California Election 2016

The Presidential Election for the United States of America is tomorrow so it’s about time I do some sort of post about it.

I usually don’t like talking about politics with people who aren’t my friends. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be divisive, but I suppose I should use my teeny soapbox of the GoCorral website for what it’s worth.

I’ve got two categories I want to go over for the election, who should be President and California’s propositions. I’ll start with the propositions. Continue reading

Will and Testament

My wife and I met with a lawyer this morning to draft a last will and testament.

Most people our age don’t have wills. Nobody plans on dying, but that’s even truer for people in their early 20’s.

Most people my age don’t have a lot of assets to dispense upon their deaths either.

I do because I inherited some money from my mother when she died a few years ago. From a certain point of view its a second will for her.

Our idea for the will is pretty simple. If one of us dies, that person’s property goes to the other marriage partner.

If we both die, our estate is split between our parents.

If our parents are dead it’s split between our siblings.

I’d be shocked if the followup to that happened, but if both of us, all of our parents, and all of our siblings were dead then our estate would be split between our aunts and uncles.

We hadn’t planned that last one out, but the attorney we spoke with said it was the default law. We figured we’d go with that.

We’d previously talked about donating to charity if our siblings couldn’t receive the money. We still might go back to that as well.

For now, the attorney gave us a questionnaire to draft a health care directive.

A health care directive is a piece of paper with instructions for your medical care if you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to describe your own wishes for your medical care.

So stuff like, “Would you want to be on life support if you are in a coma?”

Or, “Would you want if you were in a permanent vegetative state?”

“Would you like to be cremated, buried, or something else?” (Taxidermied is not one of the listed options)

“Would you like to donate your organs?” (You should)

“If you are donating organs, which ones are okay to donate? All of them or just a few of them?”

So we’ve got to go over all of that stuff and then get back to the attorney at a different time.

It feels like a nice adult thing to do with my wife, but its also depressing.

Part of it is exciting to be planning something so important with her.

I’m not bummed out so much about my own death or her death when we talk about the will. Those both still feel far enough away that I can act like I’m immortal.

It just gets me thinking about my mother’s and my sister’s deaths a lot. My wife feels the same way about it too.

-Mister Ed

Disposing of GMOs

The rice we grow in one of my lab's greenhouses.
The rice we grow in one of my lab’s greenhouses.

Yesterday I was working out at the greenhouse for my rice genetics lab.

I was getting rid of some old rice plants that we’d collected the seed from and no longer needed.

If a plant got to this point in a garden you’d normally throw it in the compost so it would be useful next year.

That’s not allowed for the rice we work with in my lab because it is an untested transgenic line.

Some members of the public dislike altering the genetics of food crops to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are a couple of logical reasons for this and a couple of illogical ones.

Logical reasons include: religious objection, lack of crop diversification, cross-species allergens, and the strengthening of agribusiness monopolies that often accompanies GMO crop use.

Illogical reasons often have something to do with safety or not knowing what is in a product when you purchase it at the grocery store.

I could go on about this a lot. GMOs are a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, but that wasn’t why I was writing this post today.

Because of the fear of GMOs, they need to go through extensive testing before they are declared legally safe. This testing can take up to ten years.

We don’t do that for every strain of modified rice in our lab, so certain precautions need to be taken.

Yesterday I cut off all the excess seeds on the old rice plants. The seeds go into a plastic bag.

The seed bag and the leftover portion you can see above both go into an orange dumpster at the center of the greenhouse complex.

All the stuff in the orange dumpster then goes into a special oven that ensures the modified crops won’t somehow get into the wild and start growing there.

After the special oven, called an autoclave, has destroyed the genetic material in the rice it can go into a normal dumpster or be used for compost.

Just another little glimpse at my job!

-Mister Ed

Montana Home Invasion

A still from a security camera of Diren Dede stealing from Markus Kaarma's garage.
A still from a security camera of Diren Dede stealing from Markus Kaarma’s garage.

What topic do I want to write about tonight?

Hurray! It’s another sketchy self-defense/homicide case that went international on the news! (sarcasm)

I read this on the New York Times. You can check it out at this article.

So what’s the story?

Diren Dede was a 17 year-old exchange student from Germany going to school in Montana.

He thought it’d be fun to go out and steal stuff from someone’s garage.

He found an open garage and went in to take some stuff.

The owners, Markus Kaarma and Janelle Pflager, were cautious because there had been other burglaries in the area.

They’d installed cameras and motion sensors in the garage.

They chose not to actually close the garage all the way because they like to duck under it to smoke outside.

Not closing the garage didn’t make sense to my Californian mind at first. Why not just open your door to go smoke?

The case is in cold Montana though. The couple probably smoke in their garage and just duck down to breathe the smoke outside.

Anyways, Markus Kaarma saw the motion detectors. He grabbed his shotgun and fired into the garage.

Janelle Pflager says she heard someone in the garage shouting, “Hey! Wait!”

Montana law gives someone the right to use a gun against a home invader only if the trespasser is violently threatening someone in the house.

That’s pretty clearly not the case.

To make it worse, Kaarma had spoken with his barber recently about wanting to “shoot some kid.”

And there’s a purse at the back of the garage that was placed there with marked items, so that if it was stolen they could track down the thief.

So… it’s almost a clear case of premeditation.

They didn’t burglar proof their house. They set up stuff to tell them if a thief was in the garage. And Markus talked about wanting to kill someone.

The facts as I see them make the case clearly second-degree murder, if not first.

People have the right to protect themselves and their property, but there is a limit to how far that protection goes.

Kaarma could use his gun for intimidation, but when he heard Dede telling him to wait, he should’ve realized that firing his gun was a bad choice.

All that aside, I’m also a little surprised he could afford bail for a murder case.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed