Friday, October 28, 2011

Finished evidence, on to real property

The last couple of subjects, criminal procedure and evidence, have been slow going.  They are very mechanical, rule based subjects, something that my background in engineering should find interesting, but just looking at all the rules, traditional common law exceptions, federal rules, etc., made simply covering the material exhausting.  I don't look forward to having to go back and start memorizing all that stuff.

Real property and torts left in the main outline.  Real property has always been fun.  Similar to every other subject, it has lots of rules, but for some reason I enjoyed property - one of my favorite 1L subjects (first year law).  I think I'm a bit behind my original study plan, but nothing to make me worry so far.  My goal is to have the outline read by next week and move to the Florida specific outline.  Once all that is read, go back and start memorizing, which should lead right into the lectures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Older movie spoiler review: Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal is
Captain Colter Stevens
And here we have another chapter in our older movie spoilerish reviews.  This time around, we have the pseudo sci-fi movie Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga.  Source Code is a well crafted movie with an interesting premise.  The movie opens with Gyllenhaal awaking with a start in a commuter train.  Monaghan sits across from him and she's chatting with him, thanking him for his previous advice.  Gyllenhaal is disoriented, has no idea who Monaghan is, and says to her that he is Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot serving in Afghanistan.  Monaghan laughs, as she had been addressing him as Sean, and asks him whether he is fine.

Gyllenhaal then catches a glimpse of himself on the train window, and is suddenly even more confused.  He dashes to the restroom, and discovers that his face isn't as he remembers.  He returns to his seat, and after a brief conversation, the train explodes suddenly.  Gyllenhaal then awakens inside a dark chamber, strapped into his seat by a military style seat belt.  He is a bit gaunt, paler, and seems in distress.  A voice calls for him, saying that "this is Beleaguered Castle," and issues him commands.  Gyllenhaal is still confused, and doesn't recognized the person on the screen, a Captain Goodwin, played by Farmiga.  She then begins a cryptic sequence, involving cards and a woman, and suddenly Gyllenhaal remembers who Farmiga is, but is still confused about his whereabouts.

GTI unleashed

The new Serron wheels available only
in the autobahn package for the GTI
So...the standard GTI sold by VW in the US is rated at 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque.  It is a nice looking car, with superior interior and exterior build quality, and if you splurge on the top tier package, the Autobahn, you get leather seats, navigation, sunroof, fancy LED daylight driving lights, and a new kind of allow wheels, known as the Serron, which were introduced first in Europe in the Adidas edition of the GTI.

It is no slouch on the road either.  It can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, but if driven conservatively, yield a generous 25 mpg combined for the manual transmission.  Fancy pants DSG (a hybrid automatic/manual transmission) yields 27 mpg combined.  However, these numbers fall short of other import competitors such as Subaru and Mazda.  Of course, the Japanese imports lack some of the finesse, in both interior and handling, that the GTI brings to the table, but the GTI still falls short.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse cause of death determined

Amy Winehouse during
better days
Amy Winehouse, the British blues singer with the powerful, soulful voice, who was found dead at hear apartment last July, has been examined by London's St. Pancras Coroner's Office.  Their official determination is that she died as a result of consuming "a very large quantity of alcohol," a level of "416 mg per decilitre" of blood, which is the equivalent of a 0.42 blood alcohol level, or over 5 times the legal limit in Florida, which is 0.08.

The singer, who rose to prominence with her Back to Black album, had been in the forefront of a blues revolution in England.  A number of female singers have followed on her path to success, most notably Adele, whose single "Rolling in the Deep" has reached number one in a number of countries.  Winehouse won five Grammys for her album, including Best Pop Vocal, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year.

10 years of Windows XP

Hard to believe that Windows XP was released ten years ago.  It was the mainstream 32-bit OS from Microsoft (Windows NT, their enterprise OS, was also 32-bit and was released earlier, but Windows 98, the version most people used, was still 16-bit), and rock solid.  So much so that it became the standard operating system for businesses and households everywhere.

It introduced a variety of changes to the OS, from ClearType, the display smoothing mechanism that makes fonts look better on LCD monitors, to the revamped Start button and the taskbar, XP brought game-changing features into Windows, and has an installed base of over 400 million, and probably many millions more of unofficial installations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Echo chamber

It's been a little over a month since I've started this blog, and it helped me put a lot of thoughts on paper.  Nonetheless, I sometimes wonder whether I'm just writing a diary - I seem to have some traffic, but no comments thus far, so in a sense, this is an echo chamber where my thoughts are on display, but no one to talk back.

I have also been feeling a bit under the weather again.  My flu seems to have returned, and I have that general sense of malaise.  Hopefully I'll get better by the end of the week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich...yum

I know that this is becoming more of a tech blog than a studying for the bar blog, but honestly, there is not much drama going on during my current studies.  Therefore, to spice things up a bit, here are some news from Google, android, and Samsung.

For those that are not obsessed with tech news, Google has a mobile OS platform named android that launched some 3 years ago.  They partnered up with a variety of carriers and manufacturers, in a broad approach similar to Microsoft in the computer world.  This OS is currently the dominant one in the smartphone arena, with notable examples being the Droid line of smartphones from Verizon, and the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II from Samsung available on most major carriers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nerf Vortex series in one word: awesome!

The rapid-fire Vigilon:
my weapon of choice
I was at Target today to pick up a gift, and as I wandered the toy isle with my son, we saw the new Nerf disc guns, their vortex line.  After a second's reflection - after all, we must be responsible parents - I got two pistols, one for me and one for my son.  I chose the Vigilon, a quick-reload pistol that holds 5+1 discs.  My son opted for the smaller Proton, a single shooter that reputedly shoots farther.

As soon as we got home we proceeded to lose 2 discs after a brief shoot-out.  I have to say, these guns are awesome.  The Vigilon, specially, with the quick reload function, can dish out massive damage in short order.  I wasn't as impressed with the Proton.  You have to hold the spare discs on your hand, and after every shot, you need to pull our the loading tray, load a disc, and press a side lever to load.  A bit clumsy, specially when you have to dodge discs being fired by a maniacal father.

Friday, October 14, 2011


When it comes to my children, I'm way overprotective.  My eldest is 14, and she just took her siblings walking to K-Mart, which is essentially one block away.  Curiously, I believe this is the first time they have walked by themselves to a store...ever.  Well, this can be easily explained by the fact that when we lived in Los Angeles, our house was on the hills, and the nearest store, a Whole Foods, would be literally a couple of miles downhill, on a winding, one lane road without sidewalks.  Obviously we never allowed our children to go walking to the store by themselves.

Here in Central Florida, everything is flat.  There are no hills, dips, valleys.  You can see for miles, it feels like.  Since we live near a major street, there are lots of shops and markets around us.  As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks after moving here, I recall taking one of my children and we walked to the local Publix supermarket.  It was muggy and hot, but fun as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Android or iOS?

Tandy's TRS-80
I consider myself a "geek" and lover of gadgets.  My very first computer experience was a TRS-80 from Tandy - go ahead and google it, I will wait.  Pretty odd looking device, no?  Very basic, too.  We actually had a primitive computer lab at my school in the early 80s, and by the mid-80s, it became a full-on computer lab with a few Apple II+.

Anyway, I haven't tinkered around computers as such for a while now.  I'm typing on a computer that I put together about 5 years ago, although I've upgraded the motherboard, CPU, and the graphics card in the interim.  Lately, I have enjoyed playing around with my phone, an android device I got last year.  The modern smartphone is a truly wondrous device, capable of so much more than those early computers - actually, they seem to be more powerful than even computers from a few years ago.  They have multitude of sensors, from GPS, to ambient light, to magnetometers, and so on.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Qwikster no more

The red envelopes will still
say Netflix for the near future
And they back-tracked.  Netflix has announced today they will no longer be spinning off their DVD rent-by-mail service into its own website.  Customer backlash has been loud - Netflix has lost a reportedly one million subscribers due to their latest price increase fiasco - and they were primed to lose even more if the proposed split had taken place.

Why split up video streaming and DVD mailing?  The costs associated with physical media delivery had always been high, with buying disks, postage, lost disks, etc.  Netflix had decided that streaming was the wave of the future, even though licensing costs have been on the rise the last few years, and will probably rise even more in the future.  Netflix has already lost Starz streaming programming due to licensing disputes.  Splitting the DVD service would mean that there wouldn't be as many visible gaps in their streaming inventory (since you won't see the missing items on the list as opposed to now).

Alas, Netflix has to figure out a new way to navigate future waters.  Competition from Hulu, Amazon Prime, Redbox, and other alternatives is only bound to get worse.  I still enjoy the service, and I've been on board since the beginning (I might still have that DVD tray Netflix mailed years ago), but I wonder whether I will still be a subscriber two, three, of four years from now.

Adventures on the way to getting passports

The key to travel overseas
Ah, passports.  Those little blue booklets that enable you to cross borders, travel to distant places, become a source for potential ID theft (for those fancy, RFID tags).  Since we're planning on travelling overseas at the end of the year, we decided that we have to renew our children's passports.

For those that don't know, the renewal process for an adult passport is ridiculously easy.  Fill out a form, online if you want and print it, write a check, put your old passport, completed form, and filled check in an envelope, and mail it.  About five weeks later, a brand new document that makes you feel like Jason Bourne or James Bond arrives in the mail.  That's it.  No hassles, no pain.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The next deluge

No one is singing right now
In Los Angeles, we were used to long dry spells followed by a few days of rain.  When it rained, it was usually an all-day affair, with stronger bursts during night followed by drizzle all day long.  In Florida, in typical tropical weather style, there would be sudden bursts of heavy rain that would stop after a few minutes.  I was told by the locals that this was the usual pattern.

Well, much to my surprise, I find myself sick - sore throat and now coughing - and in the third day of a continuous rainstorm.  Not light rain, either.  The children had tomorrow off for Columbus day, so we were planning to go somewhere, but with the weather acting up, we are just holed up.  Odd weather, I must say.

Criminal law and Castle

My latest find on Netflix has been Castle, a solve-the-crime-of-the-week television show with a bit of humor and a likable cast.  It stars Nathan Fillion of Serenity fame, and newcomer Stana Katic.  Fillion is a crime novel writer who teams up with Katic, a detective for the NYPD, and together they solve crimes.  I believe the show has just started its fourth season, but I'm at the beginning of season two.

This brings me to my current subject, Criminal Law.  I always enjoyed this area - my criminal law professor, Laurie Levinson, might be partly a reason why I like it.  She had been a member of the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles, and has been teaching for a couple of decades.  Her no nonsense attitude, and simple love of the law were contagious, and her lectures were always interesting.

Friday, October 7, 2011

New car stereo finally brings me to the 21st century

The RNS-315 VW stereo/navigation
unit - my new pride and joy.
Like most people (my age, I believe), I do most of my music listening in the car.  I remember when cars first started having CD players, and later on, when I discovered the joys of CD music burning.  I could put in 6 of my favorite mix CDs, about 20 songs each, for a total of 120 songs!  Plus, put them on random play, and it would just go on and on.

My previous car, I had a little adapter for an iPod, and in it most of my music library.  Nonetheless, I couldn't control the iPod via radio, and it was a bit hazardous to my health to control music playback while driving, so it ended up being playlists or auto-playlists.  Not so fun, and I never really liked using iTunes, specially on Windows computers, which I prefer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Being sick is no fun

Looks like I caught a nasty bug sometime recently.  Yesterday evening my throat started to feel a bit scratchy, so I took some vitamins and medicine before going to bed.  Woke up in the morning with a full blown headache, very sore throat, and feeling generally miserable.

I'm going to take the rest of the week off studying to see if I can recover faster.  The kids are off on Monday for Columbus Day, so we might do something this weekend, which hopefully won't make me worse.

Gratefully I have a lot of time before the exam.  More medicine before going to bed tonight.

P.S. In looking for pictures of thermometers, I realized that most of them are for the digital type.  I suppose the dangers of mercury have relegated the old glass types to the dustbin of other things from my past.  I still remember playing with little pools of mercury that came with a chemistry set I got when I was a little kid...ah the good old days.  I'm surprised I can even remember them with all the poisonous stuff I must have handled/eaten when I was a kid.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs

Strange coincidences.  The day after the unveiling of the product he pioneered, Steve Jobs has been declared dead at age 56.  Remarkable that a man so young had such a profound influence in his own industry and through society in general.  His legacy is great, his impact on home computing and later on personal devices is undeniable, and his relentless pursuit of his singular vision once cost him his job at Apple, only to return triumphant and make his company the largest company in capitalization value.

One of the original "pirates of Silicon Valley," Jobs will be remembered as the creator of the Apple computer, along with Steve Wozniak and others.  The prototypes, originally built in his garage, went on to become a huge hit with consumers, because of affordability and versatility.  The Apple II computer was the original home of PC gaming.  Years later, during the 80s, Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer, or Mac, as it became known, an all-in-one computer that featured an integrated display and floppy drive.  Eventually, he was ousted from the company and went on to found NeXT computers, which used a modified version of Linux to run powerful desktop computers.

iPhone 4S...disappoints?

The new Apple flagship phone,
looking the same as the old
Over a year after the original, ground breaking iPhone 4 was introduced to the world, Apple has unveiled their newest offering, the iPhone 4S, to an eagerly awaiting world audience yesterday, Oct. 4.  As the name implies, their new flagship phone is but an evolutionary advancement over their previous phone, rather than an original.

The specs that have been announced so far, for those that are interested, are a new dual core processor (unknown clock speed), up to 64GB of internal storage, a new 8 megapixel camera, and the ability to record 1080p video at 30 fps.  Again, nothing far ahead of the pack in terms of raw numbers, with older phones from Samsung, such as the Galaxy S II, which was introduced months ago, actually besting the iPhone 4S in many categories.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Older movie spoiler review: Dylan Dog

First a preface.  When you have younger children, it is rare to be able to watch movies in the theater unless they are some cartoon extravaganza or 3D concoction.  Therefore, most of my movie watching comes from ever reliable Neflix (or soon to be Qwikster), and as such, my movie reviews will be for slightly older fare.  Thus, given the somewhat stale subject matter of my movie reviews, they will be peppered with spoilers, so be forewarned.  Anyhow, among my favorite genres are campy horror movies, of which Dylan Dog is a somewhat sub par example.

Dylan Dog - should have
skipped and saved room in
my queue.
Dylan Dog stars Brandon Routh of Superman Returns fame, the fantastically bad homage to the Christopher Reeve era Superman movies that basically resulted in a total reboot of the franchise, which is currently filming.  In Dylan Dog, Routh stars as the eponymous detective, who has a mysterious past.  OK, it is not so mysterious, just a little head scratching:  Dylan Dog used to be a human investigator/intermediary between the various factions of the undead in New Orleans.  Basically, in the universe of Dylan Dog, your vampires, werewolves, and zombies are all real, and to prevent an all out war between these different factions (more probably between vampires and werewolves, since the zombies are mostly pretty harmless in the movie), they have a human act as arbiter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Profiteering and the bar exam

I could use a few of these by the
time I'm done with the bar exam
We all know there is a large industry surrounding the bar exam.  Starting with law school tuition, which is a few tens of thousands of dollar, to the bar review courses, which run in the thousands of dollars, to even applying for the bar exam itself, which in my case cost me about two thousand five hundred, you have to pay to play.  Now that I knew the time and place for the exam, I decided to book a hotel in the vicinity so I wouldn't have to worry about making the hour drive from Orlando to Tampa twice and on time.

Well, it looks like hotels are in the game as well.  Every hotel within walking distance of the Convention Center has conveniently increased their prices on the days around the bar exam.  My bill, after taxes, is about seven hundred and fifty dollars for a two night stay.  That is like paying Club Med rates, without the food and fancy amenities.  Oh well, we're all after the all-mighty-dollar, I suppose.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ongoing application

Just when I thought everything was set for my application, now that my fingerprints were done, I got a letter from the Board of Bar Examiners informing me that a couple of items had incorrect information in them.  Apparently the California Bar has me listed as a female - I'm pretty sure I've always been a guy - and one of my school transcripts is missing some information.  Great, now I have to make some phone calls on Monday and hopefully have everything ironed out promptly.

Looks like the bar exam will take place at the end of February, in Tampa, which is about an hour's drive from Orlando.  I will have to book a room to ensure I won't have to drive back and forth.  I guess things are turning more real by the day.  Last time I took the bar, there was major construction going on next to the exam location, which was a big distraction.  This time I'll be using a laptop, so I'll probably be in a room full of people typing away on keyboards: I think investing in some earplugs will be a good idea.


So, I've been driving my car for about 2 months now, and I still don't have a clear picture as to the car's gas consumption.  Off the lot, with unknown gas and new engine, I managed about 220 miles and put in 10.6 gallons (why, yes, I do keep a fuel log).  That's about 20.8 mpg.  It crept up slowly over the next few fill-ups, with mostly the same driving habits.  On a week when I drove a bit out on the highway, I got about 25.9 mpg!  The last fill up has been disappointing at 20.8 mpg again.

The window sticker says that I should get about 20 mpg on streets and about 30 mpg on the highway.  The GTI is one car where having a manual yields less fuel efficiency than driving the automatic, which in the GTI's case is the DSG - a "manumatic" type transmission where you can control the up and downshifts.  I opted for the old fashioned stick shift.