Saturday, December 31, 2005

Day 7

On the seventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven Swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying

Five golden rings

Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

Year's End

It's painfully early in the morning, as the toddler got me up at 5. He's currently eating breakfast - crunch berries - in a most meticulous manner. 18 months, and he's separating the berries from the crunches. I have been known to do that on occasion, myself, but it's very strange to see the little boy do that. I'm not going to stop him, though. He's being quiet and still, and he seems to be enjoying himself.

One of his favorite games right now is "Go!" It's also a favorite of his siblings. Basically, I sit in the dining room, point to one of the children, yell "Go!" and they run into the living room, around my chair, and back giggling like there's no tomorrow. I'm fortunate in that my children aren't too materialistic. They prefer books to video games, play-doh to cartoons. They still love Veggie Tales, many disney movies, and the little boy loves Barney. I can handle that, though, for the fun they bring each day. Happy New Year from all of us, to all of you!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Day 6

On the sixth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Six geese a-laying

Five golden rings

Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's not right; it's the law

Georgia recently passed a law that requires voters to show picture ID in order to vote in elections. The requirement extends to registered voters who do not have valid driver's licenses, who must pay up to $35 to buy a state-issued ID card, according to this article. Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan plans to protest this law, and I think she's going to see a lot of support.

I don't like the idea of requiring picture ID in order to participate in the fundamental right of voting, and I especially dislike the concept of requiring people to pay money in order to exercise that right. I think the good representative has a point when she notes that this will adversely affect the poor. In an age where minimum wage is less than $6, a $35 fee is equal to over half a day's work for many people, most of whom can't afford to part with that extra money.

In the 1960's, poll taxes were declared unconstitutional in this country. I don't see any discernable difference between having to pay a fee to the state at the polls and having to pay the state before you go to the polls. This is a bad law, and needs to be repealed.

Day 5

On the fifth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five golden rings

Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

Random Trivia

In order to qualify as sand, the grains must be no smaller than .06 mm and no larger than 2 mm.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It's a ticket to watch a game

Suppose your neighbor came over and posted a sign contrary to your belief system (legalize pot now, impeach bush, down with unions, whatever) in your front yard. You'd want to take it down, most likely, and you probably would. Suppose further that your neighbor put it up when you invited him over for a barbeque, and it was byob, or byo side dishes, whatever. Does the fact that he spent some money on the endeavor make it all right for him to post said sign on your lawn?

Why then, do so many sports fans believe that when they purchase a ticket to a football, baseball, basketball, etc. game, they have a God-given right to put up whatever signs they want? The arena is not theirs. In many cases, the stadium is privately owned, much like your front yard. And if the owners don't agree with your sign, how is it different or wrong for them to take that sign away? The recent events in Buffalo show that people believe that they have a right to post whatever signs they want on private property, because they spent ( usually, way too much) money to get in.

"Just because the management and coaching is awful, where do they get off violating our First Amendment right to freedom of speech?" said one season ticket holder in the link above. He believes that since they can put up signs cheering the team, he should be able to put one up that jeers the coach and manager. Bear in mind that the stadium's website says that fans may bring signs, but management can remove any signs that management determines is dangerous, obstructive, or inappropriate - something the fan notes at the end of the article ("that's where they get you"). I also disagree with the assertion that this fan's freedom of speech has been violated. The fan can jeer the coach and management at home, in his car, even at the stadium through his voice, though I suspect that if he gets too venomoous, he may be asked to leave then, too. And why not? If my neighbor came over and started insulting me, I'd invite him to leave, as well. That's not stifling his freedom of speech.

It's a ticket to watch a game. It's not carte blanche to insult the person providing you the entertainment. If you dislike what's happening so much (and remember, I'm a Detroit Lions fan), then stop going to the games. Stop buying the season tickets and hurt them where they'll listen - their wallet. In sports, that's the most effective speech there is.

Day 4

On the fourth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

Wednesday is Haiku Day

The boy rode his bike
With his helmet of many
Colors - 'twas a sight!

And, as always, everyone is welcome to contribute!


I've always liked meatloaf. It's a wonderful meal that tastes much better than it sounds. When I went out to a Polish Restaurant a few months ago, I ordered a pork meat loaf, which was outstanding. I'm not the only one who recognizes how good a meat loaf really is, as my son once declared it his favorite food.

And, lest you think we're the anomaly, here's an article that notes the rising popularity of meat loaf among the new generation. It's being served in bistros and restaurants with the kids condiment of choice, ketchup. And I'm sure many people have fond memories somewhere of family dinners with the meatloaf on the table.

Now I'm hungry.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Day 3

On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

Monday, December 26, 2005

Day 2

On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Day 1

On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Just like a politician

While in Consumer Transactions this semester, we saw a couple examples of careful draftmanship of bills/laws to ensure they don't apply to the wrong people (i.e. lawyers). A good example of this is the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which allows for recovery of damages for misleading statements, yet precludes recovery for anything that is opinion of a person providing professional services, such as a doctor, lawyer, or architect.

Now remember that as you read about the Attorney General in Florida, who passed a law against spam, and now is facing accusations that his campaign might include spam. It appears Charlie Crist, who had defended the new law, and who is now a gubernatorial candidate has been sending unwanted e-mails to residents of the state in his zeal for campaigning. One man had asked repeatedly to be removed from the e-mail list, which he didn't know how he got on.

His defense is that this isn't spam, according to his campaign spokesperson. "This is truthful, it's straight forward. We're honest. TO be spam it has to be, under Florida law, defined as being deceptive. The attorney general (Crist) does not consider this spam and is, as you know, at the forefront of protecting citizens against that."

Now, I have a problem with that affirmative defense, in that it charges that they are truthful. They are politicians campaigning for office. Need I say more?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yes, Virginia

Apparently, the new hit show Everyone Hates Chris has a problem in that its Christmas episode made an inflammatory statement that is drawing criticism from folks who get worked up about such things.

In response, I thought, given the season and the year we've all been through, I'd reprint a timeless editorial letter written in 1897 to the New York Sun:

Dear Editor - I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity of devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your live its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be not childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to have men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to chatch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Clause, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men taht ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Random Trivia

When King William Rufus was killed by an archer, his body was found by a charcoal burner named Purkiss in Hampshire's New Forest. He took the king's body to Winchester and received as a reward the right to gather all the wood in the forest that he'd need for his charcoal burners, provided he only take the wook he can reach by means of a reaper's billhook or a shepherd's crook. This reward gave us the origin of the phrase "by hook or by crook," which today means by any means necessary.

Some things need not be made

In the category of fashion trends that need to see a quick end, let me introduce subject t - the Grill.

Back in the old days, Mick Jagger had an emerald placed in his tooth. He switched that for a diamond when people kept telling him he had food in his teeth. Fast forward a bit, and you come to the era of Gold Teeth. Not that this is a new phenomenon, and it at least makes some sense if you're replacing a tooth that was pulled or lost. Nowadays, we have a wonderful new trend, which I didn't believe when I first saw it. People are taking what amounts to a retainer-type object, covering it with gold, platinum, jewels, etc. and wearing it in public. Known as the "grill," these things can cost as little as $20/tooth, and are the newest form of "bling." (An article on the mouthwear can be found here.) Apparently, wearing expensive retainers is somehow attractive. One guy said he liked his grill because it was unique jewelry, saying something to the effect of "if anyone steals it, it's not like they can wear it." Apparently, he's never heard of this thing called "heat" that can "melt" gold and "reform" it into another "shape." Not to mention, it looks hideous. You open your mouth and all you see is what looks like Little Richard's mouthguard from when he played football, and somehow that's supposed to look good? And then let's discuss hygiene. These grills go over your teeth, which you eat with, and drink with. We'll assume you're astute enough to actually remove the grill WHILE you're eating (though that might be stretching it anymore). When you're done, unless you brush your teeth immediately, you're putting the grill back on food encrusted teeth, leading to plaque. I'm willing to bet a dime that many of these folks don't brush their teeth twice a day, which compounds that problem, and then many probably don't think to do little things like clean their grills, or take them out overnight, which again adds to the tooth problems. One person removed her grill at the dentist to reveal 4 very cavity-filled teeth. How wonderful. I bet her parents (who probably are footing the dental bill, if not the grill) are just thrilled with that fashion statement. At least platform shoes made you taller and arguably were good for posture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Christmas with children
Means don't place gifts under tree
Kids will open them!

(They come by it honestly, though)

I didn't know that

Seinfeld (or rather, Frank Costanza) did not come up with the idea of Festivus. The holiday celebration was actually invented in 1966 by a Reader's Digest editor. And now, thanks to the mention in Seinfeld, it's become a more popular holiday alternative to the traditional overmarketed consumer-mad Christmas, according to this Detroit Free Press article. Sales of Aluminum poles have actually increased from $5 in the Detroit area five years ago to $40 today. For a pole. For a made up, pop culture "holiday." Yet people flock to Festivus as a solution to the overmarketing and buy-crazy world that is Christmas. I find the irony there somewhat humorous. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, and happy everything else.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pick a topic

One of the more difficult parts of teaching is creating a lesson plan. You have to teach certain criteria, note how much attention to give any particular subject, make sure you properly allocate time, ensure it's easy enough for most people in class to understand, yet hard enough to keep everyone occupied on the material. That's difficult enough for a class that's already been established. Now imagine creating a curriculum for a class that you've never taught before, and that hasn't been taught at your school in years. I don't envy the people at Ector Country Independent School District as they choose the curriculum for their bible class.

This is not a class on intelligent design, it's a Bible class. In a public school. This looks to be one of the more daunting tasks undertaken by a school district in this vein in quite a while, and I imagine they're rather concerned about doing it right, so as to avoid a lawsuit. This class is an elective class, not part of the mandatory curriculum.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with having a bible class in a public school. I do think it would be better to have a world religions class, that would provide insight into all the major religions of the world, as opposed to focusing on one. It seems to me that would help mitigate any hint of improper motive (i.e. teaching Christianity in a public school). However, a bible class as an elective should be fine. The school board apparently has to ensure that it's taught only for historical purposes, not devotional purposes. In order to do so, they also need to ensure that this elective class remains elective, not "elective, but you better take it." I wish them well, and hope that they steer safely through the landmined field they turned into.

The Season of Giving

The boy and I went shopping today. He had some Christmas money he got from Great Grandma, and wanted to pick up a couple toys. He chose a football (that's my boy!) and the favorite of multiple generations, the slinky. We also got gifts for gramma, mom, the girl, and the baby boy. Finally, we picked up three gifts (one for a big boy, one for a young girl and one for a toddler) and donated them to Toys for Tots. The boy was very happy about this. He truly loves giving and sharing, possibly more than getting gifts. I wish I could take credit for this in him, but I can't. This giving spirit is his and his alone. Would that everyone's kids could be that willing to share.

Monday, December 19, 2005

If at first you don't succeed...

Then you resort to strongarm tactics to get your way. Apparently forgetting that the first job as a politician is that of a public servant, and thus should yield to what the public wants, Republican Congressmen and Senators have attached the ANWR drilling proposal to a defense budget plan for next year, according to the San Jose Mercury News. This is the same ANWR plan that the President and Right Conservatives have been trying to get passed for as long as we can remember, but have suffered setbacks in the form of Democrats, Moderates, environmentalists, and the majority of American People who don't want drilling in a National Reserve.

So, to get around the Congress problem (because who really cares what the public wants, it's not like they're going to remember this little bit of history come election time), we tie it to a defense spending budget that must pass in order to fund the Iraq war - the same Iraq war that the President urged us to have patience on last night. Now, the Republicans have ammunition (so to speak) to use against those who oppose the ANWR. They can suggest that those who vote against the military budget to which the ANWR was attached are unpatriotic, don't support the war effort, want us to lose, are defeatists, are playing partisan games and undermining the country.

Dirty tricks are expected in politics. They shouldn't be used to line executive pockets for short term community benefits at the expense of the environment.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Til Death Do Us Part, but I keep everything

Celebrity Marriages - are they doomed to failure? A Yahoo! article that I read today discussed some of the requirements imposed in a celebrity marriage per various prenuptial agreements. Some of the highlights in the agreements listed include:
- no mother-in-law overnight visits
- only one football game per Sunday (No, I wouldn't agree to this)
- mandatory sexual positions
- fidelity clauses
- who gets the pool boy
- random drug testing
- requiring a husband to pay $10,000 every time he is rude to his in-laws
- limiting a wife's weight to 120 pounds lest she forfeit $100,000 in separate property

Is it any wonder that these marriages fail constantly? It seems like the people are gearing up for the divorce before they even sign the marriage certificate. And it sounds more like control issues than property issues in a lot of the cases.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Quiet Saturdays

My wife is cooking dinner. She's making Jambalaya. That's some good food. It got me thinking about some of the more interesting meals I've had in my day - stuff that doesn't readily come to mind.

1. Squirrel. At least, I've been told I've had squirrel. It was when I was a child, and honestly, I don't remember.

2. Bison. This one isn't so much exotic as uncommon. Tastes really good though.

3. Octopus. I've had this two different ways, both as cooked in noodles (very tasty) and in Sushi form (not as good).

4. Poshintang. I don't recommend this, and I won't go into detail unless pressed.

5. Schmaltz. Bacon pieces and lard. You smear it on a cracker. It tastes like bacon pieces and lard.

6. Care care (Pardon the spelling here, I really don't know the proper spelling). Peanut butter and oxtail soup.

7. Frog Legs. They taste like chicken. Really.

8. Makkoli. I didn't so much eat this as drink it - it's a Korean rice wine. I can't begin to describe how unsavory this was.

9. General Tso's chicken from Safeway. If the good general knew what Safeway did to his chicken, he'd have invaded Lakewood, WA. This was so bad I had to get my friends to try it to see how absolutely foul it was.

10. Scrapple. Once. Never again.

And people say I'm not adventurous.

Is it Patriotism?

President Bush complained that the Senators who opposed the renewal of the USA Patriot Act are "acting irresponsibly and standing in the way of protecting the country from attack," today in his weekly radio address. You remember the Patriot Act, the Act that authorizes, inter alia, officials to arrest and detain people for looking suspiciously like terrorists (read: looking Middle Eastern). This act has the effect of stifling individual liberties in the name of defense, the Government's looking out for our best interests.

I don't believe that opposing the Patriot Act is irresponsible, and I think that suggesting otherwise carries the hint of McCarthy-ist sentiments. Senators who oppose the Patriot Act can do so freely, and should not have to bear veiled threats of being anti-american from our Uniter, not Divider president.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Office Dinners

I have never had an office Christmas Party. I've had Squadron Christmas parties, but that's not the same. My wife, however, has had holiday dinners the last three years. This year, we all went to Fogo De Chao, a Brazilian meat house. The dinner started with salad bar, and then servers came by with various cuts of meat on skewers. There were fifteen types of meat, from Lamb, Chicken, Pork, and Beef. It was all you can eat, and eat when you want. Somehow, I doubt it's high on the PETA must-dine list.

The food was outstanding. The best rack of lamb I've ever had (not much challenge there, as I've never had rack of lamb before). I could have kept eating all night, except I didn't want to embarrass myself or my wife. Fortunately, there were others in our party that were less concerned about maintaining a demure posture. For the price of dinner (and it was quite a price), we had a nice show, too. The wine flowed like, well wine.

After dinner, we were invited to go to a Karaoke bar to sing a song or two. We declined, inasmuch as the after hours daycare we took the children to closed in about 45 minutes and we were about 25 minutes from where we had to go. Had we made another stop, we wouldn't have been able to make it before closing. All in all, it was fun. I'm glad my wife has a small office; it feels so much more personal than what I fear the big office parties are like.

I highly recommend Fogo de Chao, if you're in Houston and have a wad of cash you're dying to spend. It was a wonderful evening.

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

I stopped watching Basketball in 1998, during the lockout. I found it nauseating that people who earn an average of 2.5 million dollars a year to play a game would complain that they weren't getting paid enough. I would still watch college, because they don't get paid nearly as much as the pros. Think about it, the average salary for a basketball player in 1998 was 2.5 million dollars. There are 12 players on a basketball team (I think there are more now, maybe 14, extended bench?). That means that the middle player, number 6, who doesn't even start; he's on the bench, gets 2.5 million dollars. Then the higher salaries players were profit sharing with the players who made the league minimum to help them stay afloat while they weren't getting paid. The league minimum of $250,000 a year. And they needed help making ends meet during the hard times of the lockout. It made me sick.

But then something wonderful happened. Larry Brown went to Detroit. He taught the players how to play as a team. There were no egos. Defense was the name of the game. The team took on the persona of the city, blue collar, hard working, unappreciated and underappreciated. Then, when he had a good thing, he made it better, by trading for Rasheed Wallace. Yes, I said better and Rasheed Wallace in the same sentence. And I'm serious.

Think about it. Here's a guy who wants so badly to win that he leads with his emotions. He plays better when he's angry. He lead the league in technicals as a result of having to do so much in Portland, and the fans hated him. Yet, his teammates have never had anything negative to say about him. Everywhere he's ever been, his teammates have thought the world of him. He works hard every night, and always tries his best - something Tracy McGrady admits he doesn't do. And now that he's not the focal point, not the one who has to do everything, he's doing much better, and the technicals are so much less frequent. Think about it. He's a player that the other teams don't like, their fans hate, and his teammates love. Deep down, you have to admit that he is the perfect roleplaying star you'd want on your team. And he keeps it on the court. He talks smack, but only about his opponent, or his opponent's ability to play him. He keeps the family out of it, unlike many of the fans in the stands. He may be emotional, but he's respectful.

With that in place, the team Detroit Pistons beat the Me-First L.A. Lakers, in the first ever five-game sweep in NBA finals history. Then, the next year (last season), they came within a beautiful game winning shot by Robert Horry of winning a second finals against the very respectable Spurs (probably the only other team I care to watch in the NBA). They made the game fun again, and I wish everyone played like that. Thank goodness the Pistons got Wallace, both for them and him.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How to support your troops

A short time back, my friend Bookworm offered a post on troop support, and how those who oppose the war end many statements with "but I support the troops." She noted (correctly) that merely saying you support the troops does little to actually support the troops. I commented on that site, and listed several ways people could show their support, not just those opposed to the war, but also those who support it. The first alternative, of course, is to actually enlist. There have been recruiting shortfalls in the Army for the last few years, and, absent the Air Force during Vietnam (they were full of people trying to avoid the draft - story related firsthand by a retired Petty Officer who went to the Navy after the Air Force turned him down), I've never heard of a military branch rejecting any qualified individuals. This way, you can not just show your support for the troops, but you can actually be a member of the military. Rumor has it they increased the enlistment age to 42, though I haven't confirmed that number. This would open the door to a great many people who otherwise couldn't show their support by stepping up and doing something for their country. This might have the adverse affect, though, of segregating those who actually support the war and the troops and those who support the war and the troops so long as they are not in the war or part of the troops.

If you're not able to enlist, there are many other things you can do. You can send out gift packages to those stationed in the war zones. A simple relief package with a Christmas (or Chanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever) card, some cookies, a couple toys (think Nerf Footballs, Frisbees, etc.) can do wonders for people who don't have those at home. You can do simpler things, such as make a donation to the Air Force Sergeants Association, the Combined Federal Campaign, or other such support charities. You can tie a ribbon around your tree, or your car antenna. You can volunteer at the USO in your city. The major Airports tend to have USOs and are often looking for volunteers. A simple "thank you" to a person in uniform can mean a lot. I was at the movies a few weeks ago and I ran into a Lance Corporal who was here in Houston doing Recruiter's Assistance after returning from 9 months in Iraq. We talked for a few minutes, I told him of my time in the military and asked him about his time. He's here through Christmas, after which time he will be going back to Iraq for at least 6 months. When we parted company, I shook his hand and said "thank you, we appreciate your service." And he perked up ever so much more than he already was and returned the thanks. It helps.

Actions speak so much louder than words. If you are serious about showing the troops you support them, whether you support the war or not, then do something. It really does mean something.

Random Trivia

John Dillinger was so impressed with the quality of Ford cars as getaway vehicles that he once wrote a letter to Henry Ford praising the performance.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Spirit

It's been hard for me to get in the holiday spirit the last couple years. It's not because of the lack of Salvation Army Santas at Target, or the absence of "Christmas" greetings at my retail stores of choice. It certainly has nothing to do with President Bush not wishing folks a merry christmas on the White House Christmas card.

I think the problem is that I live in Texas. Right now, I live in Houston, which averages approximately negative 2 inches of snow per year. Before Houston, I lived in San Angelo, which, quiet and relatively crime-free as it may be, is pretty much the back hair of Texas. You know it exists, but you don't want to spend too much time dwelling on it.

I miss the changes of seasons. I like snow, snowball fights, snow forts (not that I ever built one more than about a foot high), sledding, skiing, walking in the snow. There's something about the first snow of the year that really brings the holiday season about for me.

Fortunately, I have an alternative to being grumpy about Christmas. I get to enjoy Christmas through my children. There are few things in this world more rewarding than watching a child get all excited looking at a Christmas tree on December 25 and seeing all those gifts underneath just waiting to be opened. It's one of the few unmitigated pleasures reserved in this world anymore, and this year, I get to enjoy three kids finding the joy of Christmas.

Now, if I could combine the two, that would be the gravy.

Wednesday is Haiku Day

We're halfway finished
With law school education
Then the learning starts

As always, everyone is welcome to contribute!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Semester's End

I finished my last final for the semester, and thus reached the top of the hill last night. We're on our way down for the next year and a half, at which time I'll (presumably) graduate with my Juris Doctorate from the South Texas College of Law. Last night several of my friends went out to imbibe and celebrate the end of the term. My intent was to join them, but I didn't. Perhaps I'm starting to get old.

What Purpose Prison?

Way back in the old days of my first year of law school, right on the first day of Criminal Law, our professor discussed the concept of sending someone to prison. Essentially, he said that there were four purposes for imprisoning someone, as follows:

1. Deterrent - A disincentive, we send you here and you don't want to come back after you're done.

2. Retribution - We believe that since you're a criminal, you deserve to be punished. You chose to live outside the law and now you have to pay the consequences.

3. Rehabilitation - There is a belief in people that we can "fix" a criminal, that we can somehow teach them to not break the law and be a decent, law-abiding person.

4. Incapacitation - If we put you in jail, then you can't break the law and hurt non-criminals while you're there. Thus, we reduce crime.

The idea, as I understood it, was that people will adopt one of these philosophies with respect to how we treat prisoners and why we have a penal system. I don't know exactly which section I would fall under. I wonder what other people's philosophies would fall into...

Bankruptcy changes

I'm not completely up to date on the changes to the bankruptcy codes, but one thing I understand is that once they are enacted, there will be no forgiveness of credit card debt from declarations of bankruptcy. I might not be completely correct on that summarization, as I haven't studied it, but that's how I understand it to be.

My friend and I were recently discussing the effect of this and pretty much decided it was a bad thing, something pressed for by the lobbyists for the credit card companies to be able to milk poor people who get behind and can't catch up. I suggested that for every person who gets hit with a spate of bad luck and don't have the means to catch up once they get behind (and I do believe that there are many of these people), there is at least one person who ran up all their credit cards with charges at Macy's, Sears, Wal-Mart, etc. and then, when they had an emergency where they needed that emergency money that credit can provide, it's not there. I do have some trouble empathizing with those people, as, had they exercised some restraint and not maxed out the credit cards that they could barely afford to keep paying the minimum balance on, then they wouldn't have found themselves in the pickle they're in.

I do think, however, that some responsibility must be borne by the credit card companies. Perhaps there should be a penalty or transfer of liability for that money to the agent who extends credit to someone who already has copious credit, and many credit cards. Perhaps there's a way to ensure that credit card companies don't prey on the weak, meek and unintelligent. Perhaps they shouldn't get to reap benefits from overextending credit to someone who's already stretched fairly thin. Maybe there should be a personal cap on credit extensions for credit cards to the amount of money a person earns in a month, or a year, or something like that (I don't know any right answer here, I'm just postulating). But I think credit card companies need to be more discriminating with whom they grant cards before they should reasonably expect credit card debt to be repaid after bankruptcy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The end of finals

Another semester has passed. I have finished one half of my law school career. We finished with a flourish - Federal Income Taxation. Always a thriller. Here's the kicker, I liked the class. I enjoy tax law, of all things. That said, I don't know that I want to be a tax attorney, but it's something I potentially could do.

Now, I get to take a day off before I start getting the house ready for Christmas. That should be fun. We'll see how it goes.

I'll post more tomorrow, I promise!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Finals Stress

I've got my Property II final tonight. I'm not nearly as ready as I'd like to be. That stresses me out. I should do OK, but I'd like to do better than that.
Tomorrow morning, I have my Consumer Transactions final. I liked that class, and I think the subject matter is quite interesting, but with studies for Evidence (last Wednesday) and Property (Tonight), I've had to relegate studying for CT to the evenings, when I'm not quite as alert. Again, I should do OK, but, since I liked the class, I would like to do better than just OK.

Tax is on Monday. Which means it will be my third test in four days. That's not too bad in and of itself, as I'll have the better part of three days to study for it (Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and Monday morning/early afternoon), but, I'm already feeling worn out and burned out. I hope I can get a second wind and finish up Tax with a flourish.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I could use the moral support.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Random Trivia

None of the Beatles could read music. Paul McCartney eventually taught himself.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Sequestration is
What keeps witnesses from Court
Exceptions exist

Sorry for the really dull one, but Evidence Final is tonight. Maybe be better in a week.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Study Drunk

I've apparently been cramming too hard, as on the way to class today, I started thinking of cereal brands and equating stories to their names. Here are some of the ones I came up with:

Frosted Flakes - A group of blondes get lost in North Dakota in the Winter.
Fruit Loops - The adventures of the world's first all-gay stunt plane team.
Trix - A diary of breakfast for Johns
Raisin' Bran - The trials of grain growers in Kansas.
Special Kay - A developmentally challenged girl just wants to live a normal life
Product 19 - The quest for the perfect prime number
Cheerio's - A guidebook to farewells in different languages

They're bad, I know, but necessary for my continued sanity. See what stories you can come up with!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

How not to disagree with someone

When a blogger was critical of Ann Coulter, you would assume that the well-respected, Ivy League educated professional would be able to handle it with tact and dignity. At least, that's what I would assume. I might not agree with a lot of what Ann Coulter says, but I respect that she thinks about her opinions. I can say the same about the people on Brad Blog, including guest blogger Lydia Cornell, who did criticize Ann. Imagine my surprise to find out that the inimitable Ann Coulter responded to such criticism by posting Lydia's contact information (e-mail and personal phone number), posting a personal e-mail from Lydia, and referring to those who disagree with her as "nazi block watchers."

Now, I'm nowhere near the league of Ann Coulter in terms of readers, and I'm certainly not in the region of people who would have others vociferously denounce my opinion on anything. However, I have always tried to remain as civil as possible, even with topics on which I disagree with the auther. While I was never a regular reader of Ann Coulter's before, I'm certainly will never be a reader period in the future. She's entitled to her opinion, but posting personal information, and then not removing it when asked, is wrong.

Property Rights

As I took a break from studying Property this morning, I perused the Detroit Free Press, as I am wont to do. On the website today I read an article by Mitch Albom, who I consider to be one of the best newswriters in the country, and whose books I've enjoyed immensely (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven). His topic today dealt with a nativity scene in a neighborhood association community. It seems a family in Novi, MI put up a nativity scene (and a Santa Claus) in their front yard, and received notice from the association that they were to take it down, as it violated a "rule." The family complained, and talked about it on the radio, and after receiving heavy flak, the neighborhood association relented.

In the article, Mitch made the statement, "When it comes to your front lawn, it's your God and your grass." The point he was making is that residence rules such as what you can have on your front lawn, or how big a flag you can fly, or whatever, are wrong. He believes that people have a right to do what they want on their own property, and there's no inalienable right for people's property values to go up.

He quotes the son in the family as saying, "They said they'll fine us, and we said go ahead ... They have no right. They are not the government. This is not about separation of church and state, either, because they are not a state."

The child is partly right, if I understand my property correctly (which I might not, since I'm still studying it). They are not a state. But they do have a right. The point that the family and Mitch, and all the people who called and complained missed is a very important one. The family CHOSE to live there. They CHOSE to follow the community rules, whether they knew them or not. If they wanted to live somewhere where they could display items on their front lawn, then they should have moved somewhere without that deed restriction. The community absolutely has the right to tell them to take it down, if it indeed is in their rules. The association MUST challenge those small violations of the deed restrictions, or they can be estopped from challenging the bigger violations, such as opening a rendering plant next door.

"But that's just ridiculous, Steve. Nobody would open that, and EVERYONE knows that that's doing too much on the property," you might say. Well, hold on a minute. If your argument is that it's their property and they can do what they want, then what is to stop them? Especially if you put the kibosh on the homeowner's association? If it's not acceptable to open a rendering plant, but it is acceptable to place a nativity scene, then where does the association draw the line? That's simple, you draw the line at the list of regulations passed when the property was first sold to the family that has been told to remove their nativity scene. This has nothing to do with religion or the free exercise thereof. It has nothing to do with the right to own property. It has everything to do with one family choosing to accept a standard of rules and then complaining when the rules are upheld.

The family should have accepted what the homeowner's association dictated and removed the nativity scene. They've weakened the defense to larger claims against the community by their actions.

Really Bad Joke

And if I say it, it must be true, so don't read it.

If you were to give Confuscius a massage, would be able to say you have rubbed sage?

This is from a jar in my spice cabinet called rubbed sage.

I warned you it was bad.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Amnesty, National

President George W. Bush promoted his plan to toughen border security on Saturday, saying illegal immigration was adding to crime and placing a burden on schools and police in border communities, according to this Yahoo! article.

That's good. Stepping up security to try to discourage illegal immigration is a good plan. Controlling access to the nation is something that we've supported for a while now.

So then why does he mix into his message denouncing illegal immigration a plan offering amnesty to illegal immigrants? The plan he proposed was a "guest worker" permit for illegals in this country. It would allow them to live in the States legally and work here for a period of time, provided they return to their home country at the end of the period. This would affect 11 million illegal immigrants (or is it undocumented, these days?). He said that this is NOT an amnesty program, and he's not offering a backdoor reward to people who entered this country illegally. That's right. Giving jobs to people who sneak across the border is NOT rewarding them for sneaking across the border. It's simply matching workers with employers. Because we don't already have unemployed Americans that could use work. If you break the law (being an illegal immigrant necessarily means you've broken the law, because you've entered or remained illegally), then you should be punished, not paid. If the President is serious about protecting our borders, then he needs to not grant immunity to the very people he's trying to keep out.

Interesting observation

By someone commenting on a post at the Moderate Voice:

Conservatives don't expand government control over private citizens.

Conservatives don't dramatically increase federal spending.

Conservatives don't deploy large numbers of troops to foreign countries for humanitarian missions like "bringing democracy to the Middle East."

Is President Bush *really* a conservative?
I just found it humorous.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Guilty By We Have Enough Time To Find SOMETHING!

Jose Padilla has been held at a military brig for the last three years as an enemy combatant accused of trying to set off a radiological dirty bomb targeting Americans. He hadn't been formally charged with anything. The Fourth Court of Appeals ruled in September that President Bush has the right to detain an American Citizen, on American Soil, as an enemy combatant. The Government has now entered its charge against Padilla. Strangely, the charges are not what he's been held on for the last three years, rather, he's being charged with being a member cell that conspired to support terrorists and "murder individuals who are overseas," according to this article.

Basically, what's going on here is the government is keeping an American Citizen in jail, alleging he committed one crime, while charging him with another. It's conceivable that they would reserve his detention in the military brig when taking him to trial, and if he's acquitted, then returning him to the brig until they can bring another trial.

I don't like this rule. I don't like the idea that the Government can detain Americans on one allegation and then charge him with something different. I don't like that an American Citizen has been in jail awaiting charges against him for three years. These are the acts that instill distrust of government in the minds of Americans. He's supposedly presumed innocent until proven guilty. Right now, he's presumed guilty of something, and we'll keep him here until we find out what it is.

Quick caveat here: I've been studying for finals up to and including 15 hours a day all week and I've got my family law final tonight. I needed a break from reviewing, so looked at the article and dashed off some tommyrot worthy of the hellbox.

Capital Punishment

I read a headline today that the 1000th person since 1977 was executed. Now, to be fair, I just read the headline and haven't paid much attention to that person's story, but I saw in another headline "milestone execution raises new questions." I presume these questions deal with capital punishment and whether it should be allowed. I don't know the significance of 1977, other than that's the year Star Wars came out and the year Dustin Diamond, of Saved by the Bell fame was born.

In my view, Capital Punishment is a necessary act. However, I also believe it should be necessarily rare, used only in the most extreme of cases, e.g. Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, etc. I believe that it should be a product of the crimes that the individual committed, not a product of the sentiments of the jury. I don't see it as a deterrent to crime, per se, any more than going to jail. I don't trust those that argue that capital punishment should be used when jail isn't good enough, or that they can't be rehabilitated. I think that if it's a problem with the prison system not being able to rehabilitate the prisoners, then there's a fundamental flaw in the prison system, as rehabilitation is one of the goals of prison. Because of that goal, I can't equate a lack of rehabilitation as a justification for capital punishment. That seems akin to slaughtering the chicken because they keep running out of the chicken coop through the hole in the fence that you never fix.

That being said, I will reiterate that I think there are some acts that are just too heinous, too horrific, for society to accept any punishment short of capital punishment. I think the leash on this form of punishment must be kept extremely short, used only in the most extreme of circumstances.

As an addendum, I agree with the recent Court decision that prohibited performing capital punishment on convicts who committed their crimes as minors. I do think there is a fundamental, cognitive failing on the part of minors to truly understand the consequences of their actions beyond the short term. That is not to say I don't think minors deserve punishment, and I'm all for life sentences for those in such a situation, but I stop short of capital punishment in keeping consistent with my belief that it must be used exceedingly sparingly. There must be an 8th Amendment Balance there somewhere; perhaps someday I'll recognize and be able to say where it is.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Random Trivia

In Texas, where common law, or informal, marriages exist, in order to be married through common law, you must 1. live together. 2. intend to be married. 3. hold yourselves out as husband and wife. In most states, a common law marriage from a state that recognizes common law marriage will be held as a valid marriage in that state, due to the full faith and credit principle, though it doesn't appear that this would apply to civil unions.

Though there is such a thing as common law marriage, there is no such thing as a common law divorce. This means that if someone was in a common law relationship and broke up with his or her spouse and then fell in love and got married, that second marriage is void. (Also, the person from the common law marriage would be considered a bigamist.)

In a situation where that happens, the second spouse is known as a "putative" spouse, and could be entitled to spousal maintenance, even though there was never an actual marriage.