Old Texas county courthouses

More snow, a day later

Originally uploaded by CaptainJustice

I have a few courthouse photos and hope to add those to my Flickr site, and to add to the collection. I just wish I’d had the idea of a book of Texas courthouses before someone else did it. Actually I did think of it, while a senior in high school! Should have worked on that instead of wasting time in college.

So here’s one for starters: San Saba County, Texas.

William Bennett Creates Innovative History Series for Grades 8-12

This is big. The history of America (as opposed to simply “American history”) is a fabulous story in spite of the many bumps encountered along the way. It is a history of which to be proud to have inherited, to be a part of preserving, and to be a part of creating for future generations. Yet, sadly, as Secretary Bennett states below, it is not only our school children’s worst subject but it is being steadily illegitimized.

(Update: Links to purchase the books. Amazon.com & Barnes and Noble.  No pecuniary interest in this — just an advocate for a better education in history.  And go to the sample site for the online component of the history series as it would be used.)

Secretary Bennett stated: “History is our nation’s school children’s worst subject. And yet, the history of America is the greatest story of the modern era. It should not be boring, it should not be dumbed-down, and it should not be politicized. It is the story of a great experiment—what Abraham Lincoln called a ‘proposition.’ It is the story of many noble efforts to live up to that proposition, sometimes failing, more often, succeeding. This great adventure is told the best way I know how, chronologically, excitingly, honestly. ‘Once Upon A Time’ can still be an invitation to our youth and there is no greater ‘Once Upon A Time’ than ours. It is the dream of a lifetime for me to have a textbook in our nation’s schools explaining all of this—and with a most exciting curriculum to accompany it. And to do so with the leader in excellence in education publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is a special privilege.”

via Former Secretary of Education William Bennett Creates Innovative History Series for Grades 8-12 | Business Wire.

The Texas Board of Education — even at this time — is in the process of approving new history books (see
State Board of Education — Revisionist History in Progress) but there may yet be an opportunity to influence them toward a good history:  which this is. I have Parts I & II and find them to be a wonderful read and am convinced that they represent an authoritative work of history.  If I had the money, I would gladly donate the entire curriculum to our local school district.

And I think our local schools should be encouraged to adopt this series even if not approved by the SBOE.  I am increasingly convinced that at the feet of poor education in general and of history in particular can be laid the lacks of ambition, patriotism and sense of public service among an all too large portion of our population both young and old.  I would never stoop to condemning entire generations, but from my life and professional perspective I have to say that all too large a segment of our populace fails in those areas of ambition, patriotism and sense of public service.

Where do YOU stand? Will you call your school board members today? Is knowledge of the history of this great nation important in your mind? If it is, then you’ll do something about it.

The Will of Herman Obelweiss

Why you should be nice to your relatives, especially the older ones …

I am writing of my will
mineselluf that dam lawyer want
he should have too much money,
he asked to many answers about
family. first thing i want i dont
want my brother oscar have a
dam ting what i got. he done me
out of forty dollars fourteen years

I want it that hilda my sister
she gets the north sixtie akers of
at where i am homing it now. i bet
she dont get that loafer husband
of hers to broke twenty akers next
plowing time. she cant have it if
she lets oscar live on it i want it i
should have it back if she does.

Tell mamma that six hundred
dollars she been looking for for
twenty years is berried from the
backhouse behind about ten feet
down. she better let little frederick
do the digging and count it
when he comes up.

Pastor lucknitz can have three
hundred dollars ifhe kiss the book
he wont preach no more dumhead
polotics. he should have a roof put
on the meetinghouse with (it) and
the elders should the bills look at.

Momma the rest should get but i
want it that adolph shud tell her
what not she do so no more slick
irishers sell her vokum cleaners
dy noise like hell and a broom dont
cost so much.

I want it that mine brother
adolph should be my execter and i
want it that the jedge make
adolph plenty bond put up and
watch him like hell.

Adolph is a good business man
but only a dumkoph would trust
him with a busted pfenning. i
want dam sure that schlemic
oscar dont nothing get. tell adolph
he can have a hundred dollars if
he prove to jedje oscar dont get
nothing. that dam sure fix oscar.

(signed) Herman Obelweiss.

I’ve had this piece for my entire legal career and have used it many times in speeches. It’s cute, and is reported to be an actual Will filed in Anderson County, Texas.  Don’t let it be said that the law is totally dry.

APRS tracks – an example from the Austin Marathon

APRS, the Automated Packet Reporting System is a mystery to many — hams and “civilians” alike — and continues to be to me as well.  It is often used for community events such as marathons and I thought this set of tracks from the 2010 Austin Marathon was interesting:

APRS tracks at the 2010 Austin Marathon

You can see several APRS units having been tracked here. This view was captured about 1pm with a 6 hour window looking backwards so what you see is virtually the entire APRS support for the marathon. I’m not sure what the AMDOWN-1 tracker was, but I’m suspecting it was a mobile digipeater to give better access into the APRS-IS system, i.e. feed the tracks into the internet.

These type events are done as a public service and also to drill the skills that may be needed for emergency communications.

Murder on the Mountain — a tale of justice

(This was originally done as a speech for the Highland Lakes Toastmasters, and is based on an actual case. The essential facts are true, with minimal poetic license taken.)

I am here to tell you a tale of Murder on the Mountain.  A true tale, and you know it is for I would not tell you that were it not so.  It’s a tale of evil.  But evil is often juxtaposed with good, and sometimes they meet head to head.  And we hope that good wins over evil.

First let me share a tale of two people sharing a seemingly good life, indeed an idyllic one.  The couple met when she was only 16 and while he was a good bit older, there was an immediate attraction and on the very day they met, on a sunny afternoon beside the river, they made love on the cool grass of the river bank.  Over many years there were children, and they traveled back and forth between Texas and Colorado in their RV, enjoying life.  Somewhere in the 20 years another woman came to live with them and the three commenced enjoying what some would call an “unconventional” relationship.

In spite of their seemingly idyllic life there had been evil even before they met.  There had been a murder on a mountain.  On a cold, high mountain top in Colorado.  How do we know?  Because there was a photo of the victim.  Gruesome, as such photos tend to be.  And the man talked to the woman about it.  How he had to kill the fellow and how later the body was tossed down a mine shaft on that cold, high mountaintop in Colorado.

Why would the man tell the woman these horrible things, you ask yourself?

You see, the “love” on the banks of the river was not love, but rape.
And the man was older because, he was the girl’s father … having left her mother even before the birth.  They had been reunited that day, that special day on her 16th birthday.  And after the rape, he kidnapped her and kept her captive for those 20 years, dodging discovery by flipping between Texas and Colorado, not in an RV but in a junky trailer, living in out of the way places.

Fear kept the woman under control.  That photo was enlarged.  It portrayed a man, obviously dead, hanging upside down in a tree — spread-eagle and naked; and the enlarged photo hung over their bed, always, with the threat that if she ran he would find her and she would endure a similar fate.

The other woman was not simply a new friend but a stranger who had become lost and sought directions at the wrong place, and was snared in the man’s trap.  There were indeed many children, but few were born for most of the many pregnancies ended in abortions.

Yes, good and evil can meet face to face, and good usually wins.  It did here, for he was caught and tried. The daughter and other woman testified, bravely.  I say bravely because this man was pure evil in flesh form.  There have been only two defendants into whose eyes I could not look.  He as the first, and the one and only time I looked him in the eye it sent such chills down my spine that I vowed to never again do that. Instead, I would look down at his chest when I had to address him.

The women testified, bravely as I said.  They looked him right in the eye and told the story of those many years of rape and incest.  And they looked the jurors in the eyes and their clear facts resulted in a conviction.  I did once again look into the defendant’s eyes – on the day that I rendered the jury’s multiple sentences and stacked them so that he could  never again see the light of day.

Good triumphed over evil that week in a country courtroom in Burnet County. Justice prevailed over the man, and both women were freed, not only physically, but now psychologically and emotionally in spite of horrors that most of us can barely imagine.

Now then you know the real story.   It’s not so much about the juxtaposition of good and evil in this world, or the fact that pure evil does exist, but it’s more about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of evil.

There is an epilogue to these tales.  The man who came to be called “defendant” and now is “convict” wanted to spend his time in a Colorado prison instead of Texas.  He bartered a deal with Colorado that he could do that if he could lead them to the remains of the man in the tree and clear up the Murder on the Mountain.  A Texas Ranger took him to Colorado and with the Colorado state police and the convict they combed the cold, high mountaintop where the convict thought that mine shaft to be located, but it was never found.

He remains in the Texas prison system.  As far as I know, the women lived happily ever after.

— 30 —

And if you’d like to hear it …

Solve all the pathology in America today

There’s a really smart guy talking on the radio … and it’s not me.  No, really.  It’s Bill Bennett, and those who know me very well at all know that I think he really is … a really smart guy. And he talks on the radio on the Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show.  I get it on Sirius and subscribe so that I can download the podcasts since I can’t be available for the whole show.

Bennett was Secretary of Education under President Reagan and later “Drug Czar” as it was called.  He is a tremendous historian (love “America: the Last Best Hope” — the best American history you will ever read), and a keen observer of American life today.  He said something on Feb 4 that while obvious to most, still bears repeating.  He was talking to a teacher from Montgomery, Texas who was bemoaning the 10 below-70 grades he had recently issued … and having had NO parent call.  The discussion turned to what’s wrong and Bill said “… give me better families, better schools, and more teaching in the churches and I’ll give you back 90% of the pathology in American life.”

I thought it was so good that I’ve excerpted the discussion. Hear it here:

State Board of Education — Revisionist History in Progress

An interesting piece from Liberty Counsel. (Note 1)  I saw a portion of the Mike Huckabee show last night and a LC spokesman was talking about this problem.  Pay attention:  The SBOE — which approves standard curriculum textbooks — is in the process of making changes that you should know about.  America has a rich past, indeed its beginning, founded on Judeo-Christian values and the continued assault from many sources to obliterate this history is both disturbing and fraudulent. That our own State Board of Education might be participating is a horrifying indictment of the “government school system.”  Awaken, silent majority, awaken to this threat and do something about it.

Some of the suggestions that have come forward at various times include:

* Removing references to Daniel Boone, General George Patton, Nathan Hale, Columbus Day, and Christmas.

* Including the cultural impact of hip hop music, ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow, and the Hindu holiday of Diwali.

* Replacing the term “American” with “Global Citizen”– stating that students need to be shaped “for responsible citizenship in a global society” without any mention of citizenship in American society.

* Replacing expansionism and free enterprise with imperialism and capitalism.

The Board’s next meeting is in March and the final reading and adoption of the social studies guidelines will be in May.

Make your voice heard now, before the next meeting. Please call the board members at 512-463-9734 and encourage them to promote traditional, pro-American language in their guidelines, or you may email them at sboeteks@tea.state.tx.us.

via Liberty Counsel. (http://lc.org/index.cfm?PID=14102&AlertID=1094 accessed on 2/8/2010)

The ability of the Texas SBOE to, essentially, set the social studies/history textbooks for the nation is a huge issue this year.  As was pointed out on the Liberty Counsel site,

As Texas is a leader in textbooks, most other states purchase the same educational materials. The textbook controversy in Texas affects every American because, to have a bright future, we must know our past. America has a rich past founded on Judeo-Christian values and to forget them, or worse, to distort them, will doom our future. Those who want to reshape America begin by rewriting our past. We repeat the mistakes of the past when we are ignorant of them.

You can see the members of the SBOE on their site.

I am looking for the resources to see the actual process and the specific current proposals … if anyone has links, let me know.


(1) Liberty Counsel’s “About” page states

Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family. Established in 1989, Liberty Counsel is a nationwide organization with offices in Florida, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and hundreds of affiliate attorneys across the Nation.

Favorite productivity computer programs

Yes, productive, really. While much surrounding a computer can become a huge waste of time, there are some programs that are truly productivity enhancers. Here are a few that I rely on every day. Disclaimer: no pecuniary interest, just a happy customer.

Caution: large article. If you see this on Facebook you’ll want to go to my blog to read and see the screen shots better.

Keybreeze:  As their site says, “Perform any task in a second” thus

Start the process from the hotkey

Once you press the hotkey, type entries to …

  • Open files, folders, and websites.
  • Search your computer.
  • Search websites.
  • Perform system tasks.
  • Control windows on your screen.
  • Paste custom text into a text field.
  • Automate actions.
  • Create notes; set reminders.
  • Launch plug-ins.

    Example of the window of commands

and just tap the semicolon twice to insert
a semicolon in a text field.

There is a free version for personal use that is quite good, and for $19.95 you get a commercial license with more features. Right now you get TWO licenses for $20 (as of 2/7/2010 anyway) so that’s a really good deal.

I use it to start up ALL of my programs, common websites, and more.

Ever have problems remembering things? Tired of making notes on your computer screen with a magic marker only to have to use whiteout to make changes?   🙂  Like to jot down or somehow remember stuff, either from a phone call or conversation, or something off of the internet?

Then try Evernote.

Depicting the types of media capable of being stored in Evernote

Again, there is a very adequate free version (Jen says I’m the king of free software) but I’ve opted for the $45/year “Pro” version because it does a lot of things very well. And I believe in supporting good software.  From their website:

Chances are, if you can see it or think of it, Evernote can help you remember it. Type a text note. Clip a web page. Snap a photo. Grab a screenshot. Evernote will keep it all safe.

Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. If you like, you can add tags or organize notes into different notebooks.

Search for notes by keywords, titles, and tags. Evernote magically makes printed and handwritten text inside your images searchable, too.

Just a few of the potential uses of Evernote ...

Only your imagination (or lack thereof) will hinder what you can do with Evernote for capturing thoughts and information.

I captured this screen shot using Evernote and it went immediately into a note. I then right-clicked on it in Evernote and saved it as a jpeg file so that I could upload it here.

You can store almost any kind of file or graphic.

And my favorite productivity-machine software is yet to come. It’s not free, but there is a free trial that gives you a great preview. I’ve written about it before, called “The Brain.” It now is not simply “The Brain” but rather “THE” brain, i.e. mine. Proceeding with all due speed I am dumping everything I know into it.  As the website says,

Simply type in your ideas. Drag and drop files and web pages. Any idea can be linked to anything else. Using your digital Brain is like cruising through a Web of your thinking. See new relationships. Discover connections. Go from the big picture of everything to a specific detail in seconds. Accelerate your mind.

Any type of document, a web link or a whole page, photos, free-form text, anything … literally … can be stored in, linked to/from, commented upon, searched, and otherwise used and referenced, very quickly. You have to go to the site to get even a moderate appreciation of the power, but here’s a preview.

One use I make is to document complex cases to keep track of the parties, lawyers, pleadings, deadlines, pending motions, research, and literally everything I want to recall from hearing to hearing. Here is the top level of the hierarchy of a case, actual screen shots from my Brain:

You see typical areas of info for a case.

Everything is organized in a hierarchy (which you choose) of parent (above), child (below) or sibling (side) relationship. Any item can have multiple parents, multiple children and/or multiple siblings.

When an item is selected, it becomes the central item and its parents, children and siblings are arranged around it, thusly:

Here you see something about the parties and lawyers

If you can see it, there is a small icon to the left of the Plaintiffs box, it’s actually a small photograph. Documents create their own identifiable icon (like the Word “W” of the Excel mini-sheet), but you can affix an icon of your choice as well. In this one, here is what I created for it:

Here's how to remember the lawyers not seen often.

I can easily remember all the lawyers. Although my cell phone shot (taken with their permission) is blurry, it serves its purpose.

I really can’t easily articulate in this space how powerful The Brain is. Here is a link to a page that will blow your mind if you’ll just watch the videos.

And be absolutely certain to click on the links in the box to the right and view the recorded webcast. Here is the graphic, click on it to view an amazing process, and some fascinating history lessons to boot:

Click on the graphic and sit back to enjoy ....

This concludes my brief review of but three (of hundreds) of productivity/organizing software that I’ve found to be especially useful and frankly, at least in my way of thinking and doing, important parts of my personal and professional digital life.


FOXNews.com – Millions in Stimulus Spending Being Doled Out for Questionable Jobs

You’ll love this. Be sure to read the rest of the article (link below). Then thank your Congresspersons for the additional debt ceiling authorized today which amounts to $45,000 for every man, woman and child in the country!

Federal agencies are spending stimulus money at the rate of $196 million an hour. And they will do so every hour for the next eight months until a September 30, 2010, deadline.”When you put that kind of money out the door that fast, there’s a possibility of $55 billion dollars of waste, fraud and abuse connected with it,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday before a Senate Finance Committee hearing examining the lack of oversight in the $878 billion dollar economic stimulus bill passed a year ago.Grassley said he fears much of the money is going to some individuals and businesses that don’t qualify for it and projects that do not serve taxpayers best interests. Judge for yourself:

— $233,000 to the University of California at San Diego to study why Africans vote. Jobs created: 12, but seven of those are Africans in Africa.

— In Nevada, $2 million in stimulus money built a new fire station, but because of budget cuts, the county can’t afford to hire firefighters to work there.

via FOXNews.com – Millions in Stimulus Spending Being Doled Out for Questionable Jobs.