Sunday, September 25, 2011

Look What The Humans Dragged In

When The Queen and I married almost 8 years ago, we merged households and blended menageries into one herd of two dogs and four cats. Over the years, we lost a few of cats and gained a dog. When The Queen's beloved Yakmaster was put to sleep earlier this year, we agreed that we would not "replace" him and would allow the current pack to dwindle to zero through attrition. The theory is that we would enjoy some time free from the responsibility of animals before, if ever, committing to the joy and pain of animal companionship. 

We were doing very well resisting temptation until this happened:

How did this happen to become sprawled on my kitchen floor you ask? I shall endeavor to tell you. I came home from school a couple of weeks ago, and The Queen said: "Would you like to go for a walk?" I debated the question for a few moments as: 1) I was tired, 2) I had a lot of studying to do, 3) I wanted to spend some quality time with The Queen, and 4) I really needed to get some exercise. Ultimately, the desire to go for a walk with The Queen won out, and off we strolled for a late evening wander around the neighborhood. 

I should, perhaps, mention here The Queen's uncanny knack for spotting furry animals. It's like Doug from the movie "Up": "Hi! My name is Queen Ginger. I love you. Will you be my...KITTY! Will you be my...RABBIT!"

Anymongrel, as we walked along one of the main roads through the neighborhood at the edge of a small park area, The Queen looks into the shadows and says "Kitty". Of course, we have to stop for a moment to say hello to the kitty. He looks young, about 4 to 5 months old, and thin. He was wearing no collar and seemed to be in overall good health. The Queen knocked on some of the doors nearby to see if anyone was missing a kitten, but no one claimed him. 

Well, neither of us was going to leave a cute and fluffy in the middle of a field with no visible food or water in the middle of the night next to a busy road. I walked back to the house, got a bag of cat food and returned with the car. The Queen got in with the kitten who promptly devoured the food I brought. 

We started debating about what to do with said kitten mindful of our promise not to add to the menagerie at this point. We posted our find on Facebook to see if anyone had an interest in a sweet, adorable, little guy. No takers. To make matters worse, he looks very close to a Russian Blue which is one of my all time favorite cat breeds. We think he might be a Nebelung which is a breed derived from the Russian Blue.

Of course, he had to have a sweet, gentle personality with a strong purr and a willingness to cuddle. 

And then there's the soft, silky fur.

Oh, and the face...

How can you resist a face like that?

So, it looks like we've been chosen to be the companion to this ball of cuteness and fluff. We have decided to name him Spanky McCloud. 

Welcome to the family you little rascal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Old Wisdom

"State interference is an evil, where it cannot be shown to be a good. Universal insurance, if desired, can be better and more cheaply accomplished by private enterprise. " Oliver Wendel Holmes, The Common Law.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Firearms Handling and Shooting 101 – Lesson 1

I am feeling the need to shore up my gun blogger cred today. So, I thought I'd take a moment to share a little something I prepared for a friend who is interested in learning to shoot. Enjoy.

The Four Rules

1. All guns are loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.
4. Know your target and what’s beyond it.

Memorize these four rules. They are the basis of all firearms safety. It is highly unlikely to the point of being statistically impossible to be hurt by or hurt someone else with a firearm when obeying the four rules. Further, there is no such thing as an “accidental discharge” when properly handling a modern firearm in accordance with the rules. More importantly, no matter how many safety features that are designed into a firearm, the most important safety feature a firearm can have is the trained mind of the person holding it.

Further explanation of the Rules:

  1. The longer version of Rule 1 is “Treat All Guns AS IF They Are Loaded.” Every time you pick up or are handed a firearm, you personally should check its chamber or cylinder to verify whether or not it is loaded before doing anything else with the firearm. If someone else is handing the firearm to you, it is not a matter of trust/distrust to verify that the firearm is unloaded. It is a signal to responsible shooters that you are not a fool who will waive a gun around indiscriminately, that you respect firearms as tools that must be handled mindfully in the same way that you would operate power tools and respect your life and the lives of others. Responsible gun owners/shooters EXPECT you to verify the condition (i.e. loaded versus unloaded) of the firearm. 
  2. Rule 2 is fairly straight forward. Bullets come out of the muzzle end of the barrel. They come out fast and have a lot of kinetic energy that they are just waiting to dump into something, anything in their way. So, don’t point the barrel at anything you don’t want a bullet to hit or go through. Such as your wife and child, your car’s engine, the neighbor’s house, etc. If you would like some examples of what bullets will do, go to: for plenty of examples with photos. 
  3. Rule 3 is also pretty straightforward. If your finger is on the trigger, Mr. Firearm is no one’s friend whether it’s loaded or not. If your finger is not on the trigger, the chances of a loaded firearm discharging are significantly reduced. Most modern firearms have been designed and tested such that you can literally hammer nails or tent stakes or small children with them and still not discharge; however, smart people follow the rules religiously and don’t tempt Murphy’s Law. 
  4. Rule 4 typically gives people the most fits. Once a bullet is fired, it does not stop until its kinetic energy is completely dissipated. Where and how that energy gets dissipated depends on several variables including bullet design, muzzle velocity, trajectory, target density, gravity, etc. For instance, a 230 grain .45 caliber bullet fired at 1000 feet per second (which is a typical bullet weight and speed for a 1911 style handgun) parallel to the ground at a shoulder height of 5 feet will travel approximately 156 feet before impacting the ground due to gravity assuming it hits nothing else in its path. If the bullet hits a rock at impact, it could ricochet in unpredictable directions with unknown consequences. That same bullet fired straight up at 90 degrees to the ground will climb to over 15,000 feet before coming back down. Big difference. For this reason, most firearms ranges have some sort of ballistically proven back stop material to safely dissipate the energy of a bullet and secondary measures to prevent you from inadvertently shooting someone in the next town. A huge pile of dirt works very well which is why it’s used almost exclusively at outdoor ranges. Concrete and/or ½ inch to inch thick steel works well with some caveats. Sheet metal doesn’t work too well which is why cars do not provide very effective cover in shootouts despite what Hollywood has portrayed.

Last thoughts on safety:

  1. Obey the rules and no one gets hurt.
  2. Disobeying the rules might get you shot and not necessarily by someone else.
  3. Do not fear the firearm. It is only a tool used to hit a target in the same way a saw is used to cut wood. They are neither good nor evil. They just are.
  4. If you are not sure, ask questions. There are no stupid questions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thought For The Day

To the sweet, young thing in my Torts class: I know you're young and you think you're sorta cute; but, please, for the love of all that is sacred: Don't wear hip huggers to class if you're going to forget to do a crack check after sitting down. Someone give me a penny or a spit wad or some plumbers putty...something...anything.  I'd go wash my eyes out now, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be a recurring event.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembered

Like a lot of folks around the country today, I’m taking this opportunity to commit to writing my thoughts and memories of THE defining, tragic event of my lifetime (so far). I wasn’t born when John F. Kennedy was shot. I was born during the Apollo program, but I have absolutely no memory of it. Perhaps my earliest newsworthy memory is watching the evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon in 1975 on a small black and white TV. I had no clue what it was all about though. I just remember thinking “Cool, there’s a helicopter on TV.” I have clear memories of both shuttle disasters.

None of those events even comes close in my mind to shock and utter disbelief that I felt after the falling of the Twin Towers. None of those events, in my opinion, had nearly the impact that 9/11 had on American society.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, started out like any other work day for me with one exception. I rode my motorcycle to work. It’s a small detail, but it is important to some of my impressions of later in the day. I rode the bike because there were a few of us in the office that had bikes, and we all had lunch together on Tuesdays when we were in the office as Hooters offered half price wings to anyone who rode a motorcycle in for lunch.

The first plane hit early enough in the day (at least in the Central time zone where I am) that I had barely gotten to work and settled before it happened. I remember talking with one of my motorcycle friends when our director came around and gave us the news. He was on his way to set up a TV in the break room. Practically the entire office of 150 people crowded into the breakroom. We managed to get a clear picture just in time to watch the second tower get hit live.

At that moment, we all knew it was no accident. You’d have to have been a fool to think otherwise. After the initial gasps of amazement and shock, you could have heard a pin drop in that room. For a crowd of jaded insurance adjusters, that’s saying a lot. Needless to say, all work pretty much came to a screeching halt.

After spending a couple of hours watching the news coverage in the breakroom, the needs of the human body took over as groups of us took off to get food. Our motorcycle group headed for Hooters as scheduled. That may seem somewhat incongruous for the seriousness of the day, but there was a practical benefit to our choice of venue. Being a sports bar, Hooters had TVs all over the place. We chose a table right next to the main big screen which was, of course, tuned to a nes station. Whether it was CNN or Fox News, I don’t recall. We ate our wings in a slightly more subdued mood than normal and speculated about what would happen next.

During lunch, we got a call from the office that the company was shutting down for the day. It seems that the powers that be recognized that nobody anywhere was in the mood to conduct business, and they wisely turned everyone loose to do whatever they needed to do.

I made my way back to the house, turned on the TV and watched more news coverage. At some point, I don’t recall exactly what time but it was definitely in the afternoon, I heard on the news that the local blood banks were setting up at Dallas Market Hall and Will Rogers Center in Fort Worth to handle donations. No one had any idea at this point what was going to happen, how many casualties there would be, if there were going to be more attacks or what. Nevertheless, donating blood seemed like a good idea at the time.

To A LOT of people.

I made my way to Will Rogers in Fort Worth on the motorcycle, and I was absolutely floored by the number of people already there to donate blood. It was literally in the thousands. It was probably 3:00 or 4:00 by the time I got there. I know for a fact that it was after 9:00 PM before I got my turn to donate blood, and I was one of the last 50 or so people to be allowed to give blood that day at Will Rogers. I couldn’t tell you how many people were turned away from giving blood that day (since I was trudging my through the line slowly inside), but I wouldn’t be surprised if several hundred and maybe even a 1000 people were turned away in Fort Worth alone.

As I headed home on the motorcycle that night in the dark with light traffic and nothing but the sound of my motorcycle’s exhaust to keep my thoughts company, I was struck by the utter emptiness of the sky. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. On any given night, I can walk outside and see no less than a dozen aircraft in the sky at any one time. This is a byproduct of living near the second largest airport in the U.S. in addition to a smaller regional airport, at least three decent sized general aviation airports supporting business jet activity and a major military airbase. By 9:30/10:00 that night though, there was not a single plane in the sky thanks to the FAA grounding everything.

It was eerie.

When you become accustomed to something being there all the time and then it it’s just not there, it’s downright disconcerting. For whatever reason, it was that empty sky more than anything that drove home the seriousness of the day’s events. I don’t know if I’ll ever see something like that again in my life time.

I do know this though. Even though I was not a member of the police or fire, even though I was not a member of the military, even though I didn’t lose any family or friends that day, I will never forget that day as long as I live.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Month Down

By the time you read this (since I’m drafting it in the middle of my Wednesday night Torts class…I know…bad student, no bonus points – never fear, I’m keeping up with my class notes in another screen), I will have completed my first month (4 weeks actually) of law school. I have this to say about that….

My brain is full.

Not really, but it feels that way.

I’m still not getting much sleep. For instance, I had great intentions of getting to sleep before midnight last night after getting home from class at about 10:30 PM. No such luck. It was 1:30 before I finally put head to pillow; and, even then, I don’t think I actually snored until 2:00 AM. Caffeine is helping keep me awake, but it has a price. Friday night to Saturday afternoon, I slept for 13 hours and probably could have slept for another couple of hours if it weren’t for the fact that The Queen was cooking brunch and I was hungry.

Sleep isn't the only thing I'm losing. Since I started school, I've dropped between 15 and 20 pounds. Before school, I fluctuated between 245 to 250. After four weeks, I'm down to 230. If I could be in shape and 230, I wouldn't complain too much (even though 210 is a better weight for me). However, the likelihood of exercise leading to me being in shape happening before the end of my law school career is between slim and none. 

My academic support class went through all the tasks an evening law student who works full time is supposed to accomplish in the number of hours available in any given week. For those who are interested, there are 168 hours available to us in any 7 day period. Try as we might to get a few more hours squeezed in here or there, that’s the ball game. Now, take away 40 hours for work, 49 hours for sleep (if you are generous and give yourself 7 hours a night), 12 hours actually at the school, and 33 hours for study (if you devote the recommended 3 hours of study per classroom hour). Just for these tasks alone you’re at 134 hours out of your week not including going to the bathroom, taking showers, eating, grocery shopping, commuting, etc. If you are really lucky, you are left with about 15 hours a week to spend relaxing, spending time with family, vegetating, etc.

I didn’t write about this last week because there was no time; however, I had an interesting discussion with my Torts professor after class last week. During her lecture, she made a brief comment that she was scared of guns (the case we were discussing had something to do with firearms). After class, I approached her to find out where she was coming from on the subject. She said that she was uncomfortable with the whole idea of an object that can kill you. Despite that, she does not take the position that all guns should be banned. She thinks the ownership of guns should be heavily regulated, but she is okay with the use of guns for self defense and hunting. Interestingly, she did not think target shooting was a valid use for firearms. I discussed firearm safety, crime rates, etc. She seemed to be open to the thought that a firearm in the hands of a properly trained owner is no danger to anyone when the Four Rules are followed. It was an interesting and cordial discussion.

In other news, one of my colleagues has decided to throw in the towel. It hit pretty close to home because it was one of the members of my Criminal Law class study group. I was expecting the herd to be thinned out a little as time moved on due to grades, life and other inconveniences. However, I was not expecting it to occur this soon. This particular student sent me and the other members of the group an email on Tuesday just before class. It came as a total surprise to all of us. He seemed to be getting the material and hadn’t voiced any reservations to us about his continuing with school. His email didn’t elaborate on his reasons other than to suggest that he had been doing some soul searching. I can respect that, and I wished him well. I do feel sorry for him on one thing. He missed the deadline to get a full refund on tuition. So, it’s an expensive decision if nothing else.

I also have my first major assignment due next week in my Legal Analysis, Research and Writing class. In a way, I feel like I am back in high school English class: write a memo not to exceed 5 pages, double spaced….yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. That will be my life this weekend (in addition to tiling the pantry and laundry room). Fortunately, the research part of the assignment has been provided to us so that we can spend our time on our analysis and writing. Adding the research into the equation comes later. Fun times in the library coming my way.

Speaking of the library, one of my early assignments involved searching through case law reporters in the library for specific information. Reporters are bound volumes of court rulings on individual cases. For instance, the reporter for the appellate courts in Texas is called the Southwestern Reporter. There are currently 3 series of volumes going back into the 1800s. Each series contains volumes numbered from 1 to 999 (except for the current 3RD series which is still developing). In the library, these volumes are all grouped together by series in numerical order. So, 2ND series volume 665 comes after volume 664 and before volume 666, etc. During this library assignment, I was amazed to discover that allegedly intelligent post graduate students in law CAN’T COUNT. Twice, I found volumes of a particular reporter shelved out of numerical order. It really annoyed me because the volume I needed for my assignment was one of the ones mis-shelved necessitating a search to hunt down where it WAS shelved. I can’t even give the errant shelver the benefit of a dyslexia exception because the volume placed where the one I needed had no numerical connection to the two it was between. I can’t remember exactly, but it was like having volume 285 between volumes 697 and 699.

Another little library incident was the part of the assignment which found the book I needed in a section of the library that was on the border of the area under remodeling. Plastic sheeting to protect the books from dust was taped to the floor and the bookshelf right where I needed to be to get the book I needed to answer a particular question. It’s a good thing I have long arms, but I hope they don’t notice the size 11 tear on the plastic.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned the adoption process in a while. The Queen and I have completed our required classes. The Queen has had her one on one in person interview. Mine is scheduled for this Friday. After that, we have the home inspection where they tell us what we need to do we get the house ready for kids. Then, if I understand this correctly, we will be licensed foster parents on the list to have kids placed with us. We are cautiously excited.

That’s all for now. If you need me, I’ll be the unconscious one under the pillows.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fun with Calculators

A while back, I posted about the weird, mathematical places my brain goes when I am alone in a car. It probably says something very Freudian about me that guns and math occur in the same train of thought. However, that post turned out to be very popular. So, whatever.

Since I am back to commuting again on a regular basis for the first time in about three years, I've gotten back into my solitary, reflective ways. As I was on my commute to law school this evening, I was reminded of a period in my life not too long ago when I was forced to commute from Dallas to Houston on a weekly basis for work...for a period of two years. I chose to make the four hour drive myself in my own car instead of trying to fly or take the bus.

There is a reason my 2000 Nissan Maxima has over 312,000 miles on it, but I digress. 

It was during this time of massively insane commuting that I had another fit of mathematical mind wandering. Since gas was selling for $3.89 a gallon at the time, you can guess where this is going. 

Yep, I just had to try and figure out how much money I was spending every time a cylinder in the engine fired.

And, being the sharing type, I now bequeath this knowledge to you. 

My car has a 4 stroke, 6 cylinder engine with an 18.5 gallon gas tank. In a 4 stroke engine, a cylinder fires once for every two revolutions of the crankshaft. Let's start our gas mileage calculations assuming you maintain an average speed of 60 miles per hour and that the car gets 30 miles to the gallon at that speed. My Maxima's best observed MPG so far was 34. So, it's doable.

60 miles in 60 minutes (1 hour) = 1 mile per minute
30 MPG at 60 MPH = 2 gallons per hour
18.5 gallon tank divided by 2 gallons per hour = 9.25 hour range/tank
18.5 gallon tank times 30 MPG = 555 mile range/tank
2100 RPM at 60 MPH = 126,000 crankshaft revolutions per hour
2100 RPM = 1050 individual cylinder fires per minute
1050 times 6 = 6300 total engine fires per minute
6300 times 60 = 378,000 fires per hour
2 gallons per hour = .03333 gallons per minute
6300 times .033333 = 189,018.9 fires per gallon
128 ounces per gallon
2 gallons per hour times 128 ounces per gallon = 256 ounces per hour
1 ounce = 1.8046875 cubic inches
128 ounces divided by 189,018.9 fires = .00067725 ounces per fire (= 0.0012222246094 cubic inch/20.029 cubic millimeter)
$3.89 per gallon = $0.3039 per ounce
$0.3039 per ounce times .00067725 ounces per fire = $0.00002058 per fire

So, to recap, every time a cylinder in a 6 cylinder engine running at 60 miles per hour averaging 30 miles per gallon, you are spending a little over 2 one thousandths of a cent. They tend to add up pretty quickly though.