Thursday, December 27, 2007

I say I don't . . .

But I really do love quotes.  Take them out of context--I don't care, as long as you don't hold it against the person you're quoting.  This is a gem from Eugene McCarthy:

Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important.

As my post-college cynicalism develops, I believe this statement more and more.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2d Tier School = 1st Tier Life

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog named an anonymous commenter known only as "Loyola 2L" as the Law Blog Lawyer of the Year.  Loyola 2L won because s/he has "brought to light" the general deceit of law schools and the media-at-large in conveying that lawyers will leave law school and immediately make lots of money.  The truth is, s/he contends, that most lawyers who don't graduate from 1st tier schools usually have trouble landing jobs at all, much less high-paying ones.  The comments were generally vitriolic, mostly criticizing Loyola 2L for being lazy.  I, in my narcissism and arrogance, think they all missed the point.

Baylor is currently ranked #53 by U.S. News & World Report, placing it close to the line demarcating the 1st and 2nd tiers.  Admittedly, though I had several on-campus interviews with Biglaw firms, I did not get so much as a callback from any of them.  I also know only a few classmates who actually landed jobs in Biglaw.  Am I bitter?  Should I be?

Well--I was.  But then I realized: at Biglaw, you work innumerable hours for a taskmaster boss with very little control over any aspect of your life, very little meaningful client interaction, and very little real-life lawyer experience.  My criteria for the ideal job: numerable hours, decent boss, control over most aspects of my life, meaningful client interaction, and real-life lawyer experience.  Funny how they don't match up at all.

Maybe that's why I didn't get any callbacks: my Biglaw interviewers could tell I didn't belong.  But I'll live.  I've secured two jobs for next summer, both of which I'm really excited about.  I'll be working for the Texas Attorney General's Child Support Division and the Federal Attorney General's Tax Division.  Maybe my paycheck won't be as fat as my private-sector classmates, but at least my wife will remember who I am.

Plus Greg gives us 17 state and national holidays.  Seventeen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Marrying Up

That was my plan, and I've accomplished it.  Today, Ms. Avacado got the results of the fourth and final section of the CPA exam: straight A's, mis lectores.  I don't know what's left in the certification process, but I'm pretty sure it's coasting from here on out.

Lost? Use a map.

This is for President Scott, my fellow cartophile. This is awesome: an unofficial map of the Island from Lost.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lance's Evil Twin

Beware this educated, internationally traveling, francophonic murderer--he is wicked fast on a mountain bike:

He allegedly shot and killed an armored car guard leaving a Phoenix movie theater three years ago, took about $56,000 in cash, and then sped away on a mountain bike.

(emphasis added)

Don't cops have cars?  Is Phoenix the kind of town where a mountain biker really could beat a car?

On a Role

In my college Ethics class, we studied existentialism and its influence on ethical thinking.  In particular, we talked about how some existentialists reject the concept of defining life through roles played.  At the time, I thought it was a beautiful way to live, and I've pretty much agreed with it without question ever since.

But the following from John Le Carré's The Constant Gardener gave me pause:

[S]omething was happening to Justin that, to his excitement and alarm, he was unable to control.  He had been drawn completely by accident into a beautiful play, and was captivated by it.  He was in a different element, acting a part, and the part was the one he had often wanted to play in life, but never till now quite brought off.

I've never heard so eloquent a defense (even if it may have been unintentional) for viewing life as a series of roles to be played, each with its own rough script.  Maybe a significant number of our decisions are made because of who we are--the role we're playing at the time--and for no other reason.

Just a thought.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Democratic Triumvirate

President Scott first posted about this test a few days ago. Kudos to him for paying a lot of attention. I promised my Democratic results, and here they are:
  1. Barack Obama (18 points)
  2. Chris Dodd (17 points) (very surprising to me)
  3. Bill Richardson (16 points) (also very surprising)
  4. John Edwards (10 points) (disappointing)
  5. Hillary Clinton (5 points) (not surprising at all)
Come on President Scott--and my other faithful readers--where are your blue results?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Yankee Ticket

There's a cool quiz-type-thing you can take on the Washington Post's website to help you figure out which candidate(s) you support for president. Basically, they ask a question, you pick the statement you most agree with, then you rate how important that issue is to you. The trick is that you don't know which candidates are saying which statements. You should try it out, you might be surprised by the result. I know I was:

  1. Rudy Giuliani (27 points)
  2. Mitt Romney (25)
  3. Mike Huckabee, John McCain (15 each)
  4. Fred Thompson (13)
  5. Ron Paul (10)

These are just my Republican results. Later, I plan to try the Democratic candidates and see whom I like. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 03, 2007

That was unexpected

Did you see Adam Sandler and Kevin James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry? My wife and I rented it this weekend, and I was blown away. The story begins with Mr. James's character, a firefighter named Larry, saving Mr. Sandler's character's life (Sandler = Chuck). Thanking Larry, Chuck explains that he now owes Larry a life-debt: "Whatever, whenever." As it turns out, "whenever" = today. Larry learns that, because he did not act quickly enough after his wife died, he can no longer change the designated beneficiary of his pension to his kids. So, if Larry died tomorrow, his kids wouldn't get any of his pension. There is a loophole, however--if he marries again, he can designate his new spouse as his beneficiary. With no female offerors, he convinces Chuck to drive up to Canada and become his lawfully wedded husband. The City of New York, however, smells something fishy and assigns Steve Buscemi to investigate. The movie ends memorably, but my lips are sealed.

You know, I was a little surprised when Ms. Avacado suggested we watch it. You would think that if one of us had suggested, it would have been I. But--seriously--she wanted to watch it. (Heh--then she fell asleep halfway through.) As expected, it had scenes obviously targeted toward the male audience, but it was an amazingly sophisticated and complex story. Think John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, but with straight guys pretending to be gay instead of a white guy pretending to be black. As the story develops, the viewer glimpses the strife of being a gay American through the eyes of characters who are just like us and have no obvious gay-rights agenda. Just like Griffin, Sandler and James show us how the other side lives.

As a law student, I am a student of argumentation. This movie argues very effectively in favor of gay marriage, or at least fighting sexual preference-based hatred. By the end of the movie, you find yourself asking "Why not?" to the question of gay marriage. Brangelina's reported refusal to marry until everybody can get married, on the other hand, only annoys me. I don't care if Mr. and Mrs. Smith ever get married--but Chuck and Larry made me think about how I think about homosexuals.

I recommend I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. (I just wish they had given it a shorter title.) Watch it, think about it, see if it inspires you. Black Like Me made me conscious of how I think about and interact with those who are visibly different from me. Chuck and Larry just may make you think about how you think about and interact with those who are not so visibly different.

Let's erase the hate. ¡Somos todos americanos!


Check out that linked story on the side. You won't, so I'll just tell you what happened. During the first half, the Lady Jackets went on a 46-2 run. At the end of the first half, they were up 48-6. They took a break in the second half and gave up 18 points to win only 88-24. What can I say about that? It's no wonder these girls are ranked #1 in the nation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sting'm Jackets

I don't usually comment on the goings-on of my alma mater, but this I had to share: HPU's women's basketball team is currently ranked #1 in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA D-3 poll. According to the HPU press release (linked to your right), this is the first time since joining the NCAA that any HPU team has ranked #1 in the nation.

So I'm thinking to myself: you sure know how to pick schools that do well in women's sports. Growing up, girls in my classes always started school late because they were playing in the softball world series. A few years ago, Baylor's women's basketball team won the national championship. And now the Lady Jackets are #1 in the nation.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Say It Ain't So

Haiku for an Old Friend
Oh the Brazos Belle
Sinking in the (financial) mud
We had great times on you

Three-and-a-half years ago, my wife and I had our reception aboard the Brazos Belle. It was one of the funnest times of my life. We had dancing, cakes, friends, family, music. But the rains came down this past summer, flooding the Brazos River and the lower deck of the Brazos Belle. The Brazos Belle cancelled all its pending engagements, preventing hundreds of people from having the beautiful reception that we had. Nobody knows who owns it these days. The operator claims to have turned it over to his alleged lessor, who in turn is characterizing the transaction as a purchase rather than a lease. All I know is that it's sad.

I know a little about customer service and the food industry, and I love boats. If I had money, I'd buy the boat from whoever owns it, put it out on the River (the new dam is supposed to make that a workable proposition), and try to make that thing work. It really is a shame that it may end up floating down the River Styx instead of the Rio Brazos de los Dios. But the business of business is business (i.e., profit), and with the costs of repairing all that flood damage, making the Brazos Belle seaworthy probably is not very cost-effective.

As the French say: hélas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Smart Cookie

One of life's great satisfactions is vindication in your belief that you (or someone you love) rock.

Today, Ms. Avacado got her score on one part of the CPA exam. It was a 98. Yeah, that's right--I married up.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Me to a T

What kind of lawyer are you?
Your Result: Slick Defense Attorney

You have a perfectly coiffed hairdo, $1000 shoes, and a smile that reminds people of a cat toying with a mouse. Juries hang on your every word, and the media loves you. Pro: Highly paid, famous, nice office. Con: You really don't know how that blood got there? Come on.

Transactions Nerd
Tax Junkie
Ambulance Chaser
What kind of lawyer are you?
Make Your Own Quiz

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cry me a (Charles) River

When I was nine, my older brother was a big Wade Boggs fan. My brother's influence combined with Roger Clemens's as-yet-untainted dominance plus the Curse of the Bambino made me a bit of a Boston Red Sox fan. When they won the World Series in 2004, I was thrilled. I still like the Red Sox, but now I'm tired of Boston still pretending it's hard to love sports in Boston. Just like Boston dominated the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, and legal scholarship, it is now dominating sports.

Does anybody remember the last time that a major professional Boston sports team lost a game? The Red Sox finished the 2007 postseason with seven wins in a row. They haven't lost since October 16. The Patriots haven't lost a real game since January 21, although they did lose a preseason game on August 17. The Boston Celtics haven't lost a real game since April 18, and they haven't lost a game at all since October 23 (preseason). Granted, the Boston Bruins' last loss was November 8, but they're the exception that proves the rule. Even in soccer, the New England Revolution haven't lost a game since October 13.

What's happening? By my count, Boston's last meaningful loss (excluding the Bruins) was October 16, exactly 30 days ago today. I'm not sure if that's a record, but it's pretty crazy. I think maybe Bostonians will forget how to lose.

So don't tell me it's hard to be a sports fan in Boston right now.

Go Spurs go!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stultifying English

My mother-in-law asked me recently about how a job offer lined up with what I want to do. I told her, "I want to try cases, and this will give me that opportunity." Typically, I would have said "I want to litigate," but I coincidentally used the $5 word instead of the $250 word. Most of the time, I use the $250 word, stultifying [Q.E.D.] my writing. Then, today, I got this:

cash advance


The goal of all communication is to convey a message. Using the $250 word rarely conveys exactly the message you are trying to convey. If I had told her I wanted to litigate, it would have conveyed the message that I'm a law student reminding her that I'm a law student--and she's not--and that we speak different languages. Instead, plain English conveys the message I really wanted to convey: yes, this job lines up with what I want to do. Most of the time, $250 English probably conveys the message, but with a lot of elitist overtones. The elitism drowns out your intended message, and your attempt at communication fails. Maybe that's what Plain English is about: ensuring that your message gets heard.

This is what I love about blogging: I can practice my writing skills, and you, my faithful readers, can tell your children that you read our generation's Scott Turow when he was just a law student writing a blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

End of an Era II

Back in June, my car of seven years blew a head gasket. Today, I finally sold it.

It kinda makes me wistful. I put 70,000 miles on that car. In high school, I tested the governor and learned what it was like to drive 107 mph. In college, I drove it back and forth to Brownwood about 96 times. When I first got it, I didn't like it much. During its tenure as my car, I was constantly trying to get rid of it. But now that it's gone, I'm kinda sad. I guess that's how it goes.

My new car . . . . . . already has 120,000 miles on it. I hope it lasts another 70,000.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Quarterly Narcissism

I'm always interested in what other people are studying. I think it says a lot about a person (even beyond their interests). So I wonder what this tells you about me--

  • Business Organizations II -- The sequel to the thrilling Bizzorg I. Actually, I really enjoyed Bizzorg I, which culminated fittingly enough with perhaps the funnest exam since Torts I. I left feeling like a boxer who leaves the ring after the 12th round not entirely sure how the judges will score but glad he wasn't knocked out. Unfortunately, that also means you didn't knock out your opponent.
  • Federal Courts -- Taught by an eminent blogger, I thought this would be a helpful class, especially the more I get to know myself and what I want to do. Unlike most of my blogging comrades, I am growing more and more interested in business-type litigation: tax, bankruptcy, corporate issues. The fed courts do tax and bankruptcy (though I don't think we cover them specifically in this class), so it should help in the long run.
  • Corporate Tax -- I don't think I even have to explain myself on this one. Why wouldn't you take Corporate Tax? What? You think corporate law is the most boring possible use of time and tax somehow exceeds that? Well, I think you're wrong.*
  • Constitutional Law -- Because it's required. And because the prof has been teaching it since before the major leagues got divisions, before the Super Bowl, almost before major professional sports came to Texas. If that's not amazing, nothing is.
  • Immigration Law -- ¡Somos todos Americanos!

Who's with me?

*Maybe after finals I'll blog about why business law is the best out there.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who names these things

Ever since I read about the Uniform Testamentary Additions to Trusts Act, I've been singing "Hakuna UTATA."

Oh well. I won't worry about it--I'll just eat some grubs. Or maybe some TUUNAA.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I need a young priest and an old priest

I never understand how these work. If somebody can figure it out, let me know.

Freaky number guessing website

Saturday, October 27, 2007

where the rubber meets the road

One of my favorite things about law school is that you learn a lot about how the world actually works. For example, I used to wonder how exactly corporations do business. Now, after nearly completing Bizzorg, I understand. I have a lot of respect now for transactional lawyers and that special kind of practical creativity they possess. Another example: just last year, I helped my wife resolve a dispute with a seller on eBay who did not want to give a refund after she offered to return a purse that he had described as navy and cream but was actually plain old black and white. We pulled out the UCC, and I explained to him that § 2-711(2)(a) is pretty clear that she gets her money back or we go to court (for the $50 she paid for the purse). He was pretty scared, so we settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Well, it has happened again. Recently, my wife's PayPal account got hacked into, and the villain charged up $200 worth of stuff. No biggie . . . except that the bank account tied to the PayPal account did not have $200 in it. So we got charged the $200 plus an NSF fee.* We easily got the money back from PayPal (they actually told us about the hacking in the first place), but the bank was a little tougher to deal with. At first, they said, "You don't get your NSF fee back because it wasn't our fault." My wife's a tough cookie, so she played hardball and we got our money back. Tonight, we were talking about it, and suddenly the mysteries of Article 4 came clear to me. Under § 4-401, we're not liable for the PayPal charges because they weren't authorized. If we're not liable for the PayPal charges, how can we be liable for the resulting NSF fees? It was beautiful.

Did I really just say that?

*Can you imagine that a bank she worked at in college tried to cover the entirety of its overhead from NSF fees? And they were pretty close, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

See these bags under my eyes?

This is downright amazing. Baylor is ranked number 3 in the nation for most hours spent preparing for class on average. We are highest in Texas, and the only one in the top 25. More interesting, though, perhaps, is a look at the bottom 25, which includes Virginia (147), Harvard (151), UCLA (157), NYU (158), Yale (162), and U of Texas (169!*). But let's look at the real numbers:
  • Baylor = 5.68 hours per day spent studying.
  • Virginia = 3.77
  • Harvard = 3.74
  • UCLA = 3.58
  • NYU = 3.56
  • Yale = 3.50
  • U of Texas = 3.23

Wow. I'm really not sure what to think about this.

*Only North Carolina Central is lower, with a paltry 2.52 hours per day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fratority of Wet Squishy Shoes

Since when does Waco have monsoons? I left the house this morning dry. By chance, as I walked out the door, I grabbed my umbrella ("it's rather cloudy--rain? Nah--but just in case."). Near the 8th Street exit, it started sprinkling. By the time I was turning right on 5th Street, my windshield wipers were at an ironically ineffective high speed. After pulling into my parking spot, I decided to try to wait out the rain. To my growing dread, the rain started coming down harder and in greater volume and the wind started blowing more violently. If campus had palm trees, it would have felt like Isla Nublar minus the dinosaurs. But resistance is futile; so after a few minutes, I opened my umbrella, slipped on my backpack, and stuck my foot out into Tropical Storm Bizzorg.

As I walked through the parking lot, I held my umbrella perpendicular to my body. Yes. Perpendicular. By the time I reached the building, my head and torso were dry, but my legs below the knees were soppin wet. I've never been in a monsoon before, but apparently the effect on your clothing (if you have an umbrella) is more like wading through knee-deep water than standing in the rain. Putting on dry socks tonight at home was like . . . I don't know. Maybe flying back home in a helicopter after narrowly escaping ingestion by supposed-to-be-extinct reptiles.

Since I don't like to complain without offering a solution, I suggest that BLS convert a room into a giant oven so that the victims of Tropical Storm Bizzorg can dry off, relax, and avoid pneumonia.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sting'm Jackets

I have been informed that the University of Texas does not claim to have invented football. Rather, the Universities of Oklahoma and Southern California lay this claim. Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweepin' o'er the plain) is one of those unfortunate public schools that got its mascot from some obscure aspect of the state's history. The Sooners? That's right up there with the Hoosiers. Does anybody know if there are more?* As for USC, I've already made my comment. (Incidentally, if HPU could learn the Pythagorean defense and maybe base our offense more on something like Einstein's theory of relativity, we wouldn't have games like this.)

I hope you're still with me. I've been thinking a lot lately about how Texas elects our judges. I used to think it wasn't such a bad idea, but I'm starting to wonder--especially after the episode last week with the Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refusing to accept a ten-minute-late petition, with death on the line. I hesitate to align myself with either side of the capital punishment issue, but come on--we're talking about death. There is no appeal from that. Let's at least make sure that we've covered all our bases.

*Note--I do know where the Sooners got their mascot. But what is a "hoosier"?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What a beautiful world

There's a song they're playing on my radio station called "Underdog." The chorus says, "You have no fear of the underdog--that's why you will not survive." This is the weekend of the underdog.

The Yankees are getting smashed by the Indians. UT lost to Oklahoma. USC lost to Stanford (you just can't beat the Pythagorean defense). Call me whatever you like, but I love it when the giants are shaken.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I guess it is a big deal

Listen to this:

Both these [checks] were forged by one Lee, who has been since hanged for forgery.
- Lord Mansfield, Price v. Neal, 3 Burr. 1354, 97 Eng. Rep. 871 (K.B. 1762).

Wow. Sometimes I'm reminded why I'm glad I live in America in 2007 and not in England in 1762. Dang.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Cultural sensitivity

Dadgummit. It's Myanmar and has been since 1989.

Disappointed but not destroyed

Following Poseur's lead, I picked an NL backup team . . . and now I'm lumped with the fans of the Mets, the Tigers, the Brewers, the Dodgers, and the Cardinals--teams that should be in the playoffs but aren't. My backup team was the Padres, and they lost tonight to the Rockies, 9-8 after 13 grueling innings. That means that the once-great Padres, who have everything the Rangers don't*, have stumbled into third place in the NL West and yet another season of what-almost-was. So, please, pity me.

My picks for playoffs (or at least how they should turn out based on relative evilness):

Angels v. Red Sox --> Angels in 6
Yankees v. Indians --> Indians in 6

Phillies v. Rockies --> Phillies in 7
Cubs v. Diamondbacks --> Cubs in 5

Angels v. Indians --> Indians in 6
Phillies v. Cubs --> Phillies in 7

Angels v. Phillies --> Phillies in 4

*Namely, offense and defense, but I prefer pitching so I'll focus on that. Triple-crown winner Jake Peavy, plus two of the (arguably) greatest pitchers alive--Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I can see clearly now

A long time ago, I lost that youthful enthusiasm for law school. I think maybe it was September of 1L. But hard work is doing something you don't want to do . . . and keeping on doing it even after it becomes an anti-thrill. In a sense, law school is just that: learning what it means to keep on keeping on.

But I regained a shadow of that former enthusiasm yesterday after Negotiable Instruments. All through 1L, you study cases and learn doctrines that are so abstract and basic that you think either (a) they don't really happen in real life and so are utterly useless or (b) you will never have any grasp on the law as it really is--vast and complex. After a few weeks, 2L has changed those thoughts for me. I'm reading the UCC* and it starts talking about consequential damages, and that means something to me. Or I'm reading the BOC** for Bizzorg*** and LAPP starts bubbling to the surface and I realize that corporate directors are liable only for actual damages and not punitive damages because (1) the rule of implied exclusion and (2) the director relationship is kinda contract-y, and contracts only lead to actual damages, not punitive. Then, the cherry on top of this pedagogical sundae, I have an intelligent discussion by the coffee machine about whether a Marylander can use promissory estoppel to recover damages when we beat him up after promising not to beat him up.****

So I guess the point of this post is twofold. First, if there are any 1Ls who read this, rest assured that it does get better and things will cohere--just not for a long time. Second, to my fellow 2Ls: we're making progress and I can actually start seeing lawyers in each of us. Shame on us.

*If we call the TUPA "toopa," the TRPA "trippa," and the TUUNAA "tuna," then why don't we call the UCC "uck"?

**Most people pronounce this "beeyoSEE," but I propose we change it to "bach."

***Resistance is futile, yo.

****The answer is "Why not just sue for assault and battery and get the punitives p/e blocks?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

From law school dropout . . .

. . . to justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. If you get a chance, read about Stanley Forman Reed, law school transfer who then dropped out but somehow clawed his way to the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Interesting Thoughts

I've been collecting a few quotes that I wanted to post and comment on, but they stand pretty well on their own. Let me know what you think.

[I]t is much easier for an active mind to acquire the virtues of patience, than for a passive one to assume those of energy.

- John Stuart Mill

El amor no es sólo un sentimiento. Es también un arte.

- Balzac

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

- Samuel Johnson

I'll let you decide whether I read the likes of Mill, Balzac, and Johnson for pleasure.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Go Rangers

Sometimes you just want to hit somebody. Usually you don't.

But sometimes you do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

No stinkin' way

I had to share this. It's a Slate article about a recent study completed that suggests that liberals are more likely to respond to new stimuli in new ways than are conservatives. Anyway--it's an interest read. I don't know how valid his critique of the study is, but I'd be interested if anybody has any comments about it.

Oh--and I'd like to know if you're surprised that liberals are readier to change than conservatives . . .

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Some people say that Texas has one of the most complicated court systems in the world. My limited experience with the Texas judiciary tends to confirm that thesis. I learned something today that doesn't really confirm the superlative-complexity theory, but I think it's pretty amazing: 506 main, trial-level courts of record. And of course, that doesn't include the 254 county courts, the at least 254 JP courts, the numerous county courts-at-law, the occasional county probate court, the occasional county criminal court, the municipal courts, the 14 appellate courts, or the two courts of last resort. So, I guess Texas probably has around 1,000 courts.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Good laugh

Having had braces and trying to get a job, I thought this was pretty funny:

courtesy of

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oy vey

My dad is an accountant. Let me just say I'm not surprised. From tax homework:
A taxpayer's attempt to create some black letter law (bathed perhaps in red light) failed when the Tax Court said, in effect: Madame, the wages of sin are not exempt from taxation!
James J. Freeland, et al., Fundamentals of Federal Income Taxation: Cases and Materials, 14th Edition 62 (2006).

Monday, September 03, 2007

How real do you feel, Mrs. Peel?

Over on the Civ Pro Prof Blog, they have an anonymous student blogging about his/her experience as a first-year student in Civil Procedure. Unfortunately, Crash McAvoy (the anonymous 1L) thinks that Civ Pro is about learning to "accept procedural fairness as a substitute for finding the *truth[.]*" (Stars are his/hers.)

As the French say: hélas. Too many people think that procedural fairness and finding the truth are competing values. But the goal of our procedural system is not to be procedurally fair for the sake of procedural fairness. Rather, procedural fairness maximizes the probability of finding the truth. As my hero, John Steed, says so pithily, "Play by the rules or the game is nothing." The game of the legal system is resolving disputes. Finding the truth--and rightly resolving the dispute--when you have two opponents screaming is not an easy task. Civil (and criminal for that matter) procedure attempts to maximize the likelihood that the right party wins and that justice is done.

My (unsolicited) advice: think about civ pro like you think about logic: without it, you might get the right answer, but just because you're lucky.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I can't believe they killed Eko

Wow. First week of classes finished yesterday. Dang. So here's basically how my week went: Get up. Eat breakfast while I read yesterday's Houston Chronicle. (Note--Always tip the delivery guy after he's delivered for awhile.) Go to class. After class. After class. Come home and read. And read. And read. Go to sleep. I thought year 2 was supposed to be easier.

But in e x c e l l e n t news, Madam Registrar sent out a copy of the proposed schedule for this year, and it looks like they're offering Immigration Law in the Winter Quarter, when I can take it. Sometimes you love Baylor Law, sometimes you like it.

That's all I got.

Oh, and today, Poseur's O's were aptly named: their R-H-E line read: "0 0 0." First you lose 30-3. Then you get no-hit by a guy on his second start ever. Ouch.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Go Rangers

I'm sorry Poseur. This is just unbelievable. The Rangers beat the Orioles . . . 30-3. Yes. Thirty runs to three. According to the article, that's the most runs in a major league game . . . in modern history. The last time somebody got that many was in 1897 between teams called the Chicago Colts and the Louisville Something-or-others. Wow. And--the Rangers have only scored 28 runs in their last nine games . . . total.

Mikearoni--you were right. Texas did need another catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia got 2 HR and 7 RBI. Rock on. Who'd have thought the Rangers GM could make a good call?

F Q, man.

The fall quarter is nigh upon us. It should be an interesting quarter for me. I'll find out if I have any business acumen. I think not--this quarter should confirm that. Here's my schedule for the interested:
  • Basic Tax & Accounting--I have some background in this area. I wrote my bachelor's thesis on the flat tax. And my dad and wife are both accountants. You guys better watch out for me when we hit the flat tax chapter.
  • Business Organizations I--I have some background in this area, too. I helped an old boss of mine set up an LLP owned by an LLC (or maybe it was the other way around) so she could rent property to the state. When I say "helped," I mean that I notarized her signature and drove the papers down to Austin. Watch out, J-Fish.
  • Jurisprudence--Once again, my educational history helps me out. I once took Modern Political Theory from a guy who was simultaneously running for Congress. (Can I get a witness, Mr. Robertson?) You guys better watch out when we hit the chapter about the jurisprudential nuances of running for Congress in rural quasi-west Texas.
  • Negotiable Instruments--Yet again: I have written countless checks. (Or is it cheques?) Dang, J-Fish. This'll be the quarter everybody hates Alico.
  • Trusts & Estates (I?)--I know all about trust. I've done both trust walks and trust falls. And I can tell you the capitals of all 50 states if I think about it for a minute. (Don't believe me? Boise, Idaho. Bam. Betcha didn't even know Idaho had a capital.*)

I'm betting on a 4.0 this quarter. Any takers?

*Ed. Note--By far, the funniest thing in Napoleon Dynamite is the travel agency: "Idago Travels."

18 states, eh?

These are the states I've visited (even if just for a few hours or just driving through). New York looks weird, doesn't it? All separate like that . . . that's because I flew there, via Charlotte. And because of the weird "great circle" phenomenon, I have no idea what states I flew over, except that I always seem to fly over the Mighty Mississippi.

Where have you been?

They don't call him "King" for nothin'

Books don't usually make me cry. Not even The Notebook or A Walk to Remember. So why does Stephen King make me tear up in Taco Bueno? This is why:

Maybe he was as mad as he said he was, but she could see only a species of miserable fright. Suddenly, like the thud of a boxing glove on her mouth, she saw how close to the edge of everything he was. The agency was tottering, that was bad enough, and now, on top of that, like a grisly dessert following a putrid main course, his marriage was tottering too. She felt a rush of warmth for him, for this man she had sometimes hated and had, for the last three hours, at least, feared. A kind of epiphany filled her. Most of all, she hoped he would always think he had been as mad as hell, and not . . . not the way his face said he felt.
Stephen King, Cujo 88 (1981). It got me thinking: maybe the most beautiful images, the most spectacularly, stunningly, disarmingly awe-inspiring images, are hidden away in stories that seem to have nothing beautiful about them. Maybe it's the juxtaposition itself that draws out the beauty so richly.

Stephen King isn't the best-selling author since Jesus because of his backcover mugshot.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

All because of you, I haven't slept for so long . . .

. . . and when I do, I dream I'm drowning in the ocean.

Not really, but I thought those were pretty neat lyrics. The kind of lyrics you build a song around.

The Missus is taking me to watch my beloved Rangers get trounced by the Mariners this weekend, so I'm getting a headstart on some of my homework. Today, I was reading for Tax and came across this little gem of psychology:
Every man is likely to overemphasize and treat as fundamental those aspects of life which are his peculiar daily concern.
Lawrence A. Cunningham, Sharing Accounting's Burden: Business Lawyers in Enron's Dark Shadows, 57 Bus. Lawyer 1421 (2002), quoting Jerome N. Frank, Accounting for Investors, The Fundamental Importance of Corporate Earning Power, 68 J. Accountancy 295, 295, 300-01 (1939).

Quoth I the former SEC chairman not because of the truth of his statement (tho it bears out in my experience) but because . . . who would have thought you'd find good psychological truth in tax homework?

This is why I love law . . .

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tax Free Weekend + New Content

I have two things I've been wanting to say for a few days. First, I hope you'll notice my new content over there on the right. I call it "The Metablog." Google Reader (my new aggregator) lets me share articles and posts them right there, easy as pie. I hope you enjoy it.

And number 2. Let me tell you what tax-free weekend means to me: running out of ice. The first tax-free weekend that I worked, I was the lead closer at the Subway in the Mall. We were so dadgum busy that we ran out of ice. I had to run to the store on 19th Street to get some (and they would only let me take two ice chests full). That was about 4 o'clock. Then we ran out again, but thankfully, it was closer to closing. I've heard of restaurants running out of ice because the machine was broken, but that's the only time I've ever heard of an operational and fully functionining ice machine running out just because the restaurant was so dang busy.

I made sure to ask that day off the next year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Well that was unexpected

A few weeks ago, Ms. Avacado and I saw our first James Bond movie all the way through: Goldeneye. I enjoyed it enough that I decided to give Ian Fleming's books a chance. Let me tell you: at least in Casino Royale (the first in the series and the only one I've read so far), Mr. Bond is unexpectedly round. He does not always have the cool and calm demeanor he is known for, though there is enough that 007 is recognizable. In my opinion, the increased complexity makes him more believable and likeable. I recommend reading the book, even if you don't think you like James Bond. It's a fast reader and highly entertaining.

Monday, August 06, 2007

No adventures para mi

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!


Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."

Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter Quiz ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Too much comfort?

Mrs. Avacado and I ate with my parents tonight at Logan's. I'm stuft. Miserably stuft. My parents have told me for years that life was so much better when they didn't have any money and you really were entertained with the fridge box somebody got you for Christmas. People are far more prosperous these days, but are they any happier? And if not, what's the point of all our prosperity? I'm not saying that I'm willing to give up all the blessings of middle class American life, but I just wonder about it. Would I be happier if I had to scrape by?


Do the Rangers need another catcher?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mas new content

On the sidebar, I've added two new features. The first feature is called "Bedside Table" and lists books that I'm currently reading. The second feature is called "Back on the Shelf" and lists the books I've read since I moved into my new house. I'm not sure if anybody cares about that kinda stuff, but it gives me the opportunity to look back in a few months and say "dadgum, I've read a buncha books. Maybe I should spend more time working on law school . . . "

. . . and yes, I really have just read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the first time. I was highly impressed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Little Tramp

Did you know that Charlie Chaplin was an immigrant?

Happy for whom?

I can't believe it. Kenny Lofton for a class-A catcher? I know Kenny's old, but he's batting .300+ and has 20+ steals. This is why the Rangers are in last . . . again.

Friday, July 27, 2007

All 6 yo

In happy news, this site has finally been visited by someone on each of the six permanently populated continents. Woohoo! By far, I'm most popular in North America, with Europe a distant second. Asia, surprisingly, comes in third, followed by South America. It appears I have had two visitors from Africa and one from Australia.

I just thought you guys would like a non-immigration post. (:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Real criminals belong in a real jail

. . . and those we pretend are criminals belong in a pretend-jail. Kinda like in prison dodgeball. Anti-immigration rhetoric is rife with statements like, "I don't mind immigration, but they have to do it legally," which is really just a boringly polite way to say that you prefer law-abiding people to criminals. But the fact is--illegal presence in the United States is not the kind of crime that we think of when we label someone a criminal. The wrong done when you illegally enter the United States is that of disrespect, not the kind of moral wrong that underscores penal statutes regarding murder, robbery, assault, rape, and fraud. Those are bad things and have always been illegal. Crossing an imaginary line so you can feed your kids without getting the permission of the people on the other side of the line . . . well, I'm not advocating illegal immigration, I'm just saying it's not the same thing as rape. Let's keep rapists and illegal immigrants in separate categories.

Contrary to what you may have thought, the Bible speaks out against anti-immigration laws: Exodus 22:1 and 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34*, Deuteronomy 24:17 and 27:19, and Zechariah 7:10 all command the people of God (at that time Israel, now the Christian catholic** Church) to love foreigners/aliens/strangers and treat them as if they were natives. Sure, there are verses that tell us that, as Christians, we are to obey the law of the land . . . but only when it does not conflict with God's commands. God clearly commands that his own due process clause (Matthew 22:39: Love your neighbor as yourself, without meaningless distinctions (cf. Romans 10:12)) applies to all persons, regardless of where they were born or who they are. Again, I'm not advocating illegal immigration, but let's at least be honest in the debate and not lump illegal immigrants in the same box as rapists and murderers (whom we should love as ourselves, anyway).

All this as preface so that I can say "amen" to this Slate article: The Pardon Pander, by Bruce Fein. If the guys obstructed justice, then they need to be punished appropriately.

I'm sad to report that I cannot determine how any of my Congresspeople voted. If anybody can find a vote list, please put a link in the comments.

*This verse is my favorite one of those listed, so I'll spell it out for you here, from the NASB: "The [immigrant] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."

**The little c in catholic was intentional. Look it up, you bum.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Well, if Al Sharpton can agree with Wal*Mart on something . . .

Then he must be right. Check it out.

Also--check out this article on explaining why the argument that "my ancestors came here legally" is probably wrong.

Los Inmigrantes del Día

About every day or so, one of the blogs I read has a post entitled "Immigrant of the Day." The posts serve two purposes for me: (1) They remind me that there is something about being American that doesn't come from where you're born; and (2) They surprise with me who all has migrated. Surprising immigrants (at least to me) include Felix Frankfurter, Madeleine Albright, and Andrew Carnegie. America has been built on the shoulders of immigrants. When I think that the immigrant of the day is particularly interesting, I'll go ahead and post a link here. I encourage you, of course, to read up on immigration. The more you know, the angrier you'll get at our system.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Supreme Bears?

There's an interesting post at SCOTUSblog about potential nominees by a Republican president for the Supreme Court. I don't know much about politics and who's who among potential Supreme Court nominees, but I have this to say about that: out of 14 listed possibles, only 1 came from the greatest law school in America. Interesting numbers below.

Law schools represented:
  • Baylor (1)
  • U of Chicago (1)
  • Hahvahd (6)
  • South Texas College of Law** (1)
  • St. Mary's** (1)
  • Tulane (1)
  • U of the Pacific (McGeorge School of Law)* (1)
  • UVa (1)
  • Yalie (1)

And the following undergrads represented:

  • Baylor (1)
  • Columbia (1)
  • Florida State U (1)
  • Georgetown (1)
  • Michigan State (1)
  • Northeast Louisiana State (1)
  • Princeton (2)
  • (Southwest) Texas State** (1)
  • Stanford (1)
  • U of Texas (1)
  • Trinity in San Antonio (1)
  • Washington & Lee (1)
  • Yale (1)

Hmm. Out of 14 short-listed people, 6 are Hahvahd lawyers. Deep sociological question: are they nominated because they went to Hahvahd or did they go to Hahvahd because the kind of people who get nominated to the Supreme Court go to Hahvahd?

*Interestingly, this guy went to Stanford. Weird, huh?

**I know, I know. How did they get on the "short list"?

Friday, July 20, 2007

I always say: flip a coin . . .

. . . and if you don't like the answer you get, go with your gut. Turns out that's not a bad idea.

I've been running behind on my blog reading, so tonight while Mrs. Avacado does a take-home final, I'm reading all about psychology. Very interesting stuff, generally, but this article in particular struck me. In agreement with information overload theories, I've thought for awhile that we just can't consciously handle all the information we get, especially for big decisions. Example: My 18 months in family law were great, but there's a lot of emotional wear & tear from that, plus I really want to learn Spanish (which can apparently help you live longer: ¡Viva español!) and I work better in a rules-oriented environment than a personality-oriented environment, so maybe immigration law is my meal ticket, but I like to philosophize about the deeper issues and help people make really tough decisions plus I'm good with numbers, so maybe estate planning. Argh.

See? Too much information, too many factors to weigh. But apparently my subconscious doesn't care about all that. It makes a shortcut decision based on factors I may not realize I'm thinking about. Does that mean that it always gets the answer right? Not necessarily. But, as the author points out (and as some studies recently have shown*), it does about as well as thinking it through thoroughly.

So tonight, I'm going to bracketologize my life choices, flip coins, and go with my gut.

This just in: Slate published an article entitled: Should you trust your "gut feeling"? It's worth a read.

*The details are all fuzzy, but I seem to remember that they did a study recently comparing the results of an intentionally managed hedge fund with one managed based on the results of hockey games, and the hockey game fund did better. Weird, huh?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gary Johnson: Fence border? You're joking

This editorial in the Trib is one of the best essays I've seen about why building a fence along the Mexican border is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I haven't been able to articulate why it's such a bad idea, but he takes some good swings at it. Let me know what you think. (It's not too long.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Madness, I tell you

Apparently, there are too many lawyers in Wisconsin. The solution? Shut down the public law school by cutting off funding. That is pure madness.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Content

My frequent readers will realize that I have added some new content on the right side of this site. It's called "Cruisin' USA" (yes, in honor of the classic arcade game), and it has links to some dream road trips I have. Right now--as I'm typing this--there is only one link (West Coast Trip), but I plan to add more. Please feel free to make your own trip and put it in the comments. I'm interested to see where everybody would want to go.

My dream West Coast Trip has the following key destinations:
- Roswell, NM
- the Grand Canyon
- the Hoover Dam
- Death Valley
- Sequoia National Park
- the Golden Gate Bridge
- the Salinas Valley (the setting for East of Eden).

Where would you go?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Desperate for Why

Stephen King gets a bit of a bad rap, but he's an incredible writer. There's a reason that he is the best-selling of all time, except for maybe Shakespeare and God. Right now, I'm reading Desperation. Check this quote:
"Why didn't you kill me like you did that guy back there? Billy? Or does it even make any sense to ask? Are you beyond why?"

"Oh s***, we're all beyond why, you know that."

My friend Mark tells me that economics is based on the idea that people act rationally given the information they have. I tend to agree. What do you think? Do we tend to make rational, if mis- or ill-informed, decisions? Or is it foolish even to try to explain why people act as they do?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I ran across this post today. Apparently, in some parts of America, you can't walk into the courthouse wearing shirts talking about f***ing. Talk about selective reporting. This is a perfect example of civil rights being violated without a thought by those who actually have power: the enforcer. This should be front page news, but my paper hasn't reported on it yet.*

* I don't have any idea whether this actually violates the First Amendment since I haven't taken Con Law or Civ Lib. I really only posted about this because I thought the T-shirt was funny.

Question fo' my peeps

Osler and Poseur have both listed these rules for being a good blogger. One of the rules is to update regularly. Should I update if I don't have anything interesting to say? Should I just blog about some other blog? I'm curious what my loyal readers would prefer. I guess I'm asking: would you rather have something interesting to read about once a week (what I shoot for) or just something to read every day?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MSM: right or left?

I grew up in a relatively conservative community, and I attended a relatively conservative college. So it's no surprise that I generally view the mainstream media as being relatively liberally biased. But today I ran across an interesting post. Apparently, the mainstream media are really in the pocket of the ultraconservatives, who ask them not to investigate the reality of the American health care system.

But isn't the media really a business? Don't they just report on what they think (in their well-researched opinions) their clientele want to hear? What I'm saying is: the mainstream media reflects what the market wants, which is what newswatchers want.

So if the mainstream media isn't reporting on something, doesn't it suggest that the mainstream doesn't care about it?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Jose Crow?

The editor-in-chief of the Waco Tribune-Herald published an interesting op-ed today. I don't know enough about the recently failed immigration reform bill to say whether it should have passed or not, but I believe in immigration. America without immigration is an America I don't want to live in.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's 1980 all over again, only we're not in Washington

Today, the Baylor Blawgosphere suffered an enormous earthquake: Swanburg is taking a hiatus. It seems he thinks that getting a dual degree (MBA+JD) will serve him better in his chosen career. If I remember correctly, he wants to build golf courses. Anyway--he's offered his job as #1 social columnist at B(L)S to whoever wants it. No one has asked me to fill in his shoes, but I'll go ahead and decline. My party schedule is pretty booked between now and when he returns to the edge of the Brazos. So packed, in fact, that I won't be able to blog on the Baylor Law party scene. (FYI--I think Rhett Butler had a party a few weeks ago. Or maybe it's in a few weeks. I'm partying so hard I don't know when it is.) Somehow, though, I'll find time to blog on the books I'm reading and the philosophy I'm thinking. (Reading and thinking between parties, of course.)

OK OK. The real reason I'm sticking to my genre is because a friend of mine, a link in the chain of my happiness, is marrying Hugh Grant on 7/7/7. She would rather attend four weddings and a funeral than hear about Baylor gossip, so I'll stick to my books and philosophy.

And as my nominee to fill in Swanburg's shoes: Searcey! There are two reasons I think Searcey should fill the void: (1) He's from Plano. That's really reason enough right there. (2) I can beat him at ping pong.

I think that about covers what I wanted to talk about. I'd tell you about my week at work, but I've just been dictating deposition summaries and then editing them. See? You already fell asleep.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

And all because I'm a lover not a fighter

I remember growing up, we would pick teams to play good guys and bad guys . . . and I'd want to be the mediator so that we could talk things out. "But avacadojer, the Joker is crazy. He and Batman can't just sit down and work their problems out like decent human beings."

So I guess I'm kinda surprised that I'm . . .

. . . Jean Grey. Argh. This is what they told me:

You scored as Jean Grey, Jean Grey is likely the most powerful X-Man. She loves Cyclops very much but she has a soft spot for Wolverine. She's psychic so she can sense how others are feeling and tries to help them. She also has to control her amazing powers or the malevolent Phoenix entity could take control of her and wreak havok. Powers: Telekinetic, Telepathic

Jean Grey














Emma Frost








Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with

But you'll note that Nightcrawler and the Beast were both tied for number 1. (The tiebreaker question made me answer whether I was into technology, something I can't remember, or avoid violence. I chose the avoid-the-violence answer. Blast.)

My assault on logic continues

I ran across this article on and thought it was highly interesting. Apparently, what I always thought was right: Republicans are emotional basketcases who can't make rational decisions and Democrats are godless intellectuals who want to rationalize an irrational world. I think this calls for champagne.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lógico es malo

[NOTE--Please stay tuned for what I hope is an interesting thought about logic.]

The Silence of the Lambs is an enjoyable, highly thought-provoking book. There is a scene where Clarice is talking to Dr. Lecter in his cell in Baltimore. Dr. Lecter asks her about her background, noting that, although she carries an expensive purse, she wears cheap shoes. From this, he determines that she is a cop's daughter trying to escape some nightmare from her past. It's similar to the kind of syllogisms that House, Sherlock Holmes, and Robert Goren make. Drs. Lecter and House and Detectives Holmes and Goren usually capitalize on some obscure detail that opens a clear avenue of logical certainty and conclusion.

It reminds me of an old Encyclopedia Brown story. I don't remember any details of the story, but (Bad, Bad?)Leroy Brown solves the crime by determining that Bugs Meany was lying. How? Because, when referring to his shirt pocket, Bugs drew the outline on the right side of his chest instead of the left. Most men's shirts have pockets (if at all) on the left side. Tada! Bugs = liar = criminal. Book'im Sally Kimball.


Oliver Wendell Holmes said "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Just so, the life of medicine and crime-fighting has been experience, not logic. Those doctors and detectives make these great conclusions not based on the syllogisms they pretend to construct but based on their own life experiences. Encyclopedia solved that crime because his experience told him that all the tiny little factors (among which the lie [equivocation?] about the shirt pocket was only one) pointed to the culprit. If you're like me and you think that Sherlock, House, Hannibal, Goren, and Encyclopedia are how you want to be*, the only way to acquire those skills is to live life and pay attention.

So--lógico es malo because it only takes you so far, though it pretends to take you much farther. Life, however, is too complicated to fit neatly into a syllogism. At some point, you have to stop being rational and let your own experience give you the answers. Is that comfortable? No, especially if you don't have much experience, como mío.

Just out of curiosity, would anybody watch a TV show (maybe just an episode, say) where House's logical jumps proved wrong every step of the way?

*Well, maybe I don't want to be like Hannibal . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Carro nuevo!!

This past Monday, Desiree and I became the proud new owners of a 2006 Scion xA. Scion is owned by Toyota and marketed toward the younger generation, bringing Toyota's quality and benefits within our price range. I grew up driving Fords, but I may be a Toyota fan now. Of course, we'll have to see how things go from here on out.

Satisfied customers are the best marketing, so here goes: Go to Jeff Hunter Toyota/Scion/Lexus/Chrysler/bla bla bla on Highway 6 in Waco, and ask for Dale. He's a friendly salesman and not too pushy. Then you should ask for Aaron when it gets down to signing time. Those two guys helped us, and they did very well.

Hannibal the Cannibal

It's funny how school ends and you start reading like crazy. I'm not sure how much I've read since school let out, but it's a lot, I can tell you that. I've just finished Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs. It was an interesting book with a few thought-provoking comments on the human condition, but it wasn't nearly as scary as I expected. It was, however, rather gritty.
Anyway, I wanted to make three comments.
1 - The author, Thomas Harris, graduated from Baylor University in the 1960s and worked for the Waco Tribune-Herald before heading off to work for the AP in New York. I wonder if he got the idea for this story from some crime in Waco . . .
2 - Hannibal Lecter's film counterpart was ranked the #1 villain in film history, and Clarice Starling (the hero) was the top-ranked female hero at #6. I haven't seem the movie (yet--I plan on renting it this weekend). Clarice may deserve it, but Hannibal wasn't that "evil" in this book; he was actually rather charming and sympathetic.* In fact, the most active villain was Jame Gumb and Clarice had the most conflict with Dr. Chilton. Weird, huh? Reading this book felt like watching The Empire Strikes Back before A New Hope. Like the famed Episode V, this book seems to be bridging between two storylines (told in Red Dragon and Hannibal, maybe?), but it can stand on its own.
3 - This novel leaves probably the best hole for a sequel ever. I won't go into detail so that I don't ruin the ending for anybody, but if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. The book actually resolves at the end and you can rest, but you know there's more to the story.
This book isn't on my list of the greatest books ever written, but it's entertaining and worthwhile. If nothing else, read it because you have some tie to Waco, as does the author.
*Should I be worried about myself--sympathizing with Hannibal Lecter?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Conflatulations are in order

Although my sources have not been confirmed yet, one of the most vocal of my commenters, the famed Mikeanesa Mayoroni, has made law review. Congratulations, Mike. Seems like yesterday we were scoping the competition during orientation, now you don't have to look anymore. You've made barrister and law review.

Can I have your outlines next fall?

Friday, June 15, 2007

El Fin

It is the end of an era. In April 1996, my dad left the house driving a 1987 Honda Civic and came back driving a 1996 Ford Thunderbird. My brother took it to his senior prom; I took it to mine. This was the first car my mom let me drive after I got my learner's permit in the summer of 1998. In July 2000, we sold the 1994 Ford Tempo I'd been driving and my parents let me start driving this one. I drove it all through college, including into the rear-end of a Suburban who didn't know how to signal he wanted to turn. Yesterday, it had a lot of trouble, and I had to leave it, all too fittingly, at the old Dairy Queen in Hewitt. Today, it was pronounced dead by my mechanic, Jesse el Mecánico.*

In many ways, I grew up in this car. I remember many nights sitting out in the bitter cold while my mom finished grocery shopping. I remember spilling a root beer in the back seat and thinking my mom was going to kill me. (She didn't.) I remember innumerable trips to Ranger to visit my grandparents with my brother in the front seat and me in the back. Like my parents' old house in Hewitt (where we lived for 7 years), this car represents my coming of age.

When I got the car, I was 17 years old, and it was 37,000 miles old. The next summer, I drove mile 50,000 on the way to church to meet with a guy named Eric about a mission trip. This past winter, I drove mile 100,000. Just before Christmas 2000, my stereo was stolen out of this car in broad daylight at about 3:00 pm on a Saturday at the mall. I learned that the governor kicked in at 107 in sundry scary ways. This car, though I never "loved" it, has been with me now for a very long time. I know it very well, and if it weren't inanimate, it would know me very well.

And now it's dead. Rest in peace, T-bird. You've served me well.

*Incidentally, if anybody needs a good mechanic, Jesse el Mecánico es muy bien. I'll give you his number if you need something done.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Para mis amigos Latinos--bienvenidos. I've changed the little language things on my blog to Spanish. Why? I'm glad you asked . . .

Tonight, I read this post over on the blog Alien & Sedition. The hatred comes off those comments like steam from a radiator. I've been following the immigration reform debates, and I've even asked Craig to talk about the LDS view on immigration. And why? The first Mastens allegedly came over sometime in the 1680s, and I'm 1/8 Native American. If anybody has a claim on being American, 'tis I. So why am I so concerned?
My junior year in high school, we read two books that changed my life and my way of thinking. First, we read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, then we read John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. These two books opened my eyes to the reality of hatred. People really do hate other people. I had never experienced anything like that before. I knew then that I wanted to do something to fight the good fight and to fight against hate, but I never knew how. Later, in college, I read John Grisham's The Street Lawyer and thought I could fight hatred by being a Legal Aid lawyer. Then I worked for a family lawyer in Brownwood, Texas. There, I discovered that people just plain need help getting through our legal system. While I was working there, my boss had my research some immigration issues, and I began discovering how insane our immigration system is.
Did you know, for example, that some family-based visa petitions by Filipinos are backlogged all the way back to 1985? Twenty-two years ago, mi amigo Jose el Filipino put in his visa application. He's still waiting on an answer. And did you know that the visa is just the first step? Yes, in fact, a visa only gives you permission to travel to a port of entry. Then you have to get a "status" so that you can stay in America for any period of time. Now imagine that you don't have the benefit of speaking English (the language all these laws and regulations are written in), nor do you have the benefit of the stellar* American educational system.
Maybe it doesn't make your heart burn, but it does mine.
I can't help wondering: have I stumbled upon my "destiny"?
*At least stellar in the sense that everybody gets to go to school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How do we get there?

My second-to-last post had some interesting responses by ALV, Mikearoni, and Craig. Some avacado kid got on there and posted junk. I may block his next comments. Anyway, I wanted to pose what I think is an interesting problem.

Logic demands that a supreme being of some sort exists, or at least a Prime Mover. I think I've explained the syllogism before, but just in case, here it is:

- No event occurs without at least one cause.
- The first event occurred (perhaps the creation of the universe or of God?) without a cause.
> There must be some causeless event that defies the normal limits of logic.

The causeless event I refer to as the "Prime Mover," but many people refer to it as "God." So I want to know: by what method can we determine which Prime Mover of the dozens proffered by various religions is the true Prime Mover? I'm not asking which Prime Mover you think is the correct one, but how you think people should decide.

Pudge Catches Another

I know that I've been asked not to blog about baseball. But today was cool. The Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. And the Angels' Kelvin Escobar got 14 strikeouts . . . in 6 innings. That means that out of 18 outs, 14 were by strikeout.

And in other news, my high school classmate Zach Duke got his third win of the season. The happiness I feel for Frances*, tho, is negated a little by the fact that he beat my Rangers. Ah well--way to go Zach.

That's what I call a cool day for pitching.

*For some odd reason, in our senior physics class, I called Mr. Duke "Frances" and he called me "Sally." That's my claim to fame.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Perfect Man for the Job

I got some good responses to my last post, for which I'm grateful. ALV mentioned what I think of as the "that-couldn't-be-coincidence" theory of destiny. That is, we are who we are because of the perfect (and improbable) combination of highly improbable past events that lead us to where and who we are. These events (and their combination) are so improbable that there must be some greater plan at work. (I have a few logical problems with the theory, but I'll let that slide.*) When I'm not in school, I'm a readin' fool, and I just finished another book that talks about destiny, but in the that-couldn't-be-coincidence fashion.

Scott Turow's eighth novel, Limitations, brings us back to George Mason, the criminal defense lawyer/protaganist from Personal Injuries.** By the time of Limitations, Mr. Mason has been elected to the court of appeals for Kindle County, where he has sat for the past nine years (largely because of the fame he acquired from the events in Personal Injuries). The story begins with Mason's panel hearing the oral argument in an appeal from a gang-rape conviction where the prosecution was brought just three months after the statute of limitations had run. (And thus should be barred by the statute of limitations.) After argument, we sit in on the conference where Mason learns that he will draft the opinion. As the story develops, we learn that Mason himself was once involved in a gang-rape-type situation, and he begins to wonder if he is the right man for the job of determining these young men's fate.

For my non-lawyer readers, you're thinking: "Who cares if it was brought three months late? We're talking about gang-rapists! They deserve the chair!" You're right--emotionally. But our society seeks justice from a system of laws--not of emotions. As John Steed said, "Play by the rules, Mrs. Peel, or the game is nothing." Justice is no game, but the truth of the statement rings even truer: without the rules of justice, our legal system is worthless. We could never be sure that the right kids got the chair. Now to get off my legal soapbox . . .

Mason begins to wonder whether he, with his history, has any qualifications to judge the case. Turow tries to suggest that Mason's whole life has been leading up to this point, to this decision, but the philosophizing sags in the end. He leaves the qualifications-plot for another plot (a less interesting but more exciting plot) and, when he returns to this question, it's magically resolved. The question is presented, however, whether Mason's past put him where he was or whether he put himself where he was because of his past. Was he trying to escape his past (one-time gang rapist who left Virginia for midwestern Kindle County)? Or did that past shape him into the defense lawyer and judge he became? For me--am I who I am because I'm trying to compensate for who I used to be? Or did being who I used to be make me who I am? Or is it both?

I'll close with my favorite from the book: "As a defense lawyer, [Mason] refused to condemn his clients. Everyone else in the system--the cops, the prosecutors, the juries and judges--would take care of that; they didn't need his help." As a lawyer, I hope one day to hold to that ideal. The good lawyer fights for the scum of the earth because, like the supposedly good people, they deserve a hero, too.

* Mainly, my problem is that an improbable past only makes the present improbable, not necessary (i.e., "destined"). The fact that a past is improbable makes it more likely that an improbable present is necessary or pre-ordained, but it is not "proven" in the typical logical sense. In other words, it's like saying that breaking your arm must have been destined merely because you broke your arm. That strikes me as tautological (and thus illogical). But who says that logic tells us everything we need to know?

** This is the first time Turow has brought back a main character as a main character. Of interest to long-time Turow readers: Rusty Sabich, the protaganist and accused in Turow's first novel, Presumed Innocent, has now been made chief judge of the court of appeals and makes a cameo appearance as Mason's good friend and handball rival. Personally, I'd have rather seen Sandy Stern, the protaganist of Pleading Guilty, return. But hey--he's the bestselling novelist.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Godfather and C.S. Lewis???

A few days ago, I finished Mario Puzo's The Godfather. I don't feel any need to discuss the plot, since it was pretty accurately adapted to the big screen. The book may not be quite the classic that the film is, but it was one of the better books I've read.

Toward the end of the book, the narrator explains "Many young men start[] down a false path to their true destiny. Time and fortune usually set them aright." That's what I want to talk about.

Growing up Baptist, I didn't believe much in "true destiny." Nor was I taught to believe in "fortune," but everybody does anyway. In fact, I kinda view destiny as a theory for the lazy: just sit back and let destiny make you who you're going to be. But it occurs to me now that my destiny may be shaped by the very fact that I think a lot about who I'll be in ten years. Maybe that's "fortune's" effect on my life: I had the fortune of being a thinker and a dreamer. Maybe it's my destiny to ponder the imponderables.

But I want to know: do any of my readers believe in destiny? And if so, what do you think of it? Do you think destiny refers to a station in life? a series of events? Can you miss your destiny? Are we born who we'll be when we die? or does destiny shape us as we grow?

What do I think about destiny? I tend to agree with what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce: free will is a bigger truth than predestination. I'm not sure what that means, but I think I like it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Go Ducks Go

Because I'm apparently one of the few hockey fans left in the United States (but I don't watch sports on TV) and in honor of President Scott, I thought I'd let you all know--the (formerly) Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are the world champions of hockey.

And they didn't even need Emilio Estevez . . .

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Today I read an article about juries and their ability to follow jury instructions. I'm not a lawyer yet, but I've read plenty of cases dealing with jury instructions that presume that juries can and do follow instructions. The article suggests, however, that juries actually follow the non-verbal communication from the judge because they don't understand or can't follow the legalese in the jury instructions. This exemplifies an interesting question of linguistics: how can we be sure that we both mean the same thing when we use the same word?

The article slyly teases lawyers for arguing about the exact wording of jury instructions, as if the difference between "intentionally" and "purposefully" doesn't matter to the average juror. They're probably right, but shouldn't it matter? I think so. I think that specific words are very important because of the hundreds of connotations and feelings they stir up and the impact those feelings and connotations have on my client's life. The difference between "intentionally" and "purposefully" may be the difference between, say, life (in prison) and death (by lethal injection).

Wittgenstein argued in one of his last books that philosophy would devolve into a war of dictionaries. He said that when philosophy reached that point, it would become useless to the average person and atrophy from apathy, fading into irrelevance. It looks like the law has already devolved into a war of dictionaries. With the recent trends toward alternative dispute resolution, is the law going to fade into irrelevance? Will my law degree, like my poli sci degree, be useless in a few years?


This past weekend, I bought a green iMac at a garage sale for $20. It's got Mac OS 9.2 and makes a high-pitched whining noise when it runs. So far, it's underwhelming, but then 9.2 seems very similar to Windows 3.1, at least superficially. It reminds me a lot of my jr high days, writing those pseudo-English papers in Helvetica and in Claris Works. Maybe now when I pass Steve Jobs in the hall, he'll acknowledge my existence. He won't say hi yet (I only dropped an Andy; there were no Benjamins in my wallet I'm afraid), but we'll get there. (I'm posting this while sitting on my bed working on my PC. The iMac isn't as portable as this is, I'm afraid.)
The problem is: it's Mac OS 9.2. I wanted to explore OS X. So I'm thinking about trying out some Linux on it, specifically Xubuntu. Does anybody have any experience with Linux or Xubuntu? If so, please let me know. Otherwise, I will let you know how it goes in the next few days. Or if you think that OS 9.2 is just so dadgum good that I oughtta try it anyway, tell me that, too.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who says Rangers' fans don't suffer?

Growing up, I was a huge baseball fan. You all know the story: strike of 1994 and I got out of baseball. But I've never stopped loving my Rangers. I've been to a few games here and there since 1994, but this summer, I decided to really play catch-up and give baseball a chance.* How has baseball repaid me? Well, the Rangers are fighting the Royals for worst record in baseball. Right now, we're a game back: we're 19-34 to their 19-35, at least according to Yahoo! a few minutes ago. My backup team, the Astros, meanwhile is working on breaking their own team record for longest losing streak. They've extended it now to 10 games, after having lost to the worst team in the National League. Argh. Why?

More importantly, why don't I like football, basketball, or even hockey as much as I like baseball? The Cowboys haven't done so well recently, but they're football's Yankees.** We all know that Jerry Jones = George Steinbrenner. 'Nuff said. (I apologize to my Houstonian readers: my dad is a die-hard Cowboys fan, so we never heard much about the Oilers or the Texans. I can't comment on their worth.)

And basketball! The Dallas Mavericks have a stinkin awesome season, even if their playoffs were a little reminiscent of the Rangers' postseasons. But last year they made it to the finals. And the Rockets made it to the playoffs this season, not to mention the two championships they took home in the 1990s. And the Spurs! Working on their 4th title in recent times and arguably the best team in the NBA. Why don't I like basketball as much as baseball?

Even hockey has done better in Texas than baseball. Since moving to Dallas in 1993, the Stars have won a Stanley Cup, two conference championships, and six division titles. Come on. Hockey? Hockey is my number 2 sport, but doesn't it strike anyone as odd that a Texas team should be good at hockey?

Now to compare. Since moving to Texas in 1972, the Rangers have won . . . a whole lotta nothin. They won a division title here and there in the 1990s (after baseball went to three divisions), but they've always lost to baseball's Cowboys in the best-of-five series at the start of the postseason. (Who can complain about a .100 winning percentage in the postseason? Go Rangers!) The Astros have fared better, taking home 6 division titles in the past 45 years . . . at least they made it to the World Series, even if they did get swept in four games . . .

Sheesh. Maybe I should follow everybody else and give up on baseball.

This just in: the Astros beat the Reds, the NL's worst team, 10-2 to snap their 10-game losing streak. Maybe there is hope in the world . . .

* Why? Because Mark McGwire didn't get in the Hall, but both Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. did. The long-ball no me gusta.

** Note--You can only be a Yankees fan if you're from New York. Likewise, you can only be a Cowboys fan if you're from Texas, maybe only from any part of Texas other than Houston.