3 Great Productivity Tools for Lawyers

3 Great Productivity Tools for Lawyers - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to become more productive. After all, there are only so many hours in the day – and only some of them are allocated to work.

Fortunately, these three amazing productivity tools can help you right now.

3 Great Productivity Tools for Lawyers

#1: Slack

Slack, a cloud-based program that’s free to use, lets everyone in your office collaborate on projects using message boards that help keep your inbox clear and file storage so you can easily access documents anywhere. One of its best features is the ability to search through old conversations, decisions and work – that way, you never have to hunt for something you (or someone else) said months ago. It’s all right in front of you.

#2: Command Hound

Command Hound is a task-management system, but it’s bigger and better than most. It lets teams create tasks, assign them to individuals, and create due dates. It’s far superior to Teamwork and Asana, which do the same things, too, because if a task is “Late” on one of those two sites, all you can do is mark it “Late” and hope someone finishes it. On Command Hound, you can escalate late and unfinished tasks to partners or other lawyers so nothing falls through the cracks.

#3: iTimeKeep

iTimeKeep makes it quick and easy to do lots of things we all need to do: dictate, enter time worked on projects and even set timers to switch tasks. You won’t miss billable hours, which really add up a tiny bit at a time, and it’s really secure. It’s easy to install the app on your phone, tablet or desktop, too.

What Do You Think?

What apps do you find make you more productive? (You don’t have to be a lawyer to answer!) I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Did You Get Your Flu Shot?

Did You Get Your Flu Shot - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Did you get your flu shot this year?

Experts say that this season’s vaccine is only 36 percent effective overall, and only 25 percent effective against the worst strain, but everyone needs it anyway.

The current vaccine, according to experts, still provides some protection against H3N2 – the flu virus that can change faster than any other flu virus transmitted among humans. The 25 percent effective rate, experts say, means that “one in four people who get the shot reduce their risk of becoming sick enough to need to see a doctor.”

It’s tough for health officials to predict which flu strains will pop up in any given year, so they must pick three or four strains and tell vaccine makers which ones to target for an upcoming season. They make the decision months before flu season starts, so health officials have to rely on past data and what they know about current strains to make the best predictions they can.

This flu season, kids and the elderly are far more at-risk than healthy adults are. At least 63 child flu deaths have already been reported since October 1, 2017, and about 80 percent of the kids who died were not fully vaccinated.

“I would still take 25 percent over nothing any day of the week,” said Ed Belongia, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin.

What Do You Think?

Have you gotten your flu shot this year, or do you plan to? How do you feel about its efficacy rate, and do you know anyone who’s gotten the flu this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

4 Dumb Criminals You’ll Love to Laugh At

4 Dumb Criminals You’ll Love to Laugh At - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

I like writing about dumb criminals – I’ve done it several times. Technically, crime isn’t funny… but sometimes, you just can’t help but shake your head and laugh at the crazy things some criminals try to pull off.

Lowe’s and… a Nudist Colony

Milton Hodges tried to rob a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Orlando, Florida. When he tried to escape, though, he hopped over a fence into the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort and Spa. Because he was the only one wearing clothes, police picked him out of the crowd immediately.

Lying in One Language

In Calgary, a woman called the police – her jewelry was missing, all her electronics were gone and there was a smashed window where the criminal must have come in. When police officer Charanjit Meharu arrived, the woman explained the situation in English.

Then, her father called.

The woman started speaking in French to her father, saying that it was all a scam in order to get insurance money… but she didn’t know that Officer Meharu spoke six languages, and French was one of them.

The Heart Attack Confession

A Nashville man was having a heart attack and thought he was going to die, so he made a deathbed confession – he accepted responsibility for killing a woman in Tennessee 17 years prior.

But the man, James Washington, didn’t die – and his confession held up in court.

The Molotov Cocktail Accident

A Florida man, Craig Aylesworth, tried to toss a Molotov cocktail into his neighbor’s trailer. He had pretty good aim, but the winds shifted. The flames traveled into Aylesworth’s yard, burning two cars, a pickup truck and a travel trailer. Aylesworth was charged with arson and arrested, which is probably good – the fire burned his trailer to the ground, too.

What Do You Think?

What are the stupidest crime stories you’ve heard? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Scientists Exploring Underwater Ecosystem Under the Ice Shelf

Scientists Exploring Underwater Ecosystem Under the Ice Shelf - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A huge piece, roughly the size of Delaware, has broken off Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf last summer, and scientists are beginning to explore it now. The broken piece exposed an area of the sea that hasn’t seen the light of day in more than 120,000 years, according to scientists, which means there could be a huge variety of species the world has never seen lurking beneath the water’s surface.

The area spans about 2,250 square miles, according to the British Antarctic Survey, the organization leading the exploration mission. The scientists want to document the ecosystem beneath the surface before the sun begins to change conditions in the water.

When a huge chunk of an iceberg breaks off, it’s called calving. It happens often enough; in fact, in 1995 and 2006, large pieces of the shelf broke off – but scientists didn’t find much by way of life under the waves on either of those occasions. However, the scientists didn’t make it out to explore those regions for years; they didn’t make it within a few months.

The team plans to collect samples of life, including animals, microbes and plankton, once they arrive in the area. Some truly strange creatures have been found in the freezing waters of the Arctic, and scientists hope to discover more like the Eulagisca gigantean, which has been described as “the Christmas tree ornament from Hell.

What Do You Think They’ll Find?

Are you as excited as I am that scientists are going to explore an area of Earth that hasn’t seen daylight in more than 120,000 years? What do you think they’ll find? What’s your favorite odd creature that’s been discovered in modern times? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

A Growing Number of Pilots Claim to See UFOs

A Growing Number of Pilots Claim to See UFOs - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve seen several stories over the past few months about pilots coming forward and claiming that they’ve seen UFOs – but is there any truth to the stories, and should we be worried?

Retired Commander David Fravor, the most recent in a group of former pilots who claim to have encountered alien UFOs over the last few months, spent 18 years as a Navy pilot, flying F/A-18 fighter jets.

He says that on November 14, 2004, he ran into alien life over Southern California.

“I can tell you, I think it was not from this world,” Fravor told ABC News. “I’m not crazy, haven’t been drinking. It was — after 18 years of flying, I’ve seen pretty much about everything that I can see in that realm, and this was nothing close.”

Fravor says that the white aircraft was hovering about 50 feet over a “disturbance in the ocean” and was shaped like a Tic-Tac candy.

He’s not the only former Navy pilot to have a story like this one, either.

Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid was responsible for securing funding for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, which had a $22 million budget each year out of the DoD’s cut of the pie. The program began in 2007 and was officially ended in 2012, although the Washington Post says that data collection was still in existence as of November 2017.

So should we be afraid?

Maybe.

Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin says, “No civilization should ever announce its presence to the cosmos. Any other civilization that learns of its existence will perceive it as a threat to expand, as all civilizations do, eliminating their competitors until they encounter one with superior technology and are themselves eliminated. This grim cosmic outlook is called ‘dark-forest theory,’ because it conceives of every civilization in the universe as a hunter hiding in a moonless woodland, listening for the first rustlings of a rival.”

Planetary scientist David Brin feels the same. He’s an outspoken critic of searching for alien life, pointing to our own planet’s history. What happens when we encounter a foreign culture for the first time? More often than not, it doesn’t end well.

What Do You Think?

Is there a possibility that alien life is out there, or that these pilots really did see alien spacecraft? If there is, should we be hiding from it with a “War of the Worlds” mentality, or should we welcome it with open arms like we’d welcome “ET”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

The Latest Conspiracy Theory: The Earth is Hollow

The Latest Conspiracy Theory - The Earth is Hollow - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

We’re all still reeling from the news that there are actually people out there who believe the earth is flat, which means it’s the perfect time to uncover yet another crazy theory: Earth is hollow and populated by aliens, superhumans, Vikings and Nazis.

Sure, scientists are convinced that the Earth is filled with dirt, minerals and a superheated iron core. But what do they know? It’s not as if the Earth has a testable magnetic field or anything.

Author of “World Top Secret: Our Earth IS Hollow” Rodney Cluff, who is spearheading the completely unscientific theory and its following, says, “More and more people are coming to terms with the fact that the Earth is hollow. I get emails from people learning about it every day. It’s definitely growing in popularity – certainly not in the millions, but maybe in the thousands.”

Cluff does not think the Earth is flat, though. (Whew.)

“They are obviously wrong. The world is not flat – it’s hollow,” says Cluff. “They reject all the evidence. I don’t know how flat-Earthers could be so confused.”

Cluff and his followers believe that the moon, sun and other planets are all hollow. They believe there are three openings into the inner Earth (two are supposed to be near the poles, and one’s located in the Himalayas). Further, the group claims that the hollow center – which is supposed to be divided by an interior sun that has a “day” side and a “night” side – is home to Nazis who escaped during World War II, lost Viking colonies from Greenland, and the lost tribes of Israel.

“They [the people inside the Earth] regularly spy on us using spacecrafts and flying saucers,” says Cluff. “They want to keep an eye on us and stop us from starting a nuclear war. The majority of UFOs actually come from inside our planet.”

The theory isn’t Cluff’s, nor is it new. Back in 1811, Norwegian sailor Olaf Jansen claimed that he and his father sailed through the entrance to this secret hollow and lived inside for two years. Astronomer Edmond Halley (of comet fame) once suggested that unusual compass readings occurred because the planet had a hollow shell, and Admiral Richard E. Byrd claimed to have entered the inner Earth in the 1940s. Many “hollow Earthers” believe NASA and the U.S. government are covering up the fact that our planet is, indeed, hollow.

What Do You Think?

Have you encountered people who believe the Earth is hollow? Have you tried to exchange ideas with them? It’s a neat idea – the stuff great science fiction is made from – but what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the hollow Earth conspiracy theory, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter. (While you’re looking into it, read the reviews on Cluff’s book on Amazon and check out who wrote them.)

Carlos Gamino

You Just Can’t Mess Around on an Aircraft

When Good Airline Passengers Go Bad - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

You know the drill: Take off your shoes, take your laptop out of the bag, make your way through the X-ray machine and wait quietly at your gate. Get on the plane in an orderly manner, and sit there quietly and peacefully.

Don’t make any waves.

But some people don’t follow the rules – and it certainly doesn’t pay off for them.

England, January 2018

A 57-year-old man waiting on the tarmac got sick of sitting in his seat, so he opened the emergency exit and hopped out to stand on the Ryanair plane’s wing. He said he was frustrated with the delay and intended to disembark the plane, but it’s a long way from the wing to the ground. The air crew managed to coax him back inside after quite some time (delaying the flight even further) and the police arrested him promptly.

Chicago, January 2018

A man on a flight from Chicago to Hong Kong was arrested quickly after he smeared feces across a pair of the United Airlines aircraft’s lavatories and tried to flush a shirt down a toilet. The flight had to be redirected to Anchorage, where the passenger was cooperative with the flight crew after the incident. Before the incident, though, another passenger said that the man was “shaking the seats all around him… pouring soda and water on the floor and on laptops.”

Baltimore, September 2017

A woman on a Southwest Airlines flight was forcibly removed from a plane in Baltimore after she reported having a life-threatening allergy to a service animal and a pet aboard the flight. Although the woman said her allergy could kill her, she was unable to provide medical documentation. She then refused to leave the plane, insisting instead that the animals be removed – despite Southwest’s policy that a passenger with allergies will be the one denied boarding if they do not have a medical certificate.

What Would You Do if You Encountered One of These Passengers?

I’d love to hear what you’d do if you were on a flight with one of these trouble-making passengers. Would you keep quiet, pull out your phone and snag a video, or do something to smooth over the situation? Share your thoughts on my Facebook page or Twitter feed to join the conversation! (You can also check out Passenger Shaming on Facebook to see what real-life airline employees struggle with every day.)

Carlos Gamino

Drunk Horesback Riding: Illegal in Some States

By Carlos Gamino A woman in Florida was charged with DUI after riding a horse drunk. The 53-year-old woman from Lakeland was busted riding her horse down a busy highway while intoxicated. Several drivers called police (horses aren’t allowed on the interstate anywhere), and Polk County Sheriff’s officials responded. The woman was riding her horse in the road, and when police gave her a breath alcohol test, she blew more than twice Florida’s legal limit. “[The woman] was obviously not in any condition to be on the road," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "She not only put herself and the horse in danger, but also anyone who was driving on the road, which is typically very busy.” The woman was booked into jail. Her past criminal record includes five felonies and 10 misdemeanors, including those for animal cruelty, drug possession, and other crimes. It’s not illegal in every state, though. In fact, a Louisiana man was able to escape a DUI charge when he hitched a ride from his horse in 2015. The horse was waiting patiently outside a bar for him, tucked safely in a horse trailer. Fortunately, the man recognized that he was too inebriated to drive – and although authorities couldn’t arrest him for DUI because he wasn’t in a motorized vehicle, he did get a ticket for public intoxication. In Texas and Alabama, it’s definitely illegal; in Michigan, too. One man was arrested for riding a horse through Boulder, Colorado while drunk. The bottom line: It might be safer to ride a horse home if you’ve been drinking, but it’s probably better to Uber. What Do You Think? Do you think it should be illegal to ride a horse while drunk? Is it a form of animal cruelty, or are horses really man’s best friend at 2 a.m.? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share your comment on my Facebook page or on Twitter! Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

A woman in Florida was charged with DUI after riding a horse drunk. The 53-year-old woman from Lakeland was busted riding her horse down a busy highway while intoxicated. Several drivers called police (horses aren’t allowed on the interstate anywhere), and Polk County Sheriff’s officials responded. The woman was riding her horse in the road, and when police gave her a breath alcohol test, she blew more than twice Florida’s legal limit.

 

“[The woman] was obviously not in any condition to be on the road,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “She not only put herself and the horse in danger, but also anyone who was driving on the road, which is typically very busy.”

The woman was booked into jail. Her past criminal record includes five felonies and 10 misdemeanors, including those for animal cruelty, drug possession, and other crimes.

 

It’s not illegal in every state, though. In fact, a Louisiana man was able to escape a DUI charge when he hitched a ride from his horse in 2015. The horse was waiting patiently outside a bar for him, tucked safely in a horse trailer. Fortunately, the man recognized that he was too inebriated to drive – and although authorities couldn’t arrest him for DUI because he wasn’t in a motorized vehicle, he did get a ticket for public intoxication.

In Texas and Alabama, it’s definitely illegal; in Michigan, too. One man was arrested for riding a horse through Boulder, Colorado while drunk.

The bottom line: It might be safer to ride a horse home if you’ve been drinking, but it’s probably better to Uber.

What Do You Think?

Do you think it should be illegal to ride a horse while drunk? Is it a form of animal cruelty, or are horses really man’s best friend at 2 a.m.?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share your comment on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino

What Net Neutrality Really Means

What Net Neutrality Really Means - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In mid-December, the Federal Communications Commission effectively killed net neutrality – a highly controversial move that leaves 8 in 10 Americans who supported the rules wondering what happens next.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that every website online deserves a level playing field. It’s just as easy for you to visit your local toy maker’s website as it is to visit a shopping giant like Amazon – your internet service provider, or ISP, can’t make you pay more to visit shopping sites, and can’t make your local toy maker or Amazon pay more to show up on your computer when you type in the domain name.

The rules that were in place prevented ISPs from throttling your speeds when you visited certain websites, and it stopped them from blacklisting sites so they could promote their own products. For example, Comcast couldn’t block your access to Netflix (or charge you more to access it over your internet connection) because it has its own streaming service.

With the rules repealed, though, nobody knows what ISPs will do next.

Who Wants Net Neutrality?

Studies have shown that net neutrality isn’t a political issue, although many people have tried to politicize it to divide opinions on the topic. In fact, 8 in 10 Americans, regardless of party, supported having net neutrality rules in place.

Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, said the rollback of rules was a good thing.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said.

But that’s not true.

There have been several occasions where internet companies have violated net neutrality rules and had to pay penalties while reversing the damage – like when AT&T blocked FaceTime on iPhones using its network – and now, there won’t be any consequences.

“If we don’t have net neutrality protections that enforce tenets of fairness online, you give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers,” said Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit. “This is not hyperbole.”

What’s Next?

Some members of Congress – the only organization with the power to reinstate net neutrality rules – want to fight the FCC’s decision. However, the majority doesn’t want to. Even if they did, President Trump (who appointed Ajit Pai as the head of the FCC) could veto the legislation.

That leaves lawsuits as the only remaining option. Major companies, like Google, Amazon and others, have vowed to sue over net neutrality rules, and court cases could make it to the Supreme Court.

Until then, though, we’re at the mercy of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and a handful of other internet service providers. These legal battles could drag on for years, and we can expect ISPs to test their power as early as January 2018.

You could see your internet services divided up into packages, where you’ll pay for base service, and then you’ll pay extra for access to music streaming services, video streaming services, or social media services. ISPs can charge you more for access to messaging services and email services, shopping websites, and other specific services and sites, too.

What Do You Think?

Did you approve of the net neutrality rules that were in place before December 2017? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what might happen (and what should happen) now that net neutrality is dead, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino

 

 

What is Military Stolen Valor?

What is Military Stolen Valor - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

So-called stolen valor is a hot topic in military communities, but it’s not illegal except in very limited cases – but that doesn’t stop people from all over the country from donning a military uniform and claiming veteran status.

What is “Stolen Valor”?

Legally, stolen valor is the act of fraudulently claiming to be a recipient of certain military decorations or medals in order to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits. President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2013, which makes it a crime punishable by fines and jail time.

But that’s the only time stolen valor is illegal.

Other times, it’s just irritating to military service members.

There are entire websites dedicated to exposing military phonies who claim previous or current military service in order to reap the benefits it provides. Only a fraction of the people caught “stealing” valor are ever prosecuted; some apologize after they’re caught, and others simply double-down on their claims.

There are two types of people who engage in acts of stolen valor: Those who have never been in the military at all and those who have been, but choose to embellish their service records. The only thing the two groups have in common is that they’re lying about their service.

Thousands of people have been exposed over the past several years, ranging from judges and politicians to celebrities, veterans group officials and everyday Joes. Some of the most recent – but not the most egregious – include a New Jersey man who claimed to be a former prisoner of war to get a free deck installed on his home valued at $32,000 and a former police officer who falsely claimed he received the military’s prestigious Purple Heart medal (only awarded for wounds sustained in combat) to get free license plate.

Organizations like Guardian of Valor compile video footage of actual military veterans and service members confronting stolen valor suspects, while websites like Guardians of the Green Beret and This Ain’t Hell keep stolen valor galleries packed with the photos and stories of people they’ve outed as liars and embellishers.

What Do You Think?

Do you think it should be illegal for civilians to pose as current or former military personnel? I’d love to hear your take on it, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino