Friday, December 22, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ultrasound Pics from October 17

This was about the middle of the first trimester. We're in the third now, and soon we should have more pics to share.


We could see the little heart beating. My first thought was about abortion--i.e., how could anyone ever kill one of these beatiful little people? Before, I had always thought the point was arguable. Once I saw this, it became immediately clear that anyone in favor of abortion rights is absolutely, completely, wrong.

It appears that an ultrasound was first used to see a human fetus in 1958, so the only way I can imagine that a certain Supreme Court would decide such a thing in 1973 is that their wives never had an ultrasound done, either because their children were born earlier than that or ultrasounds had not yet become standard procedure by that time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Common Sense Education Bill Passes House

Members of the US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday designed to ensure that all college students will have a grasp of the subject matter of common sense.

The measure, dubbed The Common Sense Is Altogether Far Too Uncommon Act, imposes a three credit hour general education requirement for a course in common sense on all public and private colleges that receive federal funding. Students will be permitted to test out of the requirement if they demonstrate "substantial ability" in "handling everyday life situations" and "avoiding obvious hazards." Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that this requirement could be met by "mak[ing] the student give correct change, tie his or her shoes, show familiarity with the concept of 'not wearing shorts when it's below freezing outside,' and avoid the consumption of raw meats."

The push for the bill comes on the heels of a widely publicized University of Nebraska study that shows a direct correlation between population density and population density.

The bill is expected to come before the Senate in early 2007. Senators are split on the bill. Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was quoted as calling the measure "absurd." She also criticizes the bill because she deems common sense to be vague and arbitrary. "What is common sense? Who gets to decide? I certainly wasn't invited to the meeting."

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), on the other hand, was in favor of the measure. "It's good for Nebraska. We've got some of the nation's foremost experts on common sense, and they'll be in great demand throughout the country."

Advocacy groups are sharply divided. Stupid-Heads of Relatively Tenuous Brain Understanding Society (SHORTBUS) has issued a statement to the effect that their group acknowledges the need for such education.

On the opposite side of the issue, Bill Pinkelton, the national president of Allies and Advocates for Idiots, the Learning Disabled, and Buffoons (ILDB) says that his organization is against the measure. "For hundreds of years the religious right and other intolerant people have tried to tell us what we can and can't do. If we make our own decisions about crossing traffic or what to do with our genitals, then who is the government to criticize us?" He then added, "Maybe you don't spit into the wind, or tug on Superman's cape, or mess around with Jim. But the ILDB's position is that we should be able to make our own choices." He also noted that his organization is discussing the possibility of a law suit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He was hesitant to mention anything about what legal theories they would pursue, but he did say that the congressional record is supported largely by "antidotal [sic] evidence."

Businesses and professionals are showing mixed reactions as well. Publishers of various self-help books, such as the popular "for Dummies" series, along with a few prominent personal injury attorneys and the producers of several reality television series, are vigorously lobbying against the bill. An anonymous emergency room doctor from Chicago commented that he will have a hard time paying back his school loans if he gets no more cases of people with "various objects lodged in their nether regions." But other prominent doctors are on the record with the position that prevention of injury is more important.

Despite all the controversy, local support is heavily in favor of the bill. An anonymous, self-identified idiot student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said that he "really needs" some help in this area, but he's concerned that he "might not be able to make it to the class." We interviewed him as he was resting from his attempt to push open a door that was clearly marked with a "pull" sign.

Farmer Bob, a well-known, self-taught common sense expert from the rural Lincoln area, said, "It's about time they got those kids some sense. What good's all that book learnin' gonna do ya if ya if yer too stupid to come in outta the rain?" Bob's wife Maggie, a well-known area mom, added, "Or if you follow one of your friends when he jumps off a cliff."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Law Review Books

As I'm just about to start my last final ever in law school, in about a half hour, and I've used several review books from several companies, I'd like to let anyone who's interested know which law school review books are the best. If you're going to buy a commercial outline, you need to know which ones suit you.

E-Z Review
These are the cheapest of the review books I have used. And that's about the best I can say for them. There are often holes in the subject, and it doesn't explain anything very well. They tout themselves as a review book that acknowledges that you've taken the class. Which is fine and dandy. But if you're prepared well enough that this is all you need, then you don't need a review book at all. Your notes will be much better.

The Black Letter Series
The Black Letter Series books are excellent for the situation when you've paid pretty good attention in class, but you're still worried about your understanding of it, or if your notes aren't very good. They explain things fairly well, and they're concise. I recommend avoiding the multiple choice and true-false review questions they put in these, because they're apparently written by monkeys. There often could be more than one correct answer, and that doesn't work very well for that format of question.

Emmanuel Law Outlines
These are the big guns. If you have senioritis, and you completely check out in your classes, or if you didn't take notes worth a damn, then this, my friend, is what you need. They go in depth on all the subject matter, and give examples, both hypothetical and real cases, to flesh it all out. You could teach yourself any subject area in less than two days with one of these books geared to the right subject matter.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yashica MAT 124: Initial Results

I just got my first batch of film back today for my new toy.

As you can see, there are streaks down the middle of all of them, probably due to something on one of the spools. There was also some color shift and some fogginess, which are probably due in part to the age of the film (it's more than a couple years old, I'm told) and partly to my inexperience in handling medium format film. There were also some light leaks, but they only showed up on the early shots, so I think it was the handling of the film, and not the camera itself. Finally, there was some double exposure, which is probably due to the parts of the camera needing some oil. So, in short, I think I've got a pretty darn good camera here, as soon as I get some fresh film and the camera cleaned up--and as soon as I learn how to handle the film when it's not in the camera.

Oh, there was one picture that I think might be worth saving in Photoshop, so I'm already excited:

It won't be a sharp image, I'll have to go with a concept on it, but it'll work nicely.

Incidentally, I've also learned my lesson about using year-old black and white film. A few pictures can turn out OK . . . most don't.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My New Toy

Yashica MAT - 124

My new toy is a Yashica MAT 124, a medium format twin lens reflex camera--thanks to my friend who gave it to me. I'm not sure how well it works yet, but I think the light meter is broken. I'm really excited about it. Now all I need is a scanner that can do medium format negatives.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Birthday . . .

. . . to the guy who said the funniest thing I've ever heard. Allow me to reproduce the conversation for you here, even though I've already posted it before.
My friend’s dog was licking his genitals (some would say he was “on vacation”). The conversation went thus:
Another Friend: “Man, I wish I could do that.”
The Birthday Boy: “I don’t know . . . that dog looks pretty mean.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

Over the weekend I made an interesting (and very unsettling) series of pictures. I'm not 100% happy with the Photoshop work I did, and may return to this theme some time in the future, but for now, just enjoy my results. I'm posting one now, and will post the other two later this week by editing this post.

See No Evil
Hear No Evil
Speak No Evil

Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Pics

Here are a few random pictures from my life from throughout the year. I hope these give a little insight into my life.

First up we have a couple pics of my wife cheating on me. :)

And here are the kids swimming, even when they're "Breaking the Law."

And here is Russell either (a) trying to get a squirrel or (b) just showing off his athletic ability. He's known to be a cocky show-off sometimes.

And finally, a picture of Mama Puss-Puss, an 18-year-old mother of many kittens, who has been with my wife since she was a kitten and my wife was 6 years old.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

*Sigh* . . . Thank God

Thank God the douche didn't win.

These are all still pretty close, but they're looking to be on the positive side.

(all images taken of

And according to, Initiative 423 was shot down by a strong majority. All looks well in the great state of Nebraska.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Last-Minute Election Summary

The elections are coming down to the wire, and soon we'll be seeing soda advertisements instead of political advertisements once again. And for the first time ever, I've really been paying attention to the races going on right now in Nebraska. So here's my take on all the issues, if anyone cares. Remember, the election is November 7.

Initiative 423

Initiative 423 is touted as a way to reduce government spending and, therefore, taxes. It limits state spending to its current levels, increased by 3% each year, unless voters authorize an increase.

This is absolutely ridiculous. I can't believe anyone would think this is a good idea. We might as well take all our state senators and tie their hands behind their backs. The thing is, many costs increase by more than 3% each year, like for example any health care costs. And it also constrains our government to doing what they're already doing (or less) rather than retooling everything.

The proponents of 423 run a lot of ads. They say that "special interests" are attacking the initiative. Yes, special interests, like nearly every political candidate, police and fire departments, schools, and groups for the elderly. Those sure are greedy outliers on the political spectrum.

I noticed that there are a lot more ads running in favor of this initiative than against it. I started to wonder why this would be, if the "special interests" are really the who don't want it. And then I recalled that the people who were trying to get signatures for it were the same ones who wanted signatures for a gambling initiative. "Ah," I said, "therein must lie the solution." My guess is that the same people are involved. They want to tie the legislature's hands this year, and for the next election they plan to come in on a white horse, in shining armor, with their solution to the problem: allow gambling, and the state's revenues from gambling won't be constrained by Initiative 423. Two and two together, I think.

My conclusion: vote NO on 423.

Governor: Heinemann vs. Hahn

I don't really know a lot about this. I've seen very few ads for Heinemann, and none at all for his opponent. I can't give any conclusions.

The House: 1st District

Democrat Maxine Moul (right) is vying for Republican Jim Fortenberry's (left) seat in the House of Representatives.

As far as I can tell, Moul's entire platform is that she will help veterans. And she claims that Fortenberry hasn't, although his record proves quite the opposite. He's done a fine job so far--there's no reason for a change. He's also run his campaign with grace: he hasn't run any negative ads, and has only responded to her negative ads by defending himself. On the other hand, Moul has done nothing but attack Fortenberry, so much that we have no idea what her platform is.

Character and demeanor are really all we have to go on with this race. Fortenberry seems the perfect gentleman, the kind of guy you'd want to invite to a fancy dinner party or something. Moul, on the other hand, seems like a substitute teacher who's always overly-mean to keep the kids in line. You know the one I mean. You had one just like her.

My conclusion: vote Fortenberry.

The House: 2nd District

Hey, I don't know anything about this one. They don't run any ads in this neck of the woods. Moving on . . .

The House: 3rd District

Now that Republican Dr. Tom Osborne, the former Huskers footbal coach, has decided to give up politics, the seat is open for Republican Adrian Smith (right) or his opponent, Democrat Scott Kleeb (left).

Yeah, in Nebraska it's not a good idea to identify yourself as a Democrat if you want to get elected, particularly so in the western part of the state, the third district. So Kleeb never mentions his affiliation with the Democratic party, and in fact identifies himself as an independent. Smith is very much a hardline Republican, not straying from the party line in any significant respect. It's hard to say what Kleeb will do, but I suspect he'd be fairly moderate, considering his constituency and what I would expect would be his actual political views. Kleeb doesn't say anything about his stance; he only mentions the issues he thinks are important (not how he plans to handle those issues). And although he runs a negative ad, it criticizes only Smith's ability to get laws passed.

Kleeb has a lot going for him. He's a good-looking Yale graduate. His demeanor and character seem to be good. However . . .

What this one comes down to, for me, is that Smith is a Nebraska native and UNL grad, and a state senator. Kleeb, on the other hand, has never lived in Nebraska before. He seems to have picked a place to go where he thought he could get elected, to further his career. To make up for that, Kleeb runs all kinds of ads showing him in a cowboy hat, playing rancher. I don't buy it.

My conclusion: this one is almost a toss-up, considering Smith's questionable abilities as a law-maker, but I think I'd stick with Nebraska native Smith.

State Attorney General: Bruning vs. ?????

This one confuses the hell out of me. I see at least an ad an hour or more for Jon Bruning, and I've never seen one for his opponent. I have no idea who's running against him, so I'm not going to bother finding out. Bruning does a good job. There's no reason not to vote for him, particularly since his opponent is a complete unknown to me. What I can't figure out is why he's wasting so much money on the campaign when no one's really campaigning against him.

The Senate Race

And finally, we have the most important race: the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Ben Nelson (left) and douchebag Republican Pete Ricketts (right).

The Issues:
On the issues, the two candidates aren't radically different. Nelson seems to be stronger on border security and promoting ethanol production. The latter issue is extremely important to Nebraskans. He says that he would eventually like to see Nebraska corn fields replace foreign oil fields. That sounds good to me, and it should to any environmentalist or anyone who would like to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. His web site doesn't give any position on the estate tax, so I'd be willing to guess he's in favor of it. The site mentions that he supports tax cuts for the middle class, so the estate tax is probably safe with him. Thank God. In addition, Nelson has a long-standing positive record of serving Nebraska, and he's quite able to tout his strong independent streak, crossing party lines more than anyone else in the Senate.

Ricketts, on the other hand, is all about eliminating the estate tax. You know why? Well, he has a lot of money, but so does Papa Ricketts, and Pete stands to gain a lot if the "death tax" is eliminated. He doesn't say anything about ethanol production in his ads, and he says nothing of substance about anything else.

The one area where Nelson is silent but Pete speaks is on Social Security. Ricketts wants to make voluntary programs to supplement Social Security. If you can't see how dumb that is, I feel sorry for you. Anyone that wants to save for retirement is already able to do so, through IRAs and many other avenues. The whole reason we have Social Security is because we have many people that won't invest voluntarily. Voluntary programs defeat the whole purpose of it.

Pete's ads repeatedly mention that he's pro-life and against gun control, two issues that are very important to Nebraska. What he doesn't want you to know is that Nelson is also pro-life and against gun control, and has a record (and hunting acumen) to prove it.

The Campaign:
Ricketts is a rich bastard who doesn't want you to know the truth. His early ads painted Democrats in broad strokes as a bunch of radically liberal nutbags. He never actually said Nelson's name in any of these ads, but when Nelson responded in kind with a negative ad of his own, Ricketts accused him of starting the mud-slinging. As if we're not smart enough to see right through that. In more recent ads, he's admitted that Nelson isn't exactly John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, but he wants you to vote for him because Nelson would put someone like that in charge of the Senate. Is that really your best platform, Pete? In fact, it is the strongest thing he can say in his favor.

Let's not forget all the childish, irrelevant ads that he's run. First, he ran one to the tune of "Old MacDonald", with a cartoon Nelson shooting turkeys left and right. The ad told a half-true story about how Nelson claimed that he was running a turkey farm on some of his property to get tax cuts, and the assessor wouldn't allow the cuts to apply. It also claimed that Nelson still owed back taxes and wouldn't pay them, which is an outright lie.

Then he ran an ad stating that Nelson went on a hunting trip to Africa and killed a grocery list of various animals. How is that relevant?

Now he's running an ad which pointed to campaign funds and benefits that Nelson has received from Behlen Manufacturing Company, and tried to link them to two million dollars in state government contracts that the company got. Putting aside the fact that $2mil is chump change in terms of government contracts, every politician receives campaign funds from companies, unless they're so rich that they've lost touch with the real world, like Ricketts. And it doesn't prove that there was anything shady about the contracts. In fact, it doesn't even say outright that anything was shady about the deal at all, because that would be defamation. In response, the CEO of Behlen appeared on an ad showing a picture of himself standing next to George H.W. Bush, describing himself as a lifelong Republican, and stating that Pete Ricketts is a disappointment to the whole party.

The most amusing ad he's run, to me, is one featuring Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Hagel makes the bizarre claim that the issues aren't important, because they can change over time. I need not respond to that ridiculous claim, because it's so obviously idiotic. He then draws the conclusion that a candidate's character and integrity are more important. He then says "I know Pete Ricketts. I trust Pete Ricketts." And if you watch the ad, you see that he can't even say it with a straight face. This ad has no impact whatsoever considering the history of Hagel and Nelson. In short, we all know they don't get along. I'm sorry Chuck, but rather than helping Pete, you've hurt yourself. I can't vote for anyone who would support nutbag Pete.

Nelson's ads, on the other hand, have focused on the issues. They tout his record and all he's done for the state. The only time he's ever run a true mud-slinging ad was when he pointed out the huge (something like $5 million) bonuses that Pete took for himself while laying off large numbers of employees. Let's forget the fact that his bonuses dwarf the government contracts that Behlen got. All his other "negative" ads have been (1) direct responses to Pete's ads or (2) completely about the issues.

The most confusing thing for me in this campaign is Pete's stance on the income tax. If you asked me a couple months ago what his stance was, I would have told you that he supports eliminating the income tax and putting into place a flat, national sales tax. I don't need to tell you how stupid that is--it helps the rich at the expense of the poor, since the rich don't need to spend their money like the poor do, and I'm sure there would be exceptions for investments in such a plan. Not only that, but it would hurt the economy. But now I'm confused.

First, Ricketts ran an ad which to me sounded like this: Nelson claimed that Ricketts doesn't endorse a national sales tax, but in fact he does so endorse one. Ricketts identifies himself as a "Reagan Republican", so Nelson did the smart thing of running an ad which quoted a Reagan administration top-dog as calling a national sales tax "a very dumb idea." Then, Ricketts ran an ad that sounded like the exact opposite of the first one: that Nelson claims Ricketts endorses a national sales tax, but he does not so endorse one and never has. OK, I'm a pretty smart person, and I'm not that easily confused, so I'd be willing to bet that this is a huge flip-flop on a major issue and an outright lie. On the other hand, it could be an intentionally deceptive ad (one of them or the other), which is just as bad. Either way, it was enough to confuse everyone in the Nelson camp.

My conclusion: vote Nelson. I would seriously question the intelligence of anyone who votes the other way.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Interview with Candidate Baraka

Many of you may already have heard that Senator Barack Obama (Democrat--Illinois) has expressed interest in running for the presidency. Many of you may not know, however, that Senator Baraka (Tarkata--Outworld) has thrown his hat into the ring in response. You may remember the last candidate from Outworld to run for office, Goro, in 2000. The Outwordlers again have someone to promote their interests.

Last evening, Baraka was kind enough to allow me to interview him.

* * * * *

Full Metal Attorney: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I know your constituents have been waiting a long time for you to finally make your bid for the highest office in the land.
Baraka: Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to get my message out there. My campaign has been many generations in the making, but now the time is nigh.
FMA: Yes, of course. Now, let's just go ahead and get down to the issues, because many people have speculated about your positions on the issues, and you've never given much indication of how you stand.
B: Of course. Let's get right down to business.
FMA: Alright then. One hot-button issue right now is immigration. I think it's fairly well-settled now that we need more border security. How would you go about that?
B: I would raise an army of my brethren the Tarkata. As most people are aware, we are hybrids of Netherealm demons and the creatures of Outworld. As such, we are all powerful warriors, and most of us, like me, have blades extending from our forearms. This army would patrol the border, and shred to pieces any that cross it. The Rio Grande will flow with the blood of those who defy our immigration policy!
FMA: Yes, well, that seems reasonable. And what about amnesty? Many have expressed the opinion that illegal immigrants already in the country should be allowed to stay in the country. Do you agree?
B: With my hard stance on immigration, you wouldn't think so. But I do agree with that. Well--let me qualify that. My plan, which I think is quite obvious though most politicians have overlooked it in the past, is a fairer balance between respect for the law and the realities of the world, and the hardships that these people face. Anyone who wants to apply for amnesty can do so under my plan. They will then be divided into groups of, say, 24, you know, I'm not married to that number, it could be more, maybe less. Anyway, these groups would be paired off and put into a tournament. They will face each other in Mortal Kombat, fighting to the death, and the one who eventually comes out on top will be granted amnesty.
FMA: Yes, I think that is a reasonable plan. It's hard to believe that no one has promoted such a plan before.
B: Yes it is. (Laughs.) I think that's why we need someone like me in office, someone with fresh ideas.
FMA: The other hot-button issue right now is the war in Iraq. How would you handle it differently?
B: As most people know, my war record is outstanding. The attack on the Shaolin Temple of Light, my work with Shinnok, and the war against the Edenians under the Dragon King Onaga are just the tip of the iceberg. I know war. To make a long story short, my plan will lead to the routing of the rebel forces and the enslavement of all the peoples of Earth. (Laughs maniacally.)
(Awkward silence.)
B: Just kidding.
FMA: (Laughs uncomfortably.) I don't doubt your military prowess. I'm sure you'd handle it effectively and with as little loss of life as possible.
B: (Grinning broadly, teeth gleaming.) Yes, of course.
FMA: Moving on. We don't have a lot of time for much else, but let's do a bit of a lightning round. I'll name the issue, and you say your position as quickly as possible. Death tax.
B: Everyone will be free to die. There wil be no death tax, and death will be doled out generously.
FMA: Social security.
B: There will soon be no need to support the elderly. My plan will obviate the issue.
FMA: Iran.
B: Blood.
FMA: North Korea.
B: Gore.
FMA: Half-demon warriors.
B: Roaming the land unchecked, wreaking havoc and slaughtering the innocent.
FMA: And what do you have to say to your opponents?
B: I will stab them in the torso with both of my blades, and lift them up into the air while they scream and writhe in agony. When they stop twitching, and hang there lifelessly, I will shred them into pieces.
FMA: OK, that's all we have time for. I want to thank you again for taking the time out from the campaign trail to speak with us.
B: Thank you.

* * * * *

That concludes the interview with Senator Baraka. I'll try to make it my mission to keep you up to date on the issues that are important today.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

Harvesting Corn

I've started another theme week at Full Metal Photographer, so if you want to see the steps of corn harvesting, through the eyes of someone who knows very little about it, then click on the picture below to start the journey. Other pictures will be posted Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I'll come back to this post to fill out the rest of the pictures and give the full series to you here, but that will be in small size.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Trolling: a Tutorial

According to this Wikipedia article, trolling is
In Internet terminology, a troll is usually someone who enters an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude, repetitive, offensive, off-topic or otherwise disruptive messages designed intentionally to annoy or antagonize the existing members or alter the flow of discussion, including the personal attack of calling others trolls. Often, trolls assume multiple aliases, or sock puppets.
Sounds like fun, right?

So, if you want to be a troll too, read on. I'll limit this discussion to blog trolls, because blogging is so popular now that there's no need to troll in any other forum.

First, you've got to find the right blog to troll. The ideal target is one that has a few dedicated participants. Between 3 and 25 regular commenters on the site is ideal. If there are too many, you can easily be ignored, and if there are too few, it won't be very rewarding. Then, you have to decide where the buttons are, and push them.

If the blog is personal, insult the blogger. If they talk about something sad in their life, tell them to stop whining. If they talk about something good, tell them how pathetic it is, and so on. But these are too easy, because going against the grain in a personal blog is easy and the people are usually thin-skinned.

For a real rewarding challenge, you need to go to an intellectual blog. Simply disagreeing with the people will not be enough. Now, you could just be obtuse and announce a contrary opinion, and they will find this annoying, but to take it one step further, you need to pretend to make an argument. Make purportedly factual statements with no factual basis, use spurious reasoning, and dismiss other people's arguments out of hand. And when they try to change the topic, don't let them get away with it.

A few other tips:
# Off topic messages: Those that are irrelevant to the focus of the forum. This can also be done in the middle of an existing thread to attempt to hijack the thread, or otherwise change the topic at hand. Off topic messages usually occur when a member has been completely disproved in a serious debate, thus causing that member to use his or her other multiple pseudonyms for the purposes of changing the subject matter. These disruptions may result in the degeneration of a well informed thread into a heated juvenile exchange consisting of insults and childish accusations between multiple parties. Trolls can also throw threads off-topic and cause them to degenerate into flame wars by posting purposely offensive and inflammatory messages. . . .[*]
# Inflammatory messages, including racist, sexist, classist or otherwise needlessly hateful comments.
# Opinions stated as fact: Posting messages expressing their own opinions as generally accepted facts without offering any proof or analysis. . . .[*]
# Bumping an old discussion, or rehashing a highly controversial past topic, particularly in smaller online communities. . . .
# Trying to look for vulnerable people and being offensive to them. . . .
# Messages containing a self-referential appeal to status. "Pepsi is for white trash. I prefer a real soft drink like Coke." . . . [**]
# Intentionally posting an outrageous argument, deliberately constructed around a fundamental but obfuscated flaw or error. Often the poster will become defensive when the argument is refuted, and may continue the thread through the use of further flawed arguments; this is referred to as "feeding" the troll. . . .
# Plural or paranoid answers to personal opinions expressed by individuals: "I don't think that all of you really believe that -— you're just ganging up on me!" . . . [***]
* These are some of my favorites
** Or like saying that your IQ is higher than everyone else's, which is particularly fun when there's no way to verify the situation. And if the claim is untenable (as it most likely will be due to your ridiculousness), then you can go on to say that it's unimportant.
*** This one is particularly fun in an intellectual forum, where you can say that the people are all about praising each other and agreeing with each other all the time, which belittles their intellectual honesty and is maddening due to many examples that prove it wrong. It doesn't work well in a personal blog.

I have a few tips of my own. Make sure you mischaracterize everything that everyone else says. If they say that we shouldn't support amnesty for illegal immigrants, call them racist. If they say that we should handle the Iraq war differently, claim that they said we shouldn't be in Iraq. Subtlety is key here, and will make it all the more effective.

Always imply that you're winning. If the discussion has been reduced to insult-flinging (or a "flame war"), just go on about how nobody can match you, that you're the best. If they're still trying to debate with you, tell them that you're obviously right, and restate everything you've already said. Make sure to mischaracterize their position in the process.

On the same lines, make sure that you tell them that they lost their temper, or that you can tell you hit a nerve, or something to that effect, when they respond to you. Don't do this every time, though, or your trolling will be too obvious.

And finally, pursue them forever. If they won't let you speak in one forum, find out what other forums the participants frequent. Or find their e-mail addresses. Do whatever you can.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dr. Seuss Collection

I created a wish list on Amazon for our baby, of all Dr. Seuss books that we don't yet have (except one), whether they were written under a different pen name or illustrated by someone else or not.

Here's the e-mail I sent out about it:
Hi everyone!

If you haven't already found out, Laura is pregnant with our first child. She is due about the end of May.

When I was a kid, Dr. Seuss books were my favorite, and I've been trying to put together a collection of all his books for our kids. The only problem is there are more than 60 of them.

So I put together this list from Amazon in case any of you would like to purchase a Dr. Seuss book as a gift for our baby. You might want to look at the used copies of the books, as they are much cheaper. They will be mailed to us if you buy them this way. If you don't want to buy a gift that's mailed directly to us, then please don't get a Dr. Seuss book (we don't want repeats).

Best wishes and God bless,

You can see Kelly's entire Wish List at:

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Response to the Language Guy, on the Death Penalty

The Language Guy recently wrote this post on the death penalty. You don't have to read it to understand my response, since I quote it in most relevant respects. A litle background: to impose the death penalty, the state must prove that there are certain "aggravating factors" beyond the fact that the defendant committed first degree murder. The defendant can raise "mitigating factors" to convince the sentencer that the death penalty should not be imposed. Here is my response:

It should be noted that the state must clearly define and enact, as a statute, anything that can be considered an aggravating factor. Many of these are quite contentious issues, but that's a discussion for another day. In contrast, a defendant can raise any factor (as LG hints) as a mitigating factor.

LG said: "The Supremes sided with the state of Kansas in allowing the state to stipulate that if the mitigating factors do not outweigh the aggravating circumstances, then the death penalty is the appropriate jury choice."

This is true, but do you really think it makes a difference? Honestly. Do you think that jurors can really empirically weigh each of these factors and believe that they come out on balance? And that they would then grudgingly impose a different penalty from what they feel is right? No. Juries will do what they think is right. If they think the bastard deserves to die, they will kill him (I use the word "bastard" because that's the kind of language you would use in referring to a person who does deserve the death penalty). If they think he's the kind of guy that deserves a break, they won't kill him. It's as simple as that.

LG said: "So, robbing a liquor store while brandishing a weapon cannot result in your being put to death but killing the clerk while robbing the store can."

This is also true. It is also true that if the clerk shoots an innocent bystander and kills them in the process of this, then you can also be put to death. It should be noted that under the merger doctrine, you can't be found guilty of felony-murder when the felony in question is assault. (It's unfortunate but unrelated that in the law there are many different, wholly unrelated doctrines called the "merger doctrine".)

LG said: "What is interesting in this particular case is that the Supremes affirm that the burden of proof can be placed on the defendant rather than the state."

This is not what is happening, LG. The state still has to prove the aggravating circumstances. They still have to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, the defendant need only prove his mitigating factors by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

LG said: "I ask you which is more important in the grand scheme of things -- whether or not someone is guilty of felony murder or whether or not someone should be put to death for felony murder? Reasonable people could, I suppose, disagree as to the answer to this question."

And reasonable people, as I believe we both are, do in fact disagree, it would seem. This is related to the above issue as well, because actual guilt is not at issue in this stage.

Also related to these issues is that it wasn't all that long ago that all first-degree murder was punished by an automatic death penalty. It is spurious judicial reasoning that has led us to this ridiculous aggravating/mitigating scheme. While it may provide fairness in the individual circumstance, it does lead to unequal treatment. Which ties in with the next issue.

LG said: "Pretrial publicity, racial and ethnic and religious biases, gender biases, and social class and other biases may very well play a role in any given juror's thinking. Asking prospective jurors whether they can render an unbiased verdict is one of the silly exercises the justice system goes through. . . . Do these people really think that prospective jurors are going to always tell them the truth?"

Ah, but these are unavoidable necessities of having a jury system, or perhaps indeed any criminal justice system. And to your question, I think you'd be surprised. Employers put a lot of stock into character tests which asks questions like "Would you ever steal from your employer if you knew you wouldn't get caught?" Many people answer honestly and incriminatingly to such questions.

LG said: "The Kansas statute in contrast to the presumption of innocence demanded of what is called the "guilt phase" of a death penalty case, allows a presumption of guilty . . . ."

See my above comment on the real burden of proof. As far as biasing the jury in favor of imposing the death penalty, I don't see why this is a problem even if it is true. People meeting this phase have already been found guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of twelve people, of committing a heinous crime--the ultimate crime of first degree murder. It has to be pretty bad before the prosecutor can prove such a thing, and in many (if not most) cases they will have had the option prior to this of pleading guilty to second degree murder or manslaughter.

The source you then quote shares some of your misperceptions, and I note that it is a biased source affiliate with Amnesty International. As to number 5, I wonder again whether this is such a bad thing.

LG said: "Given how often it has been determined that persons given the death penalty have been proved innocent of the underlying crime, one would think a fair society would bend over backwards in an effort to minimize imposition of the death penalty."

I don't think the penalty phase is the problem. Something is going horribly wrong in the guilt phase, and that is what needs the real attention, not the penalty phase.

As to the ability to have a hung jury in the penalty phase, I have no opinion and no particular knowledge to add any light to the discussion. Maybe it would be good to allow them to hang. Maybe not.

LG said: "Another problem is the absurdity of 'weighing' aggravators versus mitigators."

I have already noted such absurdity and the results of which above, that is, that jurors will follow their gut. This is not the only place where such a gut instinct can be determinative. It goes from everything from deciding the veracity of a witness to determining relative fault in car collision cases in which both parties did something wrong. It's the only way to make a decision, and a decision must be made. We know in our guts that such decisions can be right or wrong, although we can't put it into words.

As to the proof that many innocent people were sent to death, I have already made my points, but I wish to add that I wonder how many people are being properly put to death in comparison. I know that a system with perfect results is something we should strive for, but it is impossible and we need some kind of system for making these decisions. If you have a better one, then I'm sure you'll get the Nobel Peace Prize.

"The first is that District Attorneys are elected. The second is that Judges are elected."

While I agree that judges should not be elected for these kinds of reasons, I disagree on the district attorneys. The things they do are the very kinds of things that the concept of democracy demands the people have input into, suh as decisions whether to be tough on certain types of offenders and whether and to what extent to prosecute various unique individuals who have very different circumstances. These kinds of decisions should be left to elected, accountable people.

As to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" itself, your suggested standard is one often given to explain what that standard means. At least, that is the case in Nebraska. In other words, your suggestion restates the standard and does not change it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

For the Constitutional Convention of my Constitutional Law Problems Seminar, I propose the following amendment:
All eligible voters, regardless of political affiliation, shall be allowed to participate in the primary elections of all political parties.
Or, in the alternative:
§ 1. The current political primary system employed by the political parties is abolished in regard to the election of candidates for the office of President of the United States. Any attempt to narrow down candidates by popular election in a similar manner is prohibited.

§ 2. On the last February of any presidential election year, a National Primary shall be held. If there is no incumbent President, the three candidates who receive the most popular votes shall be eligible for election in November. If there is an incumbent President, he or she shall be eligible for election in November, as well as the two candidates who receive the most popular votes. No other candidates shall be eligible.
The problem I am trying to address with these amendments is that the people elected in the primaries are always poor candidates. Both parties have more moderate candidates in the primary elections, and I hope that with an amendment similar to one of these, they will be possible candidates for the presidency.

Bunny Catching

Lily caught a bunny the other night. Laura was working nights last week, and I was walking her to work. At the end of our driveway, Lily caught it. Her leash is really short, so she must have caught it completely by surprise. It was injured pretty badly, I think, because it wouldn't move when I nudged it with my toe. I called animal control, and chances are they killed it.

It's kind of a sad story to some, but it's a triumph for Lily. I always knew one of my dogs would catch a rabbit. I didn't think it would be Lily, though.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Couple One-Liners

My thoughts are still kind of scattered right now. To tide you over until I get some good posting material together again, here are some one-liners.

My wine guide doesn't say which wine would go best with tater tot casserole.

Heard on the radio this morning:
"I would actually do Roseanne before I would do Paris Hilton."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Learn to Take Better Pictures

I've had a lot of people ask me for my advice on learnng to take better pictures. I tried to find an online resource that I liked, but couldn't find one. So I've started a new blog dedicated to the teaching of photography.


I start a new year of school today, and in honor of that, I'll be posting sunrise pictures on my photoblog, starting with this one: