Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Proposition 8, by Ronnie George and the Supremes

Playing in the background: Lisbeth Scott

I hate to tell y'all this, but the Proposition 8 decision rendered yesterday by the California Supreme Court is neither the beginning of the anti-gay Apocalypse nor an affirmation of the Christian values that hold our nation together. Since all heck broke loose Tuesday morning around noon Texas time, I've read scads of articles, and so, I imagine, have most of us. Here's just a quick sample: Former Presidential candidate Gary Bauer on Tuesday said that the California state Supreme Court ruling to uphold Proposition 8 was "a victory for democracy and common sense."( San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders (no, not the comedian) said, "It's obvious that neither justice nor equality were on the court's agenda today." There were some other quotes I was gonna use, but most of them weren't bloggable, so let's get right to the meat of this thing. What did the decision actually say?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor do I play one at work. Any material in this article not attributed to an external source constitutes my personal opinion only and should not be construed as offering legal advice or being the definitive word on anything whatsoever. Furthermore, I wasn't paid for writing this (though I might ask The Network to double my salary after this is over.) And I think that should satisfy the Texas high sheriffs, so let's move on.

First of all, if you haven't already done so, click on the Prop. 8 link above and read the darn case, already. If you don't wanna read the whole thing, read about the first 13 pages; that will tell you what you need to know. Reading court decisions is highly recommended by yours truly, especially if you come across a headline like, Court Awards Custody of Son To Convicted Rapist or something else that doesn't make any logical sense. In the age of the Internet, this is easy: Get into the article, find the name of the case and Google that sucker (helps to add the state and the word "decision"). Why? Because a court decision that can run to scads of pages is hard to sound bite in two paragraphs. If the decision sounds crazy, it's probably because the reporter left out about 80% of the facts. Add in the facts and suddenly it's more logical, even if you don't agree with it. I have, indeed, read most of the 167 page decision on Strauss v Horton because, unlike Fox News, I like to know what I'm talking about. Even if I'm wrong. And I'm not saying I am.

Item One: Revision v Amendment

The main argument in the Strauss case was that Prop. 8 is not an amendment to the California constitution, but a wholesale revision of the silly thing. There's about fifty-odd pages devoted to the difference between an amendment and a revision, to say nothing of why that's so important, and I won't go into all of 'em here. The Court says that the reasons Prop. 8 is an amendment and not a revision are as follows:

1. Prop. 8 does not entirely repeal or abrogate the aspect of a same-sex couple's state constitutional right of privacy and due process.
2. Nor does Prop. 8 fundamentally alter the meaning and substance of state constitutional equal protection principles.
3. All it does is carve out a limited exception reserving the designation of the term "marriage" to opposite sex couples. It doesn't disturb any of the other "extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple's constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee or equal protection of laws." (Page 7.)

This doesn't mean the court thinks that "marriage" as a designation isn't important. They do. They go on and on about this on pages 36 et seq. What they're basically saying here is, calling it an orange don't make it a tangerine. Same sex couples have the same rights as before. They just can't be called married, is all.

Sound illogical? Well, maybe. Words matter, and a "domestic partnership" ain't a "civil marriage". But, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it's probably a duck even if you're stuck calling it an Anas platyrhyncha.

By the way, the Court had settled the question of revision vs amendment in a challenge to the ballot language before the November election. Anybody who's surprised by this finding wasn't paying attention.

Item Two: Just Because It's Mean Doesn't Make It Unconstitutional.

One of the other arguments against Prop. 8 was that a minority group's constitutional rights cannot be diminished by a majority vote, according to "an assertedly fundamental constitutional principle" that the petitioners evidently forgot to elaborate. (Page 8.) "Petitioners, however, cannot point to any authority supporting their claim . . .", probably because there isn't one. Some states do in fact have rules about restricting minority rights through constitutional amendments; the Court names Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Maine, among some other states that do not start with the letter M. But, not so California.

In fact, California voters have restricted the rights of minorities by popular vote several times, most notably in 1894, when voters restricted the right to vote to people who were literate in English. (Page 98.) Yep, if you couldn't read, or if you only read in a language other than English, the good folks of California banned you from voting in their elections. And guess what, that law stood until 1970, when it was finally overturned not because of California law but because of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Yikes.

It's hard to imagine a more basic right of a minority than the right to vote, but here's another one anyway: The right not to be killed. In 1982, voters reinstated the death penalty for certain criminal defendants. Where the right to life crowd was when this one passed, I couldn't tell ya, but there it is. (Page 99.)

Item Three: Proposition 8 doesn't violate the separation of powers doctrine.

This seemed like a long shot to me, but some of the petitioners and the state Attorney General stated that Prop. 8 violated the "separation of powers doctrine" by using the political process to undo a judicial decision. The Court said, in effect, "Well, duh, that's what a constitutional amendment is all about." (Page 10-11.) It also accused the Attorney General of doing sloppy research (page 11) by relying on passages from a few early court decisions, since discredited, about "natural law jurisprudence." Now, see, if he'd had a great paralegal like me, he wouldn't have had that problem.

Which brings us to Item Four: So, okay, are Jen and Joan still married or not?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, but the reason they gave doesn't make any logical sense.

Much longer answer: The 18,000-odd marriages between same sex couples that took place between June and November of 2008 (for pics from mine, click here) are still valid, even though Prop. 8 (which the Court just upheld) reads as follows: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." (lots of pages; Page 18, for starters.) "Well established legal principles" (page 13) state that Prop. 8 does not apply retroactively.

Quoting an older case, (p. 129), the Court determined that "in the absence of a clear . . . intent to the contrary. . . enactments apply prospectively," which is to say, from this date forward, and not applicable to anything that happened before that. Neither the Attorney General's official title and summary, nor the legislative analysis of the measure said anything about going back in time and undoing marriages. (Page 132.) Nor did the Voter Information Guide for the November 2008 election, which in a rebuttal to an argument against Prop. 8, stated: "Your YES vote . . . WILL NOT take away any other rights or benefits of gay couples." (Page 40.) (Ironically, it was the anti-gay marriage crowd that wrote this thing. I think that's what we call an inadvertent oopsie.)

The Court also said that to retroactively undo a bunch of marriages would be a serious violation of the due process of law (Page 133). Why? Because changing who's eligible to marry doesn't have any effect on the folks who have married already. The example the Court gives (in reference to one of the cases they cite) is, if the state raises the marriage age from, say, sixteen to eighteen, that doesn't erase the marriages of folks between sixteen and eighteen who got married before the age was changed.

Responding to the argument that, "But the voters must have meant to undo the existing marriages, otherwise that whole 'between a man and a woman' and 'valid and recognized' part won't make any sense," the Court said, in essence, "Not our problem." In fact, they said that a lot, all the way through this decision. In the reading of legalese it's sometimes hard to find tone, but I get the distinct feeling that the Court was a little pissed off at being dragged into this argument again. Maybe this decision was its way of saying to the state of California, "Fine. You guys wanna undo one of our decisions with a constitutional amendment? Go right ahead. Here's whachoo get." Hubris maybe? I dunno, but I do note that they also said "not my problem" about same-sex marriages performed in other states. (A footnote someplace. I forget where - it's getting late and I'm tired.)

So what does all this mean, you ask?

Well, this means that California will be years trying to straighten out the details about how you cope with a population of A. married same-sex couples and B. same-sex couples that aren't married but must by law be given the same rights as C. the married same-sex couples and D. the opposite-sex couples who are married. If I were on the Bureau of Vital Statistics, I might be tearing my hair out right about now. And if you start thinking about the ramifications, say, in Family Court, license departments, corporate benefit packages, spousal leave for illness, adopting kids, etc., etc., etc., you could get a serious headache. Which, as the Court tells us, is Not Its Problem.

And how Jen feels about this is:

1. Confused.
2. Annoyed.
3. Cheated. If Joan and I had our marriage invalidated, we could have sued the state of California for fraud and maybe at least collected reimbursement for that ghastly dinner at El Prado.

But I am glad I still have a wife. There's nothing like the threat of being unmarried by seven people you've never met, even if we've been on this treadmill since roughly 1999. Still, if I'm one of only 18,000 people who merit this distinction, I might well be an endangered species. Perhaps I, like the spotted owl, will get federal protection. One can always hope.

Anyway, I hope this admittedly long-winded article casts some light on things. But if not, I'll take a page from the Court and tell you that it's Not My Problem.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Friday Frights (on Sunday) and Hyperfertility

Playing in the background: Episode of "House." The guy just never gets old.

For once I got Joan to come with me to a Friday Frights - mainly because I picked a Disney movie, but that's okay, she's good company. We saw Race to Witch Mountain at the dollar theater and it rates an AWESOME. (That's four stars for those of you that count stars - and yes, I've been known to go up to five.) Sarcasm, Star Wars in-jokes, Whitley Streiber appears as himself and, oh yeah, the movie was one long car chase. I'm liking Dewayne Johnson more and more as an actor. And was it a deep, profound, socially significant flick that alters our view of ourselves and our place in the universe? Uh, no. But it was tremendously entertaining. Highly recommended. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it's the New Moon and yours truly has been hit with her monthly attack of hyperfertility. IF YOU ARE MALE AND YOU COME WITHIN 300 YARDS OF ME IN THE NEXT TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, THERE'S AN EXCELLENT CHANCE YOU WILL KNOCK ME UP. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Not having a male (besides Caesar the Neutered Cat) within three hundred yards of me, though, I've been writing like crazy. 11,000 words in the last three days. Three complete chapters and parts of a few more.

This is one of the more awesome things that could befall a writer, and it even picked a convenient three-day weekend to happen. (Yes, I've been unemployed for a while now, but I've had a temp gig for the past week and I'm going back on Tuesday.) I don't know if it happens to everybody, but I can pretty much set my watch on it. Stuck on a tough chapter? No problem, call me back in four weeks. And don't ask me to do anything more complex than minor editing two weeks after that.

In fact, my only real complaint with this hyperfertility thing is that I get high. What's wrong with getting high, you ask. Well, nothing, except that I like it, and I want to keep it going as long as possible. When it starts to ebb, I don't want to eat (except sugar) or sleep (except naps) because being speedy and sleep-deprived lets me hang onto it a little bit longer. Keep doing this long enough and you will eventually die. It's like, say, powering a laptop with lightning bolts. Fun while it lasts, but then you need a new laptop and I've only got the one.

Anyway, I've been knee-deep in Soulmender (Mindbender Part Three) most of the weekend which was why Joan suggested the movie. I think she was afraid I'd forget the rest of the world existed. So naturally we went to see a movie about two kids in trouble, running from law enforcement and a scary assassin. I mean, you gotta appreciate the irony.

BTW, like how I came full circle on that one?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Other People's Children

Playing in the background: The dishwasher. I like it, but the washing machine keeps better time.

I had another one of those Do not go over there. Do not get into that conversation. moments with my subconscious the other day. In case I haven't mentioned it lately, my swim team works out at Tom Landry Center, which is generally populated by doctors, nurses, earnest Baylor students and the Concerned Women for America. Sometimes merely stretching in the jaccuzzi requires clinging to the wall with fingernails and teeth to avoid jumping down the throats of complete strangers, who are certainly just as entitled to their beliefs as I am to mine, however wrongheaded they may be. (Says the Buddhist. Well, hey, I never claimed to be enlightened.)

This time we had Church Lady #1 and Church Lady #2 discussing #1's daughter, who was home from college (not Baylor). Here's the conversation:

CL#2: So what's your daughter doing this summer?
CL#1: Oh, hanging around at the mall with her friends, probably. She says she's looking for a job.
CL#2: (Laughing) Oh brother.
CL#1: I told her she at least has to do some volunteer work and stay busy.
CL#2: Absolutely. You don't want her hanging around the house all the time.
CL#1: The house? No, she'll be off with her friends, gossiping about boys or something.
CL#2: (Laughs)
CL#1: Honestly, I don't know how she'll survive in the real world. What will she do when she has to work all day?


Honestly, it took a great deal of restraint not to run over there, grab CL#1 by the bra straps (this conversation took place in the locker room) and yell, "Your daughter has the rest of her life to work all day!! What is the big deal if she doesn't make minimum wage this summer shilling ice cream or flipping burgers?!" It wasn't so much the conversation but just the tone of utter contempt in their voices. My daughter doesn't want to work this summer, therefore she is hopeless. And what, pray tell, is so wrong about hanging out at the mall with one's friends?

I better say, very quickly, that I started working when I was sixteen and never really stopped, except for one semester in college when I couldn't find a job and a few periods of unemployment (such as my current trajectory). I'm almost forty now, so that's about 24 solid years of gainful employment. And a lot I have to show for it, too. What's more, I never hung out at the mall with my friends because I did not have friends who hung out at the mall. That, and I can't stand malls. They're high-pressure zones of intense colors, lights, sounds, and lots of other things that I can't stand. They also require money, which I generally don't have much of. (See above re: 24 solid years of gainful employment.)

I managed to get out of the locker room without getting arrested for assault, but the whole incident left a bad taste in my mouth. Did my mother ever talk about me that way? Not the hanging out at the mall part, but with the tone of utter contempt in her voice. I don't know anything about the background of this story, if the daughter really is lazy and feckless or if she's a typical college student, overwhelmed by the real world and just wanting some time to be young and insane. Either way, why would you have so much contempt for your own kid? Or anybody else for that matter? I'm not sure if I even talk about George W. with that note of disgust in my voice. Let me ask Joan here. (Joan says, "All the damn time." Okay, so much for that example.)

Seriously, though. Why do we treat people we love so much worse than we treat complete strangers? I don't have any kids, so again I lack perspective, but why the hell is that? Why, for example, did my friend Leslie's mom go out of her way to be nice to me while rarely speaking to Leslie (at least in my presence) in any tone other than a yell? How exactly was my opinion of her more important than the way her own daughter felt? I don't get that. I've never gotten that.

Anyway, I managed not to jump into this conversation, which was probably all for the good. But it bothered me and it still bothers me. One of those Buddhist-y thingies, the list of Ten Good Deeds, has as No. 5 and 6 to avoid double tongued and abusive speech. These two didn't make the list of the Big Five Precepts, but plainly the Buddha thought it was important enough to include in one of his many lists. Maybe this was what Buddha was thinking about; that those who dis their daughters in locker rooms might be overheard by those who don't get it. Or maybe it was a gentle suggestion that I stop with the anti-Bush rhetoric, already.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trekkin'

Playing in the background: Really loud frickin' thunder. Eep.

Forgot to mention in all the excitement that Joan and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. I was blown away. I mean really seriously impressed. I wouldn't call myself a Trekkie or a Trekker or whatever they wanna be called these days, but I do like the show. I was a little worried about this whole rebooting of the series thing. Well, we can put those worries to rest. There were tons of in-jokes for the fans, non-fans will still appreciate the wry humor and killer story line, and best of all, we end up with two alternative timelines at the end. So, if you wanna reject the movie entirely and say, "Okay, it couldn't have possibly happened that way," fine; there's a timeline for that. Also, if you wanna say, "Okay, the movie was much cooler than the stuff that went before it, well hey, there' s a timeline for that too. You gotta love time travel movies for that sort of thing.

One minor quibble. If Spock went back in time and gave Scotty his own formula for teleporting to a moving starship in warp drive, does the formula actually exist? I mean, Scotty had to write it in order for Spock to know it to come back in time and tell Scotty about it, but if Scotty didn't know about it in the past, then Spock wouldn't have had it in the future so he couldn't have come back into the past to give it to Scotty and ---never mind. My sister's better at stuff like this than I am.

It should not be a spoiler to mention that the story line is about Spock, and I think it's also pretty well known that Leonard Nimoy shows up as a much older Spock. (Vulcans live a long time, you know. Around 180 years, I think.) Spock's mother and father also show up in the movie. I think they were only in one, maybe two original episodes (Trivia moment! Mark Lenard, the actor who played Sarek, also played a Romulan on an earlier episode!). Howsomever, through fan fiction and subsequent serieses and so forth, the story of Sarek and Amanda has been pretty well told by people other than me. There are entire Web sites and archives dedicated to the Sarek and Amanda story. Brief overview: Vulcan meets human, Vulcan loses human, Vulcan goes through hell and Romulans and Klingons and severe warp displacements and cracks in the space time whatever to get human back, marries her and has a kid. I ought to know; I spent most of high school being regaled with Sarek and Amanda tales by my dead friend, Burt.

That's Burt, short for Roberta. She was a Trekkie, or a Trekker, or whatever they like to be called these days. She could do the dialogue from the original episodes along with the characters (which was a lot of fun on the minor eps, like "A Piece of the Action"). I remember she was not all that happy about STNG but gradually got on board when it turned out to be a pretty good show. She missed Deep Space 9 and Voyager because she died in 1996 of a brain aneurysm. (A what? I dunno. Somebody told me what it was but I've kind of forgotten.) She was about 26, was married and had a kid, Thor, who'd be about 14 now.

The whole time I was watching this movie I was thinking how much Burt would have loved it. I got to thinking, are there movies in heaven? Or am I gonna have to wait until I die and then tell her all about it? Yes, technically I'm talking about the Christian Heaven and since I'm a Buddhist, that may or may not apply. Still, I'd like to think she gets to see the movie, even if she has to do it as, I dunno, a third grader in Beijing or something. You spose humans can be reincarnated as Vulcans? That would be great. And don't tell me Vulcans don't exist. Well, okay, you can tell me that. Just don't tell Burt. She'd beg to differ and probably hit you with a nerve pinch.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jen's Week from Hell, Part Two and Friday Frights Recap

Playing in the background: The ceiling fan

Let's see here: When last we left this sordid saga, I was arguing with my neighbor and Caesar the Cat was sick. Right. Caesar was sneezing a lot so I took him to the vet's. (Cats don't normally sneeze. When they do, it's way cute. They sort of make a "choo" sound.) Seez has an upper respiratory infection of the kind that they always call simple. Not serious but there's medicine involved and once again, I'm kind of short on cash these days. But anyway, we gave it to him and he started getting better. Then Sparrow started sneezing. Sigh.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, after quite a few phone calls I was able to find somebody to haul away the big pile of junk left in my yard after my neighbor decided to play Joe Chainsaw. (See last post.) These were some guys who had worked for me before and were willing to cut me a deal (see above re, short on cash these days.) They showed up at 7:30 in the morning on Thursday. Four guys, a wood chipper and a big flatbed truck. I came out and asked which one was the boss. One guy introduced himself as the crew leader and said the actual boss would be along in about ten minutes. Great, I said. Send him over when he gets here. Meantime, should the guy next door come out and start yelling at you, send him over to me and don't listen to a thing he says.

Sure enough, once they got to work my neighbor came out of his house and started yelling at them. He wanted them to go up the tree and cut down a lot more branches. The crew leader pointed him to me, and so he came over to my place and started yelling at me about hiring an expensive place to haul the branches away when I didn't want to pay for one to do the cutting to begin with. (Side note, this place was not expensive. What they charged me was actually pretty cheap when you consider the four guys, the wood chipper, the truck, etc etc) He also said I had to send them up the tree to cut some other branches. I said, "So you're offering to pay for it then?" He said no. "I done enough for you already." Er, what? At this point I unfortunately lost my temper and yelled at him to get out of my yard. (I'm a nice person. I don't yell at people. Plus, how pathetic is that. "You rotten kids! Get outta my yard!") He stormed back into his house, yelling that I had to cut the rest of the branches and he wasn't going to pay for another thing and blah blah blah and slammed the door. Then all was quiet, except for the chainsaw.

The tree service boss, who'd been hiding in his truck, came up to the house. I told him if he really wanted to climb up the tree and cut down the branches my neighbor wanted cut, he was free to make a deal with the guy, but I was having none of it. "No thanks," said the tree guy. "I think I'll stay out of this one." Smart man. I paid him, they drove off, and instead of a big pile of leaves and branches there was just a lot of trampled-down grass. Thank God and Lindsey's Tree Service.

Joan and I had a long talk after she got to work and decided that we were mainly upset because we felt threatened. So, I wrote an email to my boss telling him what happened and asking him if we had any legal obligation to pay this idiot any more money. Short answer: Not in Texas. Long answer: But if a branch falls on him, we're probably liable for damages unless said damages are an act of God arising from an unusual weather event, a lightning strike, etc., and providing the tree in question is maintained in a healthy condition by the owner of the tree, which is determined by the land upon which the majority of the tree's trunk is situated, except as regulated by certain homeowner associations and municipalities and special district ordinances. (pant pant pant)

So here's what we're doing. We have a video camera right by the door. If Mr. Chainsaw comes over again, the whole conversation gets videotaped. If he doesn't like that, he can leave. This should be the end of the story if it's not over already. The only way we're paying him anything for anything is if the judge says we have to and Joan is pretty sure the guy won't take us to court because that would be admitting he's lost. She seems to be right, because (knock on wood) it's been all quiet on the Western Front since then. Friday night I was out there with some friends who came over to mow the lawn with a power mower. (I just have this little hand-powered reel mower, and we're talking about grass that hadn't been cut in quite a while because, uh, there were branches all over it.) Today I was out there again trimming bushes and Mr. Chainsaw walked right past me half a dozen times without saying a word. So I'd say the storm is over. And Caesar is getting better. And Sparrow is still a curled lump of misery in the middle of the sofa but the antibiotics should kick in soon.

So that was my week. Yay. I did, however, get to see two great movies. The first one was Red Victoria, a comedy of horrific proportions. If you're even a casual fan of horror films, you gotta see Red Victoria. I even made Joan sit through it (mainly for the "who gets killed first" riff about ten minutes in) and I never make her watch my horror films. This flick won the Texas Frightmare Weekend Audience Award as well as the Best Feature Film from the 2008 World Horror Convention. Enjoy!

The second movie was Watchmen. Unfortunately I am not a graphic novel fan and I had no idea what was going on through about 3/4 of the movie, but it was really, really well done. Does that mean I liked it? No clue. It was well done though. After I went home and asked Joan, "Okay, who was this, and what was he doing, and what did that have to do with this, and when did so and so do such and such," and she filled me in on the entire back story, it started making some sense. And then I kind of liked it. I think. But anyway, it was well done. Did I say that already?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jen's Week from Hell, Part 1

Playing in the background: Andreas Vollenweider. No, I'm not a fan, he just happens to be on Sirius XM Spa. (I find him a little annoying, actually.)

I went to a meditation retreat last weekend. By all rights I should be typing this nice serene post about how cool it was to sit on the ground with the bugs and the snakes and meditate all weekend. Alas, it is not so. First of all, it's been pouring buckets for days, so there was no sitting on any ground, and the bugs and snakes were all hiding someplace dry. Secondly, my neighbor, who's about as smart as Mater from the movie Cars (minus the cheerful disposition), spent most of the weekend demanding money from Joan. Who would then call me (yeah, I know, I wasn't supposed to answer my cell phone) and tell me about it and, well, anyway, a serene time was not had by all, okay? And that's not even considering the loud thunderclaps and the eerily bright lightning strikes.

Let me back up a second here. See, we have this tree (see above). Well, had this tree, but I'll get to that in a second. It's a live oak, it's actually two trees (probably started out as one and split into two, like identical twins, how cool is that?) and it lives in our front yard, where it's been for 60 or 70 years. Since before the house was built, anyway, which happened back in '52. This tree has a couple of branches that shade our neighbor's driveway. I don't mean block; they are way, way up high. I mean shade.

About a year ago he decided these branches were dangerous and asked us to have them trimmed. We had a tree guy come out and he cut off a number of the smaller branches but pronounced the large one sound and said it could stay. Our neighbor had a cow because we didn't cut the tree to his specifications. He wanted us to call the tree guy back and have him cut the large branch. We gave him the guy's phone number and said, "Sure, give him a call." When he figured out we weren't planning to pay for something we didn't think was necessary, he got all kinds of upset. When he found out the tree guy wanted something on the order of $400 to take out the big branch he got even more upset.

Fast forward to this weekend. After talking about it for months, our neighbor came over and announced that he was having the tree cut this weekend and we would need to pay for half the cost. Now, mind, in the state of Texas we're not obligated to pay him a cent. As long as we maintain the tree in healthy condition, and unless the silly thing falls on him and damages something, we're good. He can, of course, cut back any branches that hang over his property. Because he's our neighbor, and it is our tree, we offered him $200. I'm unemployed, remember? This is a stretch. Indeed, a serious reach.

So I leave town and while I'm contemplating my toes, he comes over and tells Joan that the price he was quoted has suddenly gone from $500 to $800. Now, I wasn't here so I don't know what happened but I think he basically browbeat and/or threatened her into offering an extra $100. Our grocery money for the week. I'm not sure where he thought we were gonna get it. Out one of the cat's asses, maybe?

Well, he or his wife evidently decided that $500 was still too much so he climbed up there himself, with a chainsaw, and cut down this enormous branch. See above re: about as smart as Mater. This guy should not be allowed to use power tools. I'm not even sure he should be allowed to drive a car. But, anyway, he cut the branch, which is taller than me and about as big around, and left it sprawled in my front lawn, along with all the smaller branches in a big ridiculous heap that's probably a fire hazard and certainly a code violation. The only good thing about the heap of branches is that our view of his house is now completely blocked.

After which he still demanded the money. I am not kidding. Said he'd hired two or three assistants to help him at a cost of almost $300. Couldn't produce a receipt or anything, said it was a handshake deal. And then accused me of trying to cheat him. I said wait a second, we agreed to pay you when you were going to hire someone, and we offered $300 when the price went up to $800. If it's down to $300 then we shouldn't have to pay more than $150, and since it's gonna be at least $300 to haul all this away, we should be even.

Well, then he got really mad. And to make a long story shorter, I finally told him we'd give him the original $200. I mean, sometimes it's easier to part with some funds than fight about it. Boy, was Joan mad at me though. At least, I thought she was mad at me, and I was checking my coffee filters for strychnine. I have life insurance, ya know. Turned out she was just mad because he was being such a putz.

And, yes, we still gotta haul away the leftovers before the City cites us for a code violation. I have three quotes and I like the middle one best, but it's an academic exercise at this point because, uh, we still don't have any money.

Some good times, huh? Then Caesar the Cat got sick. Well, to be continued on that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Video: Buddhism in the Heartland

This is from MSNBC. Nifty story about a Buddhist temple under construction in Fort Wayne, Indiana: