Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I need a vacation.

Seriously. My vacation this week couldn't have come at a better time. My dad is taking his girlfriend to Cancun for her birthday, and I'm gonna meet them there for a few days. Lying on a beach, doing absolutely nothing, is EXACTLY what I need right now. I'll return next weekend and post a few pictures, and most of them will not include farm animals and very loose women.

I'm still waiting to hear about my truck. There is a dispute as to whose fault the accident was, but although the police report says it was my fault, we have a really good case against it, as there are no lines on the road, nor are there any signs, to indicate that there are two lanes. It will probably end up in arbitration, so I should know more in a few weeks. I hope to find out pretty soon if my truck is totaled or not. However, I've been ready to make a vehicle change for a while now, and this got me off my ass and out shopping. I bought a 2004 Volkswagen Passat on Memorial Day:

I bought it at a VW dealership, and it's certified by VW, so it comes with an automatic 2-year, 24,000 mile warranty. It's roomy, has leather interior, and has power everything except the seats, which is no big deal to me. I was determined to buy a convertible (I test drove an '03 Audi A4 last Friday), but common sense won out this weekend. It wasn't worth the extra money right now, and the sunroof comes pretty close to making up for it.

My goal right now is to not be in a Mexican prison when the first payment is due. Wish me luck...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Josh Hancock and the blame game

Definitely don't drive after one of these

In the aftermath of pitcher Josh Hancock's death, his family filed a lawsuit against essentially every person who was alive in Illinois or Missouri the night of his fatal car accident. Autopsy toxicology reports revealed that Hancock was two times over the legal limit when he plowed his SUV into a tow truck that had stopped on the left side of the road to assist a motorist.

Among the people being sued are the bar that overseved Hancock, the tow truck driver, the driver of the broken down vehicle and the tow truck company. More defendants may be added later.

What really gets me about this is how it relates to the issue of overserving. At some point, adult people have to take responsibility for how much they drink. If you want to get technical about it, any restaurant or bar shouldn't serve anyone more than two drinks, since that puts a good portion of the population at or near the legal limit. Instead, Hancock's family is blaming everyone except who they should be blaming: Josh Hancock.

People have made attempts to blame the clubhouse culture in baseball in general, and the St. Louis Cardinals in particular for allowing drinking in the clubhouse, and not noticing that this guy needed help.

Our culture is the one to blame. One of the most popular and least effective programs to quit drinking, AA, begins with the alcoholic admitting they are powerless to control their disease. This perception that alcoholics are not capable of making sound decisions is lame. We blame drug users, people with AIDs, children of the poor, minorities, immigrants for things that they actually cannot control, but when it comes to alcoholics, we throw a huge pity party because they can't stop drinking.

We can debate whether or not alcoholism is a disease or not, but if you believe it is, the alcoholic is still to blame is many cases for not seeking treatment. You want to say it's a disease? Fine. But, then would you feel sorry for someone with AIDs who didn't get any treatment? That person would be vilified. Time and time again when alcoholics fail to complete treatment or relapse, we blame the disease.

That lack of accountability is what killed Josh Hancock.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Blind Leading the Desperate

This week, I received a letter from the California State Bar Association. The letter made me happy, sad, and nervous simultaneously. In order to explain why, let's take a tour through the legal profession (some of you may know this and can skip the tour and meet us at the end for drinks and snacks).

Lawyers, like doctors and accountants, are a self-regulating profession. That means that we get to decide who gets to practice law and who doesn't. Graduated first in your class from Harvard? Don't care, you may still never get to be a real lawyer. See, in order to actually BE a lawyer, you have to first graduate from law school (and not just any law school, but one accredited by the American Bar Association, which is answerable to no one regarding whom it chooses to accredit and whom it chooses not to accredit. Next year, it could un-accredit Harvard and there wouldn't be anything anyone could do about it. Suck it, Skippy Englewhite IV). THEN, and this is the big part, you have to pass the bar exam in the state in which you want to practice. Yes, that's right: in this day and age of people constantly moving from state to state (not like, say, 1812), your lawyer license is NOT transportable. In most states, if you've been a lawyer for at least 5 years, you can sign a piece of paper and they'll just waive you in. But in at least 12 states (including California and Texas, home of such legal masterminds as Alberto Gonzales), it doesn't matter if your 80 years old, have been a Supreme Court justice and shit lightening bolts: if you want to practice law in that state, you have to pass the bar exam all over again. Bit of trivia: the call it the "bar" exam, and they call the association of admitted lawyers the "bar" association because in every courtroom, you will find a little railing, or "bar" which separates the gallery (where plebes and minorities sit) from the "well," also known as the tables where the lawyers sit plus the witness stand plus the judge's bench. Only lawyers (or arrested criminals who are on trial, or civilians who are being sued) can go past the "bar" in the courtroom. Hence, lawyers "pass the bar." Oddly enough, 9 out of 10 lawyers are ignorant of this bit of trivia. Here's proof: go to any bar where $12 martinis are served, and start asking people. Many of them will be lawyers, and most of them will be ignorant of this. Fun!

Anywho, the state bar of California sent your dear friend CowbowLaw a letter which said, essentially, "We know you're a legal genius. Therefore, we'd like you to be a grader and assess the performance of future bar exam testees, and decide who passes and who don't." At this point in the letter, CowboyLaw was smiling.

Then, the letter got to the issue of compensation. See, CowboyLaw has a really good paying job as it is (fuck you, grammer Nazis!). And not a lot of free time. So, when you ask CowboyLaw to do something other than drink and watch TV in what little free time he has to himself, the question of compensation always comes up. (CowboyLaw also talks about himself a lot in the third person, but that's another story.) The California Bar Assoc. understood that, and so they came right out and spelled out how graders would be compensated. First, there's 4 training sessions you have to attend, which take about 2 days total. For that, you get $800. Not bad. After that, you start grading essay exams and performance exams. The CA bar exam has 6 essay questions and 2 performance exam questions. You get roughly 1 hour each to answer the essay questions. You get roughly 3 hours to answer each performance exam question. People write A LOT when they answer these things (throw in everything but the kitchen sink). The good folks at the CA Bar Assocation were proud to announce that, for each essay question I graded, I would be given three whole dollars. That's right, $3.00. But, that's not all. For each performance exam I graded, I would get $3.50.

Now, don't start dancing a jig and singing "We're In the Money!" quite yet. See, I actually have to grade these questions. And I know full well that I'm grading a question that literally involves the future profession of the person whom I'm grading. This isn't like a 6th grade spelling test where no one gives a shit about the fact you got a C-. If I give an examinee a bad grade, they may fail to get admitted to practice law in CA. Which, to put it mildly, is a fucking huge problem for them. I thought about what I would need to do if I was going to grade exams and sleep at night without concerns. And I decided that, if I just ripped ass, I could probably grade an exam answer every 10 minutes. That doesn't give me enough time to fully read the answer, but I could skim it and decide roughly how well the person did. So, I could grade 6 essay questions in an hour. Which means I would be making $18/hour, which in CA is just a little less than DOUBLE MINIMUM WAGE. My back-of-the-napkin math says that I make about $68/hour while I'm at work. So, I'd only be working for about 25% of my usual salary. Awesome!

Right about now was when I started to get nervous. Because, see, I had taken the CA bar. And when I had done that, all of my future plans and dreams and hopes were tied to me passing that exam. And it suddenly occured to me that, as a result, all of my future plans and dreams and hopes were dependent on the whims of someone who either (1) thought $18/hour was a great wage, or (2) thought he/she could grade my essays WAY faster than 10 minutes per. And that thought scared the shit out of me. Now, remember: I've already passed. This is like watching the movie Titanic and wondering how it ends. But the sudden realization that my fate had been in the questionable hands of such people retroactively scared me to death.

I've never been a fan of bar exams. They don't test real-world conditions or lawyering skills, they're arbitrary and oftentimes random. I've taken 2 bar exams and passed them both, so you can't call this a case of sour grapes. But this is a hell of a way to run a railroad. And finding out that the compensation given to the graders, the people who are literally the gatekeepers to admission to this noble profession, is not quite double what the guy who runs the Fry-O-Lator at McDonalds makes is a scary revelation.

So, suffice it to say, I shant be grading any bar exam questions any time soon. And I feel really bad for those whose futures depend on the questionable work done by the people who grade these exams.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Misheard Lyrics -- 'Yellow Ledbetter'

Thanks to Viking for sending this to me yesterday. I immediately thought of the Midge, so it had to go up here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We need help. Seriously

We are so fucked.
At this point, you're probably wondering who "we" are. We are Ryan's kidneys. Why do we need help? If you read this website on a regular basis, you know already what goes on with this guy, but we are the first kidneys in the history human life that wish their host would stumble down to Mexico and find himself in a bathtub full of ice with a cell phone taped to his hand.
You see, Ryan's daily routine is something like this: The day starts with coffee. You're thinking "Coffee? Are you serious? Everyone drinks coffee." Not like this. When we say coffee, what we should say is black acid of death. Ryan likes it thick and black, just like this girl he used to date in college. And that's not the last of it.
Then there's the booze. By the end of the coffee drinking, we're already trying to process a substance that more closely resembles maple surup than urine. And he goes and drinks 6 beers to add insult to injury. Is this guy for real? Kidneys have failed for much less than this.
He was going to post some stupid crap about politics or religion, but he passed out at the computer, so we took over. Send help immediately. If you saw Silence of the Lambs with that chick in the whole and the whole "It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again" situation, you know what we're up against here. We're being held hostage. There's probably a kid somewhere who needs a kidney or two kidneys, and here we are, filtering piss for this guy. Help.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Lemme tell ya, it's been one hell of a week for me. Tuesday morning, I'm on my way to work, and I pulled out of my garage. I got onto the major street out by my house, I started to perform a legal u-turn (as I have every weekday for the last two years), and I get t-boned by some jackass who was hauling ass behind me. The driver's side door and rear quarter-panel are all jacked up. Here's a picture of where and how it happened:

What's puzzling to me is why he chose to go left instead of right. If he goes right, he might catch my bumper, but there was more room to slip past. The collision happened exactly in the middle of the intersection (there's still skid marks and broken plastic there), so even if I was taking the u-turn a little wide, he still didn't hit me until there was plenty of room on the right side to go by. However, he's not the smartest man alive, as you're about to find out.

So, there's that second or two where we're both coming out of the shock of the collision. Then he started to drive away from the scene (heading south), but when he saw my truck was not only driveable, but that I had started to follow him, he stopped. We traded insurance info, and then he said, 'Well, I gotta go.' I said, 'Yeah, so do I, but we gotta call the cops first.' He said, 'But I gotta go to work!' I said, 'Yeah, so do I! But if we don't have the police file a report, we won't be able to get our cars fixed.' He then attempted to blame me for the accident, but something he wasn't aware of is that the road he was driving on is one-lane, not two. He should've yielded as I was u-turning. The road is wide enough to fit two cars side-by-side, but there are no markings or painted lines, and people are allowed to park on the right-hand curb. People don't usually choose to, because of the maniacs on that road who drive as if there are two lanes. But, I wasn't about to waste any more of his precious time, on top of the fact that English wasn't his first language. So, he left the scene before I called the police.

After the collision, my head was hurting. The impact caused my left temple to hit the door frame. So to play it safe, I went to the clinic. Have any of you seen the movie Over the Hedge? It's actually pretty good, but I can't say I liked it as much the second time. Especially after watching it back-to-back, like I did as I sat in the waiting room for three hours, waiting to get x-rayed. Thankfully, they called my name before they put in the Willy Wonka remake. Although, I hear Carol Channing is pretty good in it. The x-rays came back negative, so no fractures.

As it turns out, the name on the registration for this dipshit's vehicle didn't match the name on his insurance. Fortunately though, he was dumb enough to call my insurance company, looking for them to cut him a check, so they have his contact info. As it stands today, it looks like he is insured, and didn't update the registration info once he bought the vehicle from a private party. However, I won't know for sure until the police report is official.

The moral of this story? Well, there isn't one. You never know when some fuck stick is gonna be speeding down a road, make a bad decision, and plow into you.

More to come...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Looks like heaven needed another anti-semitic bigot


Jerry Fallwell was found dead today, and despite the fact that I don't celebrate when anyone dies, I have to wonder what that conversation was like at the gates of heaven when he showed up there earlier today. On one hand, you have a guy who is very religious. No one can argue that. This is also the same guy who spent a good part of his adult life saying horrible and hateful things about jews, gays, feminists and anyone who didn't share his fire and brimstone version of christianity.

I completely believe people have the right to say whatever they wish, even if I don't agree with what they say. I do have a problem with people who preach hatred, which is exactly what Fallwell did time and time again. Some classic Fallwellisms:

-His National Liberty Journal warned parents that Tinky Winky, a purple, purse-toting character on television’s “Teletubbies” show, was a gay role model and morally damaging to children.

-In 1999, he told an evangelical conference that the Antichrist was a male Jew who was probably already alive.

-Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Falwell said he held gays and feminists among those partially responsible.

This sort of crap doesn't help the already weak political discourse in our country. Fallwell was very hateful man, and I'm not going to fall into the same hateful line of thinking, just because I happen to strongly disagree with every word that crossed his lips. I'm sure someone, somewhere thinks his death is tragic. But it's not me, and it's not here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Taco and Beer Ride

For those of you in the Omaha area, summer brings the return of the Council Bluffs to Mineola Taco and Beer ride on the Wabash Trace trail every Thursday night. Hundreds of bikers each week brave the elements, drunk people on bikes, long lines for $5 pitchers of beer and margaritas and the most disgusting $1 tacos you'll ever eat willingly to enjoy a nice evening that makes Friday mornings difficult to stomach. Check it out if you're in the area and you own a bike.

Good news for healthcare reform?

If people from other countries want a prime example of how stupid and pigheaded we are as Americans, they need look no further than the issue of healthcare reform. Since 1994 when First Lady Hillary Clinton proferred a plan for universal healthcare for all US citizens, the debate about if and how to do this sort of thing rages on.

The reason that this debate is so stupid is that the main arguements made against healthcare reform can actually be applied to the current system, which I like to call "pay or die".

People hold the Candian single-payer system up as a nightmare example, where people have to wait months for treatment and Candians have to pay out of their boots for this substandard care. The irony about Americans making this arguement aginst the Canadian system is hilarious. It's almost as ironic as when Al Sharpton calls someone a racist. You see, Americans spend more money paying for healthcare than any other country in the world, even those with universal healthcare.

As a result, US companies are getting smart on the issue of healthcare reform. Some American companies can't compete with overseas companies that pay their workers 2 cents an hour or with Wal-Mart, who pays their employees 3 cents an hour (1.5 cents if you're a woman).

My only concern is what universal healthcare would look like if it were designed by some of the same people who developed benefits packages for me over the years. The difference in this case is that companies are looking for a way to have someone else pay the rising costs of healthcare (you and me), so it might actually be somewhat comprehensive. In what will surely be a battle of insurance companies versus other corporations who are tired of being gang-raped by Blue Cross and United Healthcare, I am interested to see what sorts of plans arise from this consortium.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Slippery Slope towards Internment Camps?

Things like this make it hard for me to believe that we live in 'The Land of the Free.' Was it because it was Texas? After the Virginia Tech shootings, was it because he was Asian? Was it because of mainstream society's general misinformation about video games (perpetuated by politicians and ignorant, uninvolved parents)?

And is 'terroristic' a word? Oh, I guess it is. It just sounded like a 'Bushism.'

P.S. Yes, the pun in the headline is very, very bad.

Maynard James Keenan goes country?!?

'My country boner, it won't go down!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

President Bush: 28% Approval Rating is WAY TOO HIGH

Y'all are way too fond of me these days

President Bush's approval rating hasn't been a positive number now for over two years. 51% of people recently polled either had a somewhat negative or very negative feelings towards the President. I realize that W doesn't have to worry about re-election in 2008, and I know he's all about sticking to his guns, even when it's a really poor decision, but it seems like he's forgetting that he's not a dictator and that he was actually elected to represent the will of the people, which has been in favor of handing over control to the Iraqis for over a year.
Nonetheless, Bush is going to veto the emergency spending bill for the Iraq War because it contains a timetable for withdrawal. This is very unlikely to help his popularity, but I care less about his popularity than he does. It almost as though he's trying to go against the will of the American people, simply because he's made a gigantic mistake in invading Iraq and keeping US troops in the middle of a civil war for the past 3 years.
Bush made a statement that withdrawal from Iraq could send the country into chaos. I'm not sure what the President's definition of chaos is, but given his documented lack of understanding of English, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn't really understand what chaos is, since most people would define chaos by using Iraq today as an emperical example. Our military presence is the reason for that chaos, and keeping the troops there indefinitely will not change that.
It would be a completely different situation if the Bush Administration appeared to have a plan about what to do in Iraq, aside from a troop surge (which has been emperically shown to be a complete failure in curbing the violence there) or invading Iran. He has no plan. No criteria to define what "victory" might be at this point in time. Just that we need to stay the course and continue to put our troops in harms way with no end in sight.
If you're among the 28% that support the President, you should be over in Iraq fighting his war. Something tells me a dose of perspective on the situation might cause you to reconsider why you're supporting this sick, sad little man.