Monday, April 30, 2012

Bacon and the Undead - the New PB&J

There are some things that just go together, like peanut butter and jelly, barbeque and beer, me and another cup of coffee (hmmm. That's a good idea. *writer leaves to refresh her cup of coffee. Returns, sipping happily.*). And thanks to America's passion for fatty foods and zombies, you can add another pair to the list of happy couples: Bacon and the Undead.

The pairing has been around for a while. There was even a time when the Think Geek website had Bacon and Zombies as a product cateogry. But there was little to really connect the two things together, besides major demographic cross-over. In fact, there was only one product that expressly addressed the combination: Tac-Bac, Tactical Canned Bacon. Enjoy the taste of crisp bacon every day, without needing to leave your shelter and fight off the encroaching zombie horde.

But now, in the fabulous year of 2012, a product has come that perfectly expresses the beautiful harmony between Bacon and the Undead. It's the bacon coffin! Painted on the outside to look like bacon, and decked out on the inside with every amenity a corpse could desire.

But Maryanne, aren't coffins for the dead-dead and not the undead? Excellent question. The answer is that the bacon coffin is made for both. It comes with a built in bacon air freshener. Imagine, as you reanimate, smelling bacon all around you. Assuming that you can smell anything. And if you can't that's still okay, because you'll be able to emerge from the coffin smelling like bacon. Instead of running away from zombie-you in terror, people will run too you. You will be undead bacon bait. Perfection.

I really want someone to use one of these coffins in a movie. And to mix things up a little, it should be a vampire who pops out of the coffin, instead of a zombie. A unique variant of vampire, he would exist on blood and salty snack foods. Like barbeque flavored chips, or pork rinds (hmmm. *writer leaves to retrieve a bag of pork rinds. Returns, munching happily.*)

It won't be long before people are throwing bacon themed funerals. Imagine the food at the wake. Ooh, I hope they served those little bite-sized pieces of pineapple wrapped in bacon...and BLT sandwhiches dripping in Baconnaisse...

Clearly I need to stop writing and make myself a proper lunch. Until next time, stay alive and eat your bacon!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Legalized Necrophilia

The living world was stunned this week to learn that government officials in Egypt are considering a bill that would legalize necrophilia. Yep. For up to six hours after one spouse dies, the living and the dead could continue expressing their love for each other in a physical way. Well, one of them would continue expressing. The other would just...lie there. Decomposing and such.

If you want to read more about the bill, go here. The article raises a lot of issues in addition to the necrophilia bill, including religion and women's rights. I'm not going to go into those matters here, but feel free to discuss them among yourselves. I'm going to focus on the multitude of questions raised by the necrophilia bill itself.

First, the obvious questions. Why in the hell would anyone want this to be legal? What kind of weird stuff are supporters of the bill into? And how did this even get started? Was a very recent widower caught in the act with his corpse bride, resulting in arrest and public outcry? I don't know. And I question how lively someone's regular sex life could be, if they think doing it with a corpse is a good idea.

Next, the specifics of the bill. Why six hours? It this a rigor mortis thing? Probably. I mean, it's one thing to be locked in a passionate embrace, and quite another to become locked in a passionate embrace. Kind of embarrassing if you have to yell for the relatives in the next room to come and help you out.

Since the six hour requirement is mentioned in the proposed law with specificity, one must assume that going even one minute past the time limit would be a violation of the law. No doubt this will result in some stiff penalties. Yep. The unbending staff of justice shall come down on offenders with grave finality.

But who enforces the time limits? The local coroner, or relatives of the deceased? Or does Death keep watch, scythe in one hand and timer in the other.

"Okay you two love birds," Death says; "You've got about three minutes left. Better wrap things up."

"You mean the body?" asks the living spouse.

"No, I mean what you're doing. No one's in a rush to wrap up the body. After what you just did, no one wants to touch it."

"I just wanted to say goodbye."

"Yeah, there are greeting cards for that. Or flowers, for the grave. Are you so cheap you couldn't buy flowers? Is that what this is about?"

"But I'll never see my beloved's smiling face again."

"Look, idiot, I can see the face of your spouse's spirit watching right now, and there is no smile. There is retching, but no smiling. You sick freak."


I suppose there's some good in all of this. At least America wasn't the first country to push the idea. We'll write the books and make the movies about vampires and zombies, fueling an international obsession with the undead; some other country can do the weird stuff. And for pity's sake, let's not import it. The trade deficit is bad enough.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Baylor Practice Court: Myths, Legends, and Fear

Alert Undead Bar Association reader S. Einhorn contacted me today about a new Baylor Law news article. You can find it here, in the electronic copy of the Spring 2012 BaylorLine Magazine. Go to pages 18-19 and click on 'Read More' at the bottom of page 18. The article discusses Baylor Law's legendary Practice Court (PC) program.

I've mentioned the PC program on this blog before, when I discussed the joys of memos. This blog post will tackle PC from a different angle.

Two things about the Baylor Line article warrant comment. First: the myths, legends, and fear.

The article and the accompanying page of quotes from current students (first and second years who have yet to enter PC) cover the usual PC myths and legends. From the article:

Practice Court students circulate a list of advice to help incoming students avoid excessive classroom questioning. “Do not wear loud colors or patterns of attire. This attracts their attention,” they warn. Students are also advised to “Sit low in your chair,” and “Do not make eye contact.”
 

Really? Students and alumni are still telling pre-PC students that BS? You've got to be kidding me.

There is no statistically significant relationship between the color of your clothing and the number of times you are called on in class. Ditto making eye contact. Ditto on slumping down in your seat and trying to hide. There is also no connection between the number of memos Prof. Powell will hand out in a given day and which suit he is wearing (An upper level student told me that if Powell wore the pinstripe suit with the vest, it was time to run for the hills. For the first month, until I learned better, I believed).

I'm not saying this lightly. I observed the class action closely, and watched for trends. When I say there is no statistically significant relationship, I'm telling you that as a stats nerd with an undergrad business degree and a graduate business degree (in process while I was also pursuing my law degree), I did the analysis, and there was no connection. Myths and legends. Not reality.

If the prof wants to call on you, he will. There is no way to avoid the inevitable. And frankly, you should worry more if you're not called on. If the professor doesn't call you out the most you can hope to learn is the class material, and that's not enough. You can't learn to be a good attorney if you're always sitting down.

What if instead of perpetuating myths and legends, we told the truth. What if we told the pre-PC students something like this: “Forget about avoiding questions. You shouldn't be afraid that you'll be called on. Be afraid that when you are called on, you won't be sufficiently prepared. Be afraid that the professor calls on you to teach you a lesson, and you miss the point. Be afraid of making all your mistakes so quietly and so privately, of hiding your weaknesses so well, that the professor fails to see you need instruction. Don't fear the PC system. Fear your own demons...then see them for what they are, and crush them.”

But that doesn't happen. Why? Long-time reader D. Weaver put it best, in a message she sent me this afternoon: People make up crap to appear wise and important.

The myths and legends that build false fear are carried on to satisfy egos. Yeesh.

The second point I'd like to make about the article, and it's minor: whether or not the Titanic case can be won.

For all you non-Baylor lawyers out there, the Titanic case is one of many cases used for the capstone trial at the end of the PC program. It's widely regarded as the most challenging of all cases that a student can be assigned.

A student in the article is quoted as saying that the defense cannot win the Titanic case. Wrong. It can be done. I know this first-hand, because I was sitting in the jury box when it happened.

You should never, ever, assume your side of a case in unwinnable. No matter what the fact pattern, your client has a chance. You, the attorney, are that chance.

To be fair, the student may not have gone into court assuming his client's case was unwinnable. He may simply have concluded the case was unwinnable because he lost. If that's true then the student is a victim of a lack of information. Someone didn't teach him PC history.

But don't all PC students suffer from a lack of history? Again, imagine what would happen if the community of alumni and students came together to speak the truth.

Myths, legends, and fear.

Like law school wasn't hard enough already.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We're Under the Weather.

It's storm season in the Texas Panhandle. Good news: chance of rain. Bad news: chance of severe weather like tornados. Ugly news: chance of hail damage. So how do you get the information you need to protect your family from the bad and the ugly?

A friend of mine, M. Martinez, came up with her list of favorite weather alert tools. I consider her a weather guru of sorts, and eagerly perused her list. Then I asked if I could share it on the blog, and she said yes.

This is by no means a complete list, or an official one. But with all the changes in technology, it's a good idea to know about new options out there. So here we go.

NOAA Weather Radio - If you are at home or work, best way to receive warning. I like the Midland one, you can get them at Uniteds for 29.99 and program it with the SAME Code for your county. Don't forget to add batteries in case power goes out.

Local Media - All 3 stations do a pretty good job to keep you up to date. And radio too with some smaller radio stations with continuous live coverage.

Smartphone Apps:

iMap WeatherRadio - you can add different locations and specify what you want to be alerted on. Pretty slick app.

Social Media:

Use the #txwx hashtag in Twitter/Tweetdeck and you'll get reports & alot of the 'virtual chasers' input on the outlook or warnings

Follow iembot_ama. This is an automatic posting by the NWS Amarillo office. You'll get alot of the discussion links but the warnings and storms reports go out too. Maybe adding it to go straight to you as a text message during heightened severe weather days would be good.

Facebook/Follow local media & your local NWS

Other Alert Text/Voice Options:

Weather Channel Alerts - Free Email/Text for some providers. https://registration.weather.com/ursa/alerts/step1?&initAlerts=SVR

Nofify! Calls you to alert you if a warning is issued. Costs a little but an option for those without internet/text.
http://www.weather.com/services/notify.html

Other Information Avenues:
Emergency Radio - I use 5-0 Radio on my cell phone. But you can also find it online at: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/ Gives you a heads up on the trouble spots

NOAA streaming Weather Radio - If you are in the Amarillo area that is 1610AM on the radio or you can go to our website on the side panel to listen (oem.amarillo.gov)

There you go! Be safe, and pray for rain. Just rain.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Disappearing Class: A Law School Scandal

Baylor Law made legal news today by releasing private information about each student admitted to the fall incoming class to every student admitted to the incoming class. Assistant Dean Leah Jackson issued an apology. Somebody sent the data to the website Above the Law. The site released a redacted version of the file with a write-up of the event.

*sigh*. Welcome to Datagate.

There are three problems here. I'll address the most obvious one first.

What great galloping idiot of a would-be lawyer sent the data list to Above the Law? Which attorney wanna-be was that opportunistic and utterly devoid of class? The instant you saw what you had in your hands you should have deleted it. It was hot, it was wrong, and you knew it.

In the apology e-mail from Baylor Law, Associate Dean Leah Jackson made the following statement: “Due to the sensitive nature of the information that was contained in the attachment, we ask you to treat the document as confidential, just as you would as a lawyer, and delete the information.”


Perhaps you sent out the information before you received the apology from Associate Dean Jackson. Maybe you sent it out after. It really doesn't matter. You should have done the right thing without having to be told. If you do go on to become a lawyer, God help your clients.


The second problem was caused by Above the Law. You said in your article that “we're not going to compound Baylor's mistake by outing all of these innocent students who did nothing other than get admitted to a law school.” You then went on to PUBLISH THE LIST. It doesn't matter that you removed the students' names. By including the names of the undergraduate schools they attended, you published enough information to make those potential students vulnerable. If any of them do matriculate to Baylor in the fall, the upper classes will be able to figure out who is who. So will classes that follow. And you did it because you saw “some newsworthiness” in Baylor's mistake. Honor and class sacrificed for your perceived journalistic glory.

And now to the third problem, the big problem: Baylor Law.

Oh, Baylor Law. What were you thinking.

Yes, one person made the mistake by sending out the e-mail with the attachment. But it reflects on the whole school. It was an act that said very clearly, “We don't care about prospective students.” And the apology e-mail, while it is unequivocal, is hardly the start of real reparations.

The saddest part is the reaction of alumni. We aren't surprised. Ashamed, yes. Surprised, no. Too many things happened during law school that said, very clearly, “We don't care about students.” Why would you care about prospective students? You didn't care about the people inside the building, so why would you care about people waiting to get in?

I'm not talking about the professors. Some of them do truly care about the students. I'm certainly not talking about the library staff, who cared for me and the other library workers like we were family. I'm not talking about the other staff members who did what they could to make sure the students were still eating and getting by. I'm talking about the administration.

The first thing I thought about when I learned of Datagate was Promgate.

It was Spring 2006. We were all in a frenzy, prepping for final exams. And then we were told the the law school library would be off limits, commandeered by the Dean so that his high school offspring and friends could have a private, catered, pre-prom dinner, on the library's second floor. Our best study location became the private playground of outsiders. After outrage from the student body and involvement of the local media, the edict was adjusted. We were allowed to use the library, but not the second floor.

Was there ever an apology? Barely. Was there comprehension on the part of the administration as to the reason for our anger? No. The administration continued to schedule events during the hell weeks that preceded exams, with no regard for the students. CLE courses were regularly scheduled during peak study times, with attorneys pushing students out of classrooms and even seating areas in the hallways. Study groups built barricades around tables in a vain attempt to carve out some space to sit and review. The message from the administration was clear: outside attorneys matter; students don't.


For alumni who remember Promgate, Datagate is not a surprise. It's just the next level of what we all experienced first hand.

Again, I do recognize that Datagate was caused by one person. But tone comes from the top. The very fact that it was the Associate Dean who sent out the apology and not the Dean himself, says a lot.

The source of all three Datagate problems is the same: a lack of class. In Baylor Law's case, it may well cost them a class. It may cost them good calibre students for many classes to come.

Prove me wrong, Baylor Law. No one wants to think ill of their alma mater. If only you wouldn't make it so damn easy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Forget the Politics. This is Kind of Funny.

I can't remember the last time my writing and the national news had a thematic connection, but here we are. Today, I finished a scene for the new book. The scene pulls from some of my memories of the final year of law school. Just after I finished writing it, a friend from law school sent me a link to an article about the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Department of Justice. Related? You betcha.

By now you probably know that the President of the United States made some remarks about judicial review. National Health Care, Supreme Court, and all that jazz. Don't worry, I'm not about to go off on a political rant. If you were hoping that I was, too bad. Find another blog.

Yesterday, the National Health Care story took a twist. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is also hearing a case related to National Health Care, gave a homework assignment to the attorney from the Department of Justice, Dana Kaersvang. Minimum of three pages, single-spaced, due in two days, covering the legal issues related to the President's recent remarks.

*Hmph*. I'm surprised the Court didn't specify the font size and margins. But no doubt Attorney Kaersvang will look up the court specific rules and use the default requirements for pleadings in lieu of specific instruction on those matters. *Snort*.

Okay, I admit it. I'm laughing. It's funny. Not LMAO, or ROFL. But a quiet LOL. It's a laugh that goes like this: “Heh. Department of Justice got a Memo.”

Ah, the Memo. The 5th Circuit didn't call it that, and the media isn't using that term. But every alum from my law school is calling it that. That's what we called it when it happened to us.

The law school I attended had an intensive, mandatory practicum in the final year. Most law schools, the third year is a breeze. Not the one I picked. I went to the place where fun goes to die, the law school with a boot camp. I still have a t-shirt that says, “At other law schools the third year is a joke. Here, the joke's on you.” And one of the charms of our third year was the Memo.

What precisely is a Memo? Extra homework. Punishment. Teaching tool. Both. Neither. I was never clear on that. But I do know it was hell. Hell to have, and hell to see.

You could get a Memo for answering a question incorrectly in class. You could get a Memo for sitting next to someone who gave a wrong answer. You could even get a Memo if you answered correctly, a rare and painful occurrence that would have the people sitting around you wincing and scooting away out of fear your Memo was contagious.

Sometimes you understood why you were slapped with a Memo and sometimes you didn't. Sometimes a classmate gave a stupid answer to a question but escaped unscathed, leaving you to wonder if there really was such a thing as justice. At the end of the day you just had to shrug and say, “I got a Memo because I got a Memo.” Searching for a motive or reason wouldn't get the Memo done. Take the hit and move on – that was the ultimate lesson.

There was a clear technical benefit to Memos. It taught us to complete a research project fast. It prepared us for mini-trials, and those prepared us for cases.

Here's a little secret you won't read on another blog: a Court asking an attorney to do extra work during a trial is not unheard of. It just doesn't normally make the national news.

And we weren't just trained to take the hit when the Memo came. We were taught to anticipate the extra work. Yeah. Give yourself a Memo before the trial, on any issue you think the Court might question. I wrote them for mini-trials and big trial in school. When I was practicing law, I wrote one. Didn't need it, but I had it. Law school beat the Memo Paranoia into me.

(aside: Memo Paranoia would be a good band name)

Reading about someone slapped with a Memo in real life does force me to do something unpleasant: admit that my professors were right. I don't like doing this. I prefer being the bitter maverick alum; I do it so well. But truth is truth. If any of my classmates had been slapped with a memo by the 5th Court of Appeals, they would have taken the hit, written a kick-ass memo, and turned it in before the deadline. That's what we were trained to do. There. I said something nice. Ugh.

Back to the humor of the 5th Circuit Memo. No one is laughing at the attorney or making light of the subject material. We're laughing with the attorney, because we've had a taste of what it's like. We're laughing at memories. And in the case of at least one alum (me), we're laughing at ourselves, for finally seeing how right our professors were about taking the hits and being prepared.

To Attorney Kaersvang: Good luck. Take the hit, and move on. To my fellow alums and all attorneys out there, if you see Dana Kaersvang, buy that attorney a drink. Chuckle over this together. If there's any fraternity among us, it's fed by shared suffering, dark humor, and the bar.