What would you do?

Texas carseat law, summarized, requires kids in carseats until they are eight years old. The law changed recently, but even last year, the cut-off age was five.

I was sitting in the carpool line today and the parent ahead of us (us being myself and the two little ones) had a two year old (I’m guessing here, but about that size) jumping all over the car – front seat, back seat, front seat, back seat, mom’s lap, smacking the driving wheel, rear view mirror…..

Our elementary school is located on a busy main road, it’s not in a neighborhood. And this baby had been leaping around while mom was on the main road, not just while in the car rider line. So I was thinking that not only it is against the letter of the law for the baby to have free reign of the car’s interior but it really is dangerous – even a fender bender could cause a major head injury or other serious bodily damage to a child that small. I prefer not to think about what could happen if the car was hit at full speed.

So I thought about it.

And I thought about it.

And I said, screw this, I’m calling the cops. If that baby is ever hurt, I’ll have it on my head.

So I did. I was routed through several departments (“no this is not an emergency,” “yes, I’ll hold,” “yes, please transfer me.”) and finally got to the right one, being dispatch for the county constable. Shoot, or was it the Sheriff? Whatever.

They said they would send a car out immediately but I told them I’m not sure that would do any good – car rider line only lasts 10 minutes at the most. I had the description of the car and the full plate number and I asked if there was some mechanism to send a letter or other notification to the family as a reminder to comply with carseat laws. I didn’t want mom locked away or even fined, just told to use (or obtain) a carseat for the baby by someone of authority that she’d be likely to listen to.

I still felt petty for calling.

They called me back as I was emptying the kids and groceries out of the mommyvan and the carseatless Camry was long gone.

No – they don’t have the staff to send a letter or call them. No, there is no program that can deal with that. No, there is not enough funding for that. But they’d drive out to the school where the car left ten minutes before and survey the scene.

Fantastic.

Some states have a carseat hotline, I have heard. The parent receives a letter informing them of the carseat laws and letting them know that they need to comply. It really is a simple thing and probably saves lives – certainly money (even state money in the form of uninsured ER visits for those children who are uninsured or underinsured).

I wonder what it would take to implement a program like that here?

What would you have done? Thought “ugh” and then ignored the situation like I admit I’ve done so many times. Considered calling and then decided it was too much trouble? Or would you have narked on them too?

Primary School

We experienced our first foray into the procedural quagmire known as the 2010 Democratic Primary election this week. Mr. Lawyer was appointed the presiding election judge of our precinct and long story shorter, let’s just say here’s what I’ve learned:

Elections start early. And by that I mean EARLY. Mr. Lawyer got up at 4:30 (and by that I mean, of course he hit the snooze until 5) to be there to set up at 6:00am. Between several clerks calling the house before 6:30, Mr. Lawyer calling the house at 6:30 to find out why he was alone, and little children who normally sleep until 7:45 on a school day creeping downstairs far earlier wondering why the phone was ringing, it wasn’t exactly my dream morning. My dream morning, of course, would have included some actual dreaming.

Democrats are disorganized even on the lowest possible level. They may have some great ideas, but I don’t know how they can expect to pass even the smallest of their goals when they can’t even figure out where their election officials should turn their votes in to or how many clerks one is allowed to hire for each location.

Republicans (located across the gym) are, by the limited sample we saw, exclusively white, usually aging. And apparently, for some inexplicable reason, they seem to like Rick Perry. He has a great head of hair, I will concede. Other than that I don’t see the appeal. Republicans, please feel free to fill me in on why he’s worth keeping. Secessionists need not comment.

Highschoolers can legally miss school to serve as election clerks without being old enough to vote so long as they have their parent’s and their principal’s written permission, but otherwise you need to be over 18 and registered to vote in order to work the election. More people should take advantage of this, assuming your election judge can figure out how many people you are allowed to hire in the first place.

Elections do not pay well. Of course they don’t – it’s $8.50 an hour no matter your position (if you are in high school or college, still, it’s not too shabby for some pretty darn easy work). However, if you are the head guy, you need to keep your clerks happy and most importantly on the premises – this often involves sending out for their lunch, bringing in breakfast, and keeping snacks and cold drinks on hand for your staff. Given the expense, we may have broken even at $0.00 gain/loss. We didn’t do this for the money, which is definitely a good thing. And there are leftover muffins. Wait…were. Mmmm.

At least the Republican robocalls will cease…for now. I’m still not sure if they are trying to convert us or they think we already vote Republican, but I received eleventy billion of these calls in the last two weeks either directly from Republicans or “conservative” groups looking to sway us to vote in their favor. Same with the mailings – all righty propaganda. Why? Save your money and spend it on those that are likely to read it.* Exercise some fiscal conservation, eh?

Oh, and somehow Facebook decided that I’m a “real”** conservative too. Seriously, Facebook? Here’s an excerpt from my FB page recently demonstrating how well their targeted marketing actually targets:

Me.
Oh, and Facebook apparently thinks I live in Austin, am a “real” conservative, and need a divorce lawyer. Um, I think their targeted marketing program needs some fine-tuning.
February 25 at 8:50pm ·
Comment ·Like · View Feedback (11)Hide Feedback (11)

Margaret M.:
I have bought some of their targeted advertising for work. Miserable failure.
February 25 at 9:01pm ·

Me.
OK, right now, Mitt Romney wants me to “join his team” and I’m being offered a cupcake coupon for Austin?
February 25 at 9:07pm ·

Sarah S.
I get stuff for Phoenix. I’ve never even been to Phoenix, and have no desire to go
February 25 at 9:09pm ·

Margaret M.
My ads are slightly more well targeted. Except the one about Obama wanting moms to go back to school with a woman nursing her baby. That’s really not me. And does Obama care if I go to school or not?
February 25 at 9:11pm ·

Sarah S.
I’ve got ZooWorld, Phoenix Real Estate. and a Video Game Design school in Arizona.
February 25 at 9:13pm ·

Me.
Now they think I’m “Pregnant in Austin?” No and no. And Obama does want me to go back to school, too, but I don’t think that’s a political one. Phoenix, eh?
February 25 at 9:23pm ·

Margaret M.
we could do this all night…. Now i have one that says “as a military wife, I can qualify for free online classes”. That would mean Mr. M is in the military (no) or I have another husband (SURPRISE, HONEY!!!)
February 25 at 9:25pm ·

Sarah S.
Get Thin in 2010 (Maybe I like being fat. Personal much?) Phoenix 1 day Coupons, Get Flirty Online Dating. (Now you want me to attempt dating after calling me fat? I have a complex now tyvm)
February 25 at 9:29pm ·

Me:
Women aren’t in the military, silly. Now, support your troops!


I’m being invited to a Mandy Moore dance class in Dallas next month. That is off base on *so* many counts.
February 25 at 9:29pm ·

Margaret M.
Last one – “Puppies are awesome” with a link for an online scavenger hunt and ANOTHER stupid online college.


WTH? Are they thinking I’m dumb? Now I have a complex….jerks.

Fun stuff. Sorry about the lapse in blogging – I’ve got lots going on (let’s all hope there’s not a run off in 30 days!) and not enough time to get it all done in, but I’ve got loads of ideas swirling around in my head….hopefully I can get at least a few of them typed up soon.

*And by that, of course I mean “read it with a straight face.”

** as opposed to imaginary?

The Glorious Colors of Autumn

Here are some lovely trees in autumn shades of reddy brown near the house:


Except those are evergreens. Pine trees.

Evergreens, of course, don’t turn colors in the fall – unless they are dead. The scene is common – large clusters of pine trees dead all over the area. We had a particularly hot summer which was particularly devoid of rain. We had a few days of rain in August, but by then the trees were stressed considerably.

The drought didn’t kill them, however – a tiny little pest did. The Southern Pine Bark Beetle has been active in the area. It’s a quick and lethal creature – it takes down stressed trees easily, but will destroy healthy ones just the same. We lost three or four massive pines on our property a few years back – the invoice for removing the trees was a whopper and we were pretty upset that the extra cost to purchase the heavily treed lot was wasted in a matter of months. Still mad about that, truth be told.

There are very few signs that your tree is infested with beetles – once you can see the damage, it’s really too late to rehabilitate the tree. Once the tree turns noticeably brown, the beetles have left for another host and it’s “Sayonara, Pine Tree.” There are a few ways to control the pest, but they aren’t very effective or practical.

So anyway – this is our Fall color this year. Whee. In case you are wondering, the rest of the trees (both deciduous and evergreen) are still very green. It was in the low nineties this week, so I expect it to be green around here for a while. Our seasonal color goes something like this: green, green, green, green, brownandfalloff, buds in January, green, green, green…..

Oh, we do have one tree variety that does make gorgeous colors in some years, but the Chinese Tallow is considered nastily invasive in Texas (and probably everywhere else) and we’ve been asked not to plant any – it reproduces quickly and edges out the native varieties. Annoying, that, but what are you going to do?

But hey, we aren’t shoveling snow like some states, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. For the record, there has been no need to shovel snow in this area since….well….ever. And you will never see me complaining about that.

p.s. Tomorrow, the boys and I are making Autumn Leaves as a craft – it’s the best I can do for them this year. If you have any groovy Autumn kiddy crafts, feel free to link me up, ok?

"The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers"

Have you ever heard a positive lawyer joke? Me neither. And I’ve heard a lot of them. For reasons that will forever baffle me, people find it even funnier to tell lawyer jokes to lawyers, because we clearly appreciate lame attempts at humor and surely we haven’t heard them all.

Trust me, we have.

Lawyers, if conventional wisdom can be believed, are responsible for everything from greed and a growing sense of undue entitlement to outright fraud and generalized moral corruption of our society: the lack of ethics attorneys display is morally bankrupting our nation.

Lawyers, after all, are responsible for those ridiculous lawsuit that you hear about in the news. You know, like that old woman who struck a gold mine by suing McDonald’s after she spilled her own coffee on herself. Well, it makes for juicy copy anyway.

We’ve all heard a lot about “Tort Reform” and how badly we need it. In fact, it passed in Texas some time ago when it was all the rage. We in Texas and in other states have been told countless times that “Greedy Trial Lawyers” are the only ones who benefit and do so to the tune of bajillions of dollars. Obviously, they and their torts need to be limited. Do you even know what a tort is? Do you think the average voter does? I would hazard to say no, not only do they not know a precise definition, but that they don’t know a tort from a contract or almost any other cause of action. But I digress….

Considering that truly meritless tort cases (and any other meritless case) will be dismissed by the judge on their facts after a simple motion by the opposing attorney, is there really a need to reform the tort? If your answer is yes, why so? Because you’ve been told? Who told you – those ads on TV that someone ambiguous funded? Your doctor who handed you a pamphlet and urged you to vote for tort reform so his malpractice insurance would be lowered so that he wouldn’t be driven out of business or out of state by the Greedy Trial Lawyers?

Tort Reform isn’t solely concerned with medical malpractice, but it’s probably the portion that hit most voters close to home. Say someone is harmed by a doctor. Let’s call it negligence. Who benefits from that? The family might benefit financially, but of course we don’t want the grieving spouse to make too much money out of their tragedy, do we? Who else? The Greedy Trial Lawyer who took a big risk on this case by taking it on a contingency basis and ate all the costs to bring it to trial? Of course he/she profits – that’s their job! Cases like this can easily take $100,000.00 to bring to trial – should the attorney who took on that risk not benefit?

On the flip side, who profits from Tort Reform? The doctors who were being allegedly driven out of business by the legal profession? Only marginally, as it turns out. Could it be the insurance companies?

Bingo.

Insurance companies have profited astronomically since the vote to implement Tort Reform in Texas. If you are planing on having a difficult birth or complicated surgery, this might not be the state to do it in – if your health care providers drop the ball, your financial recover is severely limited, regardless of the damage done. And the insurance companies couldn’t be happier.

In fact, “ten years after so-called “tort reform” legislation, insurance companies that offer property, liability and casualty coverage are reporting record profits for 2005.

And in addition to that, because of the work and high expense involved in this type of case, you will find many fewer attorneys financially able to take on any cases in which recovery is not all but certain. So if your case is not a slam dunk, good luck getting anyone to accept it at all.

This entry explains the result of Texas voters’ actions as it applies to patients. I urge you to read it if you have recently been, ever plan to be, or are kin or friends with any health care patients in Texas or your state is considering similar legislation.

So what voters did by choosing this law to bring down the Greedy Trial Lawyers is the proverbial nose biting to spite their face. Sadly, they screwed themselves – the joke is on them.

On all of us, actually.

The title of this entry is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2. It’s often used to illustrate the point that even centuries ago, lawyers were (rightly) regarded as fully dispensable bottom dwellers of society. The irony is this: while clearly intended as a lawyer joke even then, this line of comic relief is expressed by the play’s villains who think it would be fabulous to rid society of the greedy lawyers. Of course they think that – they are the villains! Lawyers, regardless of what you think of them, are part of the system to help keep the bad guys in check, despite what the insurance company propaganda wants you to think.

On Darwinism

Texas board moves closer to new science standards

AUSTIN, Texas — The State Board of Education moved a step closer to dropping a 20-year-old science curriculum requirement that critics say is used to undermine the theory of evolution.

After two days of heated debate, the board made a key vote Friday in favor of dropping a mandate that teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theory.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the language be dropped, suggesting instead that students be required to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.

The new standards the board ultimately approves — a final vote on the curriculum proposal is not expected until March — will be in place for the next decade. They also will dictate how publishers handle the topic of evolution in textbooks.

Critics of the “weaknesses” language argue that watering down the teaching standards of origin of man is an attempt to promote creationism in public schools.

Federal courts have ruled against forcing the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.

Critics of the proposal to drop the mandate blame “left-wing ideology” for trying to stifle free speech.

A narrower requirement, adopted in an unexpected amendment Thursday, would require high school biology students to address the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry to explain certain aspects of evolutionary theory.


I was just reading an in-depth article on Darwin in Smithsonian Magazine while I had the current issue of the Houston Chronicle on my lap with the above-quoted article on the front page. Apparently Texas is somewhat behind in the scientific world (no surprise, really), but we are getting there, if slowly.

The article on Darwin, if you have a chance to read, it is absolutely fascinating from a purely historical perspective, at the very least, but it also delves into the more recent discoveries that Darwin (along with Mendel, also discussed) planted the seed for with his theories.

Born in 1809, Charles Darwin was born in England to a well-off family of social progressives who were active in supporting the anti-slavery movement. A new book suggests that this background helped influence his scientific interest in the subject of evolution – his hypothesis being that the various human races were not fundamentally separate, a notion that many would do well to remember even now. For more, look for Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond.

Also in the news this week: what you feed your toddler can change his or her genes! Eek!


A new study by the University of Calgary, suggests that a high fat diet can actually affect a child’s genes and influence later obesity, by permanently changing how those genes react to certain diets. You can read more here. I wonder, what would Darwin think about that?

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