Texas Party Talk

     Don’t you just hate it when someone gives you a perfectly sensible answer that has nothing to do with the question?
     This occurred to me last week after browsing a “ Party Talk ” section of the Texas Bar Journal.
     It’s not the gossip section. I was hoping it would be, but it wasn’t. It’s a series of answers to questions that might come up at parties.
     Parties must be very strange in Texas.
     The lengthy question (on page 3) that really got me wondering began like this: “Recently cows have been entering my backyard through the woods behind our house at night, then are gone in the morning.”
     The questioner wonders whether it’s legal to pen those cows. The answer is about corralling: “(I)t’s time for urban/suburban Texans to educate themselves on what to do when they find a cow eating their petunias.”
     OK. I guess that’s good advice. I know I’d be at a loss in that situation.
     But the author is missing the real issue here: WHERE ARE THE COWS GOING IN THE MORNING?
     Isn’t this a little disturbing?
     Cows suddenly appear at night in the backyard and then disappear! We don’t know why they were there in the first place, either.
     What is it about this man’s yard that attracts nocturnal cows?
     The obvious answer is that they’re vampire cows. An attorney at this party should recommend searching nearby dairies with basements. And advise garlic and crosses for the back yard.
     Next fascinating Texas party question: “Can people sit in the bed of a truck if we aren’t on a paved road?”
     I won’t tell you the Bar Journal answer. The correct answer should be: Why would you want to? Do not do this unless there’s no room in the cab and you’re fleeing vampire cows.
     Then there’s this question which may come up a lot in Texas: “I am 29 years old and recently married a 79-year-old oil tycoon. He has five children by his ex-wives. His children told me he doesn’t need a will because I get everything since Texas is a ‘community property’ state. Are they telling me the truth?”
     Correct answer: It doesn’t matter. Just make sure you get a good agent before signing that reality series deal.
     Supreme Knowledge:
     First, a spoiler alert.
     If you’re watching the TV series “Orphan Black” and you haven’t reached the season finale yet, stop reading now.
     The rest of you (probably all of you) can breathe a sigh of relief – you can’t be patented. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics that human genes you’re born with can’t be patented.
     No longer can a scientist attempt to take ownership of part of your body just because he or she figured out what it’s made out of.
     But – and this is important – the court also said that if the scientist creates something new – e.g. Frankenstein’s monster – he or she can own that. They can’t own you, but they can own your genetically altered clone.
     (Am I right, “Orphan Black” fans?)
     Fair enough. But I do wonder about a few things related to this ruling.
     First off, where did Justice Clarence Thomas – and, for that matter, the rest of the unanimous court – get all this scientific knowledge?
     Go read the opinion if you haven’t already done so.
     It begins with a lengthy description of DNA and how it works.
     Check out the beginning of footnote 8: “Some viruses rely on an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to re­produce by copying RNA into cDNA. In rare instances, a side effect of a viral infection of a cell can be the random incorporation of fragments of the resulting cDNA, known as a pseudogene, into the genome.”
     Now picture the justices discussing this and nodding their heads.
     I’m being cynical here, I know, but I think I smell the work of a geeky clerk.
     Which brings us to Justice Antonin Scalia’s weird but probably honest partly concurring but not partly dissenting one-paragraph opinion in which he declines to concur on the “fine details of molecular biology. I am unable to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief.”
     In other words, I have no idea what these guys are talking about, but it’s probably right.
     This opinion should be cited as precedent in all technology-related rulings.

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