Sparta Townson, CEO Of Internet Guru Girl

 From the internet guru girl blog:

Personal note from CEO of IGG:

While there are many ways to project your business on line, you have to make sure you feel comfortable with the company or person you are intrusting[sic] your site and online marketing to.

Make sure you understand what it does, what you expect from it, and know that IGG is telling you that the web works better than any other medium but you have to allow the features you’ve chose to work together.


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You Often See Twins With An Older Sibling...

I thought the doctors would be able to tell us whether my wife was carrying fraternal or identical twins. When she was pregnant with them. Wasn’t that something they could just know? Well, the answer was “not always”.

There are several ways of immediately identifying twins as dizygotic – that is, as coming from two separate eggs, aka fraternal – the most obvious being boy/girl. In our case, boy/boy, so that didn’t help. By the time of their birth, all other factors which could have marked them as fraternal were eliminated: placenta, inner amniotic and outer chorionic membranes, and same blood type. But what about separate sacs, don’t identicals share the same sac? Not for the super majority of monozygotes, and in fact it’s the rare same sac scenario that leads to such difficulties as conjoined twins. Thank goodness then, no confirmation there.

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The Suggestion Box: Art Not Science?

Amazon has an annoying (and highly profitable) habit of suggesting books I might like, based on my past searches and purchase history. Occasionally their software for figuring out what else they can sucker me into impulse buying goes horribly wrong, often with amusing results. Here’s a recent example:

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Zygosity Testing Results

I’ve always said that they’re either identicals with a few physical differences, or fraternals that look an awful lot alike. I’ll explain, perhaps, in a later post how it is that after more than three years we still weren’t sure, but for now, the results:

Dear Mr. Spencer:

Our laboratory has successfully completed your zygosity test and your test results have been mailed. Thank you for your interest in our zygosity testing services. As requested when you placed your order, we have included a copy of your test results in this email.

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Hot Dog Lawyers And The Courthouse Scam

Greenfield posted this morning about lawyers advertising their services on hot dog stands outside the courthouse. Reminded me of a few things that only I would consider blawgworthy, but then I make the decisions around this place, so here goes.

First, we used to have a Porfirio’s Tacos truck serving muy delicioso tacos, including my favorite, the al carbon. (My favorite might have been the al pastor, but they didn’t serve that.) They would pull up in a little truck and park halfway onto the sidewalk outside “the annex” – that is, what we used to call the criminal courthouse.

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And All The Stonies Were Dancing To The Radio

My wife and I were watching the news last week when this tidbit came to our attention:

As Indiana Democratic leaders scramble to replace Evan Bayh in the US Senate race, one name is emerging from left field: rock musician John Mellencamp.

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Farm Aid V, 1992

Very soon Texas Stadium will be imploded; but 18 years ago, a twenty-something kid enjoyed Farm Aid 5 and its seven hour marathon of non stop live music. The bands included such nationally lesser-knowns as Austin’s own Asleep at the Wheel, Kinky Friedman, and The Geezinslaws (think Sammy Allred, formerly of 98.1).

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Three Wee Kings

Several classes of eight 3-year olds a piece, dressed as stars, shepherds, lambs, and other characters out of a nativity scene marched in through the nave, past the parents with cameras, and up to the front of the altar of the parochial Lutheran Daycare on a Wednesday morning at 11 a.m., and sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”.

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Recent Searches

Some google searches that caught my eye:

www. austin state laws on - Quick, check GoDaddy. It may still be available. Probably not with the spaces in the URL though.

Can judge still sentence jail after acquittal? – The answer is supposed to be “No”, but that’s not always the case. (Also see federal sentencing.)

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Marketing Plan: Encourage Repeat Business

Received an email today inviting me to learn (no doubt at some up front cost to me) how I could:

motivate [my] best clients to return for more business.

I wonder if the spammer knows (or cares) that I only practice criminal defense.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far

One of Sam’s teachers told me that he was the class clown. (When my wife was told the same thing at a parent-teacher conference, she said it must be genetic.)

Sounded possibly like a bad review of his behavior, but the teacher assured me that it wasn’t, that he just says things that make even his teachers laugh. And apparently at a much greater rate than most 3 year olds.

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Code For Vizio TV / DirecTV Tivo Peanut Remote

Press the DirecTV and the TV Power button simultaneously, for approximately 5 seconds, or until the red light at the top blinks. Type in code 0-1-2-8. Tada!

Note to others: this may not work for you. This code works on my exact TV, with my exact box, and my exact remote. The reason I have put this on my blog is that every time I have to reprogram the damn thing – say, for example, I change the batteries – I go to the computer to look up the code.

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Three Whole Years Of Blogging

This blog turns three years old today. Actually, I think the first live post may have been “Logical Fallacies and Marijuana Decriminalization” posted on September 21, 2006, and there were several articles written prior to putting the blog online, but I forgot to comment on the anniversary last week, so I’m arbitrarily moving it to October 1st. (I also reserve the right to re-forget and bump the birthday to the middle of October next year.)

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Happy Mother's Day

Or should I say Happy Father’s Day, because what other wish could a dad have than a great mother for his children?

My wife took our two boys to Big Stacy park today (distinguishing it from Little Stacy Park just to the north, pronounced “Yittle Stacy”, and from “Tiny Stacy Park” which exists, as far as I can tell, only in their two-and-a-half year old imaginations).

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Anything to Reduce the Size of Government

I’m not much for labels, and I refuse to say I’m a Democrat, or a Libertarian, and I assume it goes without saying I reject the notion that I am a Republican.

But if you had to pigeon hole me, I’m something of a little “l” libertarian, at least as far as that means I’m socially “liberal” and economically “conservative”. I don’t like government waste any more than the next guy. Waste, that is, government waste.

But the big “L” libertarians often use a certain phrase that I just don’t understand. For example, my friend and Dallas criminal defense lawyer Robert Guest uses it in a post about tea parties:

As a libertarian I'm for anything that reduces the size and scope of government.

You’re for anything that reduces the size and scope of government? How about…

  • Closing down all the public schools?
  • Doing away with the fire stations?
  • Reneging on our promises and cutting off Medicare for the elderly?
  • Shutting down all the prisons (not just the 50% filled with drug war victims)?

I’m for funding science and technology research, including arguably unnecessary programs like NASA. Financial aid for undergraduates seems like a good idea, but I suppose a strict economic conservative could make a reasoned argument against it. Maybe the private sector could do a better job delivering mail than the U.S. Postal Service seems to. I doubt it would, but I’d be willing to listen.

But anything that reduces government? Isn’t that going too far?

[Update: Windy Pundit answers back.  He points out not only the obvious - that the "anything" part is an exageration, but defends the big "L" libertarian position well.]

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Life Without The Internet

Say it ain’t so. You can’t live without that great big series of tubes, can you?

Well, I’ve just spent the better part of two weeks without internet access at home, and I managed to make it through just fine. Basically my cable modem crapped out on me, then it took me a while to get Time Warner out to check the problem, then the cable guy laughed at the old modem they themselves had installed 7 years ago, wondering out loud how technology had passed me by. And a few days after that, when I was able to tear myself away from the office for the better part of another afternoon, the Spencer family was back online.

By then I’d been offline so long (one week probably – gasp!) that I fell out of the habit of plopping myself in front of the computer for an hour or two after the kids went to bed. So a few more days passed.

Regular blogging stopped. I had to catch up on a few more emails at work instead of at home. The reduced staring-at-the-screen time meant I definitely missed some stupid people doing stupid things on YouTube. I’ll probably never catch up on that now.

So I’m back now. Tapping out some random thoughts, some of which some day now will occasionally pertain to criminal defense. Not sure I’ll be better off with the cable modem access. But I’m not going to cancel it either.


She Got The Gold Mine (I Got The Shaft)

If I were a divorce lawyer who wanted to start blogging… wait, wait, wait… tangent alert:

I am not a divorce lawyer. And by the way – double tangent alert - if I were, I’d be a “divorce lawyer”, not a “family law attorney”. What the hell is that anyway? Worst euphemism ever? Divorce ain’t all that great if you’ve got a family, by which I mean children. Why kid ourselves by pretending that you need a “family lawyer”… you need a divorce lawyer.

Divorce may be necessary, or it may be the best option you have available. Ubiquitous no-fault divorce makes better public policy than “let’s go to court and make up bad stuff about each other so we can get split up” divorce law. I am not saying there’s anything wrong with you getting a divorce. This sideline diatribe isn’t about moral judgments. Just pointing out that “divorce” and “family” are closer to antonyms than synonyms.

What I am saying: please don’t call me about divorcing your wife/husband/spouse. I don’t practice that kind of law. And I’m nowhere near sure about this, but I figure if the two of you can’t go to your local bookstore, buy a $20 how-to-do-your-own-divorce book (because they all end up the same anyway: wife gets custody of kids, man pays child support based on a pre-set table depending on his income), and figure it out on your own… then there’s already a problem.

And I don’t and won’t and can’t make myself care about Great Aunt Millie’s lampshade. I don’t care that Millie was her biological aunt but she liked you better and wanted you to have the lampshade. Do not call me about a potential divorce.

OK, now that you’ve staked the soul of your first born, or your Beamer - whatever it is that's most important to you - to the promise that you will not call me about a divorce, let me get back to the topic at hand…

So, if I were a divorce lawyer who wanted to start blogging, and wanted to have an interesting title for my blog, I’d think about using the title of the 1982 Jerry Reed hit “She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft)” as the name of my blog. Not sure anyone’s going to take creative blog naming advice from someone who thought about it for about two seconds and named his blog “Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer”, but, I’m throwing it out there, for what it’s worth. Free of charge; run with it. Here’s Jerry Reed and some lyrics: 

 Well, I tried to get in, she changed the lock.
Then I found this note taped on the mailbox that said,
"Goodbye, turkey. My attorney will be in touch."
So I decided right then and there I was gonna do what's right
Give 'er her fair share but, brother,
I didn't know her share was gonna be that much.

She got the goldmine… (She got the goldmine…)
I got the shaft. (I got the shaft.)
They split it right down the middle,
And then they give her the bigger half.
Well, it all sounds mighty funny,
But it hurts too much to laugh.
She got the goldmine, I got the shaft.

Martin Van Buren?

As far as I can remember, I haven’t laid hands on one of the new $1 coins before this week. But waiting outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Congress on 9th Street earlier this week, I bought a hot dog from a vending cart. (Condiments free, but if you’re curious: Spicy mustard, pickle relish and sauerkraut. It was delicious.)

I paid with a $5 bill and got two coins back. This coin in fact:


Martin Van Buren, I thought? There’s a Van Buren Coin? Really?

Not that much mystery to it. I had forgotten: the U.S. Mint is making its way through all the presidents.

[Update: Always remember to pay for your hot dog.]


"Billions and Billions"

My parents weren’t big on letting us watch much TV as kids. Mostly it was Masterpiece Theatre and the occasional non-PBS type fare such as “Bridge on the River Kwai – because it has Alec Guinness in it”. No, he has nothing to do with the beer, and he’s not Alec Baldwin’s dad, you know – Obi Wan Kenobi. (Actually Star Wars was one of the few movies we saw in the theater; I now suspect probably for the same reason.)

So it’s been a nostalgia tour for me Netflix-ing my way through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I’m on the fifth out of seven discs now and randomly came across this picture surfing the internet:

The rest of the story behind that picture can be viewed here at I had originally imagined this post titled “Insignificance” with just the first picture and the link but decided to change it.

There’s something about learning exactly how small we all are in the grand scheme of things that actually makes living life more significant, not less.


What Your Parents Did (or Do)

About saying “After all, my Mom was an English teacher,” Wayne Schiess continues:

If you are a lawyer, especially a lawyer who is serious about legal writing, and especially a lawyer who teaches legal writing, this is a cool thing to be able to say. You don't even need to complete the thought. Listeners will assume that because your mother was an English teacher, she insisted that you speak correctly, that you use language precisely, and that you take writing seriously.

In reality, your English-teacher mother may have insisted on those things, and she may not have. And even if she insisted on them, you may not have learned them. So having an English-teacher mother really means . . . nothing?

He’s right. It doesn’t really mean much if anything. But I’d probably use the phrase more often myself if I taught writing.

I wonder what I’d be trying to imply if I said “My dad taught math and science”. I certainly use the “Mom/English teacher” infrequently, but the “Dad/Math & Science” less still.

If I need to describe what my Dad did, I usually instead go with “My Dad was a mad scientist”. If illustration is necessary, I tell the story of a father’s day when I was in my twenties, and I came home to see him.

Mind you, Father’s Day is the day Dad gets to do whatever he wants. Well, I find him in the study, sitting at his desk behind an oscilloscope with who knows how many yards of fiber optic cable coiled all over the room and some contraption that I can tell he’s built himself. It looks a little bit like it could have come out of one of those Buy-Your-5th-Grade-Child-A-Science-Kit, except that since he constructed it from spare wood and transistors (whatever, I don’t know what they were) that were lying around the garage, it doesn’t look quite that fancy.

Of course I have no idea what he’s doing so I ask…

Me: What are you doing?

My Dad: I’m trying to verify the speed of light.

That was at least 15 years ago, and I’m pretty sure he was retired, so it’s not like he was setting up this experiment for a Physics class. He was actually just trying to see how close he could come to figuring out (the already known) speed of light.

Well, that’s it. I haven’t the slightest idea why I wrote this post. I just thought what Wayne said was amusing and it struck a chord with me, so I started with that, and then I went off on a couple of tangents. If you knew my Dad, this post will make more sense to you.  Feel free to return to your regularly scheduled programming.


On Writing Well

A few months ago, before the election, a judge and I were talking about the presidential candidates (a discussion made easier by our complete and total agreement on our preference) and I asked her whether she had read Obama’s memoir “Dreams From My Father”. She hadn’t.

Oh you must, I insisted. The only downside is realizing that when someone can express themselves and turn a phrase as well as he does, my own dreams of becoming a published author, perhaps of the next Great American Novel, start looking, well, like pipe dreams. It’s all for the best, I said. I can write my book when I get done reading all the good ones I haven’t gotten around to yet.


She then recommended Barbara Kingsolver’s collection of essays “Small Wonder”, and it’s taken me this long to get around to it. Just started it in fact, but something in her dedication struck me.


The book was published in 2002 and some of the 23 essays are a semi-direct response to September 11th. She ends the foreword with these words:


I dedicate this book to every citizen of my country who has suffered bereavement with honor, trepidation without panic, and the insult of fundamentalist condemnation without succumbing to similar thinking. We may yet show the world we are worth our salt.


Well written indeed, and better expressed than I could have. Downright prescient six years later. And the best Bush can come up with? Some other dude did it.


[Update: Well, no update update, that is...  As I waited 3 weeks to write my next post, I thought to myself, writing semi-often is also a component of writing well.  Use it or lose it...]

The $100 Six Pack

…or “How To Not Get Arrested for DWI”

Background for the Post

I went to see Steanso and his band play some excellent tunes from the 80’s a few months ago and it was a great gig. Folks were talking about it all over the Travis County Courthouse for some time afterwards. Rumor is the setlist got published or at least emailed, and that there might be a second go-round. And that they might take requests in advance. I hope so.

When I got home that night, I thought, “I should write a post called the $100 six pack”. Never got around to it.

Yesterday, Jason reminded me that it’s now the two year anniversary of Jeff’s passing. Time to write the post. The details about that night at the skating rink are slightly fuzzier now – more from aging than alcohol - so I might get something wrong in the telling, but the point remains the same. Here goes:

The $100 Six Pack

I don’t get out much anymore (see: twin toddlers) but when I heard that Jason’s band was playing one of my favorite genres – 80’s classics – I knew I had to go.

I was also pretty sure that hanging out late at night in a skating rink listening to songs from my youth could be enhanced by the consumption of an alcoholic beverage. Or two. OK, maybe more.

So here’s the point about the ‘$100 Six Pack’:

I took a cab.

That’s it. I took a cab there. I took a cab back. I live in South Austin. The band was playing at 183 & MoPac. North Austin. Google Maps says that’s 12+ miles and 18+ minutes from my house. 

My house to the 7/11 to the Skating Rink/Band and back to my house.

That’s – what? - almost 25 miles and when you factor in waiting for me to run into the convenience store… it’s a big bill. If my memory serves me, the whole night cost just under $100.

I went and saw the band, and I think I polished off 5 beers over several hours. Then I took a cab back home.

$100 is a lot to spend for a ‘night out on the town’ - but there was an exactly 0.0000% chance that I would be arrested for DWI and it’s also a lot less expensive than getting arrested.

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NetRoots Nation: Sunshine Laws for Bloggers

Just found out that Dallas criminal defense lawyer Robert Guest is speaking at next week’s NetRoots Nation conference as part of a panel on “Sunshine Laws for Bloggers”:

Nearly every state has some form of open records or "sunshine" law designed to make accessing public records at least somewhat less difficult than it otherwise could be.

However, as useful as this tool has been to the mainstream media, many bloggers are unaware or unsure of how to take advantage of it.

This panel discussion will provide a public records primer for bloggers and Netroots activists to learn how they can use public information laws to better report the news in their community, state and nation.

As his speaker bio notes, Robert has “uncovered the Austin Police/Austin Energy warrantless surveillance program, exposed "fill in the blank" DWI blood search warrants, and discovered that Rick Perry's email is available for $54 a day.”


Arguing the Second Amendment: The Heller Decision

While the Constitution is in many ways a beautifully written document, the framers deserve no gold stars when it comes to how they phrased the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The conflict resolved by the Supreme Court in DC v Heller today arises from the ambiguity created by the frankly flowery language.

In a nutshell: Does the Militia preamble part of the amendment limit the right or not? If it doesn’t, why is it in there? (Because – say the Supremes – it’s basically an example of why it’s necessary not a limitation.)

If it is limited to militias, why does it speak of the ‘right of the people’? Doesn’t that sound like an individual right? (And wouldn’t that lead to an absurd result?)

I’m no gun nut, so let me say this from a strictly legal standpoint: Scalia’s majority decision striking down DC’s ban on handguns is much less tortured than Stevens’ dissent.  As usual, he comes off like a jerk, especially when describing the minority position.

But the dissenters have failed to convince me that ‘to keep and bear arms’ doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means.

Recount: An Open Wound

Watched HBO’s Recount last night with my wife and sister-in-law, and thought about blogging on it.

Basically, it’s too painful to write about. Of course, there was no realistic recourse for the parts like 20,000 non-felons purged from the voting rolls – oh, who just so happened to be likely big D Democratic voters.

Several times we just groaned. Paused the DVR and talked about what should have been done. Started watching again.

It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But yes, it’s salt on an open wound.

Crimson Flames Tied Through My Ears

My rough transcription – but possibly accurate, I rewound several times - from Obama’s Tuesday night victory speech:

[McCain’s] plan to win in November appears to come from the very same playbook that his side has used time after time and election after election.

Yes, we know what’s coming. I’m not naive. We’ve already seen it.

The same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn’t agree with their ideas. The same efforts to distract us from the issues that effect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hopes that the media will play along.

The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for political gain, to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states, blue collar and white collar, white, black, brown, young, old, rich, poor…

This is the race we expect… The question then is not what kind of campaign they will run…

It’s what kind of campaign we will run.

I’ve been a politics watcher for a long time now, and frankly I’ve gotten more and more cynical with each passing election cycle. Without even realizing it, over time I came to believe that no one ever could change the tone in Washington – or would even try.

Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

Insult My Intelligence, Please

One day before the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” the Dean of White House reporters Helen Thomas and White House Spokesperson Dana Perino last Wednesday at a press conference:

MS. THOMAS: How does the President intend to commemorate "Mission Accomplished" after five years of death and destruction?

MS. PERINO: What you're referring to is the banner that ran -- that was aboard the ship five years ago. President Bush –

MS. THOMAS: I'm talking about the anniversary tomorrow.

MS. PERINO: Yes, I get -- no, I understand. That's the anniversary of when that banner flew on that ship. President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said "mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission." And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.

That’s right. The president thought the banner was going to say:


(for the guys on this ship)

(pay no attention to my big airplane entrance)

(never mind the cameras and the media)

(this sign isn’t about the War in Iraq)

(it’s about a few hundred guys on this ship)

How was he to know that someone goofed and left out the fine print?

Seriously, I get lied to by clients on occasion, and frankly sometimes I expect it. It might take a few times before they feel like telling me what’s really going on in their case. Or for them to trust that I will work hard on their case no matter what the facts are.

But, I also get told outrageous lies at times. And it’s a little insulting. It’s not the “not being truthful with me” part that I mind; it’s the storyteller thinking I’m dumb enough to believe this particular load of garbage. How dumb do you think I am?

By the same token, I’m used to politicians – and their spokespeople - being shall we say less than truthful. But can anyone tell me why Perino was allowed by the press to tell this ridiculous whopper totally unreported and unchallenged?