Learning Chinese is a struggle (to put it mildly).  Before leaving for my Fulbright experience last academic year, I took private Mandarin lessons once a week and used Rosetta Stone.  Upon arrival in China, we were immersed in the language and had a Chinese language tutor.  Only now do I have the base knowledge to actually begin learning Chinese; all over again.  So I am going to start re-learning Chinese from scratch, with the base knowledge I wish I had before.

The journey began today when I attended our China Program‘s Mandarin Language Table (our Dean buys lunch for anyone interested in discussing current events in Mandarin for an hour, and, given the success of the our China Program, we have quite a number of Chinese speakers on staff and in our student body).  I was glad I went, but today’s topic was the future of space programs in China and the United States.  As you might expect the vocabulary was extremely difficult (space 太空, space ship 宇宙飞船, etc.).  Overall, I was surprised by my showing.  My listening comprehension was far better than I had expected, but my speaking ability was far, far worse than I had hoped.

UPDATE: Apparently if I were a baby, my language acquisition would be much easier.

While I am concerned by Sweden’s increased reliance on the automobile and big-box suburban development, Sweden is clearly a front-runner in terms of reducing carbon emissions and citizens concerned about environmental issues (e.g., carbon labeling for food, Europe’s first green capital).   I am currently in Växjö, Sweden, which proclaims itself as “The Greenest City in Europe”, largely based on it’s desire to be fossil fuel free by 2050 (a decision made way back in the 1990s).  For more info see here, and here.  So what I’m now thinking about is eco-labeling beyond food and consumer goods….what are the benefits (tourism, prestige?) that a small Swedish town gets in having such a label?  Maybe an environmental law professor looking for a place to do his sabbatical next spring?   I’m also noticing the striking similarities between the geography and demographics of Scandinavia and Vermont, and thinking how some Swedish-style additions to Vermont (e.g., universal health care, free pre-school, high-speed rail from Burlington/Montpelier to Montreal, NYC and Boston like Växjö has to Stockholm and Copenhagen) would make for an even better place.

I clerked for Judge D. Brock Hornby in Portland, Maine, home to one of the oldest working federal courthouses in the United States.  The Fall 2010 issue of the Maine Bar Journal (click here) is largely devoted to Judge Hornby and his courtroom.  The first article, entitled “The Virtues of Judge Hornby’s Courtroom No. 2,” is found on pages 20-24.  The second, “Learning from the Best, the Brightest, and the Kindest: An Interview with the Honorable D. Brock Hornby,” was written by Chief District Judge Christina Reiss (District of Vermont), who clerked for Judge Hornby in 1989 when he was an Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  It is found on pages 29-34.

On the good side, last night I finished the book Game Change, and started the book Lost Moon (which has literally been sitting on my shelf for literally 17 years since I met fellow Milwaukeean Jim Lovell and he signed a copy for me).  After reading Game Change, two things stuck out: (1) Did John Edwards really think he could become President given her personal affairs?, and (2) Regardless of your views of Sarah Palin, she did energize the Republican base and really was not well-supported by McCain campaign due the very quick vetting process (if you can call it that).

Today was an absolutely crazy/busy day.  With my partner at Yale, I walked the dogs, got the kids (who still have jetlag from the China trip) up and dressed, walked the older kid to school with younger kid in tow, took care of the younger kid all day, picked up older kid with younger kid in tow, dropped off car for partner downtown so she has it when bus gets in, took kids for snack, walked home (note: it’s cold in Vermont and sidewalks are still in poor condition from Wednesday’s snow), cooked dinner, gave kids bath, read stories and put kids to bed.  During this day, I received too many emails to count, I’ve sent 59 emails so far, I had three work phone calls, and I’ve scheduled a dozen meetings for the next two weeks…it’s a good thing my younger daughter is very good at playing by herself when Daddy is on the phone.

In other news, here’s the NY Times article about the EPA actually using their Clean Water Act section 404 veto authority to stop a coal mining project.  Additional commentary at Green Law.  In my forthcoming book, in the chapter on sprawl, I write:

In terms of federal enforcement, EPA must more readily exert the veto authority granted to it under the Clean Water Act. Rather than acquiesce to what can become almost routine issuance of wetlands fill permits by the Corps, EPA could more actively review the effects of permit issuance for “unacceptable adverse effects.” EPA generally has been too reluctant to exert this authority.

Finally, in light of the ridiculously busy day, I refuse to do work tomorrow night.  Go Pack.

Today, due to the generosity of contacts at WWF in Hong Kong, we received a tour of Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong’s New Territories.   Mai Po is a large wetland reserve filled with very cool flora and fauna, and really is a bird lovers’ paradise.  Mai Po is protected by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and our visit was truly a treat.   We saw mangroves, traditional shrimp ponds, fish farms (right outside the reserve), and beautiful flowers, and, with fancy digital binoculars and scopes, saw beautiful birds: spoonbills, herons, egrets, and ducks.

I’m off to China in less than 13 hours for a relatively long trip packed with events.  I’m meeting with environmental NGOs and academics in Hong Kong, including a much anticipated tour of Mai Po Nature Reserve.  Then off to Guangzhou for a series of lectures on climate change at Chinese universities, attending collaborative American-Chinese student research presentations as part of the Vermont Law School’s US-China Partnership in Environmental Law, meeting with public and private environmental officials, and doing some “public diplomacy” for the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.  Also on the agenda is a friend’s Chinese wedding in Xi’An and as much Chinese food as I can eat.  I’ll be exhausted by the time I arrive at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco on the way home.

I like data and I like to ask empirical questions (see my old blog), but often translating data so it can be understood is difficult.  And I lack the necessary graphic and computer skills to make my data come to life.  In fact, I wish my own classes and paper presentations had far more visual flair than I know how to do with PowerPoint.  Watch this video, which is an amazing display of data visualization.  Imagine if law professors had the resources and/or expertise to make their presentations come alive this way.  (And I note that any faculty job candidate who did this would be hired immediately based on what this would mean for their classroom experience.)

Hat tip: Matt Sag

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