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.