Other Archives

August 23, 2008

Olympic Medal Count--Stuntz

I'm not the biggest Olympic junkie around, but I've enjoyed watching, and following the Chinese and American medal counts. So far, everyone I've read uses one of two measures: who has the most gold, and who has the most total medals. Both measures are obviously unfair in opposite ways.

The solution is easy--give each country three points for a gold medal, two for a silver, and one point for a bronze. According to (link: here) and my own arithmetic calculations, the two nations have nearly identical counts by that measure.

As of this writing, China has 49 golds, 19 silvers, and 28 bronzes.
(49 x 3) + (19 x 2) + 28 = 213

The U.S. has 33 golds, 37 silvers, and 36 bronzes.
(33 x 3) + (37 x 2) + 36 = 209

Very, very close. By this measure, the two nations were tied last night at 200 apiece.

March 2, 2009


We’ve just passed the one year anniversary of Less than the Least—our welcome post went up on February 28, 2008. 

Bill and I had been talking about starting a blog for a month or so when Bill’s cancer was diagnosed last January. Our first impulse was to put the idea on hold, but our second thought was just the opposite: the blog might be a way for Bill to share thoughts about his cancer, in addition to whatever thoughts and ideas we had on other topics.

It’s been a memorable year, both for the nation and for us personally. We are deeply grateful for all the comments and emails—those that said one or both of us must be crazy every bit as much as the ones that agreed with us.   Keep them coming, and Lord willing we will too.

July 21, 2009

The Apollo 11 Landing--Skeel

The Apollo 11 landing was one of the first public events I remember. My family was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we had returned from a family camp in Michigan the day of the landing. It was a long day, but like the rest of the country we stayed up and parked our selves in front of our big old black and white TV.

This was a happy time for me personally, but the public events I remember were faintly ominous, almost to a one. I remember my mother talking anxiously to a neighbor in 1967, but only much later realized that the threat I didn’t quite understand at the time was the Detroit riots, which were taking place a few miles away, not an invasion of hippies. I also vaguely remember the fraught political campaign of 1968, though again without many of the details.
The 40th anniversary coverage has focused extensively on the artificiality of America’s race to put a man on the moon, its role in the Cold War, and the extent to which NASA seemed to peter out afterwards. What doesn’t seem to me to have been emphasized quite enough is just how important it was to bring the nation together at that moment. It was a scary time in many respects, and watching Neil Armstrong hop along on the moon seemed to put a bounce back in everyone’s steps.

September 14, 2009


As the days shorten and fall activities begin, one of the summer rituals I will miss most is sitting on our back porch at the end of the day. At around 7pm most days, white tailed deer—usually two or three—strut across the yard to our neighbor’s apple tree. If they notice us, they freeze for a minute or so, ears flattened, then resume their foraging. Sometimes they chase each other around the neighbor’s very large yard. Once or twice, we’ve seen them stand on their back legs for a few seconds, trying to reach higher apples. It’s amazing to think such large, beautiful animals live in the small pockets of woods of our suburban township.

The herd has steadily increased in the twelve years we’ve lived in this northern suburb of Philadelphia. Gardeners trade tips on how to keep them out—a fence still seems to be the only foolproof strategy. I think the township should allow periodic hunting to reduce the number of deer, but not in my backyard. I know my wife agrees, at least with the backyard part. A decade ago, when our children were small, she looked out and saw two hunters traipsing across our lawn with crossbows. Asked what they were doing, they said the owner of a nearby wooded property had given them permission to hunt, and they were tracking a deer they thought they’d hit. My wife made it very clear they wouldn’t be doing any tracking near us. They seem to have gotten the message. We haven’t seen any hunters since.

December 23, 2009

Back in the Day--Skeel

Am I imagining it, or is the old cliché “back in the day” enjoying a renaissance?  I seem to see it everywhere, even in “objective” newspaper stories.  When I was a kid (back in the day, in other words), it was one of two phrases people often used to link the past to the present.  To compare the old days to the present, they said “back in the day” (as in: “Back in the day, that pot-bellied man was the fastest sprinter in the state”).  To compare the present to the old days, they said “anymore” (as in: “Anymore, you pump your own gas; they don’t pump it for you”).

I personally never much liked “anymore”—perhaps because it sounds so much like “nevermore.” But there’s something more hopeful and pleasingly nostalgic about “back in the day.” I’m glad it’s back.

June 16, 2010

Technical Difficulties Fixed-- Skeel

Hopefuly not too many of you tried to post comments during our month or so of silence.  The comment function wasn't working for the last week or so.  My apologies for the problem, which is now fixed.

August 18, 2010

Emerging Adulthood--Skeel

Next weekend's New York Times Magazine has a fascinating cover story on emerging adulthood, a term coined by the psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett to describe the stage of life between adolescence and adulthood.  It's already posted here.  Jeff is a dear friend dating back many years to a time when we both were still emerging adults, each doing graduate work at the University of Virginia.  It's a wonderful term and a wonderful but frightening time of life.  Reaching emerging adults seems to me one of the most difficult challenges for the church in our time, since their cultural experience so often seems at odds with the values reflected in the church, in ways both good and bad.

January 30, 2011

Email Sign-Offs--Skeel

Last week, a friend (Eric Rasmusen) sent an email asking what I thought of I.H.S.—short for In His Service—as the valediction for email messages. I love the reminder of who our Master is, although I.H.S. makes me think of British royalty and British naval ships, perhaps because my wife and I just saw The King’s Speech.

I personally am partial to “All Best.” I saw it first in a letter from a poetry magazine editor many years ago, and thought it looked odd. So I of course soon started using it myself. If the correspondence concerns spiritual matters, I sometimes sign off with “Blessings.” If neither seems appropriate— after all, “All Best” sounds a little like “have a nice day”—I sometimes omit the valediction.
I prefer all of these approaches to the increasingly common strategy of omitting any sign-off, and simply relying on the contact information that’s automatically included at the bottom of the email. With someone I don’t know well, this invariably leaves me wondering whether I should use their first name or last, and whether it’s Bob rather than Robert, or Lisa rather than Elizabeth.

March 16, 2011

Harvard Law School Tribute

Here is the Harvard Law School announcement and tribute to Bill.

March 21, 2011

More Tributes and Obituaries

There have been many more lovely obituaries and tributes to Bill. I’ll post a few here.

A New York Times editorial page tribute: here.

The New York Times obituary: here.
The Harvard Crimson tribute: here.
The Boston Globe obituary: here.
A Tribute on Patheos: here; and the Patheos interview referred to in the tribute: here.
Student tributes at Harvard Law and Policy Review: here.

The Memorial Service

Here are the bulletin and the three sets of remembrances from the memorial service on Saturday, as well as reflections on the service sent to me by one of Bill's former students.  If I'm able to get a tape of the entire service at some point, I'll put that up as well.

The Bulletin: BillStuntz3-19-11Bulletin.pdf 

Remarks of Bill and Ruth's daughter Sarah: sarah-remarks.pdf

Remarks of Bill's brother Dave: dave-stuntz-remarks.pdf

My remarks: stuntz-memorial.pdf

Comments on the service by a former student: Notes-on-Bill's-Funeral.pdf

March 23, 2011

Tribute in the N.Y. Times

Tomorrow's N.Y. Times has a lovely tribute to Bill, written by Lincoln Caplan, on the editorial page: here.  I've also linked to it in the post with the earlier tributes.  The Caplan tribute also links to the extremely moving testimony Bill gave when he joined Park Street Church.

April 3, 2011

Less than the Least

A number of people have asked about the future of this blog.  I'm still thinking and praying about whether to continue the blog in something like its current form.  I'll probably keep Less than the least going for at least the new few months (and probably the rest of the year), as more tributes to Bill's life and work are in the works, and two books are forthcoming-- his magnum opus on criminal justice and a book of essays based on the conference celebrating his work last year.  Even if the blog concludes this year, I hope to keep it up in some form, so that the posts and links will remain readily available.

I've gotten dozens of emails and notes expressing condolences for the loss of a beloved friend.  I am so grateful for this kindness, which is yet another reminder of what a remarkable person Bill was and how far his influence extended.


April 23, 2011


Three years ago, a month or so after his initial cancer diagnosis, Bill wrote this post for Easter.  The post was stunning then, and is I think even more powerful to read now.

June 6, 2011

William J. Stuntz Award

As a tribute to Bill, Harvard Law School has established a wonderful new award in his honor.  The award is called the William J. Stuntz Memorial Award for Justice, Human Dignity and Compassion, to be given to one graduating student each year.  Here is a description of the award and this year's recipient.

June 12, 2011

Recent Tributes

Peter Conti-Brown has written a lovely tribute to Bill's mode of scholarship using illustrations from a discipline dear to my own heart: corporate law.  It can be accessed here.

The Harvard Law Review's June issue will have a series of short tributes to Bill.  As soon as it's available, I will post a link.



June 21, 2011

Harvard Law Review Tributes

Harvard Law Review has now posted the short tributes (by Pam Karlan, Mike Klarman,
Martha Minow, Dan Richman, Bob Scott, Carol Steiker and me) and its dedication to Bill here (click "download pdf").  There are a number of lovely (and funny) memories. 

August 25, 2011

Backyard Deer--Skeel

Our summer entertainment is sitting on the back porch at the end of the day, drinking a glass of red wine, and waiting for the deer to arrive. This summer there’s a family: a doe, a young buck, and two fawns. They drift across our backyard at dusk, and often at other times as well.

The highlight for the deer seems to be our neighbor’s apple tree. One day three or four crows followed the fawns around, landing on the apple tree and then on the ground nearby, standing there until one of the fawns chased them away. It was never clear just what they were up to.
The buck sometimes stands up on his hind legs trying to reach higher apples, staggering a little, like a cheerleader who has just thrust his partner into the air and is struggling to balance her on his hands.
Our little Yorkshire Terrier used to bark at the deer—always from the safety of the screened in porch—but now she just watches them too. 
The family is usually accompanied by a buck that has a skin disease (apparently not life threatening, according to my wife’s internet research) that has covered his body with black splotches and made his face look like Darth Vader. We imagine that the family has taken him in, showing compassion on a buck that might otherwise be ostracized. The fawns treat him like a member of the family—sometimes following him—and perhaps he is.
Today while I was jogging I saw a dead fawn on the side of the road, about a quarter of a mile from our house. When I told my wife, she gasped. But she then noted that she’d seen both of our fawns after I’d gone for the run.
Sure enough, both fawns showed up this evening, along with the rest of the family. One of the buck’s two horns seems to have been broken off. I can only imagine how that happened.

September 5, 2011

Off to College--Skeel

Almost the only thing our older son knew for sure about as he conducted his college search last year was that he wouldn’t be going to college in the Philadelphia area. So after weighing his options last spring, he of course found that he loved Penn and decided to stay in the neighborhood after all. His dorm adjoins, almost literally, the law school where I teach.

This meant we wouldn’t have the long car or plane trip that many of his friends’ parents had when they took their kids to college. When we dropped our son off at college on Thursday, we took the same commuter train I always take, and walked the same streets I always walk. And yet it still seemed a little disorienting. It was as if we were inhabiting a parallel universe. The day before this had been my train to work, but Thursday it was a train taking our first son to college. The streets were familiar, but they suddenly seemed strange.
My wife mentioned today that our son says he probably won’t come home often during the year, perhaps not even for Thanksgiving. This reminded me of the first letter I got from my mother, a month or two into my freshman year of college. “I was beginning to wonder if I still had a son in college,” the letter began, and it went on to explain that my mother had run into the parents of a fellow freshman, who assured her that I was still alive and well. (My friend was a far better correspondent than I was.) I don’t think my son can match that, and don’t plan to let him try.