Funny Story for You #realestate #law #inherit #grammy #family #litigation

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In the early 2000s, my paternal grandmother died. Because my father had predeceased her, his share of her property flowed down to his children, leaving me with a 1/12th interest in her home. I was an attorney at the time, but not yet working in real estate, and it simply wasn’t on my radar scope. It never appeared on my radar in part because my crazy uncle just continued to use the home as a storage facility and paid taxes.

Fast forward a bit. My uncle stopped paying taxes at some point, so in 2017, the house was sold in what Pennsylvania calls an “upset sale.” The sales price was ~$8,500 to pay off the tax bill. Of course, I didn’t know any of this was happening because the relevant Tax Claim Bureau didn’t notify any of us of the sale as required by statute. After the upset sale, the purchaser sold to a third party (remember, a house the upset sale purchaser didn’t really own), who then has to get that sale confirmed by the Court. That’s when we all found out about this. We were served papers earlier this month for that second case, but the plaintiff on that second case doesn’t really own the property. The original purchaser at the upset sale didn’t meet the requirements of the statute.

I work primarily in real estate at this point. I know what these plaintiffs are. They prey on unsophisticated and financially insecure families to make a six-figure windfall. I have no sympathy towards them and will happily take the house back if it comes to that.

To give you some perspective, I’ve been told second hand that the house is on the market for $171,000, but it’s worth (depending on who you ask) anywhere between that and $253,000. Let’s assume the plaintiff can provide an appraisal that state’s the house is worth $171,000. This jackass plaintiff stands to gain at least $125,000 from the sale of this home, and I’m sure he’s done that many times prior. My share of that $171,000 is 1/12th, which comes to $14,250***. On the other hand, my cousin’s share is 1/9th, so she’s entitled to $19,000***. She’s on disability and could use the payout, so she contacted me, the only lawyer in the bunch, to see what I could do. She had already mailed her own Answer, but to be blunt, it understandably sucks, and it wouldn’t intimidate the plaintiff into a settlement.

*** Of course, to sell the house, we’d have to first come up with the $8,500 to pay the tax bill, then pay closing costs, etc., so if we did that, we’d get somewhat less than these amounts. However, I think the value of the property is much higher, so let’s ignore that.

I mailed an Answer to the Complaint on Monday, informing the court that proper procedures weren’t followed with respect to notice. However, one of my other affirmative defenses was that, even if Pennsylvania law allowed for such procedures to be ignored for some strange reason, if Pennsylvania law allows discrimination against out-of-state litigants, it violates the Privileges & Immunities Clause of the Federal Constitution, and thus must fail.

Yeah, I cited the fucking United States Constitution on a simple tax sale, and if necessary, it’s going to stick.

I don’t technically represent my cousin because I can’t. I’m not barred in Pennsylvania. However, if I get a settlement for myself, require that I be permitted to share that settlement information with my cousin, and (of course) actually share that information with my cousin, then my cousin will know what to demand ($19,000). In other words, she and I will be getting our payout. I don’t want a dime of inheritance from my family, so I’ll probably donate my settlement amount to charity. Maybe I’ll buy something worth $100 or so just for my trouble. However, I’m getting to stick it to the bad guys and help a cousin. That’s worthwhile.

The United States Constitution, bitches!

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Your Next Pluto Time @NASA @tweetsauce #science #astronomy #NASA #Pluto

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Last week, I learned about Pluto Time care of VSauce. This is the time of day at which the brightness of the Sun is the brightest it ever appears on Pluto, and that equates to around sunrise and sunset. While the Sun is about 1000x dimmer on Pluto than on Earth, the Sun still brightens Pluto at noon (Pluto time) about 300x more than our Moon brightens Earth.

Do you have nothing better to do than learn your Pluto Time? Then go here: My next Pluto Time is at 8:01 pm tonight.

And there it is. You can certainly read a book in this light.

I bet it gets really dark on Pluto.

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Pluto, the Roman God of the Underworld #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #folklore #Greek #Roman @MythsExplained

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Normally, I’d have titled this post, Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld, but then it wouldn’t be a good lead in for tomorrow’s post.

Unfortunately, Mythology & Fiction Explained goes with the norm, so here’s a video on “Hades.”

Tomorrow will be equally as dark, but in a different way.

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International Haiku Day #haiku #holiday #Japan #poet

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post, please retweet it on this
most wonderful day.

It is Haiku Day
on all April seventeenths;
this is how I’ll talk.

All day on this day
on social media this
is what I will do.

Ev’ry sentence will
be seventeen syllables
long to honor it.

Yes, I will use po-
etic license to assure
my true compliance.

Expect grammati-
cal nonsense that doesn’t real-
ly make any sense.

Broken words, abbre-
viations, and contractions
are the norm today.

While this may get old
very quickly, I am com-
mitted to this path.

All sentences must
be seventeen syllables
long on Haiku Day.

Haikus are a fascinating form of poetry from old Japan.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc if you would like to.

Follow up: Art History Class at the University of Maryland #education #art #history

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A couple of days ago, I posted about art history class at the University of Maryland. TL;DR: I attended that class only three days: the first day, the penultimate day, and then the last day for the final exam. None of those days provided meaningful instruction on the topic, yet I passed the final exam with complete, utter bullshit.

Then this meme hit my social media stream.

Of course, I added the avatar.

Yeah, it was like that.

All hail the mighty social media algorithm!

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Some Controversy: Art History Class at the University of Maryland #education #art #history

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This won’t go over well with some elements of the interwebs, but it’s a 100% true story.

At the University of Maryland (go Terps!), no matter what your major, each student had to take two classes from each of four categories of classes in order to graduate (plus two semesters of English). For a physics major, meeting the math and science requirement was easy, but the artsy-fartsy requirements took some work. I selected Latin because I had three years of Latin in high school (easy A!), and then took <throws dart at the class catalog> art history.

I showed up to the first day of class. Then I showed up to what I thought was the final exam, but it was actually the last day of actual class. So, I had to show up one more time for the final exam, which was walking through the university’s art gallery and discussing the art. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to say something like, “This is a Victorian era painting inspired by the Bakersfield style of brush stroke” or some shit like that. All I can remember was critiquing the art from a purely subjective point of view. You know, stuff like, “Oh, it’s a great use of color,” “What fine craftsmanship,” or “I’ve done better myself.”


That final exam was our entire grade, and I passed. I didn’t get an A, but I passed. How the hell did that happen? I completely made up everything I said. Do you think that I could have done that with, for example, calculus?

“Addition and subtraction? That’s for the plebians. We of the elite members of the society use scelpenation to calculate our sums. Let me tell you how it works. . . .”

I invented scelpenation.

Of course, I couldn’t. I’d get an F- and be beaten with reeds. Mathematics is objectively true. Just hold up two fingers with each hand and bring them together as many times as you’d like. The two pairs of fingers will always become four fingers. Sorry, but some degrees are worth more than others. Let’s face it: They just give art history degrees to anyone.

Neither you nor your degree are worth my time.

Okay, so everyone’s a snob.

At least this post wasn’t political.

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The Brain-Damaged Mind Flayer #RPG #TTRPG #DnD

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Bathroom stalls have two primary forms of coat hooks (that I can remember). One of them always makes me think of a mind flayer. The one in my office looks like a mind flayer that’s been hit in the head too hard.

Oh, no! I used mind flayer in a sentence! WotC’s gonna sue me!

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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves #RPG #TTRPG #DnD #movie

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I saw the D&D movie yesterday. I didn’t like it as much as my average social media contact did, but it was fun and worth watching, and I’ll watch it again when it hits Paramount+. This post is loaded with spoilers, but I’m keeping them relatively mild. Still, proceed at your own risk. TL;DR: I give it a solid B grade.

Well, it is Caturday, isn’t it?

Up front, I want to say that this represents a major step forward for the franchise. In fact, can we just pretend that the other movies don’t exist? I own the second one on DVD and have seen it only once. I can watch it any time I want, and I do exactly that. I watch it every time I want, which is never. But moving on, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention, but I saw the movie by myself, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone about it.

My Favorite Character: The Paladin

For someone like me, this is less a movie and more a homage to the game of D&D, so my favorite character was the paladin. Why? Because the movie made the archetypical paladin, which is a class best summed up by Louis C.K.’s “of course, but maybe” bit. If you don’t already know the bit and don’t click through, this may not make sense.

Of course, paladins are great. Of course, they are. They’re so concerned for everyone else’s well-being and will sacrifice their own.
But maaaaaybe they’re all really annoying to be around.
But no. Of course, we all love paladins. These people are champions of good, justice, honesty, and virtually everything good in this world.
But maaaaaybe if they have such high charismas, they should be expected to learn social skills.

Zenk was the archetypical paladin. You should and will love him, but god dammit he’s annoying.

Legacy v. Modern Gamers

I’m on a real 1st Edition (“1e”) kick, and one of the things that bugs me about modern gaming is the aversion to PC death. This movie had a brilliant opportunity to show modern gamers the value to PC deaths, and when I thought they were going that way, my heart skipped. (Perhaps I should have a cardiogram just in case.) Unfortunately, in typical 5th Edition fashion, they pissed that opportunity away on a cheat. In the process, the cheat mirrored elements of our real-world society that have attention spans too short to remember what’s most important, even if it’s their primary goal in life. This was a major point of failure as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t merely a bad decision, but one that by itself keeps this movie out of the A grade range. It reminded me of my greatest pet peeve with respect to modern gaming.

A Funny Joke with the Same Problem

There’s a joke used in the movie that made it on one of the social media/television spots. It’s where they use a spell to speak with the dead. It was a remarkable failure, and hilariously so. However, they cheated their way out of it. Why? Because modern gamers can’t take a loss. It’s not just death, but some gamers get angry when their character takes a single point of damage (or even no damage!) or miss a puzzle. Modern dungeon masters are expected to avoid character failure of any sort, even when it’s the players’ own damn fault. Sure, the game/movie must continue, but the characters should have to admit they screwed up and find another way forward.

Speaking of Pet Peeves

My largest pet peeve about the prior movies was their overt discussion of game mechanics. That was the one thing I didn’t want in this movie. It’s a fourth wall break, and one that’s completely unnecessary. As a long-time gamer, I don’t need to be told that the character just used Misty Step, and for non-gamers watching the movie, naming the spell won’t add anything to the movie. So in the third movie, Book of Vile Darkness, when the main character asked to purchase a sword, and the shopkeeper asked him whether he wanted one at heroic tier or paragon tier, that was really stupid. That is, even in a world of monsters and magic, no one would talk that way.

This movie avoided such stupidity. In the rare instance where they discussed mechanics (for example, the aforementioned Speak with Dead scene), it served a purpose both to the audience and to the other characters. In fact, the only time language was used that was superfluous to the characters was the discussion of the history of Thay. However, that’s something every movie does because the audience needs the exposition. The characters say, “Yeah, yeah; we knew all that” so that they don’t look stupid, and the audience goes along with the fiction because, in the end, it’s a movie, and audiences know that they need the education. This was definitely something important that this movie got right.

Adventuring Party

Again, they pissed away something that could have improved the movie. You can certainly play the game with four PCs, but you really should have five: a healer, a soldier, an arcane caster, a rogue, and a fifth that doesn’t exactly fit neatly into one of those categories. This is especially true of a movie meant as a love letter to the game. Well, they had a barbarian and a druid that focused on melee, a sorcerer, and a bard that almost never touched a weapon. In fact, all the bard was to the group was a guy who made plans. Don’t get me wrong; he was a fine character, but as someone who likes bards more than any other class in most editions, he didn’t display most of the characteristics of a D&D bard. Moreover, there was no healer in the bunch, not even the druid or underused paladin. For fuck’s sake, they asked the sorcerer to heal someone, and his explanation for why he couldn’t was because of the nature of the injury, not because, you know, he’s not a cleric. But if the producers want to house rule sorcerers as healers, fine. It cuts against everything we’ve seen in every edition, but that kind of flexibility is what RPGs are all about. So why didn’t the sorcerer heal anyone? Because he wasn’t house ruled. He was just a standard sorcerer. There were no healers.

But my main concern here, as small as it is, is that I would have preferred to see a party of five with one of them using healing magic at some point. Instead, they went on one of their minor quests with the paladin. To give him his moment to shine, he did most of the heavy lifting on that quest but then left the group. He wouldn’t have made the story too complex by sticking around.

Easter Eggs

This movie is loaded with references to the game and tons of Easter eggs. Like I said, it’s more that than it is an actual movie. You can make a game out of spotting them.

EDIT: A Note on Faithfulness to the Game

Some have nitpicked the movie for not living up to game mechanics, and others have responded by saying “it’s a movie, not a game.” But it’s a movie that’s not only based on a game, but it has the name of the game in its title. If this is billed as a Dungeons & Dragons movie, then it should be based on the game. Otherwise, this might as well be a Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings movie. Maybe it’s just overstatement typical among the way Americans (everyone?) argues, but the counterarguments don’t seem to appreciate that fact. In fact, someone well known in the industry was taken to task (by someone else I’ll say is well-known) for criticizing the movie. “Are you a cinematographer?” she asked. What difference does that make? Are we not permitted to criticize a movie because we aren’t professional filmmakers ourselves? And if so, wouldn’t that mean that you have no right to complement it unless you’re a professional filmmaker? Are we not allowed to voice our opinions without filmmaking experience? That seems ridiculous.

Still, even acknowledging all that, the first question you should ask is, “What edition of D&D?” The various editions of D&D are very different from one another. Which edition should the film emulate? The classic OD&D or 1e for reasons of appreciation of where we all come from? The current 5e for reasons of marketability? A combination of them all? How should that combination be weighted? Also of note, dungeon masters have always house-ruled their games, meaning my 1e may be very different from your 1e. And besides, there always has to be some license given to filmmakers adapting source material to another medium. So, lighten up, Francis. This isn’t going to be exactly the game you play, but it’s faithful enough to the source material that everyone recognizes it. If you don’t like it, fine. I’m clearly no Wizards of the Coast apologist. But if you don’t like it because you have an axe to grind, then you’re robbing yourself of fun. Don’t ruin ours.

Grade: B

It was fun. It was worth my time and money, but it could have been better. I’m sure we’ll get a sequel or two, so maybe those will be.

As always, YMMV.

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