Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just a Matter of Time

If what I read on CNN today is true, it is only a matter of time before I am arrested in an airport restroom for Lewd Conduct, my career brought to a humiliating end, and my life pretty much over.

Apparently Senator Larry Craig (fron Idaho of all places) entered a restroom at the Minneapolis Airport and placed his luggage between the toilet and the stall door. I always do that. Why ? Because if you leave your suitcase outside the stall, someone will steal it. If you bring it into the stall, it will not fit on the sides or behind the toilet. This leaves you with one choice, which, according to Minneapolis Vice Squad thinking means that I am "using the bag to block the view from the front of the stall." Well, I guess it is true that the view from where the stall door ends to where the ground begins is blocked. But anyone over about 5' 10'' can look in over the stall door and anyone who was going to lie down on the toilet paper littered, piss infested tile floor to look in the fron of the stall , might just be brave enough to look in from the side of the stall. Maybe Minnesota perverts carry three suitcases with them to block all stall visual contact. Maybe they throw a tarp over the top of a stall before entering.

Now if that was where this all ended, I would not be worried. I'd just have to make a decision. do I want to be arrested for lewd behavior, or do I want to lose my suitcase. I can deal with losing my suitcase. But it is a harder issue. Apparently, Senator Craig made the critical mistake of "tapping his right foot", the International signal "used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct". Well shit. Anyone who knows me, knows that my right foot almost never stops tapping. It is a nervous habit, or if you believe current medical science, a nuerological defect that I have had all my life. Apparently, every time I have gone into a restroom for the last half a century, I have been sending out a well known signal that I want to engage in lewd conduct. Why the hell did someone not tell me this ? Why did they let it drag on all of these years ? How have I avoided arrest up until now ? I have been the Poster Child for lewd conduct everytine I have entered a bathroom stall at an airport, put my suitcase in front of me and started tapping..

Now Senator Craig also ran his hand under the stall partition several times. Well, I have never done that. No one concerned with hygeine would, whether they were trying to drum up a little lewd behavior or not. But does this not seem somewhat innocuous ? I mean, I can understand if some guy reaches his whole left arm under the stall, his hand grasping for your penis. I mean, that would be a tell tale sign to me. But I'm not sure that I'd arrest anyone for putting their hand on the bottom of the partition. I damn sure would never shake hands with them, but I would not arrest them.

Senator Craig probably got in the most trouble because his foot hit the cop's foot in the other stall. I'm a big guy with long legs, and I have never come close to doing that. The Senator's explanation was that "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom". An "open stance" as we say in the game of baseball. I can imagine that there are reasons why someone would have to have a stance like that in a stall. Giving birth comes to mind, hemphroidectomies, surprise visits from a gynecologist, any of these things are possible. It looks bad, I agree, but I'm not ready to throw the book at him over that.

How about the fact that Senator Craig "peered through a crack in a bathroom stall for two minutes."The cop noticed his penetrating blue eyes through a crack in the door, Actually, there is no way that the cop would have noticed the peering, had not the cop been peering right back. And it is a little odd that the cop made such a big deal out of the Senator's "blue eyes". Hmmm, who was seeking whom for lewd conduct here ? Sounds like entrapment to me.

The best evidence against Senator Craig is that he plead guilty to the crime , that's not so good.Around these parts if we did not do something, we usually plead not guilty.It is easier to beat the rap that way. Pleading guilty plays right into a prosecutor's hands. Back in the 80s there were reports that Craig was being investigated for having sex with Senate Pages. Of course, that was apparently not even a crime until they ran that guy from Florida off last year. I think Pages were the Senate's version of a Priest's Altar Boy there for awhile.So how the Senator will get out of this one is anyone's guess. That Idaho has always seemed like a pretty unforgiving state to me. I see a Democrat pick up in '08. But what difference does it make to me ?By then my foot tapping ways may have me in the same cell block with the Senator. That will not help him sleep too well. As my wife can tell you, I have restless leg syndrome. Who knew that it was such a serious criminal violation ?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tell Me a Story

The oldest of those activities, which are not needed by humans to actually survive, is story telling. The history of all art and communication is the history of humans finding new, better and more engaging ways to tell stories. From the first painting on a cave wall to the last blog posted,the human animal has simply lived to pass on and receive information to inform and entertain.My earliest memories of my parents are of being read to.My earliest activities with my daughter were reading to her.Nothing in the histry of the species has intrigued us more than storytelling.

Now I see that one of the more effective means of storytelling, book reading, is declining.This is understandable of course. No book has a $100 million budget to show wold explosions and space ships fighting. Reading can't be done in high defininition. Computers are faster,I-Pods snappier.The space of the book in all of this gets narrower and narrower. Still, it is sad to see my favorite stroy telling genere beginning to die out.And that is what is happening, I have no doubt about it. In less than 200 years, books will, for the most part, be antiques and decorating items.Everyone will be reading off of a screen. It is much more efficent. Just as the printing press put an awful lot of quill writing monks out of business,the computer is too efficent to lose this battle.

How much do people read today ? About 25% of all Americans read zero books last year. That's not surprising.I bet 15% of the population is pretty well fuctionally illiterate, or at leats capable of reading nothing beyond a daily sports page. I can live with 25% not reading. It is sad, but inevitable.

The average person in America read four books last year. Now even that does not sound too bad. I believe it to be a lie. The majority of books read in this country, vast majority, are religious books. I believe that a lot of people who read a verse out of the bible at church every week are counting that. I have nothing against religious books. I read them myself quite often.There is a reason that the Bible outsells everyone except for Ms. Rowling. It has stories in it that are thousands of years old, stories that go back to the days of the first story tellers. The interesting thing is that people who never attend religious services read about twice as much as those who do. I guess they have a lot of extra time on Sunday morning.Women read a lot more than men, older people read a lot more than younger people, Democrats read more than Republicans. Very little of what your college professor hoped you'd read is being read.Outside of religious works, popular fiction, mystery and biographies, not much is read.Less than 5% read any poetry or classic literature.

So the old book is winding down.In some ways this is good, my house, which contains over 2,000 volumes is cluttered with them.We would have more room for a really big T.V. if we did not read so much. My wife reads at least 100 books a year. I read between 25-50 I guess, but then again, mine are thicker. I should get some credit for that.Plus, she works in a library. Libraries will still be around in 200 years. They will be the buildings with all those computer monitors in them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Never Sound Retreat

My partnership had a retreat last weekend. I think that I have been to about 20-25 legal retreats, several of them in Galveston, where this particular retreat took place. Retreats have changed markedly as the years have gone by.There was a time when a retreat of trial lawyers was an excuse for a three day drunk, punctuated by a dinner where some hapless law partner would attempt to say something about the firm or the law business, just enough to appease the Federal government who was paying for about a third of it.The partner at the dais would always be shouted down. I once attended a retreat of Judges in Goliad, Texas in which a keynote speech titled "A Night in Old Goliad" was to be delivered at the Saturday night dinner. The speaker was a fine jurist who had been on the bench about 15 years when I first met him.When it came time to speak, the Judge was too drunk to answer the call, had there been a call, which there was not, because the M.C. Judge was too drunk to introduce the speaker and the crowd of Judges was too drunk to know the difference.

At a retreat at the Woodlands, I was in the back seat of a car being driven by a very drunk senior partner who was sitting next to his equally drunk friend when we were stoped pulling out of a Taco Bell drive- through by the local constabulary.I remember the dialouge as though it were yesterday.

Cop: License please

Dan:Don't have it with me

Cop: License number ?

Dan: I almost know it

Cop: (to Dan's friend),Sir, get back in the car

Dan:We are only out because I wanted a big taco but without sour cream.They put sour cream on our tacos, look (Dan thrusting Taco at cop).

Cop:(shining light at me) I take it that you guys are form out of town ?

Me: Yes sir, we are at a retreat of Fulbright & Jaworski trial lawyers over at the convention center.

Cop: Can you drive ?

Me: yes sir

Cop:Get everyone back to the hotel and don't come out again tonight.

Dan: But we have to get tacos without sour cream.

Cop: I really mean it.

Dan: but officer....

Me: Please Dan, give me the keys.I will take care of it officer

Dan:(as we drove away). I am not going to eat a taco with sour cream on it....

All of this seemed funny 25 years ago, and it still brings a small smile today as I recall it. But that was a different time. Virtually every trial lawyer I knew, over the age of 40, had a severe drinking problem. All colorful trial lawyers (i.e. the ones everyone knew and admired) were fucking drunks.My generation of lawyers got sidetracked on the way to alcoholism by cocaine addiction, something I never tried, but saw lots of evidence of.Today, alcoholism and drug addiction is a serious problem among lawyers, as among the rest of the population. The difference is that it is now a problem. Not the norm. You notice a drunk lawyer now. 25 years ago, most lawyers, like the Judges in Goliad, were too drunk themselves to notice that a fellow lawyer was drunk.The idea of driving while under the influence is unthinkable today. 25 years ago, it was done unthinkingly.

So real work is done at retreats today.My retreat last weekend was no different than a 48 straight hour attorney meeting in our conference room here at home.Some drinking was done, but no one so much as slurred a word.It is a lot less colorful, but a lot safer both short term and long term for the participants.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Misha, Masha dine in style

Workers in the Belgrade (Serbia) Zoo found the body of a "half eaten 23 year old male" in their bear cage today. The two bears, Misha and Masha, had dragged the remains to their "feeding area" and reacted violently when the zookeepers tried to remove the remains of all that was mortal of the deceased. The man was nude and his clothes were neatly stacked in a another corner of the Misha /Masha household.The man was not identified in the story I read, but was thought to be attending the annual Belgrade Beer Festival at the time he appeared on the bear's menu as the chef's special entree'for the evening .

I have always liked bears. I think that we are going to find that Misha and Masha did not sneek out of their cage in the dead of night and rustle up a little dinner for themselves. Rather, I believe that the Belgrade police will determine that the poor fellow either entered the cage on his own, or was placed there by less than well meaning acquaintances. The authorities are already speculating in this direction. Misha and Masha simply did what comes naturally to a pair of bears finding themselves presented with a large, nude, human being. They ate him. Or half of him anyway.There is some speculation that the fellow was sitting on a wall and fell into the roofless bear pit. If so, this says something about Serbian design and/or safety standards, but I suppose that if you live in a country with as many undetonated land minds as Serbia has, you don't pay a lot of attention to your chances of being eaten by a bear.

There is also some speculation that the deceased was drunk, since this took place on the last day of the Belgrade Beer Festival. If so, that might explain what he was doing there, but would not really not do much to shed light on why his clothes were neatly folded in a corner of the cage.The odds of the bears folding the clothes, or even taking them off of him, leaving them undisturbed, are quite remote. I imagine that the Belgrade Chief of Detectives will be quite busy for awhile.

As to the fate of Misha and Masha, there have been no reports. I can not believe that they will be held accountable by what appears to have been an accident, a suicide, a cunning murder plot, or just a rather serious inter-species misunderstanding. I would hope that Misha and Masha will be around to entertain us, or at least the Serbians, for years to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Girl Swallows magnets, pukes green

That's what the headline said this morning.apparently it is "bring your 10 year old to work and let him write the headlines"day at C.N.N..I don't recall ever seeing the word "puke" in a headline before. The real story was "girl swallows part of poorly manufactured Mattel toy from China and develops severve internal infection". But that's a pretty long headline, and anyone following the news knew exactly what was meant by "swallows magnets, pukes green."

The interesting part of the story was that this all happened two years ago.Mattel had already paid the family off and gone about their business of distributing Chinese time bombs for another two years.It's much cheaper to pay of the parents of a few dead or injured children than it is to recall 15 million toys only four months from Christmas. Between the loose magnets and the lead paint, the current program of "No child left alive" was proceeding well until the last few months, when a bunch of parents and the FTC (belatedly) got upset about it.This set off a chain reaction which lead to the suicide of the Chinese entrepanuer who shipped the goods. That's what I like about the east. Although it is a vanishing tradition, the top guy in East Asia always takes responsibility for a disaster.Of course, the Prime Minister of Japan (the one who sang "Love Me Tender" at Graceland) took full responsibility for his party's devestaing losses this week at the polls, but he did not resign, much less kill himself. China still functions on the old model. Possibly because the people responsible for messing up the stock market over there were executed earlier this year by the government.The government in China tends not to draw such fine distinctions, as we in the U.S. do, between civil and criminal problems.They all get solved by execution.I understand they call it the "Texas model".

Am I implying that the President of Mattel ought to be executed if he does not committ suicide ? Why, yes I am.What he will do is blame his quality control department for the more than 15 million lethal weapons he imported from China to have Santa hand out at Christmas.It reminds me of the toy manufacturer Danny Akroyd used to play on Saturday Night Live. One of his products "bag o'glass" was just that, a bag of glass. Another was something like "Johnny Flame on" which were essentially rags soaked in gasoline that could be put on by a child and lit.It came with a cigarette lighter as I recall. After all is said and done, the execs at Mattel will go quietly ,with multi million dollar buy outs. Makes you want to puke. Green.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sunrise at Arkies

I dropped my wife and daughter off at the airport at 6:00 a.m. this morning. Once I was back on the road, my mind turned to breakfast.I knew that there would be very few choices at this time. My preferred spot, Juan in a Million, home of the Don Juan breakfast taco, would not open for an hour. I turned down Cesar Chavez Blvd and headed toward Arkies.

Arkies is one of the last of its breed.It is what, in a gentler time, used to be called a cafe. It is a little bit above a diner and a little bit below a restaraunt.It is a niche in the food service business that no longer exists and the last few of the dying race struggle on ,competing against fast food places and casual dining establishments that had not even been dreamed of in the cafe's hey day.

Arkies went up in 1948, and like a lot of baby boomers is about to hit 60. When it was built, it was in the middle of nowhere on what was then First Street. History has changed the name of the street to Cesar Chavez, and the growth of Austin has taken Arkies out of the middle of nowhere and placed it on what is now the fringes of nowhere. Were Arkies to survive into the next decade, which it won't, we would find it on the edge of "somewhere". But with somewhere coming, real estate prices and city taxes will render Arkies untenable as an economic unit and it will be replaced by a warehouse storage comples or a Wendys.

To say that this is too bad for the character of the City is, of course, an understatement. But I can't whine about the good old days all of my life. Wait a minute, that's exactly what I do in this blog. So I guess I can whine for Arkies. And I will

Before I entered Arkies I could have told you exactly what the place would look like and what the clientle would be like. And I would have been correct.Inside arkies is a long bar with about eight red stools. Behind the bar was one of the four or five classic Texas cafe waitresses. This particular type was the tall blonde, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail,The kind that looks 25 at 100 yards and 45 as you close within 10 years. There were about five small booths against the wall, the seats of upholstered red faux leather with big buttons, and slits opening up in the cushions with a little foam sticking out of each one.There were two tables for four which, in a pinch could be shoved together into a table for eight.

At the bar were three men of advanced middle age. One had jeans and a baseball cap on and held a dark liquid in his hand which I at first mistook for coffee, until he spit in it a couple of times. Next to him was a fellow with a short sleeve white dress shirt on, indicating that his employ straddled the line between white and blue collar. I would have guessed that he was the supervisor of the service department at an auto dealership. Finally there was a fellow with the last fully polyester suit in this country. I would have bet my bottom dollar that he sold large appliances at no-chain appliance store. While I was there, a woman who looked like an LVN on the way to work stopped in for some take out.

The car dealershop service guy was served a big platter of eggs, over easy. He was an egg cutter. Some folks get a plate of non-scrambled eggs and spend the next two minutes cutting the eggs into little bits so that each bit of white gets some yoke on it. He was practiced at the art and never looked at the eggs or stopped talking about some problem with "liability"through the whole process. All this time the fellow in the cap nodded and spit.

The waitress knew everyone's name.She was a pro. Very efficent. Not your old time Texas waitress model that calls everyone "sugar" or "darlin". She was everyone's friend but more a peer than a dining room mother.My water glass never got more than half empty.

The wall at Arkies is my favorite part of the place. On it is a red Arkansa Razorback clock that looks like it went up in about the mid 60s.It has been there for God knows how many years, eternally stuck at 3:25. whether a.m. or p.m. is lost in the mists of grease that permeate the air and settle heavily on the sheet rock walls, framing a dozen laminated wood awards from the Shrine Circus and Little Leagues, each one proclaiming Arkies a good corporate citizen, and friend of the local community.

I had the "scamble". That's three eggs with the meat of your choice (sausage) scrambled right in. As long as I was filling up with cholesterol, I ordered the big glass of cold whole milk. The hard stuff. No sissy skim at Arkies. As I enjoyed my meal (the biscuit was delicious with unlimited butter, when did butter become a commodity that needs to be so carefully rationed by eateries ?) and thought back to the local cafe of my youth.

That would be Johnny's.A great esatblishment two doors down from the 7/11 on Richmond Rd. in Houston. From 1955 until sometime in the mid 70s, Johnny served up breakfast, lunch and dinner at his little cafe. Because my family usually only went there at dinner, we thought of the place as a Hamburger joint. But it was more than that. Johnny opened at 6:00 to make the chili and the stew for the day and to serve breakfast to the truck drivers, plumbers and roofers who were building the homes of southwest Houston. Lunch drew a more eclectic crowd of businessmen, house wives and, mostly, passer bys. Dinner was a family affair. I can see Johnny now, in the same clothes he wore evreytime I every saw him A white t-shirt, pants and a paper burger flipper hat.There ,beside him was his wife, she worked with a white apron ensemble.I was always proud when Johnny would holler "hello W.Porter"when my dad lead us in.It was nice to feel wanted.I enjoyed watching his sons grow, and wrongly assumed that alll of this would some day be theirs. I like checking out because Johhny knew exaclty how to make change. Then he'd take however many pennies the new sales tax called for and shout "and two cents for the Governor" and throw the coins into a wooden lock box next to the register.

Johnnys is gone, and Arkies will be too. As I said earlier, their niche has passed on, not because of anything that they did wrong, but because the guy with a 1,000 burger places can advertize a lot more than the guy with just one. No matter how bad the big guys burgers tastes, he wins every round. .Think about that the next time you take the family into Burger King and wait for the guys behind the counter to shout out your name and welcome you back.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Global warming brings new Cold War

I had intended to blog today about that German woman who had a pencil, which have been stuck in her brain for 44 years surgically removed. She says that her headaches have stopped.While this is normally my kind of news story, the impending world war over ownership of the the North Pole seems to be a more relevant subject.

I paid only slight attention last week to the story that a Russian sub had dived down two and a half miles under the Polar icecap in order to drop a small titaniuam capsule with a Russian flag in it. I did notice that some Russian scientist said that this was just as difficult and just as important as landing a man on the moon. Right. Those Russians never forget an insult. It still gripes then that 38 years later their cosmonaunts have never left earth orbit. Believe me, if John F. Kennedy had told this nation that we would send a titanium capsule to the bottom of the Artic Ocean in the 1960s, we'd have done it, develped it, polluted it and been in the process of renewing it right now.This was no great Russian achievement. I assume that Titanium sinks. How hard would it be to drop it into the ocean and wait for it to hit the bottom ?

But JFK did not know about global waming. Even though Al Gore's father and he served in the Senate together, Kennedy was always too busy chasing women to listen to young Gore.If he had, he would have known that the Polar Ice Caps were going to melt and that it was going to be much, much easier to drill for oil up north. 25% of the undiscovered petroleum resources are in the Artic ocean. There there is a statistic for the gullible. We don't know how much undiscovered oil there is, because it is undiscoverd. But we do know that 25% of it is in the Arctic Ocean.And the Russkies want it.

But here's the rub, so do the Canadians, the Norwegians, the Danes and, surprise, surprise, the good old USA. Canada is so bent out of shape about this thing that they are sending Stephen Harper, their Prime Minister, on a three day trip up there to assert Canadian soverignty. Now this is the same Canadian governement who did not know for a year and a half that an ice shelf that they really did own, and was the size of central Texas, had broken away and was floating around freely for anyone, Russian or otherwise, to stake a claim to . I wrote about this , as well as the Canadian "Department of Ice", earlier this year, in hopes of chiding the Canadians into some type of action.Looks like my prodding worked.But they may have over reacted. Now they are building a deep water port and six to eight new patrol boats to guard the Northwest Passage and checkmate the Russians. But that ticks the US off. We say that the Noethwest passage is nuetral and the Canadians have no right to guard it.

Stepping up their aggression, Canada is also saber rattling over Hans island. This "Island" which is one seventh the size of Central Park is between Canadian soil , Ellsemere Island,and Denmark soverignty (Greenland). In 1984 Denmark chartered a helicopter and flew over there to plant the Denmark flag and, for some reason, bury a bottle of brandy, leaving a note, "welcome to Denmark territry". Two years ago, the Canadian defense Minister invaded the Island and raised a Canadian flag. This led to a nasty exchange with, and you can't make this stuff up, Canada and Denmark taking out competing Google ads in order to bolster their claims.Many Canadians actually called for a boycott of Danish Pastries. Denmark may have followed suite by raising the import duties on Canadian Bacon, but if they did, it went unreported.

I have given my general opinion of both the Canadians and the Danes in these pages before.Suffice to say that deprivation of sunlight makes both peoples a little testy and if you throw in the Russians with their propensity for drinking vodka and losing fissionable material, you have got a real problem on your hands.At the very least, we need to get this situation under control, at least until January,2009, before W hears about it from Cheney and declares that there are weapons of mass destruction being held by Santa's elves up at the North Pole and sends an expeditionary force to take control.I knew that this global warning scare would lead to violence. I just never believed that it would be this soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

All of Life is 6 to 5 against

Ever since first reading the above Damon Runyan quote,I have been fascinated by probablity.So much so that I determined that the odds were better than 50/50 for me to be able to google "what are the odds" and come up with an interesting list of probabilities. I was right.I found an interesting set of statistics that should answer any long term fears and apprehensions you may have about moving through life.

For instance, Your odds of being on the plane with a drunken pilot are 117 to 1. That's better odds than if you are a Astronaut, according to recent news stories. But think about that, how do they know that ? Do they have each Pilot blow into a tube after landing ? Because if they are checking before take off, your odds of flying with a drunk pilot had better be zero.

Odds of injury by fireworks, 19,556 to 1. That statistic means very little to me. I am not a fireworks user, and seldom in close proximity. But as a boy, I got burned about once a year. We used to throw bottle rockets at each other.The odds in my neighborhood of losing an eye to fireworks were only about 1 in 8.In the Peas family, they were 1 in 2.

Odds of being struck by lightening are only 576,000 to 1. Those are uncomfortably small odds to me. I had expected them to be over a million to 1. But here's a good one. Odds of being considered possessed by Satan, 7,000 to 1. Let's think about that one. That means that in this conutry of 300 million, there are almost 43,000 of us who may be possessed by the Devil. That explains a lot ! Now notice the "considered" part of the odds. How many are really possessed by the Devil is not a statistic we have access to. But I figure that no more than half the people "considered" to be possessed are faking it.There is really very little to be gained by lying to someone about your possession.

Some of these odds are not all that interesting. Odds of dating a Super Model, 88,000 to 1. They have so cheapened the title of Super model that I think that is a very watered down statistic.Practically anyone on a magazine today is a super model.There's guts that work at CVS Pharmacy (non-Pharmacists !) that are dating super models these days.

Odds of being murdered 18,000 to 1. In other words, your odds of being struck by lightening are
30 times worse (better ?) than someone just killing you today. Odds of getting hemorroids 25 to 1, odds of being killed next year in a traffic accident, 77,000 to 1. Here is one I can hope for, odds of writing a book that appears on the NY Times best seller's list, 220 to 1. Now I assumme that you actually have to write a book to get those odds, but compare that with the odds of winning the California lottery which are one in 13 million.If you want to make some money, you are much, much better off just writing a book than buying a lottery ticket.Of course, it takes a lot longer.

Chance of dying in a legal execution, 1 in 3.4 million. Which means that I'm more likely to be executed this year than to die of contact with hot tap water (1 in 5 million). Now the one you hear a lot about these days is the chance of the earth being hit by an asteroid in the next 100 years. That's one in five thousand. I don't like that, but then the odds of dying from such an event are only one in twenty thousand, so at least it is something you may be able to prepare for.

I will skip the various cancers and their survivabilities as simply too depressing to discuss in order to point out that your odds of being killed by a dog bite, unless you work for Michael Vick, are 1 in 770,000. Now this is a confusing statistic. Do I have to be bitten by a dog to have those odds, or are we all walking around each day with a 1 in 770,000 chance that by the end of the day we will have been mauled to death by a pit bull ? Whichever it is, you are a lot less likely to die from the ignition of your night wear which is approaching one in 31 million.

Many of these are comfortin numbers, until you realize that they are all additive. They all add up to one thing. Odds of dying 1:1.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Is is the was of what is to be

My brother noted this morning that the shortest interaval of your life is "the present". Everything except this exact moment is either the past or the future. That is undeniably true. But it struck me that we can't even measure "the present". How long is "right now" ? What would you measure ? Does this mean, that because we can't measure it, that the present itself does not exist ? At least as a time intereval. Someone is always telling me that "there's no time like the present".Now I know that that is because there is no time in the present.

But there is one measurment of the present. The instant that you die. That can be specificly timed. Of course, once you are dead you can't really be part of the present, that's why they refer to dead people as "the late so and so". So it may be that no living being can measure the present. Ever.

Now I'm sure that a staunch right to lifer would argue that the moment of conception can be timed and is therefore a "present". I guess that is true.You don't need to be consious to be "in the present", or even sober.In fact, it is often to your advantage not to be either. But, a staunch pro-choicer would argue that your life does not begin at conception. So we have the same factions on the abortion debate taking their logically opposite sides in the "present" debate, if there is a debate, it may be that I am the only one confused. I know what you are thinking. Even the pro-choicer would acknowledge a "present" at the moment of viability. But when is that ? Even if we knew, medical advances seem to move viability further and further toward conception.Does that mean that "the present" moves with it ? No insturment will ever be able to measure the exact instant of viability (I put sentences like that in this blog so that people will be able to laugh at my ignorance in 100 years). In the distant past, life was determined at the quickening of the womb. I guess you could measure that, if you were awake for it. But can a womb quicken without you feeling it ?If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound ? Is there any "all you can eat chinese buffet that serves quaality food ? Some things are unanswerable. At least for the present.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Bridge Too Far

I got a note from my old friend Gary Marfin today. Gary thinks that I should not blog about new appliances I am purchasing. He is probably right about that. Although he fails to realize the fierceness of the family Golden Retriever, Amber, currently wearing a pretty neckerchief after her recent grooming.

Actually I had thought about Gary last night when the bridge in Minnesota went down. Gary spent a year in Minnesota, which came to a conclusion after much thought and prayer, and an incident where his car slid down the ice on a steep hill which reminded the Marfins how much safer it was to live in Texas. Indeed, last night's incident proves that point.

I associate Gary with another bridge. In the winter of 1980-81, I called Gary after the Air Florida bridge crash in D.C. He was the one who told me that disc jockey Howard Stern, someone I had never heard of, had just called Air Florida to ask them the price of a one way ticket from Washington National to that bridge.I told him that no one with that little taste would stay on the air for very long. That was before I had read that Pt Barnum's motto was "no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the public."As always, P.T. was right.

So we now enter a new season of finger pointing. There are still over 20 bodies unaccounted for, but NBC is already closely questioning the Governor of Minnesota (a Republican by the way, I'm just saying !) about the fact that the Feds had labled the bridge "structurally deficient". Damn, got to hand it to the Federal government and their labeling practice. The loud sound you heard this morning was 50,000 plaintiff's lawyers simultaneously changing their web sites to display an expertise in "major bridge collapse" cases. I'm not quite sure who all will be sued. That mysterious guy who was "jackhammering" at the time of the collapse is a target. But I bet he's pretty well judgment proof. There will be enough litigation to go around. Hell, enough to open a Twin Cities office.

For the next couple of weeks, people will be thinking about their faith in American Engineering every time they cross a bridge, or sit under a second deck at a stadium, or take a ride in an old subway.And fear will be fanned by several news magazines featuring the collapsed bridge on their cover story, which will be called "Collapsing American Infrastructure, how safe are we ?". I admit that it crossed my mind when I drove under a bridge this morning. But it all comes down to timeing in this life.

Once when I was trying a case in D.C., an ice storm hit. On my way to court I heard a radio report of a woman who had been killed by a huge icecicle that fell from a tree or a high wire. It killed her instantly, in fact, decapitated her, to at least some extent. For weeks I thought about timeing. If she had not been late or early to work, if she had not varied her route, if she had not stopped for one second to pick something up.Virtually everything in her life led up to that bad timing.Some years later I was walking in Houston and felt a breeze go by me. I turned around and a hammer had fallen behind me from a multistory building that was being built, leaving quite an impression on the sidewalk. That would have been it for me.Once second, no, some fraction of a second, seperating me from the great beyond.The thing is, that kind of thing happens all the time. Most of the time we don't even know it. How many Twin cities drivers got home last night, turned on the T.V., and found that they had missed by minutes of being at the bottom of the Mississippi River ? "Boy, glad I left early today." was an oft repeated phrase around the dinner table last night.

Luther, when he was not persecuting Jews, is alleged to have looked up at a monk on a scaffold and said "in the midst of life we are in death."Sometimes the bridge, or the car, or the plane or the hammer just has your name on it.My advice ? Continue to drink heavily.