Monday, June 27, 2016

Say "thank you" to customers, get sued

Citigroup, a banking / financial company, has sued AT&T, a communications company, for saying "thank you" to its customers.  Citigroup states that its use of "thank you" for its customers is a trademark.  It says that because AT&T also says "thank you" to its own customers, this will likely confuse Citigroup's customers into thinking that AT&T is the same as Citigroup.

I don't know about you, but I don't think I'll confuse a bank with a communications company, especially for the sole reason that it says "thank you".  Does Citigroup really think its customers are that stupid?

Citigroup customers and shareholders, take notice.  This company apparently has too much money on its hands and burning a hole in its pocket.  Or, perhaps Citigroup is suffering a lowering of its self-esteem.  It wants to be the only company able to thank its customers.

No Thanks: Citigroup sues AT&T for trademark infringement

Friday, June 24, 2016

HOLES by Louis Sachar [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library e-book

Description: Stanley Yelnats [palindrome name], a boy from a family with more than its share of bad luck, is accused unjustly of stealing some shoes.  He's sent to a boy's detention center out in the desert where the warden's idea of building the boys' character is having them dig holes all day, every day.

Plot:  As Stanley and the other boys dig holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep, Stanley realizes the warden is actually looking for something buried out there in the desert.  He works on figuring it out, in the process building his character and finally ridding his family of its bad luck curse.

Characterization: Stanley is well developed.  Two of the other boys are sufficiently differentiated, but I lost track of who was who with the others.

Setting: Fictional Camp Green Lake, which is located in the desert of western Texas.  Good descriptions.

Other:  This is a middle grade book that kept my interest, even tho I'm not that demographic.  I liked how the multiple story lines, spanning three different time periods, eventually wound together.

Overall: An interesting story.

Grade: B+

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weird old laws on the books can still bite you

We've all heard of those old laws that are no longer relevant but are still on the books.  Things like on this site:

"If you're a woman living in Michigan, you might want to check with your husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, your hair belongs to your spouse and you'll need his permission before you can alter it. When visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, don't plan on packing light. According to city law, you must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public. Even in fashion forward New York City, there are laws concerning how a woman dresses. In the Big Apple, wearing clingy or body-hugging clothing carries a $25 dollar fine."

You don't think a person would actually be arrested for any of these technical violations, would you?

But you'd be wrong.
In Michigan in 1998, a man accidentally dumped his canoe, pitching himself into the frigid water.  The sudden shock caused him to let loose a string of curse words.

Unfortunately for him, back in 1897, Michigan enacted a law "making it illegal to curse around the delicate ears of women and children."

Also unfortunately for him, a mother and her two children heard him cursing.

Yep, he received a ticket, which was upheld at his trial.  He was fined $75 and ordered to serve four days of community service.

Fortunately for him, his conviction was overturned on appeal.  The judge wrote:

"Allowing a prosecution where one utters ‘insulting’ language could possibly subject a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction. We find it unquestionable that [the law], as drafted, reaches constitutionally protected speech, and it operates to inhibit the exercise of First Amendment rights."

More dumb laws

Friday, June 17, 2016

BLOOD ON SNOW by Jo Nesbo [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library New Books shelf, Audio book

Description: Olav is a man who “fixes” problems for his boss as a contract killer in Oslo [Norway].

Plot:  Olav is asked by his boss to “fix” his boss's wife.  If he fixes her, he'll be next because he knows too much.  If he refuses, he'll be next because he refused.  To complicate matters, while he's watching her to decide what to do, he falls in love with her.  There are some rather violent scenes, but also several surprising plot twists.

Characterization: Olav is very well developed.  He's a sensitive guy in all areas except for the people he “fixes”.  He's dyslexic, not very good at much except being a contract killer, and longs to learn what it means to love and be loved.  The other characters are not as well developed as Olav.

Setting: Oslo, Norway.  This is the first book I've ever read that's set in that country.  The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other:  This is a rather short [225 pages] stand-alone book by this author, who is more well-known for his Harry Hole series.  The book is translated from Norwegian.  The audio book is read by Patti Smith, who reads this book in a monotone, which adds to the characterization, possibly unintentionally.  I wouldn't care for this style of narration if it didn't match the personality of the main character.

Overall: A very introspective, literary crime novel.

Grade: B

Monday, June 13, 2016

Federal lawsuit alleging $666 billion in damages

Back in January 2016, an armed group of folks calling themselves "sovereign citizens" set up camp at an Oregon wildlife refuge, and occupied the refuge for over a month.  At least 25 of those folks were eventually arrested, with formal criminal charges brought against at least 16.

One of the 16, Shawna Cox, has responded by filing a "counter criminal complaint."  This complaint won't be going far, because a private person cannot file a criminal complaint, but presumably Ms. Cox will eventually file this as a civil case.

Ms. Cox alleges she is a victim of public corruption and government oppression, and demands $666,666,666,666 in damages "for the works of the devil."

Over 666 billion dollars.
When she does file this as a civil case, presumably she will also name the devil as one of the Defendants.  Not surprisingly, given the nature of some folks who believe they've been wronged, this would not be the first lawsuit against the devil.

I wish her good luck in finding someone willing to serve the complaint on the devil, seeing as personal service [handing the complaint to the defendant] is the preferred method.  I won't be volunteering for that assignment.

And presumably, the devil won't give up his money without a fight.  Remind me to call in sick when that jury is selected.

In the unlikely event this lawsuit is actually successful, I wish her much luck in collecting her money.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

THE JOB by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library New Books shelf, Audio book

Description: Kate O'Hare is an FBI agent.  Nick Fox is a con man and #7 on the FBI's most wanted list.  They team up to capture criminals who are beyond capture by legal means.  This is the third book in the series.

Plot: In this book, Nick and Kate go after a drug lord with a taste for fine chocolate and a love of art and other treasures.  They concoct an elaborate con using a ridiculous amount of money, which does strain credibility at times, but if you can get past that, it does makes sense and there's a lot of humor.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well developed and had their own personalities.  Some of the secondary characters are wild and crazy [an actor who takes his roles much too seriously, a lady who loves driving/racing anything with a motor, a Somali pirate, Kate's father who loves explosives a little too much, etc], adding much color and humor to the story.

Setting: Nashville, Portugal, Istanbul, France, England. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other:  The con does strain credibility.

Overall: A good, light mystery/thriller. Funny.  The audio book is read by Scott Brick and he's awesome, a unique and appropriate voice for each character, including foreign accents.

Grade: B

Monday, June 6, 2016

A range of emotional support [companion] animals

Under federal [US] fair housing laws, people with mental, emotional, or psychological disabilities - with doctor's supporting documentation - may keep an "emotional support" animal.

These animals are NOT "service animals", which are specifically trained to assist the disabled individual.  Think dogs who (1) help the blind navigate while away from home,
(2) alert persons that a seizure is coming,
or (3) assist persons in wheelchairs with retrieving objects.
An emotional support animal provides therapeutic comfort for individuals with physical or mental disabilities.  They are common for autistic individuals, those with PTSD, and other types of psychological, emotional, or mental disabilities, especially in stressful situations like a hospital visit -
Emotional support animals do not enjoy the same level of legal protection as service animals. However, they are covered under the fair housing laws.  Therefore, landlords must allow tenants - with proper documentation - to keep emotional support animals as a reasonable accommodation [absent other factors, for example if the animal is a nuisance], even if the property is a "no pets" property.  Landlords who fail to provide this reasonable accommodation can be fined.  Ohio's Kent State University was fined $145,000 for not allowing a properly documented emotional support animal in student housing. 

Unfortunately, sometimes people take advantage of legitimate laws for non-legitimate purposes.  As a landlord attorney, I've advised my clients on emotional support dogs, cats, chickens, and even a snake.

And it seems even the airlines are sometimes in the middle of things.  Because it is rather expensive to fly with your pet [typically the cost of another ticket], but a valid emotional support animal flies at no extra charge, people have fraudulently mocked up documents so they can fly with their "emotional support animals" without the added expense.  In that linked article, some flights approach "flying barnyard" status. [An emotional support turkey?!]

This obviously makes it more difficult for those with legitimate needs and disabilities.  Businesses [and landlords] will generally not trust their valid documentation, because of all the fraudulent documents in existence.

If you have a legitimate need, you have rights.  If you do NOT have a legitimate need, please don't mock those who do by faking documents and pretending to be someone you're not.

Friday, June 3, 2016

BURIED IN A BOG by Sheila Connolly [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library New Books shelf, Audio book 

Description: Maura Donovan, a 20-something from Boston, was raised by her grandmother.  She visits Ireland after her grandmother's death to fulfill a promise and to learn more about her family. While there, her life is threatened as she searches for answers for first one, then another, murder.

Plot: Maura promised her grandmother she would visit the small town of Leap, in County Cork, Ireland.  She travels there after her grandmother's death, meets the locals, talks to friends of her grandmother, learns about Irish history and her family, and stumbles upon two murders.  When she is the subject of several seemingly-random attacks, she sets about to solve the murders before she is next.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well developed and had their own personalities.  I did like Maura altho she was sometimes a bit whiny.

Setting: Small towns in Ireland. The descriptions were very good, I was able to vividly picture every scene without it being over-described.  The book also gives some history of Ireland, presented in an interesting way and keeping within the story, which I enjoyed.

Other:  This book was slow in places, but still interesting.

Overall: A good, light mystery, with some history.  Very good, vivid descriptions.  The audio book is read by Amy Rubinate, who read it well with different voices for the different characters altho some voices did sound similar.

Grade: A-