The Truth Shall Make You Dead

Within the 30 to 40 days, I expect to have available a new novelette called The Truth Shall Make You Dead. The main character is Nacho Perez, the same detective as in Nacho Perez, Private Eye. Here’s what the cover of the new book will look like:

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Google Fiber Hut in San Antonio’s Haskin Park

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Haskin Park is a small, neighborhood park in San Antonio, Texas. My grandson likes to play in it. The City has authorized Google to build Google Fiber huts in various such parks, including Haskin Park. Google Fiber Huts are 10×30 foot structures . . . that house the telecommunications and fiber interface equipment necessary for Google to provide high-speed internet. Each hut supports about 20,000 homes.

I don’t question that Google Fiber is a good thing, and I have no reason to believe the huts aren’t a necessary adjunct. But that’s not an excuse to cut corners.

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Haskin Park was created by the plat that laid out the neighborhood surrounding it. plat-v-3700-p-268

As such, the city owns only an easement for the park, not the fee interest in the land. That is made clear by the case of Humble Oil & Refining v. Blankenburg, which concerned the right to lease minerals under the Townsite of Charlotte. One litigant claimed through the original developer who filed the plat laying out the townsite, and the other claimed through the town itself. humble-oil-v-blankenburg

The court found that the townsite plat created only an easement. Thus, the town itself did not own the minerals, which remained with the original developer. Thus, Humble Oil & Refining, which claimed through the developer, prevailed.

John Whitsett, a concerned citizen, filed a Public Information Request for a copy of the deed by which the City holds title. No deed was forthcoming, but Mr. Whitsett did receive documents containing the following assertion:

“It is our position that the City of San Antonio has sufficient real property rights to authorize the placement of the hut under the conditions being considered and we specifically reject your premise that the City would need a deed from Mr. Lee (Quincy Lee was the developer laying ouy the neighborhood) in order to conduct this activity. I am sorry if you feel that this use will be an annoyance to you and your neighbors. “

If the City had a deed to Haskin Park, it would have produced it. If it thought it somehow otherwise had fee title, it would probably have explained that. Thus, we have an apparent admission that the City holds only an easement, presumably the park easement created by the above plat. By saying the City has the right to allow the Google Fiber hut, it is impliedly saying that a park easement allows the City to let private businesses conduct non-park-related activities in public parks.

That is a sweeping assertion. One wonders whether, in the City’s view, owning the fee of a parcel would convey any rights not covered by a park easement. We ought at least to be clear what the City is asserting and to consider how it might be applied in future cases.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Politics has become so polarized that it’s easy to lose sight of basic truths. Because the Left has appropriated King as a symbol of their cause, some on the right may lose sight of his accomplishments. Though King was a human being with feet of clay, by helping to bring about peaceful racial reform, his service to this country was invaluable. And he left the world materially better off than he found it. About how many of us can that be said? He well deserves the day we have set aside to honor him.

Borgata Casino Unwilling to Play by its Own Rules

Borgata Casino in Atlantic City has sued a winning gambler. But no one contends the gambler cheated or colluded in any way. He merely asked the casino to agree to certain ground rules in advance, and the casino did so. Those ground rules enabled to gambler to win big, and the casino is a sore loser.

So when the pair specified certain conditions, the casinos always obliged. In this case, as recounted in court documents, the conditions they asked for were “(1) a private area or ‘pit’ in which to play; (2) a casino dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese; (3) a guest [Sun] to sit with him at the table while he played; (4) one 8-deck shoe of purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards to be used for the entirety of each session of play; and (5) an automatic card shuffling device to be used to shuffle the cards after each shoe was dealt, which retained the orientation of each card that Sun requested to be turned.” Again, these conditions might have tipped off a counterparty knowledgeable about gambling (like a casino!) that something was up. But again, Borgata agreed to everything.

They did not agree out of the goodness of their hearts. Casinos love to indulge high-rollers because they know that the longer a player spends at the table, the more money he will lose. So they allowed the requests, and thereby exposed themselves to Ivey and Sun’s advantage: the cards in question had a minute flaw. It was just a 1/32 of an inch deviation in the pattern on the back, but Sun had trained herself to spot the tiny variation. By getting the dealer to rotate certain cards before adding them back into the deck, she and Ivey could more accurately figure out which way to bet the next time around.

The practice, known as “edge sorting,” did not violate any of the rules of baccarat, nor did it conflict with the terms agreed upon by the casino and the gamblers. Nevertheless, Borgata cried foul and sued, claiming Ivey and Sun “knowingly engaged in a scheme to create a set of marked cards and then used those marked cards to place bets based on the markings.”

The gambler did not create the flaw in the cards, and these are the same cards routinely used by the casino.

The casino’s agreement to the requested rules reminds me of a Sky Masterson line from “Guys and Dolls.” Masterson was recounting advice received from his father:

One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.

For sure the casino has cider in its ear. But unlike the casino, Masterson paid his debt.

 

Sometimes it’s Worse Not to Split an Infinitive (or To Not Split?)

Eugene Volokh points to a post on Language Log discussing an egregious example of an unsplit infinitive:

At a computer-security conference in 2015, researchers demonstrated how wirelessly to hack a car made by Jeep, spinning its steering wheel or slamming on its brakes.

How wirelessly to hack ?? Unbelievable. (You can find the article online with a Google search on "how wirelessly to hack". As I write, it is the only hit: no one has ever written that misbegotten four-word sequence in the prior history of the world.

The Language Log post goes on to point out that “how” can be used to modify an adjective or adverb phrase, giving the example of “how gratefully to acknowledge the gift.” That phrase asks how grateful your acknowledgment should be, not how to make your acknowledgment grateful.

Sometimes splitting an infinitive offends the ear. Sometimes not doing so offends the ear or alters the meaning of the sentence. It’s a question of judgment. Cultivate your judgment.