed to the building sewers (i.e. the toilet runoff). When people would close the door and turn on the fan in the bathroom, it created a negative pressure that sucked up the virus from the sewage pipes of infected neighbors (who were incontinent) and into the bathrooms of healthy residents, thus spreading SARS through the Amoy Gardens housing project.

I must confess when I first read this in an after-action review of the SARS crisis, I immediately went around filling every drain with a bucket of water. Even today the Hong Kong government’s official coronavirus prevention guide calls on flooding these drains regularly.

If you want to read more check out these sites and remember to keep your drains flooded.

The bicycle that goes 100 mph.

I hung out in a bicycle shop in Charleston and one day a guy came in with three rusting old bicycles and screamed: “make me one bike out of these three that can go 100 mph!” “Why would you need a bike that can go 100 mph?” we asked curiously, looking down at this pile of rusted metal. “Because I’m going to be towed behind a drag racer at a show next week!” The guy was slightly unhinged, but eventually, we sussed out of him that he was indeed going to be in some auto thrill show and intended to be towed behind a drag racer at crazy speeds. At least that’s what he believed (like I said, he was a bit off). He did give us $100 cash that he said he got from the promoter. “Ok,” we said, “would you like a helmet with that?” This made him pause for a few seconds before he looked up at us incredulously and said “what’s the point of a helmet if you crash at 100 mph? You’re going to be dead anyway” We worked on a bicycle for him but thankfully he never came back to pick it up. Never sure what happened to him…]]>

My family Christmas Cookie recipe

img_7702Tomorrow I have 11 kids coming over for a baking party. It will be nuts. Here is the family Christmas Cookie (Anise Cookie) recipe we’ll be using. —————– 2 sticks of butter 2 cups of sugar 3 eggs 1.5 tsp Cream of Tartar 1.5 tsp of Baking Soda (dissolved in .5 tbl of milk) 1 tsp of Salt 1 tsp of Vanilla 1 Tsp of Anise 3.5 cups of flour (plus maybe .5 cups during the rolling process) 1) Use softened butter in sticks. Let it sit out awhile or nuke it 20 seconds (do not melt). Mix the butter and sugar together quite well in a bowl. 2) Add and mix milk/soda, egg, Anise, and vanilla. 3) Add salt, cream of tartar, flour. Mix the dough so it is mixed and ‘rollable’. On a floured mat, roll the dough, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Get the dough to about 1/4 inch Cut the cookies with cookie cutters or with a knife to make the shapes you want. Reroll unused dough until you have no more (p.s. I eat the dough but it is very sweet). Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet (nonstick ok) at 400 degree for 6-8 minutes–basically until the bottoms start to turn slight brown. Do not overbake. You can underbake a bit (say 5 minutes in a very hot oven) but make sure you let cookies set a minute or two before trying to remove them from the pan (or they may break up). Use store bought frosting (I used Duncan Hines–worked fine) to cover them and then colored sugars to decorate. Store in a ziploc bag to keep the freshness as they do harden quickly.]]>

Has Periscope just shown Twitter a way forward?

Periscope’s new functionality could spread to Twitter and reinvigorate the struggling social media giant.    img_7626 Let’s face some facts. Twitter, and thereby by extension Periscope, have a rough road ahead.  A series of high-level departures at Twitter and the more recent general overall layoff of employees makes people question what will happen to Silicon Valley’s “diamond in the rough” tech company. The attempted shopping of Twitter failed for various reasons, reportedly due to the cost and the nature of product (Disney et. al. doesn’t want anything to do with trolls and hate speech, etc). Vine, one of Twitter’s high-profile acquisitions was also shuttered this weekend, leaving millions of social media posts and users in a state of limbo. But just this week, Periscope took a step toward what could a brand new and exciting path for Twitter. Something that could rewrite the ways in which Twitter content is displayed and shared, and lead to a massive improvement in the product and strong growth with new users….should the parent company consider following this lead. One of the problems with Twitter (and social media in general) is the signal / noise ratio. Following your Twitter stream for insight into Politics or Technology or virtually anything else results in a number of messages (and considerable time) sifting through extraneous and unrelated content. It is possible to create lists of followers that tweet about specific content, such as a list of Football twitter users or technology tweeters, but even then you still have to sort through other content that is not relevant. A hashtag based search can result in 100s of duplicate messages as retweets and other posts of the same content get caught up in the more general search parameters. These consumer-based curations of relevant content are still fraught with far too many false positives. However, Periscope’s new group-based broadcasting system offers something unique and new to this dilemma:  Producer-based curations. Periscope has introduced “groups”, a method by which a social media creator can share content with a specific more granular group of followers.  A content producer can create a group of users, say “Personal Friends” or “Subscribers (should a pay-to-view system develop one day). Groups can be built around interests, such as “tourist and travel followers” or “technology fans” such that Periscopes being created can be pushed to those users who have the most interest and are most likely to appreciate the content. Periscope groups are thus showing a way forward for Twitter to escape the 140-character rut they find themselves mired in for going on the Nth year.  People have been asking for the capability to broadcast to specific groups for years, but Twitter has left Twitter lists as a “read only” functionality; you can see all the tweets from a list buy you can’t communicate directly with that group.  Periscope groups will demonstrate that you can push content to certain users on certain subjects and that there is a market for this more detailed and specific sharing of social media. This offers a tremendous future for Twitter. A way to grow their platform from beyond that a 140-character service but into something far more useful to creators and consumers. Broadcasting to groups, and conversely, the consumption of specific content from a group of users is a very exciting development in social media. Twitter should seriously consider not only following the Periscope group concept but taking it a step further to create a more flexible “following” option. You would have the ability as a consumer to follow people only for certain types of content. As a producer you would have the option of sending content to everyone or to only those users who will find it of most value (Periscope-like groups). For example, a consumer could subscribe to: @Penguinsix

Everything (or) ->Photos Only ->Videos Only (Vine) ->Live Streams (Periscopes) ->Politics ->Social Media ->Food ->Hong Kong ->Other

Conversely, a creator could send their content out to a group, such as:. Tweet from my @PenguinSix account only to:

Everyone ->Photos Only followers ->Videos Only (Vine) followers ->Live Streams (Periscopes) followers ->Politics followers ->Social Media followers ->Food followers ->Hong Kong followers ->Other followers

Twitter would thus become a multi-disciplined social media platform, where you could still get the 140 characters of wisdom from people but also get new types of social media content as it becomes popular, be it photos, video, live video, or whatever else Twitter acquires in the coming years. Greater curation tools on both the creator and consumer side would render Twitter far more valuable to users. The platform would be set to add new features as they become available, bringing more and more people back to Twitter every day (hour) for more and more types of content without getting lost in the signal / noise conundrum of drinking from the social media firehose. Twitter has recently shut down the (once) popular VINE platform that they acquired only a few years ago. Without a doubt the VINE integration with Twitter was poorly handled. Getting “Vide’d” is now a verb amongst content producers who are very wary about putting time and effort into a platform only to find it getting nixed with a corporate reshuffle of the parent company. A very scary lesson for anyone involved in Periscope at this time. A system like this could have saved Vine (and could save Periscope). The existing subscriber base could be ported over to the Twitter in a flexible following platform after integration, such that if you currently are following someone on Vine or Periscope, your Twitter would now have a separate list of people you following only for videos (Vine) or live videos (Periscope). Twitter and Periscope creators would thus have access to a much larger potential pool of viewers as the sheer number of Twitter users would be now be more engaged in the Periscope system. Whether Twitter follows Periscope’s lead in this space is a big question. Whether anyone is even looking at expanding the platform is questionable as there are probably voices who are simply saying “let’s trim around the edges, give it a fresh coat of paint and sell it on to someone else.” But it would be pretty cool if they were thinking of something like this…  ]]>

Why Periscope and live video streaming is the the social media that really matters.

unidirectional and boring.  (Don’t believe me? Check out the Twitter feed of the Microsoft CEO, which has to hold the world record for the most canned and unoriginal content in the history of Twitter.) The problem with social media, as understood by the public relations departments of most major companies and social media ‘stars’ is that they aim rather low. They seek to have a “conversation” and then love to talk about how the conversation is leading to engagement, but “engagement” is a rather hollow concept and many traditional measurements of ‘engagement’ are as useless as ‘eyeballs’ as a metric. It may be a quantifiable (and billable) number, but does it really matter? Into this landscape comes Periscope and a host of other live video streaming services. Live, raw, unfiltered views of the world from ordinary people communicated out to waiting eyes and ears. With a motto of “See the world through someone else’s eyes” Periscope has millions of producers around the world sharing their slice of life to a waiting and eager audience. And while it, at times, has dropped in the banal and boring, there is something else going on that is worthy of note. Despite some feeble attempts to script and control the narrative of a live video stream by some broadcasters, the end users of live video actually have far more control over the conversation than most public relations professionals would ever allow. Discussions overlaying the presentation can go on tangents of their own, and users can often stray the conversation off the intended course and subject despite the best efforts of the broadcaster. The conversation can turn directions and spin and it takes a steadied broadcaster to keep it on focus and moving toward the real goal. It is this ebb and flow of conversation that offers the best opportunity for social media in its history. What should be sought, developed and fought for with this new medium is the true Holy Grail of social media. People should cast aside the one-sided conversations that are pointlessly supported by the hollow engagement metrics of likes and shares. With live streaming we have a chance to really communicate what is most important: Understanding. Understanding comes when you see the world through someone else’s eyes and UNDERSTAND why they see it a certain way. A person who watches a live video experiences the decision-making process of another person first hand and begins to UNDERSTAND why they turned this way or that, why they eat this or that, why they buy this or that. When a person is given the chance to see things live as they occur, and occasionally even take part in the decision-making process of that individual or guide a conversation a certain way, that person develops a much greater understanding of what is going on, and a greater respect for the other person. Periscope started with the voyeuristic view of the world:  “Look at this, I’m seeing a guy in Hong Kong ride the ferry to the toy store. He’s taking his morning hike in the clouds above the city.  He’s taking a tram to get some lunch.  Wow. This is amazing”.   But as time goes by and people start to think more about what they are seeing, a new, empathetic realization takes starts to take hold. “Yes, I am seeing a guy on a tall mountain, but he’s really just out for his morning walk. And he’s really just going to get some lunch.  Hey, I go for hikes, I eat lunch–wait a minute–this guy is a lot like me.” The empathetic instead of voyeuristic reading of “See the world through someone else’s eyes” is what offer the greatest potential for live video to rule social media. A person who listens and understands is someone who has learned something and may alter their own behavior to that in line with that understanding. A myriad of choices, from political decisions to simple mundane tasks can be altered when an understanding consumer of social media makes their own decisions with the views of another person in mind. It also leads to a tremendous marketing potential in that a person who understands why they should do something a certain way become a consumer who will perform that way without additional influencing. It’s one thing to have a conversation with a person and say to them “I really think you should buy this product” but it is something far greater, and more valuable, to have a person say “I understand why I should buy this product and will buy it myself, now and in the future.” Getting to this level creates a consumer FOR LIFE, not just for one transaction. While difficult to quantify, the empathetic consumption of live video can truly be the revolutionary social media development of the next decade. Or it might just end up as an updated version of Chatroulette… (more on that in my next post). IMG_4968      ]]>

Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony Parade Order of nations will be slightly different than previous years.

An interesting tidbit for the English-speaking world is that the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics will feature the countries taking the field in alphabetical order, but by the Portuguese spelling of the nations.  As such some countries, like the United States, which generally enters toward the end of the parade, will find themselves entering early on during the event with the ‘E’s under Estates Unidos. This has even led to the US television networks asking that this be changed, as they fear American TV audiences will quickly turn the channel after they see the American team enter the stadium. Something similar happened in Beijing where the teams entered by ‘stroke’ order of the Chinese alphabet.

In case you are wondering, the USA will be wearing Ralph Lauren again this year.

For a full list of nations in the order they enter, take a look here and plan you viewing accordingly.

Afghanistan                  Afeganistão

South Africa                  África do Sul

Albania                  Albânia

Germany                  Alemanha

Andorra                  Andorra

Angola                  Angola

Antigua and Barbuda              Antígua e Barbuda

Saudi Arabia                  Arábia Saudita

Algeria                  Argélia

Argentina                  Argentina

Armenia                  Arménia

Australia                  Austrália

Austria                  Áustria

Azerbaijan                  Azerbaijão

Bahamas                  Bahamas

Bahrain                  Bahrein

Bangladesh                  Bangladesh

Barbados                  Barbados

Belgium                  Bélgica

Belize                  Belize

Benin                  Benim

Belarus                  Bielorrússia

Bolivia                  Bolívia

Bosnia and Herzegovina                  Bósnia e Herzegovina

Botswana                  Botswana

Brazil                  Brasil

Brunei                  Brunei

Bulgaria                  Bulgária

Burkina Faso                  Burkina Faso

Burundi                  Burundi

Bhutan                  Butão

Cape Verde                  Cabo Verde

Cameroon                  Camarões

Cambodia                  Camboja

Canada                  Canadá

Qatar                  Catar

Kazakhstan                  Cazaquistão

Chad                  Chade

Chile                  Chile

China                  China

Cyprus                  Chipre

Colombia                  Colômbia

Comoros                  Comores

North Korea                  Coreia do Norte

South Korea                  Coreia do Sul

Côte d’Ivoire                  Costa do Marfim

Costa Rica                  Costa Rica

Croatia                  Croácia

Cuba                  Cuba

Denmark                  Dinamarca

Djibouti                  Djibouti

Dominica                  Dominica

Egypt                  Egito

El Salvador                  El Salvador

United Arab Emirates                  Emirados Árabes Unidos

Ecuador                  Equador

Eritrea                  Eritreia

Slovakia                  Eslováquia

Slovenia                  Eslovénia

Spain                  Espanha

United States of America                  Estados Unidos

Estonia                  Estónia

Ethiopia                  Etiópia

Fiji                  Fiji

Philippines                  Filipinas

Finland                  Finlândia

France                  França

Gabon                  Gabão

Gambia                  Gâmbia

Ghana                  Gana

Georgia                  Geórgia

Grenada                  Granada

Greece                  Grécia

Guatemala                  Guatemala

Guyana                  Guiana

Guinea                  Guiné

Equatorial Guinea                  Guiné Equatorial

Guinea-Bissau                  Guiné-Bissau

Haiti                  Haiti

Honduras                  Honduras

Hungary                  Hungria

Yemen                  Iémen

Marshall Islands                  Ilhas Marshall

Solomon Islands                  Ilhas Salomão

India                  Índia

Indonesia                  Indonésia

Iran                  Irã

Iraq                  Iraque

Ireland                  Irlanda

Iceland                  Islândia

Israel                  Israel

Italy                  Itália

Jamaica                  Jamaica

Japan                  Japão

Jordan                  Jordânia

Kiribati                  Kiribati

Kuwait                  Kuwait

Laos                  Laos

Lesotho                  Lesoto

Latvia                  Letónia

Lebanon                  Líbano

Liberia                  Libéria

Libya                  Líbia

Liechtenstein                  Liechtenstein

Lithuania                  Lituânia

Luxembourg                  Luxemburgo

Madagascar                  Madagáscar

Malaysia                  Malásia

Malawi                  Malawi

Maldives                  Maldivas

Mali                  Mali

Malta                  Malta

Morocco                  Marrocos

Mauritius                  Maurícia

Mauritania                  Mauritânia

Mexico                  México

Micronesia                  Micronésia

Mozambique                  Moçambique

Moldova                  Moldávia

Monaco                  Mónaco

Mongolia                  Mongólia

Montenegro                  Montenegro

Myanmar                  Myanmar

Namibia                  Namíbia

Nauru                  Nauru

Nepal                  Nepal

Nicaragua                  Nicarágua

Niger                  Níger

Nigeria                  Nigéria

Norway                  Noruega

New Zealand                  Nova Zelândia

Oman                  Omã

Netherlands                  Países Baixos

Palau                  Palau

Panama                  Panamá

Papua New Guinea                  Papua-Nova Guiné

Pakistan                  Paquistão

Paraguay                  Paraguai

Peru                  Peru

Poland                  Polónia

Portugal                  Portugal

Kenya                  Quénia

Kyrgyzstan                  Quirguistão

United Kingdom                  Reino Unido

Central African Republic                  República Centro-Africana

Czech Republic                  República Checa

Republic of Macedonia                  República da Macedónia

Democratic Republic of the Congo          República Democrática do Congo

Republic of the Congo                  República do Congo

Dominican Republic                  República Dominicana

Romania                  Roménia

Rwanda                  Ruanda

Russia                  Rússia

Samoa                  Samoa

San Marino                  San Marino

Saint Lucia                  Santa Lúcia

Saint Kitts and Nevis                  São Cristóvão e Nevis

Sao Tome and Principe                  São Tomé e Príncipe

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines                  São Vicente e Granadinas

Senegal                  Senegal

Sierra Leone                  Serra Leoa

Serbia                  Sérvia

Seychelles                  Seychelles

Singapore                  Singapura

Syria                  Síria

Somalia                  Somália

Sri Lanka                  Sri Lanka

Swaziland                  Suazilândia

Sudan                  Sudão

South Sudan                  Sudão do Sul

Sweden                  Suécia

Switzerland                  Suíça

Suriname                  Suriname

Thailand                  Tailândia

Tajikistan                  Tajiquistão

Tanzania                  Tanzânia

East Timor                  Timor-Leste

Togo                  Togo

Tonga                  Tonga

Trinidad and Tobago                  Trinidad e Tobago

Tunisia                  Tunísia

Turkmenistan                  Turquemenistão

Turkey                  Turquia

Tuvalu                  Tuvalu

Ukraine                  Ucrânia

Uganda                  Uganda

Uruguay                  Uruguai

Uzbekistan                  Uzbequistão

Vanuatu                  Vanuatu

Venezuela                  Venezuela

Vietnam                  Vietname

Zambia                  Zâmbia

Zimbabwe                  Zimbabwe