About that Hope Woodard video

If you have no idea who Hope Woodard is, don’t fret. I didn’t either until Courtney Ryan’s video on the matter showed up on my YouTube feed:

Now the original TikTok video is gone. From looking around other comments sections, Hope was apparently getting… rape and death threats for this video. Who knew this would be a touchy subject? Anyway…

First, let’s go over what Hope said:

I was with a friend of mine yesterday, and we were getting a piece of pizza. And one of the guys behind the counter, he was so cute. And we did have a little smile exchange.

And she goes, “Oh my gosh.” And then she goes “Hope, you have to teach me how to flirt.”

And I was like, “Well okay.” So I just wrote my number down on a napkin and I gave it to him.

And she was like, “I can’t believe you did that so easy. What if he has a girlfriend?”

And I said “What? I’ll probably never hear from that guy. I don’t care about him. I don’t know him. He might have a girlfriend. I hope he does. I bet she’s beautiful. And I think he treats her well. You don’t give your number away, you don’t flirt because you really, really want something. You just flirt because it’s fun. Who cares about that guy? You think I’d ever actually like him. No offense, he works at a pizza shop. All love, I’m sure he’s in a great band.”

But anyways, this is your sign. Give your number away today. But when you give it away, don’t expect anything. Because it’s not for them. It’s for you.

It seems everyone, including Courtney, got hung up on her words about the pizza guy, despite the fact she didn’t say much about him. She’s just not into guys who work at pizza parlors. And she just wasn’t that into this specific guy. Why is that such a big deal? And I mean that in all seriousness, why is this such a big deal?

And her message is completely lost (and now deleted) by people who got hung up on it. Do people think she was saying those things right in front of the pizza guy?

Or is her honesty the issue? Sure, she took a slight jab at his job with her honesty that she doesn’t think she’d ever like him because he works at a pizza shop, but otherwise hopes he has a good life and a beautiful girlfriend he treats very well. And I know there’s been a lot of backlash in recent years about women having unreasonable and unrealistic preferences. But what about not wanting to date a guy who works at a pizza parlor is unreasonable or unrealistic?

Did she denigrate pizza guys? No. She didn’t say anything degrading about the work or food service in general. She just said she wouldn’t date someone who works at a pizza shop.

So where exactly is the problem here?

Flirting and being a flirt

And it seems a lot of people have no idea what flirting is or what it genuinely looks like, since a lot of people have also taken issue with what Hope said about flirting despite her being absolutely right. Flirting is entirely about fun. Acting amorously without serious intent. I wrote an entire article about it.

It isn’t flirting if your intentions are for more than having a fun few moments with someone. Let me repeat that: it is NOT flirting if your intentions are for more than having a fun few moments with someone. And she had a fun few moments with him. Smile exchange, scrawling down her number without a care for whether he calls or texts.

And also having the confidence in herself to just… scrawl down her number and hand it to him. Note that word: confidence. It’s important.

I do still have some degree of social anxiety. Being a street photographer has allowed me to overcome that. Since I wouldn’t be getting the shots if I didn’t get over myself and take the risk in approaching people.

And much like Hope’s friend in the above video, there’ve been plenty of photographers who have flat out asked me how I get the shots. “How do you do it?” And I tell them… I just do it. Though I’ve yet to openly demonstrate that in front of another photographer in much the same way Hope did with her friend. It would absolutely be very interesting if that chance arose. Perhaps I need to start wearing a body camera and posting videos of that to YouTube and TikTok. And then watch all the hate come in about how I’m bothering women, and how they’re just agreeing because they’re afraid of how I’ll react if they say No, and bullshit like that. Anyway…

Her message

What was Hope’s overall message that got lost in the noise over the pizza guy? It’s the same as what I just said about my street photography, and it’s much the same message in other videos about dating on her TikTok channel: get over yourself. In her case, it’s get over yourself and give out your number, even if you aren’t serious about doing anything with the people you’re giving it to.

Since you miss every shot you don’t take. But you need to get over yourself and put yourself out there and take those risks to boost your self-confidence to get the partner you ultimately want. Not to tell yourself “I hope they call or text”, because then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Whereas if you keep your expectations low and don’t care whether they do call or text, there’s no risk of disappointment. Instead the risk is one of surprise if they do reach out.


And it’s wild the assumptions people are making about her. Just as you shouldn’t judge an entire relationship from one video on TikTok, something that is unfortunately extremely common, it’s equally unwise to judge an entire person based on one TikTok video. And in a rather telling fashion, everyone who is saying Hope is in the wrong for “judging” the pizza guy – despite there being no judgment or denigration at all – are judging her based on a few lines from one video.

Courtney in the video above even does much the same. She describes the video as “really… cruel?”, “disappointing”, and “unnecessarily mean”, and misinterprets the video as “essentially making fun of [the pizza shop worker]”. I’m pretty sure we were watching the same video, but her interpretation of it definitely makes it sound like we weren’t. It’s like summarizing a movie from a handful of scenes despite watching the entire thing.

Again, sticking to what Hope said about the pizza guy and largely ignoring everything else. All because she openly admitted to…. having a preference.

Give me a break.

Hope didn’t do or say anything wrong here. Everyone just needs to lighten the fuck up.

Lavazza and the point of diminishing returns

One concept I feel a lot of people in the espresso communities need to learn, or re-learn, is “point of diminishing returns”, sometimes also called the “law of diminishing returns”. It’s a concept I recently recalled when talking about photography equipment. In short, it’s the point after which you are no longer getting value commensurate to the money you are spending.

The idea comes up a lot with gaming computers and selecting parts and trying to find the optimal point in terms of price versus performance, enthusiasts nothwithstanding.

With photography equipment, the concept is the same. Are you shelling out for a 60+ MP camera, or 100+ MP medium format, for photos that will only ever be seen on a computer screen? Would a 20MP or 24MP camera work just as fine for where you’re publishing photos?

And with espresso, the question really needs to be asked regarding not just equipment – e.g., machines like the Decent DE1 lineup – but also coffee. There’s this obsession among espresso enthusiasts with roast date. And I get it, since the fresher off the roast date you can get, the better the coffee is going to taste, since coffee does go stale unless it’s properly stored. That’s the narrative everyone is being sold.

“Buy local!”

“Avoid mass produced coffee!”

“Starbucks is the devil!”

I’m sure we’ve all heard these at one point or another. And with COVID, the emphasis on “buy local” was apt since it was smaller businesses – including the smaller coffee roasters – who suffered under the government-mandated concentration of commerce to the largest companies.

And I fell for that spell as well.

Being in Kansas City the default name for coffee is The Roasterie since they’re… everywhere. Their Super Tuscan was my go-to blend till I discovered Messenger Coffee when I moved to Rosehill Point in Lenexa in 2016, which is right behind Black Dog Coffeehouse, a Messenger Coffee partner. I fell in love with the flavor and it fast became my default and the baseline against which I’d measure other coffees I would try.

When I moved to Kansas City, KS, after buying my house, I discovered Filling Station off Johnson Drive (across from Shawnee Mission North High School) is also a Messenger Coffee partner, so bought beans from them. I just prefer the convenience of doing that over ordering it online. And Messenger doesn’t allow me to order for pickup at their plant like The Roasterie.

Then I lost my job.

Living off savings and having to cut back meant cutting out Messenger Coffee and its nearly $2 per day expense on beans. 18 USD for a 12oz bag of whole beans that lasted typically about 10 days with my normal rate of consumption. That wasn’t the only reason I looked for alternatives. As about the time I lost my job, Messenger was making changes to their branding and product lineup with their partners that I didn’t like. So the timing was perfect for finding a new direction.

After the spectacular failure that was Verena Street “espresso”, I recalled a coffee brand I’d encountered early on when I first looked at making a home espresso setup: Lavazza.

And, even better, it was available on Amazon and could be delivered overnight. A 1kg bag of the Lavazza Espresso 5/10 intensity blend for $19 including the overnight delivery charge and sales taxes. Almost 3x the coffee for the same price I was paying for Messenger’s Relay Espresso blend.

Let me repeat that: 3x the coffee. For. the same. price.

I wasn’t too keen on the flavor profile for that one, so tried the Barista Gran Crema 7/10 intensity for about 3 USD more, and I’ve stuck with that since.

So when I recalled the concept of “point of diminishing returns” when discussing photography equipment recently, it brought me back to coffee and how, for the last several months, I’d been buying a mass produced brand for a fraction of the price of the local roast that had become my default.

And it brings up this question: is Messenger Coffee two to three times better than Lavazza? No.

Indeed the flavor profiles are pretty similar, but Lavazza’s Barista Gran Crema actually wins out for me. I’m not a coffee enthusiast with a sophisticated palate and taste detection that rivals the best sommeliers. And my unemployment had me realizing that the more expensive coffees fail when it comes to the value proposition.

And with my Airscape canisters, the beans stay reasonably fresh for about the entire month the bag has no issue lasting. (Though I will soon be looking into a mason jar vacuum sealer for storing coffee beans over using the Airscape.)

I’ve said before that we need to stop complicating espresso. And that really also needs to start with the coffee. Go with a local roaster if you want and, more importantly, can afford to. But don’t dismiss the value question and avoid larger brands like Lavazza and Illy simply to… avoid the larger brands. Don’t be afraid to explore. Don’t fall for the spell of the roast date and avoid adding larger roasters into that exploration.

You might find something you like that will also save you a ton of money in the long run.

Revisiting Trump and the Fourteenth Amendment

So the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that States cannot exclude former-President (and current Republican front-runner) Donald Trump from their Republican primary ballots. I wrote an article basically saying much the same back in November 2022.

So where did the Supreme Court and I agree, and where did we not?

“officers of the United States”

First off, let’s get this out of the way. While it was argued by Trump’s attorneys that the President is not an “officer of the United States” as inferred in the Constitution, the Supreme Court ultimately did not rule on that point.

But they didn’t need to. Because it isn’t yet relevant.

For it to become relevant, two things would have to happen, in this order:

  1. Trump, or another former President, would need to be convicted in a Federal Court under 18 USC §2381 or §2383, with that conviction not being vacated by a Court, and
  2. They would then need to win the election for the office of President.

And given the likelihood for this to happen, this is a question that will likely never be addressed simply because it won’t ever need to be.

Section 5

This was really the entirety of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment says simply, “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” So Congress alone is granted that authority by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Its ratification did not stop ex-Confederates from seeking and being elected to Federal office. The issue was simply Congress had yet to define an enforcement mechanism, meaning, by default, Congress never saw the Amendment as self-enforcing. And Section 5 explicitly disavows any idea that it is self-enforcing.

Congress’s Section 5 power is critical when it comes to Section 3. Indeed, during a debate on enforcement legislation less than a year after ratification, Sen. Trumbull noted that “notwithstanding [Section 3] … hundreds of men [were] holding office” in violation of its terms. Cong. Globe, 41st Cong., 1st Sess., at 626. The Constitution, Trumbull noted, “provide[d] no means for enforcing” the disqualification, necessitating a “bill to give effect to the fundamental law embraced in the Constitution.” Ibid. The enforcement mechanism Trumbull championed was later enacted as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870, “pursuant to the power conferred by §5 of the [Fourteenth] Amendment.” General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 385 (1982); see 16 Stat. 143–144.

I mentioned the Enforcement Act of 1870 in my previous article. It provided for a “writ of quo warranto” for removing any person who was holding any Federal office in violation of Constitutional requirements – it was not limited only to the Fourteenth Amendment. Currently there is no Federal “quo warranto” statute. Instead that power is held by the District of Columbia with authorization by Congress and adjudicated by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

And absent “quo warranto”, Congress has absolute authority to impeach someone who is holding an office without proper qualification. The House and Senate have the unquestionable authority to refuse to seat and to eject someone who is not qualified to hold a seat in the respective Chambers.

For example, if it was true and could be proven that Obama was not a natural born citizen of the United States, the House absolutely could have him impeached on that point. Same for any person who was convicted of treason, insurrection, or, largely, any crimes against the sovereignty of the United States. The House and the Senate have that unquestionable, irreversible authority.

After the Enforcement Act of 1870 was largely repealed following the Second World War, the only direct enforcement mechanism for Section 3 left intact is the Federal criminal statutes for treason and insurrection, 18 USC §§2381, 2383, respectively.

So, in short, only Congress has the power to enforce Section 3, contrary to the assertions of the State of Colorado. And the Supreme Court also used much the same assertions to back up their reasoning that I used in my article.

Separate sovereigns

The Court also highlighted a complication that we’re already seeing. “The result could well be that a single candidate would be declared ineligible in some States, but not others, based on the same conduct (and perhaps even the same factual record).” And we’re already seeing this.

Due to the separate sovereigns doctrine.

Normally this doctrine is applied with regard to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, but the concept is apt here. Each States is the controller of their own elections, deciding who has access to their ballots and who does not. This is why candidates for President have to gain approval from each State individually to be on the ballot in that State. There is no overarching Federal qualification process each State must honor – though that’d make Federal elections for third party candidates far easier.

Did they go too far?

Justices Barrett, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson alleged in the two concurring opinions that the majority went a bit far in (and these are my words) “hammering home” the point that the States cannot enforce Section 3. But what they’re saying doesn’t seem to jive with the final decision of the Court, making me wonder if there was a much broader decision initially that was scaled back on the objections of the concurring Justices.

First, Justice Barrett:

This suit was brought by Colorado voters under state law in state court. It does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced.

Reading the decision, I don’t see this occurring in the slightest. For one, the question isn’t complicated in the least. It’s straightforward. And the Court didn’t declare herein that Federal legislation is the “exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced”. That had already been declared previously by Chief Justice Chase back in 1869. The Court herein merely reiterated it.

And Justice Sotomayor (with whom Kagan and Jackson joined) went so far into left field she hopped the fence and kept going. Again, I wonder if there was initially a much broader opinion that was then scaled back after Barrett and Sotomayor wrote their concurrences. This sentence in Sotomayor’s opinion gives reason to believe this: “They decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and petitioner from future controversy. Ante, at 13.” Except there is nothing on page 13 matching what she is describing.

What was initially there?

Yet the Court continues on to resolve questions not before us. In a case involving no federal action whatsoever, the Court opines on how federal enforcement of Section 3 must proceed. Congress, the majority says, must enact legislation under Section 5 prescribing the procedures to “‘”ascertain[] what particular individuals”’” should be disqualified. Ante, at 5 (quoting Griffin’s Case, 11 F. Cas. 7, 26 (No. 5,815) (CC Va. 1869) (Chase, Circuit Justice)). These musings are as inadequately supported as they are gratuitous.

Note the year on the “Griffin’s Case” citation. 1869. The year after the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. And the year before the Enforcement Acts of 1870 were passed into law under President Ulysses S. Grant.

More specifically, Chase issued his opinion in May 1869. Senator Trumbull, noted above, said what is quoted on April 8, 1869. So Senator Trumbull also recognized what Chief Justice Chase would eventually rule: that the Amendment required an enforcement mechanism for removing ex-Confederates who were disqualified by the Fourteenth Amendment and that no such enforcement mechanism yet existed.

Now the object of the amendment is to unseat every officer, whether judicial or executive, who holds civil or military office in contravention of the terms of the amendment. Surely a construction which fails to accomplish the main purpose of the amendment, and yet necessarily works the mischief and inconveniences which have been described, and is repugnant to the first principles of justice and right embodied in other provisions of the constitution, is not to be favored, if any other reasonable construction can be found.

Is there, then, any other reasonable construction? In the judgment of the court there is another, not only reasonable, but very clearly warranted by the terms of the amendment, and recognized by the legislation of congress. The object of the amendment is to exclude from certain offices a certain class of persons. Now, it is obviously impossible to do this by a simple declaration, whether in the constitution or in an act of congress, that all persons included within a particular description shall not hold office. For, in the very nature of things, it must be ascertained what particular individuals are embraced by the definition, before any sentence of exclusion can be made to operate. To accomplish this ascertainment and ensure effective results, proceedings, evidence, decisions, and enforcements of decisions, more or less formal, are indispensable; and these can only be provided for by congress.

Now, the necessity of this is recognized by the amendment itself, in its fifth and final section, which declares that “congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provision of this article.”

There are, indeed, other sections than the third, to the enforcement of which legislation is necessary; but there is no one which more clearly requires legislation in order to give effect to it. The fifth section qualifies the third to the same extent as it would if the whole amendment consisted of these two sections. And the final clause of the third section itself is significant. It gives to congress absolute control of the whole operation of the amendment These are its words: “But congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each house, remove such disability.” Taking the third section then, in its completeness with this final clause, it seems to put beyond reasonable question the conclusion that the intention of the people of the United States, in adopting the fourteenth amendment, was to create a disability, to be removed in proper cases by a two-thirds vote, and to be made operative in other cases by the legislation of congress in its ordinary course. This construction gives certain effect to the undoubted intent of the amendment to insure the exclusion from office of the designated class of persons, if not relieved from their disabilities, and avoids the manifold evils which must attend the construction insisted upon by the counsel for the petitioner.

It results from the examination that persons in office by lawful appointment or election before the promulgation of the fourteenth amendment, are not removed there from by the direct and immediate effect of the prohibition to hold office contained in the third section; but that legislation by congress is necessary to give effect to the prohibition, by providing for such removal. And it results further that the exercise of their several functions by these officers, until removed in pursuance of such legislation, is not unlawful.

Now remember, this was before the Enforcement Acts. The Fourteenth Amendment declared a disqualification for office that took effect immediately upon its ratification, one that Congress could remove – and the Court noted in a footnote that Congress did just that with the election of Nelson Tift.

But the mere declaration of the disqualification isn’t enough since, as Chase and Trumbull pointed out, Section 3 is not self-enforcing. Congress must enact legislation providing for its enforcement. And that’s where the aptly-named Enforcement Act of 1870 comes into play.

All the Court said in the majority opinion is simply that Congress alone has that authority.

All that, though, was repealed in 1948. What was left behind is the insurrection statute along with the “writ of quo warranto” process in the District of Columbia, along with, of course, the House’s impeachment power.

The Court today needed to resolve only a single question: whether an individual State may keep a Presidential candidate found to have engaged in insurrection off its ballot. The majority resolves much more than the case before us. Although federal enforcement of Section 3 is in no way at issue, the majority announces novel rules for how that enforcement must operate. It reaches out to decide Section 3 questions not before us, and to foreclose future efforts to disqualify a Presidential candidate under that provision. In a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course.

Again, the majority did no such thing. It said that enforcement falls only with Congress and that currently the only enforcement vehicle is, as mentioned, 18 USC §2381 and §2383. They didn’t address Federal enforcement of Section 3 in the slightest in what was published except to say, again, that only Congress can enforce it and highlight how it’s currently to be enforced.

But why did the Court do this?

In my opinion, it’s to foreclose any alternate ideas that might be brought before the Court as to how Trump might be declared ineligible under the Fourteenth Amendment. Such as, since the Court brought up Congress, attempting to appeal to Congress for a joint resolution or something amounting to a bill of attainder.

That’s the “hammering home” I mentioned earlier.

And I feel they did that to close any loopholes with the hope of keeping any potential future cases off their docket, since, this being an election year, any such cases would likely require expedited handling, disrupting their other business. So if they can prevent that by writing an opinion that says, in short, “States can’t enforce Section 3, and Congress can only do so via proper legislation”, then they’re closing the question on what Congress can do before it’s even asked.

No wiggle room. No loophole.

Inspect your holsters!

Holsters serve two important purposes: they carry your firearm and, more importantly, they retain your firearm.

The retention mechanisms in holsters are extremely important. Not only do they keep your firearm in the holster while you’re moving around, but should also make it so a random person isn’t able to just grab your firearm and run:

So if you don’t have a holster with good retention, remedy that shortfall. Now! (I personally recommend the ShapeShift from Alien Gear.)

But having the holster isn’t enough. You do need to periodically test the retention in your holster to make sure it not only still holds your firearm securely, but that someone also can’t just grab your firearm and unholster it.

Retentions wear out over time, so it’s important to periodically inspect them and replace the holster (or just the shell, if in the case of a lot of IWBs) if the retention is failing or not adequately retaining your firearm.

So what’s bringing this up? The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) recently had an… incident. A 17 year-old woman managed to take a deputy’s firearm from his holster and turned it on herself:

It is alleged the female reached toward the deputy’s firearm and retrieved the firearm from the deputy’s holster. During the altercation, it is alleged that the female suffered from a self-inflicted gunshot wound with what we believe to be the deputy’s firearm.

Which given the type of retention in law enforcement holsters, that normally shouldn’t be possible. With heavy emphasis on NORMALLY. A worn or faulty retention could allow that to happen, though. In a comment on the article reporting this incident, I said this:

Okay the LASD needs to inspect everyone’s holsters to ensure the retention mechanisms are working as expected, or completely re-evaluate what holsters they’re issuing to their officers.

And depending on what actually happened, the Los Angeles Sheriff might order an inspection of every officer’s holsters just to make sure retentions are working as expected. Any that are found to be defective will be replaced. And there’s the possibility they issue completely different holsters to their officers.

But either way, the only person who should be able to unholster a firearm is the person wearing it. So if the young woman in question was able to unholster the officer’s firearm despite the retentions that should be built into that holster, it’s safe to say the retentions failed or were defective out of the gate.

So let this be a reminder to test the retention on your holster. And if you don’t have a retention holster, get one. Again, I recommend the Alien Gear ShapeShift and have been using it since I bought it nearly 6 years ago as of this writing.

Sidestepping Miranda

Several years ago I wrote an article going after an appellate court decision out of Washington that, in short, allowed police (in that State, at least) to sidestep the Fourth Amendment and obtain evidence they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get while still abiding by the Constitution. Here, the focus is shifting to the Fifth Amendment and how police were able to get a confession from two suspects, who were also minors at the time of their arrests, without actually talking to them.

The case in question comes out of Florida on a habeas corpus petition to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In that case, then-16 year-old Jimmie Bowen shot and killed a rival gang member, shot and wounded a second adult, and shot and killed a 10 month-old infant sitting in that second adult’s lap. Bowen and his getaway driver, 17 year-old Bernard Jones, were fingered by one of Bowen’s associates, and they were arrested.

Upon an attempt at questioning, in a very smart move typically not seen out of youths, let alone gang members, Bowen lawyered up and the interrogation ended before it could go anywhere. But here’s where things get shaky: police put Bowen and Jones in the same room pending transfer to a juvenile detention facility. That room was monitored by security cameras with audio recording, and Bowen and Jones started discussing the incident, in short giving police… everything they would need to more-or-less guarantee a conviction.

Quoting the Eleventh Circuit discussing the trial motion to suppress their conversation (note: Solis is the arresting officer):

At the suppression hearing, Solis shared several motivations for putting Bowen and Jones in the room together. He first testified that it was so they could await transportation to the Juvenile Assessment Center. But he later admitted to recognizing that the two suspects might speak to each other about the murders—indeed, hoping they would—and conceded that this possibility informed his decision to put them in the same room.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and that was used as a basis for appeal. After exhausting all State-level options, Bowen appealed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for habeas corpus relief. And the District Court ruled that Bowen’s Miranda rights were violated. But the Eleventh Circuit reversed.

I’ve written on Miranda numerous times, stating specifically that the Fifth Amendment only protects you from being compelled to self-incriminate, and that it offers no protection when you willingly do so. And with Bowen and Jones, I fully agree there was no compulsion to self-incriminate.

But there’s another question to ponder: what is the likelihood Bowen and Jones would have self incriminated had the police not put them in the same room?

Bowen (and also his mother) asserted his Fifth Amendment rights before being placed into an environment where a confession was expected. It was the actions of the police that led to the confession, not anything Bowen did of his own free will. Had Bowen and Jones not been placed in the same room, it’s likely there never would’ve been any confession.

But as the Eleventh Circuit noted in their decision, Solis put them in the same room hoping they’d talk to each other. The officer hoped to get everything that could have come from an interrogation without needing to actually interrogate. To get everything that could have come from an interrogation after Bowen had asserted his Miranda rights.

The officer intentionally attempted to sidestep Miranda and the Fifth Amendment. And the trial court and now the Eleventh Circuit let it stand.

If this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, I hope they grant certiorari and emphasize that point specifically and rule that Bowen’s Miranda rights were violated. The police should not be allowed to create the environment in which a person willingly self-incriminates after that person has invoked their rights.

When “unanimous” isn’t

When a jury in a criminal trial returns a unanimous verdict of “guilty”, we generally presume they are in 100% agreement on that verdict. But are they?

Hannah Gutierrez was recently convicted in the negligent homicide that occurred on the set of the movie Rust. And while one could readily presume that means all of the jurors were in complete agreement on all facts going into that verdict, the jury instructions… shed light on the fact that may not actually be what happened.

The issue stems from the words “and/or” in the jury instructions.

The Massachusetts Appellate Court ruled in 1998 that including “and/or” in the jury instructions was “so confusing and misleading as to engender great doubt about whether the jury was unanimous with respect to some part or all aspects of its verdict or whether the jury may have convicted the defendant by finding the presence of less than all the elements the prosecution was required to prove”.[Commonwealth v. Johnson, 700 N.E.2d 270, 272-73 (Mass. App. Ct. 1998)]

And in quoting the above, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this month overturning a conviction because of “and/or” in the jury instructions and remanding for a new trial:

Based on the significant risk of jury confusion and misdirection created by the 2 use of the ambiguous term and/or in identifying Defendants’ underlying course of 3 conduct in the jury instructions as framed, we reverse Defendants’ reckless child 4 abuse convictions and remand for a new trial consistent with this opinion.

And when you’re talking about complicated matters of law that are supposed to be understood by a lay person on a jury, ambiguous jury instructions are going to be a problem. And jury instructions have been cause for many appeals of criminal convictions.

And as the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in 1998, quoted above, the inclusion of “and/or” opens up the possibility that a jury could be split on the facts but still convict, possibly even split on whether every fact required by law to be proven has actually been proven.

Jury instructions serve a vital purpose in a criminal and civil trial. They are explanations of the law that tell the jury what specifically they are being asked to determine, what facts they are to decide as the finders of fact have actually been proven. Beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, beyond a mere preponderance of the evidence in a civil trial. And faulty jury instructions have been subject to appeal… a lot.

A jury’s verdict of guilty is to be unanimous. When a jury returns a verdict of “guilty”, it is right to presume it means all facts required to be proven beyond reasonable doubt have actually been proven such, and the jury is saying so unanimously. And the jury instructions must reflect that. Meaning judges need to be careful to not include “and/or” in such a way that a jury could wrongly believe they can return “guilty” even when they are split on all necessary facts.

So if such was also the case leading to Hannah Gutierrez’s conviction, then that conviction absolutely should be vacated and a new trial ordered with proper jury instructions given.

Check your mainboard battery

Build Log:

So let’s talk for a moment about a small part on your mainboard that might have a lot more influence over your system’s stability and even performance than is readily apparent. Given the title, I’m talking about the humble little BIOS battery. That simple and easy-to-overlook CR2032 coin battery on every mainboard.

So why am I bringing this up? Nasira – hence the inclusion of this in that category.

Currently Nasira’s mainboard is the X99 mainboard I bought when I upgraded my wife’s system to X99 back in… 2016. So about 8 years ago. And I upgraded Nasira from its original 990FX platform to X99 only a touch over a year ago. But it had been performing more-or-less solidly up until recently.

This past Saturday I tried to install a TrueNAS update through the web UI. The installation appeared to go well until the system went down for reboot. It never came back up. And the symptoms that appeared made me, at first, wonder if the TrueNAS update had again failed. Immediately I started wondering if I was about to lose a fourth SSD.

Fourth SSD?!?

Recall back in August last year that I was diagnosing some rather odd issues with the system not wanting to boot. After trying to install yet another TrueNAS update. At first I thought the issue was the 10+ year-old power supply when it was actually the 5+ year-old ADATA SSD, so SSD #1.

I replaced it with an Inland 128GB SSD from Micro Center, SSD #2. That died in November, so all of three months, and I replaced it with a Crucial BX500 240GB SSD that I also bought from Micro Center, SSD #3. And that didn’t even make it a month before dying – though I think it was showing SMART errors from day 1. But DOA parts happen.

So now the boot SSD is the HP NVMe SSD that I initially installed as an SLOG, so SSD #4. Anyway…

Like I said, the symptoms made me wonder if I was about to lose that SSD as well. It was still being detected by the system without issue. GRUB would load as well. But attempting to boot into TrueNAS caused the system to hang. Similar symptoms to what I was seeing before.

Except it wasn’t hanging trying to go into the BIOS, telling me the drive was initializing as expected, so this shouldn’t be a hardware failure. (Mostly.)

Corrupted update?

So did the TrueNAS update corrupt the system? That was my initial thought.

So I prepared a Rocky Linux boot drive with the intent of migrating Nasira to that and jettisoning TrueNAS entirely. Except… it wouldn’t boot. The UEFI boot failed to load, and the non-UEFI boot option would halt the system with either an “uncompression error” or “32-bit relocation outside of kernel”. Google searches on the latter pointed to this being a hardware problem.

Strange… Aside from the mainboard, processor, and graphics card, none of the other hardware was really all that old. And there’s no reason to think anything became unseated.

But it would occasionally, though not consistently, fail to POST entirely, not showing a picture and not allowing me into the BIOS. Resetting or powering off completely kicked it back to life and I was able to get into the BIOS to access the boot menu. And sometimes I’d get an error that the overclock failed.

So I pulled Nasira out of the rack and opened her up.

That’s when the glint of the CR2032 caught my attention. How old was that battery? Had it ever been replaced? Likely not. So I popped it out – system was unplugged, so this also did a BIOS reset – and replaced it with a fresh Energizer CR2032.

And on a fresh boot with a fresh battery, the system was a lot more responsive. And stable. And the Rocky Linux install loaded without issue. But I decided to let it boot into TrueNAS, which also came up without issue.

The system has been stable since. And performing better than previously, actually. So that’s something I really should’ve done last year before I put this board into service as Nasira.

So yeah, check your mainboard battery!

Another unexpected benefit! (Update: 2024-04-01)

Today was the first scrub since changing the mainboard battery and… the first with out any checksum errors.

Recall that Nasira is running on a consumer X99 mainboard with an i7-5820k, so no ECC RAM. And I’d been getting checksum errors with every monthly scrub since putting it into service. Until today. So there could’ve been something about the dying CR2032 that led to checksum errors when performing a scrub, which is definitely odd, to say the least.

If I get checksum errors on the May 1 scrub, I’ll update accordingly.

Update: 2024-05-01 – No checksum errors again on this scrub.

How often to replace it?

The lifespan of the CR2032 on your mainboard is dependent on several factors. The quality of the cell easily being the biggest one. How often the system is running versus how often it’s powered off being another.

And the CR2032 batteries that come with most mainboards aren’t the best quality available. But they also don’t really need to be.

And that no CR2032 cells were included was one thing that stood out when I bought the Machinist mainboards that went into my router and virtualization machine. But these coin cells are also Lithium cells, which generally cannot be included in air freight. But it also meant that I could more-or-less guarantee it gets a high quality battery.

So how can you know if you have a quality CR2032? Look up the brand and see if there is any information as to how long the battery can last in storage. Since all cells lose energy over time – that’s just the nature of it – and lower quality cells will degrade faster. While your system is powered on, that battery is sitting idle, meaning it’s every so slowly degrading.

Typically these cells should last 5 years in storage. Higher quality cells are generally rated for longer – Duracell advertises a 10 year lifespan under ideal storage conditions. While the system is powered off, that battery is being used to power the volatile storage for the BIOS, so it’ll drain faster. But it isn’t drawing a lot of current – we’re talking microamps- so it’ll still take a couple years for an idle mainboard to drain it.

And 5 years has generally been the guideline for how often to replace the battery.

One thing to also point out: you can’t always use idle voltage to determine whether the battery is dead. Nominal idle voltage for a CR2032 is 3V. Sure if it tests well below that with no load, then it’s definitely dead. But it might also register 3V when it is actually dead.

Instead you need to have a resistance load – 1kΩ works fine – on the battery when testing the voltage. You can find DIY solutions online for this. You just need a coin cell adapter, 1kΩ resistor, and a voltage display of some kind.

It’s generally a good idea to replace the battery if the mainboard had been sitting unused for a very extended period of time – e.g. Greg Salazar’s attempt to build an X58 system from a brand new, unused mainboard (the battery absolutely needed replacing, but that wasn’t the only problem). If you’re buying a mainboard on eBay that’s more than a few years old and the seller doesn’t mention in the listing they replaced the battery, just replace it as soon as you get it to avoid it giving you any issues.

Different mainboards will react differently to a dead or dying battery. Some will still POST but may display a warning that the battery needs replaced. And with those boards, it’ll also display a message that the BIOS was reset if the battery completely dies. Some will not POST at all.

And then you might get stability issues like I noticed with the ASUS X99 board in question. And given some stability issues I’ve had playing with the Sabertooth X99 I still have laying around, I might just see if replacing the battery alleviates that issue.

So if you’re noticing some weird system stability issues, it might be worthwhile to change out that battery. A simple, cheap little part that’s quick to replace, and something a lot of us likely overlook. Especially if the mainboard is older – again, I bought Nasira’s mainboard in 2016 – and you don’t recall ever replacing it or you know it’s never been replaced.

Make sure, though, to replace it with a quality brand as well – Duracell and Energizer are who I typically go for – to ensure the new battery will also last.

Make sure as well that you replace the battery with the system unplugged. This isn’t for any kind of safety concern, but so the CMOS is also cleared. Yes, this means you’ll need to change all your settings back and reapply any overclock, but it’ll also ensure the CMOS doesn’t have any potentially-corrupt data.

Stop complicating espresso

Time to get something off my chest.

On YouTube I’ve seen plenty of videos talking about using filter papers and puck screens in the portafilter to get better extractions. Lots of people are advocating for them, and you can find them all over Amazon and at other places selling coffee equipment.

And, really, can we stop with this?

Espresso is already complicated enough with the need to dial in a grinder and get your puck prep right. Do we really need to keep adding stuff to make it even more so?

I’ll say this up front: puck screens and filter papers won’t save you from bad puck prep. It’s like a gamer thinking his gaming system is holding him back when he just sucks at the game he’s playing. Or a photographer thinking they need a high-end camera when they just need more practice and better training with what they have.

And it seems people have become convinced that puck screens and filter papers are a shortcut to a great espresso shot. Sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t. They won’t save you from bad puck prep. They won’t save you from a bad grinder. They won’t save you from bad coffee.

Here’s a simple test. If you have a bottomless portafilter, what does the underside look like when you’re pulling a shot? Since that’s the first sign of how even the flow is through the puck. If you don’t see the coffee coming through the underside in a relatively even fashion, meaning all the little holes in the underside come to life at about the same time, you don’t have even flow.

A few things to check first, then, in this order:

  1. Your puck prep
  2. Your shower screen
  3. Your portafilter basket

So let’s discuss…

Puck preparation

It is of paramount importance you start here.

You’ve probably heard of the Weiss Distribution Technique, or WDT. If you aren’t already doing this, start here. It is the single-best improvement to your puck prep that you can make. A simple tool is all you need – tons of options abound on Amazon – along with a tall dosing funnel. Watch some videos on YouTube about the technique and practice it.

This alone will drastically improve your extractions if you aren’t already doing it or aren’t doing it right. It wouldn’t surprise me if that alone is enough to get the bottom of your portafilter “lighting up” in an even and consistent manner.

But if not, the next thing to check is your shower screen.

Shower screen

How often are you cleaning your shower screen, to begin with? If it’s easy to remove – i.e. just need a screw driver – take it off every once in a while and clean it. (I realize it’s not easy to routinely do this with an E61.) At minimum, brush it every once in a while with a soft-bristle brush (like one of the toothbrushes your dentist gives you).

And make sure you’re backflushing your machine regularly (using a detergent like Cafiza), if you have one that requires that.

If you can upgrade your shower screen, do so. I upgraded to this one from E&B Lab (i.e. IMS) over 3 years ago (as of this writing), and it’s been working phenomenally:

See that mesh screen on the front? That will do what a puck screen normally does and spread out the water across the puck. You can see that quite readily by watching the water flow through it. And… it’s only 28 USD (as of this writing), less than the cost of premium puck screens and only about twice the cost of the lower priced options from companies like Normcore.

It’s only if you can’t upgrade your shower screen that you could look at puck screens to help even out the water flow. But before you go that route and complicate your routine, look at your portafilter basket first, since it works in tandem with your shower screen to extract the shot.

Portafilter basket

You don’t need to go all-out here and buy the Sworz billet basket. But that doesn’t mean your existing portafilter basket doesn’t suck, because it likely does. You will be far better served getting a better basket before adding filter papers or a puck screen into your steps.

And, like replacing the shower screen, this isn’t an expensive upgrade either. I was shocked when I saw the price of the filter basket I currently use: the VST 18g 58mm basket. And other comparable baskets are on the market at around the same price point.

If you have one of the lesser-end or entry-level espresso machines, look to see if there’s a basket upgrade available for your portafilter. Especially if you’re using a pressurized basket. Switch to a non-pressurized basket first before complicating your routine. This will require investing in a decent grinder, though. And if a non-pressurized basket isn’t available for your machine, upgrade to one with that option. Since having the pressurized basket itself will significantly hold back the quality of your shots.

If you already have even flow…

…why are you looking at adding puck screens and/or filter papers? You’re just going to mess up a good thing. So… don’t. Just don’t.

The only reason to add a puck screen is to keep your group head cleaner. But does it eliminate the need for periodic cleaning? No. So you’re maybe lessening how often you’re cleaning your group head… by introducing something that needs to be cleaned every time you use it. Yeah that sounds really smart…

And before getting filter papers, get a better portafilter basket if you have that option.

Final thoughts

Before adding in puck screens and filter papers, check your puck prep and equipment first. Since the puck screens and filter papers won’t save you from bad technique, bad equipment, or bad coffee. And with the filter papers, it’s added waste – and an added carbon footprint, especially if you’re ordering them premade.

But, for Christ’s sake, can we stop complicating espresso even more than it already is?

Timemore Chestnut C3 manual grinder

I’ve said in coffee reviews on this blog that my grinder is the Compak K3, which is a motorized grinder with 58mm flat burrs. And for 8-1/2 years, it was the grinder on my counter, faithfully grinding coffee without issue – except for the very dark roasts (like this one and this one) that I think would bind up any grinder out there.

So why am I now talking about the Timemore C3, which is a manual grinder available on Amazon for under 80 USD? Well… I’ll get to that in a minute.

First I’ll mention again that my espresso machine is… nowhere near cheap. It’s the ECM Technika IV Profi. When available, it was north of 2,000 USD (depending on retailer and whether it was on sale). And I’ve had it for over 7 years.

And the idea of pairing an 80 USD grinder, especially a manual grinder, with a 4-figure espresso machine would likely have a lot of coffee snobs screaming. That there is no way a cheap grinder can grind fine enough for that kind of espresso machine. That it’s best paired with one of the cheap machines from DeLongh’i (like the now-discontinued EC-155, replaced with the ECP3220 and ), or even the Breville Infuser at the upper end of the spectrum.

And for the most part, they’d be right. It’s nonsensical to pair such an inexpensive grinder with a high-end espresso machine. But they’d also be wrong. It can produce grinds fine enough for a high-end espresso machine.

Would I recommend this grinder for anyone wanting to make espresso with a high-end machine? Certainly not. Even if you want a manual grinder, there are better options available that are more suited for that application.

But is it incapable? Absolutely not. Don’t fall into the mental trap of thinking better options being available means lesser options are incapable. Something I see happen way, way too often.

Like I said, it’ll produce grinds fine enough for my high-end machine. And I didn’t need to bottom out the burrs or modify it in any way to accomplish that.

It is a conical burr grinder, though, while my Compak is a flat burr. And yes, that makes a difference. When I upgraded from the Breville Smart Grinder to the Compak K3, I didn’t notice a difference at the time simply because I hadn’t been a home barista for all that long. But going from the flat burr K3 to the conical burr Timemore C3… it was noticeable, and not for the better.

The small burrs are a big part of that. Larger burrs, whether flat or conical, produce better grinds. But that there is also a difference in grind quality between conical and flat burrs plays into this as well.

Now whether flat or conical burrs are better is a matter for debate and personal choice. The best grinders use flat burrs. But the very popular Niche Zero uses conical burrs. But at 63mm, those burrs are also much larger compared to most motorized conical burr grinders, let alone the manual ones.

Conical burrs, though, allow one to build compact grinders. You can only get so small with flat burrs before they’re useless for espresso.

Why a manual grinder?

As I said, my previous grinder was the Compak K3. And it dutifully held its own for over 8-1/2 years. Then the threads bound up hard when I was trying to take it apart to clean it out. No idea how that happened, but one of my recent dark roast misadventures probably had something to do with that.

So I started looking for a replacement. Something not easy to do when you’re… unemployed.

And I first started looking at the lesser-expensive motorized grinders from Baratza, Breville, etc. But reviews about using them with higher-end espresso machines left me wanting. I was still looking for a replacement for my Compak, but I needed a stop-gap, and preferably one that wasn’t going to drain my savings.

And manual grinders are typically far less expensive compared to their motorized counterparts.

Looking for reviews online, I discovered that James Hoffmann did a review of several manual grinders, targeting espresso specifically, one of which was an earlier version of the Timemore:

And seeing the price for the C3 online, I jumped on it to, again, have a stop-gap while I figured out what to do with the Compak.

The experience

And having used electric grinders the entire time I’ve been doing home espresso – first the Breville Smart Grinder, then the Compak K3 – using a manual was… an experience. And not really a great one for someone only a little over 4 months off a dislocated shoulder and less than a month out of physical therapy for said dislocation. Non-dominant shoulder, thankfully, or this definitely would’ve been a far worse experience.

Dialing it in for espresso was interesting, though. It is a stepped grinder, not stepless. But I’ll just say to be prepared to modify your dose size along with the grind setting to get your shots pulling within the proper time frame. In dialing this in, I got to a point where one click finer choked off the machine, while one click back from that produced a gusher. So the only way around that was to go to the finer setting and reduce the dose size – I settled in on about 15.5g dose for the grind setting.

Going to a fine grind for espresso does mean additional work being involved, and is far from an enjoyable experience when you’re making your morning latte after feeding the cats… And numerous times I considered measuring the hexagonal shaft to determine what hexagonal bit I’d need to power this with my drill. Which answers another question you’ve probably had in your mind reading this. No, I didn’t chuck it into my drill.

I don’t see any reason to think you cannot do that, so long as you can control the RPM to keep it at a pace on par with what an average person can produce – meaning under 150 RPM, probably closer to 100 RPM.

And as I said, it produced grinds fine enough for my high-end espresso machine. They definitely aren’t the greatest grinds to be produced, but it wasn’t something I can complain about much either. While one really could say having a grinder is better than no grinder, that isn’t true with espresso. For one, it needs to be able to grind fine enough for espresso, and this one, again, definitely can do that.

But the grinds it does produce also need to be fairly consistent to get good results with an espresso machine, and that’s where this falls short. But given the compact size of the grinder, meaning also the compact size of the burrs, that’s not unexpected. Again, larger burrs produce better grinds. There’s just no getting away from that. And with manual grinders, you can only go so large before the effort needed to grind the coffee beans becomes too much.

On the plus side, being a manual grinder means it doesn’t come with many of the downsides of electric grinders. For one, no need to worry about powering it – whether with batteries or off the wall.

But easily the major one is… static. There’s still some static, and some of the grinds will cling to the side of the collection cup. But a firm tap with the side or bottom of the cup against the counter top will dislodge most of that without an issue. Spritzing the beans with water – formally known as the “Ross Droplet Technique” or RDT – will likely help with that too.

Being manually powered, though, also means it’ll take longer to grind compared to a motorized grinder. But its compact size means you don’t need to dedicate counterspace to it and can just keep it in a drawer.

For the short time I used this, it worked great as a stop-gap. And I’ll likely keep it on hand in case I need a backup again in the future.

Final thoughts

As already mentioned, I absolutely would not recommend this grinder for high-end espresso machines. If you want a manual grinder, there are better options available. Just pay attention to reviews with regard to grind consistency.

If you have one of the many good lower-end options that have sprung onto the market over the last several years, then it’s a great inexpensive choice if you don’t mind the work involved. I could easily see pairing this with one of DeLonghi’s inexpensive options, for example.

If you do pick one up, make sure to also pick up Grindz with it to run through the grinder every once in a while. Being a manual grinder doesn’t mean you get away from maintenance.

I can’t really speak to the quality of this grinder for French press, drip, and pour-overs. But I think it safe to say that if it’s a capable grinder for espresso, it should do well there too. Again, better options exist, but that doesn’t mean this grinder is incapable.

Verena Street Shot Tower Espresso

I’ll say up front that it’s possible my experience with this coffee is one-off. And I certainly hope it is. But it’s a horrible enough experience that I’m steering clear of them in the future.

To preface, I was recently laid off, so in a bid to cut some costs, I decided to take on lesser-priced coffee compared to what I typically get from Messenger Coffee. And my nearby Hy-Vee is where I’ve gone in the past. So when I saw Verena Street in the Hy-Vee app, and saw it was on sale for $8 for 11oz (not 12 oz, unfortunately, not that would’ve helped much here), I decided to give it a try. Especially since the 2lb bags can be had for only a little more than a 12oz bag of Messenger.


Now Verena Street’s Shot Tower Espresso is dark and oily, like the previously-reviewed Pitch Black Espresso from Black-Out Coffee. And it has the flavor notes of charcoal and smoke that I also noted with Pitch Black.

Only my experience with Verena Street was worse. Way, way worse. To say I’m livid is a massive understatement.

I’m writing this not even 48 hours after I bought the bag. I got 4 lattes out of the entire 11oz bag. More of the coffee grinds went into my trash can than were used to pull a shot. The reason: any attempt to grind fine enough for espresso created grinds that clumped up and blocked up my grinder. And the 4 lattes I did get out of it were mediocre at best simply because I couldn’t get my grinder dialed in.

It was just impossible.

(For immediate reference, my grinder is the Compak K3 Touch, which has 58mm flat burs.)

The morning after I bough the bag, it took me nearly an hour to get something workable, fighting with my grinder the entire time, burning through probably a hundred grams of beans in the process, if not more. It was a royal pain in the ass… And for each of the other three lattes, it was much the same. Fight with the grinder to at least get something mediocre.

This morning I even took apart my grinder and cleaned it out. And that helped. I got close to getting it dialed in, and figured I’d just adjust things with each next grind. Only I never got that chance. Because only for this morning, cleaning the grinder helped. Only. for. this morning.

This afternoon it was back to the same experience of fighting the grinder to get something… mediocre. Six (6) hours is all the grinder was sitting. Just. Six. Hours. And something happened with the latent grinds in the grinder…

Now my grinder isn’t exactly “high end”. Yeah it’s definitely not the cheapest thing on the shelf. But there are other grinders that are far better than mine, and far pricier. But it’s price is due to it being made for espresso, able to grind super fine for espresso or Turkish coffee. And if a coffee bean is advertised as “espresso”, I should be able to put it through any grinder made for espresso, whether it has flat burs or conical burs (mine is flat), and grind it to the fineness needed to pull a shot of espresso on an espresso machine.

But this bean is way, way too oily to do that. It’ll clump up inside your grinder in such a way that nothing will flow out. At least on a flat-bur grinder. If I still had my conical bur Breville Smart Grinder, I probably could’ve been fine. Probably…

But for the most part, trying to do a fine grind with an oily bean will lead to a bad time.

Don’t call your blend an espresso blend if it can’t be ground fine for espresso. The experience alone means this isn’t even worth a 0/5.