Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should Dr. Laura Be Prosecuted?

From time to time, I find myself driving around town between 3pm and 5pm, which is when Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio show airs. I generally detest Dr. Laura. I think she's rude, arrogant, she doesn't listen to people when they talk (something that, in my opinion, is pretty important for a therapist), and she's deceptive. By that I mean, she calls herself Dr. Laura, which is in and of itself not deceptive, except that she holds herself out as a therapist when her Ph.D. is in something like exercise physiology. Apparently you don't have to be good or even a real therapist to be a radio therapist, but I digress. The other day I was listening to her show and someone called in to talk about the fact that their cousin was molested by a family member at around age 12 and is around 16 or 17 now. The person was asking for advice on how to confront the family member about it, and how to proceed. Dr. Laura's response was to tell the caller that they needed to contact the authorities (true) because "once she turns 18 you can't press charges." Now, aside from being objectively wrong (the statute of limitations on sexual assault varies from state to state but there usually isn't anything prohibiting prosecution once the victim hits the age of majority; at any rate the statute of limitations isn't in danger of running out after 6 years in most places), I would argue that this constitutes legal advice. If someone comes to me with a legal problem (say, a crime has been committed against them) and I tell them "here are the legal steps you need to take to resolve this issue," I am practicing law. Does Dr. Laura have a law license? Is she authorized to give legal advice in any jurisdiction? No. I don't see why I'm prohibited by law from doing this as a law student, yet she can do it on a nationally syndicated radio show and no one says anything about it. Now of course the defense to this is that she's not holding herself out as a lawyer, but I still think there's a pretty strong case since she is holding herself out as a professional giver of advice. I'm sure the State of Texas would have something to say if I started giving medical advice to my legal clients, even if I didn't hold myself out explicitly as a physician (side note: since I'm getting a Juris Doctorate, can I call myself "Dr. Justin" and give out medical advice on a radio show even though my degree is in a totally unrelated field?) I say Dr. Laura should be charged with practicing law without a license and tried in a court of law. Let's hold her to the same ridiculously judgmental standards to which she holds everyone else.

I'm Dr. Laura, and I'm my kids' mom an awful, shrill human being.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reader Questions Pt. 1

In this installment, which I hope will become a regular feature, I will answer questions from the readers of this blog, so the three of you start thinking of questions to ask me that I can answer. Today's question comes from fellow blogger Micah over at Micah-Circuitry, who asks "Justin T., being a self-professed zombie enthusiast, why haven't you yet reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the seminal mashup that combines Jane Austen's 1813 literary masterpiece with scenes of violent zombie mayhem?" (paraphrased)

Well Micah, here's why. Back in high school, I took an English class with a super cool teacher who had us read all sorts of modern and classic literature. Among these was Pride and Prejudice. I got about 40 pages into it and I just. couldn't. do it. It was soooo boring and tedious. I couldn't make myself care about the inner workings of 19th century English high society, no matter how hard I tried. So, I went to my English teacher with my concerns, telling her that I was probably going to fail the test because I just wouldn't read it and it wasn't worth my time (keep in mind that I was an all-knowing high schooler at the time). She took pity on me, and we worked out a deal wherein I would read 3 Kurt Vonnegut novels in exchange for not having to read Pride and Prejudice. To this day, it remains one of the coolest things a teacher has ever done for me, and I greatly appreciated it. So what does that have to do with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Well, I wouldn't read it back then because it was mind-numbing, but it also didn't contain scenes of violent zombie mayhem throughout the book, as I'm quite sure Jane Austen was not well-versed in the endless battle for global domination against the hordes of the undead.

So here's the deal. I am older, (ostensibly) wiser, and can read a lot faster than I could in high school (thank you law school). And I'm willing to give it another shot, because what kind of zombie enthusiast would I be if I didn't embrace all aspects of the zombie canon? Plus there's a chance that that rascal Mr. Darcy could get eaten, which would certainly liven things up. So, I'm going to borrow the book, probably from Jesse and Diana over at The Davis Firm (oh, fyi guys, I am going to ask to borrow your book) and read it over the Christmas break, when I have a little more free time than I do now. I'll report back with a review once I finish it. And who knows, maybe violent zombie killing will awaken a passion for Victorian Georgian culture within me that has lain dormant all these years. It's ironic how only the undead could bring life to this book for me. Or maybe it's just coincidental, I don't know, but either way I'm going to read it.

Tune in next time for Reader Questions, and if you have any questions you'd like answered, feel free to drop me a line.

This Week's Awful Pop Music

Driving to Houston and back every other weekend gives me a lot of time to listen to the radio. Except for the period that I usually turn it off while I pass through Bryan/College Station (because honestly, we all know nothing good comes out of those towns, including music), I generally get a good 6 hours of music every other week, most of that coming from the radio. Yesterday, I heard 3 songs in a row that inspired me to write another blog about awful pop music. So, I present to you the 3 songs this week that make me envy the deaf:

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga seems to be a regular feature on the bad pop music radar, mostly because her music is terrible. This song, however, is her worst yet (that I've heard). In addition to the insanely annoying nonsense words at the beginning of the song, it's a generally unintelligible mess of predictable rhythms, mindless lyrics, and of course a ridiculous video that has nothing to do with the song. In the great American musical tradition, I expect it to hit number one.

Sweet Dreams by Beyonce

Beyonce is kind of like the "golden boy" of bad pop music. Starting with Destiny's Child, she's been pumping out sub-par generic pop crap since the late 90s. Somehow, she's managed to make it to the top and stay there, despite the fact that her music is not good. I'm not saying it's not catchy or that she's not talented, but rather that the music she puts out is continually uninspired and derivative. In the latest installment of trite pop sap, she ponders whether or not the dream she's living is a "sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare." I've got news for you, Beyonce: you're obscenely rich, naturally gifted with looks and talent, and have the American public at your fingertips. If you can't decide whether that's a sweet dream or a nightmare, you should be thankful that you were gifted with looks and talent, since brains clearly isn't your strong suit. Keep trying, Beyonce; eventually you'll figure out whether or not your life of luxury is a sweet dream or a nightmare. (side note: this is not the official video for the song, I just didn't want to sift through youtube to find a version that could be embedded.)

Sweet dream or beautiful nightmare? Don't ask Beyonce; she has trouble with these things.

Tik Tok by Ke$ha

This song is like the musical equivalent of aggravated assault. I couldn't even finish it without turning it off and lamenting the state of American culture as we know it. The fact that this was ever produced- let alone listened to and enjoyed- is a sad commentary on our society. I don't even need to go into why this song is bad; listen to about 10 seconds of it and you'll see for yourself. Also, anyone who spells their name with a dollar sign is an idiot, no exceptions.

I want to cry for humanity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Favorite Zombie Weapons, Pt. 1

A fellow law student and blog reader asked me today what my favorite zombie kill in Zombieland was. It took me a while to think about it (banjo, ultimately), but really, I had to think about the weapons used. It got me thinking about my own zombie defense strategy; specifically, what weapons I have and would like to have when the zombified crap hits the fan. So, here are a few of my favorite weapons with the explanations accompanying.

Tactical Shotgun

Cost: $400-$1200
20 Gauge
Pros: The tactical shotgun is great for close- to medium-distance encounters. Its strong blast does the trick, and its compactness and engineering make it lightweight and ideal for a primary weapon.
Cons: The shells can be heavy and take time to reload, and distance factors highly into efficacy.


Cost: $20-$35 for a quality non-wooden handled model
Pros: In addition to being light and powerful as both a sharp cutting and blunt force weapon, the ax also boasts the added functionality of serving as a hammer and even prybar as you travel or hole up somewhere. You will never regret having a hatchet around when society breaks down and you're forced to face all of humanity with only what you can carry on your back.
Cons: A wooden ax handle would be more prone to breaking or rotting, so these should be avoided. Full-tang metal handles or hard plastic handles are preferable. Also carry a small whetstone to keep it sharp.

Glock 23 .40 S&W Caliber Pistol

Cost: $450-$600, used or new
Pros: The Glock 23 is a great pistol known for its durability and accuracy. Seriously, it is almost impossible to damage this gun to the point of not firing. I've seen shows where they drop it off a 4 story building, batter-dip and fry it, freeze it in ice for two weeks, and run over it with a car. The Austrians know how to engineer a pistol, and when every shot could save your life, you need to be confident that your gun will fire every time you pull the trigger. Additionally, the .40 S&W caliber allows more power than a 9mm and less weight and size than a .45 . It is a sharp, reliable weapon that you will love having in your arsenal.
Cons: Some people don't like the trigger safety on the Glock, but in a post-apocalyptic situation, having a trigger safety is a huge advantage over a thumb safety. Other than that, I can't really think of any downsides to including this gun in your zombie defense plans.

Rocket-Propelled Chainsaw

Do I really need to explain this one? It's a freaking rocket-propelled chainsaw. Come on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Gets Legal

Google just got a lot more awesome. Yesterday, they announced that they will now be offering access to state and federal caselaw through their Google Scholar service. While not as comprehensive as Lexis or Westlaw (e.g., Google Scholar doesn't have the cases in the Federal Appendix), it's certainly a great starting point for doing any basic legal research. Additionally, this reduces the cost for solo and small firms to access basic case documents. It currently costs around $9 per document to access things on Lexis if you're not on a flat rate plan, so being able to pull even 10 cases a day for free will save you $100 a day. I can't stress enough how big this is. Lexis and Westlaw have such a stranglehold on caselaw databases as it is, and finding the cases in the printed reporters involves finding a copy of said reporters and actually going there and looking them up, something that not all solo or small firms are able to do. Providing this kind of access opens up a whole new realm of legal research for the little guys, including the public, and this is good. Access to information is always a positive thing, and I applaud Google for continuing to make contributions to the general public's ability to access information.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Review #1: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

I have been waiting anxiously for the last couple of months since I found out that Nintendo was releasing a new Mario game for the Wii. I have always been a fan of the Mario games and the trailers for the game (see below) were really cool and made the game look super fun. So this morning, the gf and I picked it up at Walmart and spent the better part of the day playing it.

So what do I think? So far, the game is incredible. We played multiplayer, which is a new feature that hasn't been available for previous Mario sidescrollers. The gameplay is a throwback to the older Mario games, combining elements from all 3 originals, as well as Super Mario World for the SNES and the Mario games for the DS. The multiplayer was really well done as well, allowing players to cooperate, play independently, and even harm each other if you can't stay out of the way. The multiplayer sort of reminded me of Super Smash Bros. Melee, which was also a great game even though I suck at it. We only played through 3 levels, but I was really impressed with everything I saw and the game remains very challenging and even downright difficult in parts despite the appearance of being easy at first glance. I can't wait to play the rest of the game, on multiplayer and single player modes, and I will report back with more comments when I get a chance to play more over Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NH Trip is a Go.

So I am spending the latter half of Christmas break in NJ/NYC with the gf and her dad. As part of my trip, we are going to take a day trip up to NH to see where I used to live and to check it out as a potential place to move after graduation. I booked our hotel room yesterday using some sort of bonus point system through my credit card, meaning I paid $0 for the hotel. We're staying a night in Bedford, NH on 12/28/09, and I am super excited about being back in NH for a little while. Just in case anyone was wondering.

The Definitive Law Student Guide to Waco

So I've decided to try and compile a guidebook of sorts for incoming law students that could be passed around in the same manner as first-year outlines. In it, I'd like to include information about places to eat, shop, live, hang out, buy stuff, be outdoors, drink, etc. What else should I include? I consider myself somewhat of an amateur expert on the city of Waco, and I feel like I could make a valuable contribution to the future law school community by providing my information to others, but I'd like to get your thoughts on it: what should a guide to Waco be sure to include?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Take heed, restaurant staffers

Rarely do I repost anything verbatim without adding my own take on it, but I found this list on the New York Times website, and instead of linking you to it and making you do the work, I'll just repost it here, since I think it's a great list and I agree with pretty much everything on here.

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Do, pt. 1

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.

2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.

3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.

4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.

5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.

6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.

10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the specials.

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.

13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles.

14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”

16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves.

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.

18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”

19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread.

20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.

21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.

22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two.

23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.

24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.

25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table.

26. Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket. Inquire.

27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.

28. Do not put your hands all over the spout of a wine bottle while removing the cork.

29. Do not pop a champagne cork. Remove it quietly, gracefully. The less noise the better.

30. Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle.

31. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by.

34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.

35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.

36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage.

37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice.

38.Do not call a guy a “dude.”

39. Do not call a woman “lady.”

40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do.

42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.

43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.

44. Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic.

45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.

46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal.

47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests.

48. Do not ask what someone is eating or drinking when they ask for more; remember or consult the order.

49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.

Waco area restaurant staff especially take notice of numbers 8, 32, and 43/44.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zombieland: A Review

This weekend, to blow off steam from my Admin Law final, I decided to go see Zombieland again with the gf and the Davises. Needless to say, it was even better the second time around. I noticed a lot more stuff this time around, and with that in mind, here is my review of Zombieland from a self-proclaimed zombie enthusiast.

You can guess what's about to happen here.

Plot: The plot of Zombieland is simple enough, as it follows the standard formula for zombie mayhem: a group of individuals has banded together, for better or for worse, and are making their way across the country heading to Pacific Playland, a theme park near LA that's rumored to be zombie-free. Each person has their own agenda; Columbus, the movie's main character, is seeking his parents out; the girls are seeking Pacific Playland, and Woody Harrelson, or "Tallahassee," is seeking a Twinkie. Aside from a few minor plot holes, the story was really solid and easy to follow. The rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse were excellently done and obviously well thought out, and a few of them have made it into my own personal survival strategy. The slow-motion scenes at the beginning do a really good job of portraying the reality of what a zombie apocalypse would actually look like, showing the total breakdown in society and portraying zombies not only as the scary angry guy down the block, but everyday people including blushing brides, firefighters, strippers, politicians, and even little girls dressed up as princesses at a birthday party. The story itself doesn't change much from the traditional zombie canon, but it definitely makes for a worthwhile hour and a half as the characters battle the undead in bathrooms, grocery stores, an Indian casino gift shop, and of course, a theme park.

Casting: The casting of this movie is great. Jesse Eisenberg does a great job as Columbus (the characters go by the names of cities so as not to get too familiar in case the worst happens). A poor man's George Michael Bluth, Eisenberg does a great job of balancing the fine line between nerdiness, gumption, terror, intuition, and bravery. It's nice to see a character in a zombie movie that's not a complete stereotype, and Eisenberg is really enjoyable in his breakthrough role. Perhaps the best character, though, is Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson in a role that seems written specifically for him. A zombie-hating, Dale Earnhardt-loving, ass-kicking redneck with a snakeskin jacket and a shit-eating grin, Harrelson steals the show time and time again as he hunts zombies and twinkies with equal ferocity. Add in perhaps one of the best celebrity cameos of all time (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet), and the casting of this movie couldn't have been more perfect.

Gore: Let's face it- zombie movies are violent and gory, and this one doesn't disappoint. While we're spared for the most part the more visceral flesh-eating scenes (except for a couple), the movie nevertheless delivers tons of great zombie kills, doing the living dead in with weapons including hammers, banjos, cars, guns, baseball bats, chainsaws, and even a piano. A great zombie movie isn't complete without a few great zombie kills, and this movie has them in spades.

Zombies: the zombies in this movie are the more modern fast-moving viral zombies, casting off the constraints of the traditional lumbering George Romero undead. I used to prefer the old-fashioned slow-moving style of zombies, but in the last few years I've really come around to prefer the fast moving ones for a few reasons: first, the action is a lot more intense when the zombies are able to sprint. Second, it's a little more believable (relatively speaking) to have zombies that are actually live virus-ridden humans, as opposed to reanimated corpses of the undead. This also makes them easier to kill, as an undead zombie can only be killed by destroying the brain, whereas an undead human can be killed by any number of creative and entertaining means.

Overall, the movie was excellent for both the die-hard zombie film enthusiast and the casual moviegoer who likes action and violence. It's rated R for obvious reasons, and I wouldn't recommend taking your kids to see it if you have qualms about violence or profanity, although there is less of the latter than the former. Even still, I loved this movie and have seen it several times already, and I foresee many more viewings in the future. See the movie if you haven't seen it already. Thumbs way up.