Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texas Bar Exam

My niece recently graduated from law school.  Since she got her undergraduate degree in Texas and since I'm an Ambassador of Texas, I was able to invite her to take the Texas Bar exam.  As a public service I now publish the exam for everyone.

Texas Bar Exam
Select the best answer:

1. Grandma Moses is driving her car at 75 mph on interstate 35. The car GPS gets in a fight with the GPS from her smart phone. The car GPS is telling her to turn right while the phone GPS is telling her to turn left. Grandma Moses splits the difference and goes straight into a utility pole ejecting her through the windshield. She survives but spends a year in the hospital incurring millions of dollars of medical bills. You should:

A. Sue both GPS makers
B. Look for other car owners similarly afflicted and file a class action lawsuit
C. Sue the GPS makers, the car maker and the utility pole maker
D. Help Grandma Moses file for bankruptcy because although large corporations may place a specific cost on death and injuries, the trial lawyers association is the spawn of Satan which only exists to help the devil file frivolous lawsuits.

2. Oil fracking is

A. A relatively new technology and long-term environmental effects are unknown at this time. We should keep a close eye on it.
B. Best regulated by large oil companies like BP
C. A fountain of cash, there's got to be some legal billing in there somewhere
D. A gift from Jesus

3. You go to lunch at the local Chipotle restaurant where you encounter a group of gun enthusiasts expressing their God given Texas rights to bear and display their guns. You should:

A. Explain to them that it is statistically unlikely they'll be mugged for a burrito
B. Explain the definition of "statistics"
C. Encourage them to run for state office as all Texas candidates must have a gun in their campaign photos
D. Congratulate them on their knowledge and defense of the Constitution and states' rights, then show them the AK-47 you keep in your briefcase

4. Texas has the legal right to secede from the United States.

A. True
B. False
C. Maybe, if you are speaking to a large crowd of freedom loving tea partiers
D. What's legal got to do with it? We've got enough guns to secede whenever we damn well please!

5. As laws against gay marriage get overturned all over the country, you are tasked with defending the Texas law before the Supreme Court. Your best argument is:

A. Legalizing gay marriage would result in people marrying livestock and inanimate objects
B. Would result in gay people becoming miserable husbands and wives
C. Would result in fewer shotgun weddings
D. There are no gay people in Texas

6. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that prayers before town council meetings are legal. Let's say someone named, oh I don't know..., Abdullah gave a prayer before the Wichita Falls town council meeting. You should:

A. Listen carefully and ensure there are no direct religious quotes or mention of God other than something like "Master of the Universe"
B. Congratulate him by saying, "Nice godless speech, Haji."
C. Cover your ears and shout, "I love Jesus! I love Jesus!" so no one can hear him
D. Stone him
E. Trick question, although stoning him is a good answer, you might be accused of practicing sharia law. Shooting him would be easier and more practical.

7. Is it legal to put Chinese 5-spice in BBQ sauce?

A. Yes
B. No
C. Aw, hell no!
D. Yes, if you are a communist living in Austin

8. A shoplifter grabs a case of beer in a convenience store and sprints for the door. Under Texas law, the clerk should:

A. Let the crook go, lock the door and call the police
B. Chase the crook as far as the clerk can run
C. Shoot the crook and if the crook falls outside the door, drag the body back inside
D. Aim for the head, then stand over the body and say something like "No more Miller time's for you." or "There's no cold ones in hell."

9. Which of the following would make the best expert witness at a trial:

A. An arson expert named Bubba who declares "the fire had to be arson cos those flames moved faster than a centipede at a toe countin' contest"
B. A jailhouse snitch promised dropped charges for his/her testimony
C. An ex-deputy who uses his specially trained hounds in police lineups to identify the crook by smell
D. All of the above

10. The job of the Texas state attorney general is to:

A. Ultimately enforce the laws of the state
B. Defend the state against frivolous lawsuits
C. Wait in line to be governor
D. Sue O'bama 24 hours a day

11. Which of the following would result in the longest jail sentence?

A. Make a false statement on a Small Business Administration loan application
B. Borrowing $2 million from an out of state bank with a specific stock as collateral. Then taking that money to purchase the stock which you used as collateral.
C. Taking a mortgage from an out of state bank then adding a superior lien which is magically owned by your children. Declare the original loan in default and allow your children to foreclose on your property thereby nullifying the bank's lien.
D. Urinating on the wall of the Alamo

12. You are representing a client at a high profile murder trial. Everyday you must meet the media who are trying to get you to spill confidential information. You should:

A. Just say, "No comment."
B. Answer what you can and explain there are some things that are confidential
C. Just repeat the question back to the asker
D. Just say, "Adios mofo."

13.  If you graduated from Texas Tech law school:
A.  You probably did well on the bar exam
B.  You probably learned a lot about energy law including oil and wind
C.  You probably learned a lot about water and mineral rights
D.  You are probably a rude, cheap-ass tipper

14. The longest serving governor in the history of the great republic of Texas is:

A. Stephen F. Austin
B. Sam Houston
C. George W. Bush
D. Rick Perry, and by gawd don't ever forget it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Not To Be a Contractor

I may have mentioned previously that when we bought our current house in the fall of 2012, walking through the front door was like stepping into Mr. Peabody's WAYBAC machine with the dial set to 1973. The front rooms had greenish yellow shag carpeting which amazingly looked a lot like Elvis' Jungle Room at Graceland circa 1976 (no, St. Pauli Girl would not allow me to recreate the jungle room). So for the past 18 months we have been slowly renovating and have learned the many idiosyncrasies of contractors, like how they work in their own time and space dimensions.

In February, we decided to finally tackle the kitchen, which would be our biggest and costliest renovation. We spent January getting estimates from plumbers, contractors, and electricians. It took all of January because most of them never returned our calls, the ones who did and made appointments rarely showed up, and of the final few, only two submitted an estimate. (Not to mention the tile guy "finalist" whose estimate looked good so we hired him, he said he'd start on Monday at 9:00, and we never heard from him again.) To summarize, we had to make six calls to get one estimate.

For the main project of knocking out a wall and reconfiguring a counter inot a breakfast bar, we finally settled on the bid of someone we'll call “Joe the Contractor.” Joe said it would take a week, maybe ten days. Did I mention that contractors live in their own time and space dimensions?

Day 1: Joe never showed up. He finally called and said he'd definitely be there the next day.

Day 2: Joe showed up with a helper. We were off to a good start.

Day 3: Joe's helper showed up by himself. Joe called later and explained the helper would remove the kitchen cabinets by himself. The helper successfully accomplished this task.

Day 4: Joe showed up and waited for his helper who never showed up. Joe complained to me, “I just don't know about these guys. They say they want to work and then disappear.” Hmmmm.

Day 5: Joe and another helper removed the wall and kitchen sink. The hard part was done! Or not.

Day 6: Joe started work on the new countertop which would extend out into the newly-opened space as a breakfast bar. He was very proud of his carpentry work and the new countertop looked nice, although the bar part seemed kind of small to me.

(It's important to note here that St. Pauli Girl designed the new kitchen layout and went over it detail by detail with Joe before he began. Had I been in charge, I would have said, “Well, we need a refrigerator, a microwave, and enough storage for the paper plates, cups, and sporks. That should do it.”)

When St. Pauli Girl came home that day she had a meltdown: the width of the new countertop/breakfast bar was a good 20 inches less than what she had specified. She called Joe and reminded him of the measurements they had gone over, stressing the "breakfast bar" part.

Day 7: Joe apologized, tore off the countertop and started a new one. He said, “I don't know, Dexter, maybe I should start writing stuff down.”

Day 8: While we were still waiting for the specially ordered laminate for the counter, Joe had an electrician friend come in to re-route some of the wiring from the old wall. Later that night, St. Pauli Girl noticed there was no electricity in the entire east side of the house.

Day 9: Saturday. The electrician pointed out he had disconnected the ceiling fan the previous day. I pointed out he had disconnected half of the house. “No, just the ceiling fan,” he insisted. I showed him the non-working half of the house. A few hours later, we had electricity again.

As much as we liked how hard Joe had been working, we really needed a break from him, so when he reported that he'd be back on Sunday, I said, “Oh no, take a break. Besides we'll be in church. And it's going to be a long service. Like all day.”

Day 10: The laminate for the countertop arrived. Joe carefully installed it, a beautiful faux marble. I couldn't wait for St. Pauli Girl to come home--she was going to love it!

Day 11: Time to install the new sink that had been waiting in the garage for weeks. Joe started on the cutout. After a few hours of diligence and lots of noise, I heard, “Damn!” followed by a pounding on the countertop. Joe came to my office and slammed open the door. “Dexter, you aren't going to believe this.”

He led me to the kitchen and showed the hole in the counter. “I read the sink specifications on the box and cut the hole accordingly. Maybe I should have taken the sink out and measured it.”

Yes, the hole was too big for the sink. Joe proceeded to tear off the second countertop, fresh laminate and all. We would have to order more, which meant more waiting.

The days had turned to weeks as we trudged through the project. Joe went off and worked on someone else's kitchen tasks while we continued washing dishes in the small bathroom sink. Joe hinted that he and another guy could tile the kitchen floor while we waited. Imagining what that comedy of errors might entail, we hired a third-generation tile-ist (whose five brothers also did tile/carpentry work) who showed up on time and finished the entire floor and a brick backsplash in two days.

After eleven days without a dishwasher or kitchen sink, the countertop installation was a success on the third try; the sink and the plumbing were easy after that. Later that day we let Joe know that he wouldn't be needed for the rest of the kitchen (Phases II and III). We called the tile guy to finish the rest, and he and his partner had it done in a day.

We have since scaled back our future renovation plans. If we can't do it ourselves, it's not going to happen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Repairman Can Beat Up Your Repairman

There are two things in the male culture that require full disclosure:
  1. The price of a new car
  2. The price of a car repair
The price of a new car is required to be transparent because everyone considers himself a superior haggler who will never get taken advantage of by a car salesperson. And the price of a car repair must be disclosed because everyone knows someone who can always do it cheaper.

Unfortunately I forgot about those caveats when we had the brakes fixed on our car a couple of months ago. I stopped at the local brewpub for a beer where I sat next to “Any Other Guy in the World” (who we will abbreviate as “Any” for our purposes here).

Female bartender: Can I help you?

Me: Give me the hoppiest IPA you have. And make it a 23 ouncer.

Any: Wow, tough day?

Me: Yeah, just got my car out of the repair shop.

Any: (to the bartender) Ma'am, put his beer on my tab.

Me: Thanks, mighty kind of you.

Any: I've been there. I'm sure you need a break after that. What did they get you for?

Me: Brakes. Front and back.

Any: Disks? Pads?

Me: Everything, plus some stuff I had never heard of.

Any: Wooh, that's tough. So what did they charge?

Me: A lot more than I had planned for.

Any: And what did you plan for?

Me: (after a long pause) A few hundred dollars.

Any: Mmm-hmm. (wincing) Now you didn't go to a …

Me: Dealer? Heck no. They'll rip you off. Charge you for the paper mats they put it in the car to avoid tracking in grease.

Any: Amen to that. (He raised his glass and I clinked mine with it.) So if you didn't go to the dealer then you probably got a fair deal. So what did it run you?

Me: ( I hesitated for a long time then finally realized I had to come clean) $800.

Any: Mercy! Were they solid gold brakes?

Me: Well it included a lifetime warranty.

Any: Sounds like 5 lifetime warranties to me, plus a pet Panda bear for the kids.

Bartender: That's not so bad. That's about what I paid when I had mine replaced.

Any: Well you're a woman.

Me: Yeah, you're supposed to get ripped off on car repairs. (pause) Hey, wait a minute, are you implying that I'm a woman?

Any: (shrugs, looks up at the ceiling, then sips his beer)

Me: I'm new to the area so I kind of had to guess on where to go. Back in Boston, I had a guy that could have done it for $500.

Any: Those are yankee prices. I got a guy out on County Road 400 would do it for $300 tops. And since he knows me, I get a friend discount of $150.

Me: That's nothing. My guy in Boston not only would give me the same friend discount, but he'd throw in a couple of Celtics courtside tickets.

Any: Basketball? My guy has a private suite at Cowboys Stadium which I get to use once a season as long as I get my oil changed by him.

Me: Ha! My guy pays me to change my oil.

Any: My guy drills then synthesizes his own oil and provides it free of charge. And it's a weight you can't find in any store. And he doesn't always ask to change my air filter.

(I finally realized we could declare it a draw at this point, plus he bought me a beer, so I decided to back off.)

Me: Your guy sounds impressive. How can he afford all that?

Any: He fixes a lot of women's cars.