Saturday, July 09, 2005

Ok, let's get a little creative

My son, 11, is a Microsoft Flight Simulator fan. He's quite good at it and probably has more flight hours on the simulator than I do in real airplanes.

This morning, we heard the roar and ran out of the house to see two Marine Corps harrier jets taking off from nearby Los Alamitos streak by at about 1,000 feet.

About 15 minutes later, I heard the computer voice of the flight simulator air traffic controller clearing an airplane for take off.

"What are you flying?", I asked.

"Harrier.." he answered. "...Yuma to Los Alamitos."

As I watched over his shoulder, he climbed to his assigned altitude of 10,000 feet and clicked his GPS IFR course to fly over the Salton Sea, where we camped last year, and the route of our drive home through Palm Springs and the Banning Pass.

With Mount San Jacinto on the left and San Gorgonio on the right, he called to the controller to request the visual approach to land on runway 22 left at Los Alamitos.

The controller gave him the visual approach to runway 22 left, (landing to the west), but ended with "Circle to land runway 4 right" (landing on the same runway, but to the east).

Not satisfied with this, the pilot again requested runway 22. Again the controller answered runway 4.

"Ok, let's get a little creative", he said, and ... get this.... clicked the airport icon... and changed the weather so that the wind was 10 knots from the west (airplanes land into the wind).

Now, he radioed for runway 22... and got it.

The point to me was that I didn't think of the alternative. I didn't consider the flexibility of the program, but my 11 year old did. I was thinking a little behind the technology. I am going to have to do better in the future.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Home, you idiot

A funny thing happened on a bicycle ride with my 11-year old son Sunday.

We live a short distance from an undeveloped park of eucalyptus trees on a brush-covered hillside. There are rough dirt bike paths between the trees, and this week lots of frogs have hatched. (The frogs figure no farther in this story).

Although we had been on a bike ride there earlier in the day, my son and another buddy begged to go again late in the afternoon and off we went.

Up and down the hills. Over the four-bump "course", over a few dirt piles, finally arriving at the rope swing at the top of the hill.

I stayed back about 30 yards to watch what the boys would do. They, of course, grabbed the end of the rope, which had no seat attached, and swung down the hill and out into space, just hanging by their arms.

Now, I imagined that if the grip loosened, the unintended trajectory would trace slowly down the hill, about 3 or 4 feet above it, and intersect some 20 or 30 feet beyond the end of the rope. Small chance of an injury, but a good chance of a lesson.

So I stayed put.

Soon, a stick was found and tied to the bottom of the rope, making a tee handle to swing from. An improvement in fun, but the potential trajectory and lesson remained.

Then, to record the fun they were having, the buddy pulled out his -- get this, all you old timers-- pulled out his cell phone to take pictures of the daring swing.... A nice touch of modern technology in 11-year old hands, I thought. They took pictures, and laughed about how to make the next picture even "better". Where to start, camera angle, etc. I moved a little farther, behind a tall bush to stay out of the pictures.

Now, enter the villains, a couple older boys, maybe 13 years old, walking up the dirt trail with their skateboards (oddly, a long, long ways from the nearest skating surface). They never saw me, so their natural behavior was unaffected by parental oversight.

Without a word, almost disregarding my son as he took the swing from his hand, the taller of the two boys took a few rides... backing up the hill, running down, and then off into space.... inpressively higher than the younger boys had gone.

Then the shorter of the older boys took a few rides.....

The idea of giving the younger boys turns never seemed to cross the older boys' minds as the taller one again took the tee handle and swung into space..

And then, justice was served with a loud CRAAACCCKKK!

The trajectory I had imagined was traced beautifully, albeit a little higher and a little farther downhill than I had imagined, and the intersection with the hill included the sounds of breaking brush, dry grass, twigs, rocks, and there was a small cloud of dust.

Up got the flyer with a slow hop and a bit of a limp..... while the shorter showed his contempt for the swing by untying the remnant stick and flinging it as far as he could down the hill.

"Where are you going?" asked the shorter henchman of his taller boss.

"Home, you idiot!" was the answer in a stifled, pained voice, and off the villains went, down the trail.

Wanting to bolster the confidence of the younger boys, now that the others were gone, I emerged from my hiding. They laughed about the older boys. I said I thought it was a little rude for the shorter one to have tossed the handle-stick down the hill, and as a measure of their confidence, I asked if they wanted to get the stick and use the swing a few more times.

"Not now that it's cursed!" they both quickly agreed.

And home we went.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Antonin Scalia for Chief Justice

The Associate Justice made a fabulous speech March 14 entitled ...... get this..... "Constitutional Interpretation"...... imagine that.

Scalia started off telling how he was watching a television commentary on a Court decision:

And it struck me how irrelevant it was, how much the point had been missed. The question wasn’t whether the call was right or wrong. The important question was who should make the call.

That's it.... Who should make the call.

Scalia thinks that many issues argued before judges today should be argued in the legislatures instead. Think: all of the contentious social issues. Legislature.

The battles over judicial nominations would not be so serious, if the court(s)hadn't usurped powers they shouldn't have.

You should watch the speech here. (Search is in orange letters at the top, Search "Scalia" )Prestopundit (3/15) has summarized several key points:

If we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience a 'new' Constitution, we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look to people who agree with us .. When we are in that mode, you realize we have rendered the Constitution useless.

Scalia on Republican politician Earl Warren:

You have a chief justice who was a governor, a policy-maker, who approached the law with that frame of mind. Once you have a leader with that mentality, it's hard not to follow.

Scalia on the "flexibility" of a Constitution in shreds:

If you think aficionados of a "living Constitution" want to bring you flexibility, think again. You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility. Why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers?

(More Scalia) Quotable:

So it is literally true -- and I don't think this is an exaggeration -- that the court has essentially liberated itself from the text of the constitution. From the text and even from the traditions of the American people.


In addition to being passionate about the subject, Scalia was also rather funny ..... something not expected from judges... I know the feeling as a CPA....

Deriding the "Living Constitution", Scalia jokingly said

The Living Constitution judge is a happy fellow. He comes home at night and his wife says, "Dear, did you have a good day on the bench?" "Oh, yes. We had a constitutional case today. And you know what? The Constitution meant exactly what I thought it ought to mean!"

Well of course it does, because that’s your only criterion. That’s a very seductive philosophy. So it’s no surprise that it should take the society by storm. And it is the same thing for the man or woman in the street: to know that everything you care passionately about, whether it’s abortion or suicide, or whatever you care passionately about, it’s there in the Constitution. What a happy feeling. That’s what causes it. And that’s what makes it hard to call the society back from it. It’s tough medicine.

Brickbat to slow readers: Scalia is not big on the "Living constitution".

The Constitution's a document. It says what it says. And it still means what it meant when they wrote it...

Another funny moment: During the speech (remember now, the subject is "Constitutional Interpretation") Scalia said the doctrine of "Substantive Due Process" was a step on the way to the Living Constitution.... He's not big on finding rights that were never there before. (Legislate them the old fashioned way)

Later, Well, during the question and answers, an audience member (perhaps a lawyer or law student) asked his prepared question that would sucker the Justice right to the desired Living-Constitution conclusion....
Doesn’t substantive due process [lead to my desired conclusion]?
Scalia didn't fall for it. He looked at the guy, smiled that he hadn't listend to the speech carefully enough and gave him both barrels:

Oh, substantive due process does. I thought I made it clear I don’t believe in substantive due process.


And then, a final laugh, buried in the speech somewhere... why should the Supreme Court have to hear a case that merely involves the ... get this.... the paint job on a BMW...... a paint job is Supreme Court material....!!

Scalia and Thomas. My favorite team.

Either one for Chief Justice.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Advice - When kids don't like the rules

A friend told me about a recent discussion in his family.

His late 20-something son had moved back into the house, let's say a month or so earlier..

You can only imagine the joys of living together again after a few years of not.

One day, while dad was reviewing his ideas of how things should be under that roof, the son objected and replied with one of the oldest, lamest and most annoying phrases a child can utter:
"Well, it's my house too!!"
Dad (a gruff character, but deep down a pussycat) called his hand with this great reply:

"Oh yeah? ...If it is your house, then why don't you go ahead
and sell it!"

"Uh.... I can't " said the son

"That's right, because it's not your house."

Dad 1, Son 0. End of match.

Parents, just keep this one in reserve. It should work with anything you can sell... the car, the TV, etc. etc.

Let's hear your success stories.

Advice - How to cut down the wedding guest list

For most couples, paring down the long list of potential wedding guests can be made much easier with this simple idea:
Don't invite anyone you don't both already know.
It's easy. If one of your friends hasn't met your spouse-to-be since you started dating, then how close a friend are they really?

This is not to knock friendships where you don't meet but every few years, but they can wait.

This is a bulletproof excuse against that old friend from sixth grade, or the office, or wherever...... who acts hurt that you didn't invite her(or rarely him). Tell them the rule, and they calm down right away.

(Of course, this doesn't apply to family, or anyone you don't want it to, or to guests that your guests bring with them.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Look out... You might just get what you wished for

Steven Greenhut has an excellent article on an important case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week involving eminent domain. Greenhut is not optimistic, and neither am I.

(Setting the background, eminent domain is the power of government to take private property for public use.)

Greenhut quotes the key question involved:

Does the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment permit condemnation of private property for transfer to other private parties solely for the purpose of
promoting 'economic development'?

This has long meant that your house can be knocked down to make a road, school or hospital.

The problem is that the meaning of "Public use" is changing from the traditionional road, school, or hospital ... to the "public benefit" that the new owner promises to create more jobs than you do, or will pay more taxes than you do.

So, you are now in a race to be the best owner of your own property, or you are outta there.

So let's see where this leads.

As much as anyone, I enjoy this game:

If goverment offers Benefit A,
then expect Restriction B as a logical consequence,
Bonus points allowed for Government Rationalization C,
No matter what the parties originally intended.
Sadly the game is too predictable..

For example:

If government promises health care,
then motorcycle riders must wear helmets
to save the medical costs of motorcycle accident brain injuries
No matter that motorcycle riders like the feel of the wind in
their hair.

See how much fun it is? Here is another recently discussed one:

If govenment guarantees you an unemployment benefit...
provided that you accept any legal job... and
if prostitution is legal....
well then, ......enjoy your new job........
no matter what you think of it.
Eminent domain offers a fertile field for this sort of imagination.

In this week's Supreme Court case, Kelo vs New London, where a big business (Pfizer), wants a government power (the City of New London, Conn.), to kick a little little old lady out of her house, so they can build an office park, the game goes like this:

If Pfizer promises to create jobs and pay more taxes than you do.
and if the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment means
"more jobs and more taxes",
then you are out in the street
No matter that you don't like it.

The best government that money can buy.

Now here's a final example for you:

If your property taxes are low due to California Prop. 13,
and if someone else got your house condemned so
they could pay
more property tax,
then you might be outta there.
No matter that you don't like it

Who wouldn't want to buy your $300,000 house at a government auction for $150,000 as long as they signed up to pay more taxes than you do?

How's that for "public benefit"?

Just stop asking for government benefits. Some big-government type has just read this idea and is now working on it.

I invite your posts with other versions of this game.

(Full Disclosures - I actually own a few shares of Pfizer .... and I am against what Pfizer is trying to do here.)

(Full Disclosures - I think Prop. 13 that results in "The newcomer is burned" is bad public policy, but I don't want to see it circumvented by lawyers as outlined above)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Another new blog....Another tree falls in the forest

Well, it's 2005... a year started with no resolutions.

Now, spurred on by the example of Palosverdesblog (a guy who I don't know.... I merely live about 10 miles away from Palos Verdes), I had better start a blog too......

The whole idea of blogs has fascinated me as I have enjoyed watching the citizen journalists challenge... and now begin to overwhelm the mainstream media.

The blogs are smarter and faster and open to fact checking and (civil and thoughtful) criticism.

I've read a lot of them. Let's see if I can contribute anything. You might try it too, reader.