Monday, January 31, 2005

Law Review Cite Check

On Saturday we got out cite check assignment. Normally we get about 25 footnotes for verification. This time they gave me 75. Now for each one, we get the source, photocopy the title page, the pages cited, and the pages around the cite to verify the footnote is correct. Then we highlight the particular text cited within the page. I complained that this was more work than usual but no one seemed interested in hearing me gripe. So I spent my entire Sunday, from about 10:00 am to 9:30 pm, sitting at the copier, highlighting like crazy. Some of the 75 cites were in multiple parts (as many as 25), and I ended up with well over 100 verification packets. To the left is my cite check; to the right is a sample ream of paper (500 sheets). Tell me there will be a payoff! :-P

Friday, January 28, 2005

Spring 2004: Week 2

So far I'm hanging in there. Barely. Monday I left the house for work at 6:15 and after work, class, and law review research I got back home at 12:30 the next morning.

Wills and Trusts. A closed-book final exam. The instructor is all over the Texas Probate, Property and Family codes, and keeps bringing up things outside our reading. Right now we're all about intestate succession.

Federal Jurisdiction. This class is taught by a guy who looks like he could be Jimmy Kimmel's brother. He's a hotshot who clerked for William Rehnquist. At one point he made an example of bias and used the attitude of some Americans towards the French. Roland and I exchanged glances. "Vive le France!" I murmured, and "Vive le France!" he answered right back.

Pre-trial Litigation. We were told our assignment would be a mock sexual harassment claim where the client was propositioned and "touched sexually" by her supervisor. When his boss didn't do anything about it, she quit. Sounds open-and-shut, right? Wednesday we got to interview her about the experience, so I asked her:
Q "When he propositioned you, what exactly happened?"
A "He invited me to lunch."
Q "And?"
A "That's all."
Q "Um, okay... you say he touched you sexually. What exactly happened?"
A "He brushed by me in the hall shoulder-to-shoulder and once he put his hand on my shoulder."
Q "Your shoulder?"
A "Yes."
Q "Anywhere else?"
A "No."
Q "Did you tell him touching your shoulder made you uncomfortable?"
A "No."
Q "You know, in society people sometimes touch each other on the shoulder, or slap someone on the back. That's not sexual."
A "I was raised to believe that men shouldn't be touching women unless you're married."
Q "Were you by any chance home-schooled?"

Oil & Gas. Yesterday we learned about the scheme whereby you describe property for a deed, sometimes using a unit of measure called a vara, that comes from Spain, but we're not sure how long a vara is supposed to be, exactly. Nice. Alternatively we can use more well-known units like rods or chains.

Part of our reading for class this week talked about the history of the Spindletop oil gusher in Beaumont, Texas created the first oil boomtown in 1901. That was a fun read, since my family has been in that area since George Burrell got his land grant from Spain way back when.

Law Review. One of the writers we have to do a check on cites John Stewart Mill's essay "On Liberty," of which our library has perhaps 8 copies. None of those editions are by the editor cited by the author, so I had to do an inter-library loan request to get that exact copy. That doesn't make sense to me. It's like verifying a quote from Hamlet when you have Bevington's edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare on your desk, but you have to go get the Penguin Classics edition so you can see that the soliloquy is indeed on page 37.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Spring 2004: Week 1

Law School started last week and as usual we hit the ground running.

On the first day of class grades came in for Federal Income Tax. They were probably filed late, as all the other grades had come in weeks before. I had been entertaining the hope someone had stolen the exam and we would all get a pass-fail grade! No such luck, but I did get a "B" and am almost relieved. I need to crack down more this semester.

Wills and Trusts is taught by a practicing attorney. He authoritative and yet laid back. So far I like him. Some people complain he's too soft-spoken and has a strong Texas accent. Well, maybe. But even if he does, I speak most dialects of redneck, so I should be OK. Multiple choice, closed book exam. Ugh.

Pre-trial Litigation is going to be the class that eats up disproportionate amounts of time for the credit hours. We're not so much in a class as a workshop where we'll go through the entire pre-trial process, from interviewing a client and taking the case through filing, making motions, and arguing for summary judgment--downtown in a real courtroom in front of a real judge! Ack!

Oil & Gas is a type of property class. The professor asked us why the class was so full when oil drilling in Texas was largely a dead industry. We told him it was covered on the most recent bar exam. No one was sure why. My theory is that Texas has a hard time letting go of its glory days. Whatever, I would enjoy the class anyway for its historical aspect. I'm originally from Beaumont, where the first oil gusher in Texas was drilled in 1901 at Spindletop. All the men on my mother's side were in the oil business going back to the 1920s. (No, we weren't rich like the Ewings!)

Law Review gave us another assignment Saturday morning. I have to track down and obtain 15 different sources. Thankfully there are no newspaper articles this time, but there are a lot of books. I'm envious of whoever got the cases--those require the least effort because are so easily downloaded from Westlaw.

Federal Jurisdiction meets Monday. Not too excited about that one, but everything depends on the professor.

I'm signed up for the MPRE in March. That's the exam that tests your knowledge of the rules of professional responsibility. Things like when you have to keep client's secrets and when you can tell or have to tell.

So let's see--four classes, law review, and the MPRE to juggle, along with work, family and friends. If I don't post again until May you'll understand why!

Friday, January 21, 2005

This is a Public Service Announcement

. . . with guitar! Know your rights--all three of them. Number One: you have a right not to be killed. Murder is a crime (unless it is done by a policeman or an aristocrat). Oh, know your rights!
--The Clash, Know Your Rights, Combat Rock (1982).
Sixty days. That's the amount of jail time Judge Mary Lou Keel gave Arthur J. Carbonneau for shooting a 14 year old boy while attempting to subdue him. Oh, and he must write a letter of apology.

Now I don't know all the facts. But if he's really guilty of criminally negligent homicide, he should be punished. If he's not responsible, he should be let go. Either way, this sentence is an insult.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Novell recently announced (at least, I just found out about it) that they have established a Continuing Certification Requirement where we have to teach at least one Novell class in the coming year. Why? "One of the most common concerns of the CNI Community is that CNIs are not instructing." Heh. Oh yes we are--but we're not teaching Novell! It's not our fault that Novell fell asleep in the mid-90s and allowed Microsoft to take the lead in new network installations. Distracted with the WordPerfect debacle, Novell fell by the wayside and hasn't recovered. Yes, yes, we all know it's a great product and runs circles around Windows. But I don't know anyone migrating to NetWare. It's a good thing they only want one class a year--it's going to be hard enough to get that to run!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Law School about to resume

It's been a great few weeks off, but it's almost over. The clock is ticking down what feels like the final moments before school starts up again for the Spring. I'm taking an ambitious (crazy?) 10 hours again, but this time it's four classes: Wills & Trusts, Federal Jurisdiction, pre-trial litigation and Oil & Gas. I've already got a head start on Spring office hours for Law Review, which should help. I plan to pick up some books this afternoon. I'm not excited about any of the courses except maybe pre-trial litigation. The others all sound dull. But the evening program has rather limited options.

I got back two grades--an A in Professional Responsibility, which is nice. And a B in Constitutional Law, which isn't so nice, but considering I didn't open the textbook after the first week, well, I'll take it. The unexploded bomb, Federal Income Tax, is still ticking. Getting a B after that exam would be a relief! I haven't felt that whipped since my first calculus exam.

Funny thing about courses like pre-trial litigation. They teach you the acutal skills presumably used by attorneys, yet the university considers them "non-substantive" courses and limits the number of credit hours you can get for them.

People ask me why don't I consider going into Intellectual Property law. Well, I'll tell you. Based on talking with people in the field (unofficially of course), copyright attorneys are the grunts and the patent attorneys are the royalty. To be a patent attorney you have to take the federal patent bar. To qualify you have to have a college degree in engineering. If you don't have an engineering degree, you can still qualify if you have 30 hours of engineering physics or 24 of engineering-level chemistry. Yeah, like there are a lot of liberal arts majors out there with that! In other words, I couldn't take the patent bar if I wanted to. It's possible for people to do well in IP without taking the patent bar, but I'm already operating at a disadvantage because the big firms are prejudiced against hiring part-timers and people over 30. Why make it worse? So I'm leaning towards finding something else.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Crosses at the Inaugrural Parade

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney and the Christian Defense Coalition were granted a permit to hold a prayer vigil and demonstration during the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day. In that permit the list of prohibited "structures" includes crosses—along with bicycles, crates, coffins, cages and statues.

Mahoney is outraged.

"Why were crosses singled out over any other religious symbol—the Star of David, Islamic symbols?" Mahoney asked. "This is offensive. It's, in my view, religious bigotry."
Well, Mahoney, the Jews aren't too likely to show up with big wooden Stars of David, now are they? And there are no Islamic symbols that could be turned into structures, unless someone made a big papier-mache Sword of Islam. While you're out there praying, ask God for some common sense. Cited article here.

Monday, January 10, 2005

It's The End of the World as We Know It

(And I Feel Fine)

Seriously now. It's fun to satirize forays into eschatological waters. But enough is enough. People have been proclaiming the end of the world since the world began. In case you hadn't noticed, it hasn't happened yet! These days everything is a sign of the end time. Any time something happens in the Middle East some evangelical nutcase comes out to tell us it's a Sign of the End Time.

Sometimes it's politics that signal the End of Days. Visit a church in October 1962 they would tell you it was all over, man. World War III was about to break out. The Cuban Missile Crisis would be the catalyst of Armageddon. Oops, that wasn't it. Fast-forward five years to June 5, 1967. Israel attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Ack! This is it! God's Chosen People are back in Jerusalem! We waited another six years. October 1973, the Yom Kippur War. Nope. All was quiet, as far as I can remember, until 1988, when Edgar Whisenant published his 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988. Definitely between September 11-13th. 15th. Um, October. I mean 1989! Nevermind, sheesh...

Everyone has his or her own favorite prophecies to follow. It turns out we live in a great period of time--so many predictions for the end of the world fall within the scope of my projected lifetime. So far, the prognosticators have come up short. A few examples:

July, 1999: Nostradamus specifically named this date. He wrote:
The year 1999, seventh month,
A great king of terror will descend from the skies
To bring back the great king of Angolmois.
Around this time Mars will reign for the good cause!
Sounds pretty dramatic! Maybe something happened and we didn't notice? Some people try to blame it on the Julian/Gregorian calendar shift and move the date to 9-11. Sorry, no. The calendar shift spanned only 10 days, not two years.

January 1, 2000: I'm sitting at home wishing the news teams were out interviewing all the people who spent their life savings building bomb shelters and stockpiling canned vegetables. "Well, it's the new year, and nothing happened! How do you feel now?"

September 17, 2001: the "Pyramid Inch" theory says that The End will come on September 17th. Christians were really into this one, convincing themselves that Jesus is the chief cornerstone (capstone) of the Great Pyramid of Cheops--a monument built to house a non-Judeo-Christian pharoah who was himself a god back in the day.

So far you gotta admit, they've all been wrong. Wrong! Yet people make excuses or blame misinterpretations, mistranslations or the Julian calendar. So what's left? Here are a couple for you to look forward to:

The Pope List: In the 1590s, Dom Arnold de Wyon "discovered" a prophetic list of 112 popes that had languished, he claimed, in the papal archives for 400 years. In 1138, the purported author, the Irish St. Malachy, had a vision of all the popes to come. A list of his prophetic descriptions indicate something about each pope from his era to the End. For example, he described the 99th entry, corresponding to Pius VIII (1829-1830), as vir religiosus, which is translated “a religious man." Wow! Why do we care? Well, people have been talking about this list for 400 years, trying to prove or disprove it. There are only two Popes left after John Paul II, but the believers have already found an "out" if the next one doesn't turn out to be the penultimate. Google it.

December 21, 2012: the Mayan longcount calendar, which began in 3114 B.C., will end. What did these ancient mystics know that we don't?! Probably not much--the calendar doesn't so much end as roll over to a new number--much the way we did with 2000.

If you're so sure this is the End of Time, bet me a million dollars and put it in a trust fund, payable to me on December 22, 2012. Whatever you're expecting should have happened by then.

Open Letter to The Ministry of Isaac

I read with interest your quarter-page ad in Sunday's Houston Chronicle (page A23) entitled "End Time Prophecy." You spoke to my heart when you wrote,
Tsunami is just the beginning of fourth scroll, pray for America the land of Babylon, according to Rev: 13 beast from the sea and beast from the earth they will both work together, recently you can see both the beast coming oftenly into pictures and you will see them more oftenly (wisdom is needed to understand) very soon the economic system of the world will collapse, many more earthquake, sky will be rolling like a scroll and many more things will happen (2005-6 of 2006).
Amen, Brother. I know what you mean! You also wrote that the beast from the water "was basically given up for dead in the water who rose up and became king of the mightiest country in the world (beast from the water) to have the baton picked up by his son (satan, beast from the earth reveled [sic] in 1975. 6x6+75x6=666 wisdom is needed to understand)...."

I have the wisdom needed to understand! You refer to "the Beast Born of Sea 6-12-24" and "Beast of Earth born of 7-6-46." George H.W. Bush was born June 12, 1924, and his son George W. was born on July 6, 1946. H.W. is the beast from the sea and W. is the beast from the earth. How was W "reveled" to the world as satan in 1975? Again, I know! That's the year satan got his MBA from Harvard. Surely something to "revel" about! I did some checking and it turns out his graduation invitations were written in an obscure Sumero-Akkadian dialect, and he was mumbling in backwards Babylonian at the ceremony.

I also see you are testing my numerological skills. Your formula 6x6+75x6 does not equal 666 as you stated, but 486. You have hidden the truth from the uninitiated. Intel released the 486DX chip in 1989--the same year H.W. took office! Coincidence? I don't think so!

But wait... your phone number, 281-477-7277, seems fishy... the sum of those numbers is 52. Counting the dashes, your number as written is 12 bytes long. 52x12=624. Add 42, which is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything and you get ... you get ... 666! Argh! Prince of Lies! You have fooled me. I should have known when you used the word "oftenly" that something was amiss. I shall no longer visit your site,

Friday, January 07, 2005

There's a new sheriff in town!

Someone please explain to me why this isn't making front-page headlines. On his first day on the job, the new sheriff, who is black, fired white police officers so he could replace them with blacks. Yes, you read that right.

Eventually the above link will go bad, so here's the synopsis: on his first day as the newly elected sheriff of Clayton County, Georga, Victor Hill, who is black, called in 27 employees, including the four highest ranking officers (who are white). He took away their badges and fired them all, handing out photocopied letters of dismissal. (Wording of the article makes it unclear whether all 27 of the fired employees were white). They were escorted from the building under the watch of rooftop snipers. Some of the deputies were taken home in prisoner transport vans. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that "the employees work at the pleasure of the sheriff," that it was necessary to "maintain the integrity of the department," and their replacements would be black.

Okay... it's true that race relations in Georgia aren't exactly rosy. I could believe that the first black sheriff in that county would meet with resistance from white police officers. But come on! He has not given any specific justification for firing these 27 people. He has offered no proof that the employees were dangerous or uncooperative. He has not been in office long enough to establish a pattern of insubordination or threat to make these people worthy of the treatment they were given. In short, they were fired for being white.

If the situation were reversed, and a white sheriff was firing black employees to make room for whites, you know the NAACP would be all over the news, calling this an outrage. And rightly so. But this news item is just a curiosity. Who's protesting? No one. The Houston Chronicle barely gave it a blurb on January 5, and didn't even mention the racial component of the story. What gives? All these groups who claim to be opposed to racial profiling and discrimination, where are you? Do you really believe all discrimination and racial profiling is bad? Or is it okay when the victims are white?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


This is supposed to be my profile picture but when I try top set up a profile and click save it just sits there and gives me the hourglass. I'm leaving it here for tonight and I'll try to move it later.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Boxing Day Tsunami

People are still watching the human drama unfold that is the Boxing Day Tsunami. It's on the news. It's on the radio. And it's bad. Every day the count goes up: today the AP death toll is estimated at 139,394, but it will go up some more. I'm impressed by the world's efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the affected regions.
Several times I've heard or read someone say that this is the worst natural disaster in history. Being historically minded, my ears always perk up when someone says something like that. Anytime someone says something is the biggest, or the worst, or whatever, in history, you better check your facts. Usually when people say something is the most <adjective> in history, they really mean for this year, or that they can remember, or that they heard of. And they're almost always wrong. I understand that this is the Age of Hype & Hyperbole, but someone needs to put the brakes on the misstatements! Why am I even comparing? Because calling this event "the worst disaster ever" is to disregard the tragedy and insult the memory of those who suffered and died in other disasters. (And, from a technical standpoint, it makes the claimant look ignorant).

There are many ways to rank disasters--loss of life in actual numbers or percentages, cost of damage to property, or the size of the regions affected. In none of these ways is the recent tsunami the worst--not even in living memory. Here are some examples. I'll restrict myself--for now--to events within my own lifetime:

Dateline: Bangladesh, April 29-30, 1991. The lush delta created by the confluence of the Magma, the Brahmaputra, and the Ganges rivers is home to 120 million people. Cyclone Marian assaults the delta with godlike fury, hurling wave after wave towards the shore. Tidal surges reach up to two stories high. Marian tears apart the region with winds reaching nearly 150 mph. Before it's done, it will have killed more than 130,000 people and a million cattle. It'll leave nine million homeless, 374,000 acres of crops damaged or destroyed, and salt in the drinking water and fields. Still, that's less than the '04 tsunami, you say? Maybe, but we've already shown the damage isn't unprecedented. And we're just warming up.

Dateline: Tangshan (Tianjin), China, 3:42 AM, July 28, 1976. The industrial city of Tangshan, home to 1.6 million people, is built on a fault line, and the western plate under Tangshan shifts five feet northward. The entire city erupts in the violent throes of an earthquake. Buildings collapse upon themselves, including a hospital with 2,000 people inside. Bridges sway and collapse. People are literally thrown into the air. Power is lost throughout the city and darkness consumes the carnage. The whole thing lasts less than 20 seconds, and by some estimates 80,000 are immediately killed. Geologists will later measure it as an 8.3 on the Richter scale. An aftershock measuring 7.1 will soon follow. We may never have an accurate number of deaths caused by this earthquake. The Chinese government officially reported 240,000 killed, but more realistic estimates put the number much higher--between 660,000 and 750,000. The injured made up another 750,000.

Dateline: Bangladesh again (err, okay, East Pakistan), November 12, 1970. Another cyclone--tidal wave combination. With winds up to 122 mph, and a tidal surge nearly thirty feet high, almost two million acres suffer under the onslaught, leaving up to 500,000 dead and thousands upon thousands more homeless and starving.

Don't you remember? No? Why not, do you suppose? Not born yet? OK, decent excuse. But how about those of you over 30? Did the media ignore it? Not likely. Could it be because there weren't American tourists among the dead? Ouch! Maybe we'll just say that we have short memories. That's less confrontational and probably also true. (After all, how many "Trials of the Century" do you remember having before 2000?)

Permit me to extend my scope to living memory and I'll do you one more. Back to China: the summer of 1931, the Yangtze River basin. The Yangtze has been notorious for flooding for two millenia, but this one was the worst. More than 70,000 square miles are flooded and 400,000 killed in the flooding. Disease and starvation resulting from the flood kill--by some estimates--over three million more. Overall more than 50 million people were affected-- a quarter the population of China.

I could keep going, but you get my point. The Boxing Day Tsunami is a massive disaster. I don't wish to minimize it. But don't hype it up as the worst disaster of all time, because it's not. "All time" is big. And it goes back a long way.

Monday, January 03, 2005


In addition to prepping Oracle this weekend, I've been spending too much time on MAME. I bought an X-Arcade two-player joystick for it and I'm hooked! MAME is a Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator that lets you play all the great old arcade games on your computer. They're exactly like the old games! You even have to emulate putting in a quarter. I'm overjoyed to be playing Shinobi again (the original from 1987, not the Playstation2 sequel). Back in 1987, Vance and I played Shinobi for an hour at a time at Mazzio's Pizza in Beaumont. Not so many people remember it because by '87 the coin-op arcade craze was fading fast. People had their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), so why spend money in an arcade? Too bad, because they missed out on Xybots, too. I've found I'm better at Robotron: 2084 now than I was in '82, but I still can't get past the sixth wave. (Robotron comes from the days before arcade games started following what I call the Sega model--Level 1, Level 2, Boss1. Level 3, Level 4, Boss2....)

We used to spend hours playing in arcades, and hearing those familiar phrases is like seeing an old friend you haven't heard from in--ack!--20 years.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

For New Year's Nora and I had dinner at Hido's and then went over to her sister Lisa's. On the way we stopped to buy Irish Cream and Butterscotch Schnapps. (Hey Cynthia, what were we planning to drink?) We watched Napoleon Dynamite and played Scene It until about 12:30 am.