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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Talk Thursday: If It Weren't Illegal...

It bothers me no end that I'm such a law-abiding citizen. You'd think somebody like me would be a rabble-rousing hellraiser with a rap sheet as long as my arm, full of busts for civil disobedience, sneaking into animal shelters at night and freeing all the poisonous snakes, petty theft charges for like stealing the Mayor's keys, and being a public nuisance for, I dunno, lying down on the sidewalk in front of one of those government offices where you have to approach a row of windows in a proper but unknown order to get anything at all accomplished. But I don't. I'm distressingly well-behaved. Not only have I never been arrested (except that one time in Sweden, and I don't think that counts), I've never even been threatened with arrest, except for a couple of student protesty things in college, and by the time the police were telling us we had five minutes to clear the area, I'd assume the point had been made, we'd caused quite enough trouble, and I'd get up and go home. I mean, seriously, by then the press was there, dozens of cop cars were scattered about the area, lots of well-dressed people were standing around with their arms folded and looking distressed, and one or two officials who made more money in an hour than I did in a year had actually raised their voices. And that was about as much attention as the cross on top of Danforth Chapel actually needed, First Amendment or no First Amendment.

Okay, once I got pulled over for doing an illegal lane change and got a stern talking-to. But I didn't even get a written warning. And all of this well-behavedness brought me to where I am today, or rather, where I was yesterday: Standing at the counter at the Department of Vehicular Manslaughter, staring at the renewal form for my driver's license and trying to decide which box to check. There's a whole list of questions on that form that they want you to check "Yes" or "No" to. Any time you answer "Yes" to one of those questions, you're just bound to get into all sorts of trouble. Have you been diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes? (At least it doesn't just say "diabetes" anymore; the wise sheriffs of the DMV have figured out that there's more than one kind, and that a certain type is more dangerous, as far as driving goes.) Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Do you have a movement disorder that makes it difficult for you to turn your head or shoulders? And I was doing fine, checking "No" to box after box, until I got to, "Have you been diagnosed with or are you under a doctor's care for a psychiatric condition?"

I froze. Holy crap. It's illegal to be crazy and drive in Texas. Which is, if you'll pardon the expression, insane. I mean, I've driven in Texas and I've driven in L.A., and given the choice, I'd take the worst day in L.A. in a second, I mean in a heartbeat, over the best day in DFW. Don't get me wrong--people are much nicer here; they wave when they cut you off--but still, that's--that's just--words fail me. Heck, lots of things failed me, including my remarkable capacity to make decisions. I stood there with my pen poised over "Yes" or "No" for quite a long time, while the speaker in the background continued to drone on about "Now serving No. 678 at Window No. 999." Why in the world do they want to know if I have a psychiatric condition? Lots of people have psychiatric conditions. Three people in my house take Prozac, and one of them is a cat, for God's sake. Is this anybody's business? I mean, besides mine and my doctor's and everybody who reads this blog and my 120-odd followers on Twitter? (Hi, y'all!) And if it's illegal to be crazy and drive in Texas, then how in hell do they explain the 635 eastbound at rush hour?

Now, for some people this would be no problem. They'd simply check "No," renew their driver's licenses and go on with their lives. But I am not most people and I did have a problem. I am not in the habit of lying, period, but especially to government officials. That is a great way to get into all kinds of trouble. What did Martha Stewart go to jail for? Not insider trading but lying to the SEC. What is John Edwards in trouble for? Not diddling another woman and getting her pregnant, but lying about it to federal investigators. Never lie to the Feds, folks. It's just not worth the prison time. And while I'm sure that lying to the Texas high sheriffs isn't nearly as dire, the prisons in Texas aren't nearly as nice, either. Plus, it's just really not an option if you're me. I don't lie because I'm such a good person; no, I don't lie because I suck at it. I turn about eighteen shades of red, I start to sweat even if it's cold and my voice jumps an octave without my half-trying. I look really guilty. Remind me never to have an affair.

And so, after standing there for about fifteen minutes and listening to the annoying lady on the speaker getting closer and closer to my number, I finally checked "Yes" and sat down. Then, today at work, I did a little research on the Internet. What I've done is evidently called "self-reporting." The nice man behind the counter who took my little questionnaire will send it to something called the Medical Advisory Board, which will then send me a bunch of forms to fill out. I'll fill out the forms, probably have my doctor sign something, send them back, and the Medical Advisory Board will make some recommendation or other. If I don't like it, I can ask for a hearing with judges and lawyers and stuff. And if I don't like the outcome of the hearing, I can make like Dr. House and crash my car into the local Department of Vehicular Manslaughter as my final statement before they take my driver's license away.

That is, if it weren't illegal.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mini-Post: Rapture Report II

Well, whaddya know! There's Blogger kiosks in Heaven!

(j/k) - Okay, it's past 5 California time and everyone still seems to be around. Even my lawn guy, who is a saint. So, no Rapture today, kids. We'll add this to the list of doomsdays I and the planet have inexplicably survived. (White Nights, the Emmanuel David prophecies, Helter Skelter, 1989, Hale-Bopp, 23 in 1998, 45 in 1999, Y2K, Halley's Comet and 65 more between 2001 and 2010--somebody add that up, it's getting to be quite a list).

Disappointed that so much time and money and energy and brain synapses got burned up on this nonsense. Think of the number of hungry kids we could have fed, low-income housing units we could have built, problems we could have solved. To say nothing of people who would have made good Christians, that saw this sort of thing as What It's All About and walked away. You know, kind of like I did. Okay, in my case it was an overpriced organ, not an overpriced Rapture, and I'll tell you about it sometime, and I'm happy with being a Buddhist, but still, it was kind of sad. The Road Not Taken always carries with it a certain element of sadness.

Anyway, I guess I'll be showing up at work on Monday after all. Have a good rest of the weekend, everybody.

Mini-Post: Rapture Report

Just wanted to report that as of 6:26 a.m. on Rapture Saturday, I'm still here. No definitive conclusions can yet be taken from such a small data set, but it tentatively appears that a Buddhist refuge ceremony trumps an infant baptism and a Lutheran Confirmation. Still, I'll keep you posted. You never know...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Talk Thursday: Settling on the Courthouse Steps

Well, I don't have a topic yet, so that one'll do as well as anything else. This afternoon, just slightly after I got all the trial binders put together but before I went to Kinko's to pick up the nifty graphical maps, our case abruptly settled. This is kind of like winning the bronze medal before you actually get to ski down the giant slalom course (and I'm using a skiing metaphor because, frankly, the giant slalom course scares the crap out of me; I mean seriously, hurtling down a hill at seventy-plus miles an hour, strapped to a couple of boards, with only a silver unitard between you and certain destruction? No helmet even? Ye gods...). So everything came to a screeching halt in a way that can best be described in this haiku by that famous legal poet, uh, me:

Litigation train
Jumps the tracks before the trial
Sudden settlement.

If you've ever been about to fly to, say, El Salvador for the vacation of a lifetime, and you've got all your bags and your surfboard and your copy of "Let's Go! El Salvador" and your Dramamine and your private pass to the Zona Rosa annual art festival and your bottle of celebratory champagne to drink in first class, only when you get to the airport you find out you can't fly to El Salvador because a war has broken out and not only has the State Department ruled the place off limits to Americans but the pilot is refusing to even fly there, it might knock you off your stride the same way settling on the courthouse steps knocks me off of mine. It felt exactly like somebody had reached up and unplugged me from my wall outlet. Instantly I went from full speed ahead to no speed whatsoever. I sat down in the middle of my cube and took a look around at the stacks of stuff for the trial, the neatly arranged binders (also for the trial), the list of phone calls I had to make for the trial, the number of to-dos I still had to do for the trial, and wondered if there was any continuing purpose to my existence whatsoever. It takes talent to turn a settlement--and a pretty good one, I might add--into an existential crisis, but hey, I got talent in spades. Trust me, it would take 900 trained monkeys hundreds of years to pound out this blog in the form of random typewriter keys. I type, therefore I am.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I should be relieved or disappointed. Relieved because that's a whole bunch more work I don't have to do, but--heh heh--you should see all the work I've not been doing because I was doing all this trial stuff. Disappointed, because we didn't get our big cathartic good guys v. bad guys showdown in the halls of justice, with a jury of our peers riding point. But then, I probably wouldn't have been there for most of it, and heard about it mainly in war stories after the fact. Plus, there's one thing about settlement that's hard to argue with; it may only be a bronze medal, but at least you get one. If you go to trial, you may get the gold--or you may get nothing. And nothing is a heck of a thing to be stuck with after all that work.

In the olden days, the proper way to handle the post-settling-on-the-courthouse-steps blues was to go out to the nearest watering hole and drink until one felt better. Tragically, that is no longer an option for yours truly (if indeed it ever was), and snarfing down pita bread and hummus at Afrah, while it's excellent hummus and probably the best pita bread west of Baghdad, is a poor substitute. There are times when I find being sober quite annoying, and this is one. But I am going to eat every scrap of both of these pieces of pita bread, just for spite, and take home all the leftover garlic sauce. So there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rerun: The Five Phases of Trial Prep

In case I haven't mentioned it, I have a trial on Monday. Maybe. If we get that far (they overbook courtrooms like they overbook airplanes, figuring some people just won't show up, and the rest won't mind being bumped because they know they'll get a $200 voucher toward their next filing fee. Okay, I'm kidding about the filing fee.) We're not #1 in line for that day, so it might not happen. But then again, it might. So there's much scrambling around in my office right now, and the best way I can possibly describe it is the way I described it back in '09. So if you'll indulge me, here's a recycled column from this very blog - The Five Phases of Trial Prep, by yours truly. It's a different kind of case, but the rest of it rings pretty true.

Originally published in this space on January 31, 2009.

One of my Big Cases is going to trial. This hardly ever happens. I don't have the stats at my fingertips here, but only some tiny percentage of lawsuits ever go to trial - I think it's less than 1%. The rest settle or are dropped. I've been a paralegal for about 10 years now and I've been involved in probably about 20 trials. And, yes, one of them did go all the way to the state Supreme Court, but my part was well over by then.

Now, mind you, lots of lawsuits settle the day before trial, or even the day of or a few days in. Far as I'm concerned, you get to that point, you might as well go for the gold with the jury because, honestly, all the work's been done. The rest is posturing. I don't have to do that - that's my boss's job. Anyway, for the uninitiated, here are the five phases of trial prep. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Phase I: Euphoria. Oh wow! One of your cases is going to trial! This hardly ever happens! (see above) There's so much work to do. Exhibits to list. Depositions to highlight. Witnesses to call. The adrenaline high kicks in and you're running on caffeine and sugar. Get as much done as you can; this phase won't last.

Phase II: Panic. Holy cow, there's so much work to do. It's impossible to get it all done. What's worse, all the people in the other cases you're working on seem not to know you're going to trial and they keep wanting things done, like, I dunno, returning calls and setting mediation dates and stuff. Add to that, people keep interrupting you every five minutes and pretty soon you want to hang a polite sign that says something like "F*ck Off" on your office door.

Phase III: Rage and despair. Your case stinks. You're going to lose. Your witnesses are all changing their minds about what they saw and at least three can't remember anything they said in their depositions. We should have settled months ago. The insurance adjuster won't return your boss's phone calls. He's throwing tantrums in your office door because the Chinese place sent kung pao squid instead of kung pao scallops. The other lawyers are Nazi drunkards, the judge is 16 years old and fresh out of law school and everything's starting to look like a bad episode of Boston Legal. Oh, and your client is now saying he's not sure the wheel flange was installed by Bob's Pretty Good Technicians, it might have been a guy from Bob's Topless Emporium down the road. Time to throw your boss, all the trial boxes, and yourself out the nearest window. Double points if you land on him or her and survive the fall.

Phase IV: Numb. You no longer know nor care what the case is about. Your boss has a seven word vocabulary and all of them are words you can't say in front of a jury. Oh, that's right, there's going to be a jury. God, you feel sorry for them. Two weeks of testimony on wheel flanges. Somebody please explain why we don't just duel to the death over these little disputes anymore. Wouldn't that be easier? Your boss makes you call the adjuster to explain that, really, there's not that much difference between a $6 million settlement and a $9 million settlement. It's only money, right? And hey, the trial costs alone will run - hello? Hello? Oh great. We'll have to go through with it, then.

Phase V: Euphoria. You've hauled the 58 trial boxes to the hotel room you'll be living in for the next month, set up the temporary shelving, hung the take-out menus in alphabetical order around the room and packed extra Gas-X in the tackle box you'll be taking to trial. You've sent your boss back to change three times and he/she finally looks almost presentable. You've got three extra sets of the opening statement notes on index cards and your laptop ran the presentation software more or less okay, with only minor glitches, roundabouts two a.m. this morning. Somehow it'll all hold together. You take a deep breath, swallow the rest of your double-shot sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte in a single gulp, toss the cup over your shoulder into the trash can and it's time to follow your boss into the courtroom. Four weeks from now this will all be a distant memory. The gavel bangs and it's showtime...

Well, at least I hope that's what Stage V will be like. I'm mired in Stage III right now. Two weeks to go. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mini-Post: A Humble Question...

This has been on my mind a lot lately, ever since You-Know-Who was shot and killed on the night I became an Official Buddhist (which I'll always remember with weirdness). There's been this running debate on the CNN chat boards, which I really ought not to read, about whether or not "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Guantanamo led to this. And whether or not we should continue to use said techniques in our endless pursuit of justice, national security and cheap oil. Which is not a fair question, but then I'm not a fair person.

Still, what I really want to know is this. Putting aside for a moment what "waterboarding" does to the person "waterboarded", what does it do to the person or persons doing the "waterboarding"? If you're, say, a 19-year-old kid in a uniform, and your boss tells you, "Please nearly drown this guy, and that's an order," what does that do to the inside of your head? Besides making you a person who is willing to do that sort of thing--and just because someone tells you to, which, in my opinion, is a hell of a bad reason to do a bad thing--how does that leave you, when you have to deal with other human beings for, say, the rest of your life? Are you able to separate out that part of your life from the rest of it, or do you wake up from nightmares for the next seventy years? What if one of your future kids drowns or has a near-drowning incident? (They happen; I almost drowned when I was about five and again when I was about eight, and I've talked to plenty of people--a lot of them swimmers, oddly enough--who say there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I when it comes to near-drownings.) How does that mess with your head?

I guess that is more than one humble question. Well, I'll throw another one on the pile. Run this one by John McCain, maybe: What does it say about our country, that we're willing to create these moral dilemmas for ourselves, and put our people in the situation to become the kind of people who would do those kinds of things? No, I'm not gonna clarify that; hash out the semantics yourselves. Later.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Talk Thursday (on Friday): Excess

I admit it; I have too much stuff. I could say we have too much stuff, but that’s an open invitation to an argument. One person’s too much stuff is just barely enough and maybe we should get a little more. Fifteen years I’ve been living with Joan and if I wanna make it to sixteen I had better shut the heck up. Besides, I do have too much stuff. I have scads of books and t-shirts and things and I’m not even sure what-all in the scary room that used to be a garage and is now kind of the laundry room/craft room/ cat box room/ place where we dump stuff we don’t know what to do with. There are still boxes in that vicinity that we never opened when we moved in, uh, 2004. The only reason I haven’t opened them (besides the fact that they’re scary) is that all the stuff I’m looking for might not be in there, and then I might have to acknowledge that it’s Lost Forever and then I might have to go get more stuff.

Seriously, I feel guilty about the quantity of stuff I seem to have accumulated in my pushing-42 years on the planet. I have some weird stuff. A set of bagpipes, for one thing – a bit dried out, but probably still serviceable. A guitar. A bicycle pump. A nifty space heater that I’m now afraid to use because it might fall over, catch on fire and kill everybody. But by far the largest quantity of excess stuff is paper. I have more paper than any normal person. I have an embarrassment of paper. And I haven’t the foggiest idea what to do about it.

Way back in the mists of prehistory, ie, in high school, this whole writing thing started to get out of hand. I started to get this idea that I might want to quit fooling around and actually, you know, do something, like, I dunno, slap some words together and see what happens. A friend of mine decided to join me—God alone knows why—and we alternated chapters, if you could call them chapters, until we came to the end of one of the sorriest tales ever penned by anyone, ever. Don’t even ask me what was about. It’s embarrassing enough that it exists. It was about 140 pages and it didn’t conclude so much as it mercifully crashed into a wall. I thought it was brilliant, naturally. I still have it. It’s hermetically sealed in an envelope and I’ll probably leave instructions to cremate it with my remains, but I can’t bring myself to just put the thing out of its misery.

My next foray into the great literary scene was 224,000 words long. I shit you not. It was a sweeping epic of monumental proportions. This one had a plot, sort of, and there was a war going on, sort of, and the protagonists (oo, I used a big word) all got laid and there were exciting plot twists and, well, it actually wasn’t bad, except for being totally incomprehensible. This sucker took up four (count them, four) three-ring binders, took an entire weekend to print out on a dot matrix printer (remember those?) and ended happily, I think. One of the boxes down in the scary room is completely full of this manuscript, which I will probably never open again. And I haven’t brought myself to throw away that one, either.

By the third one, I was in college, and I’d actually learned something, scary as that may sound. The third one was a haunted house tale that I rather liked. There was only problem; it dropped dead on me at about page 200. I mean seriously, it just died. I could not add even one more sentence. If a story is going to die on you, it ought to be polite and drop dead around page ten or so. I keep kicking around the notion of going back and seeing if I can fix it, because, well, I hate to give up. I probably won’t, though. And twenty years later, it’s still in a box someplace. (I hate to tell you this, but this blog post does not end happily.)

You get the idea. I am swimming in abandoned manuscripts. I’m not even sure how many I have, but somewhere between five and ten, anyway. I sometimes give Joan a hard time because she holds on to old zines and underground publications, but I really ought to just get over myself because I’m just as bad. The good news is, I managed not to start querying agents and publishers on any of these suckers. I at least knew I was producing material that was Not Suitable For Publication. (Yeah, and Danielle Steel is Shakespeare. But I quibble.)

Still, ya gotta start somewhere. It’s not like there’s an instruction book or anything. I’d like to think I haven’t written ten bad books. I would like to think I have succeeded fabulously at finding ten ways that do not work. Meantime I’ll, uh, hold on to my illustrative examples. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the ticket. Until somebody buys me a great big shredder, that is.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Dalai Lama Speaks at SMU

Today I left work early and went to see the Dalai Lama speak at Southern Methodist University. Yeah, the frickin' Dalai frickin' Lama. Head of state, spiritual leader, Mr. Buddhism to the world. For the average Buddhist, this is sort of like a Catholic getting to see the Pope. And somehow I got tickets to this thing. I'm still not sure how that happened.

I have good news; for a spiritual leader, he has a great sense of humor. He came out wearing an SMU Mustangs cap. It sort of matched his robes, kind of. And he says pretty much exactly what's on his mind, no matter who's listening. In this case, George and Laura Bush were listening, along with a cadre of very large individuals wearing dark suits and an assortment of high-powered weaponry. And at one point he said, directly to George, "I didn't agree with you when you went to Iraq. But you got around to democracy eventually." (Yes, I was in the same room with both George and Laura Bush and the Dalai Lama at the same time. I'm lucky my head did not explode.)

His accent was not easy to understand. Interestingly, it came and went. I think he might have had some sections of a speech prepared, and when he got to those, he spoke almost without accent; then, when he was speaking spontaneously, the accent returned. The whole event was captured on streaming video and can be viewed here. (I had a little trouble with the streaming video and had to refresh it twice before it kicked on, so have patience, like a Buddha.) But he did leave us with these gems:

"Democracy is not an American possession. It is universal."

"Wherever you receive affection, you feel at home."

"Love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance - these are the aspects of a calm mind."

"The purpose of education is to reduce the gap between appearance and reality."

"Don't think of compassion as a religious matter. Be a warm-hearted person. Everyone needs that, irrespective of belief."

Definitely worthy of missing work. And a nice follow-up to becoming an Official Buddhist (TM).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talk Thursday: I Remember When ...

Now there's a topic to make you feel old. Fortunately I was feeling old already as I was contemplating my birthday, which I always start doing when Joan starts contemplating her birthday. We're a month and a day and ten years apart, she and I, and she's due. Due for what? Well, no major medical procedures, let's hope. But definitely due for a birthday dinner at Red Hot & Blue, the local barbecue pit, which I love because it has food other than barbecue. Yes, I'm the only Texan who doesn't like barbecue. So sue me.

Anyway, I remember a scad of things that people born after, say, 1980 don't remember. This is kind of fun sometimes, because to all intents and purposes I grew up in a different world than they did. For example, I remember when the Russians were the bad guys. I posed this to a 19-year-old co-worker, and she said, "The Russians were the bad guys? Are you kidding me? They're pathetic! They sink their own submarines!" And so I tried to explain about the domino theory and Korea and Vietnam and the Berlin Wall, and detente and glasnost and why Nixon went to China. And she blinked at me, this winsome creature so young and full of life, and said, sympathetically, "I'll bet you thought Cate Blanchett was really scary in Indiana Jones 4, too, huh?"

Like I said, different world. I remember when we sang "Up, Awake! Ye Defenders of Zion" right after the "Star-Spangled Banner" before starting the school day. (I went to school in Utah, in the early 1970s, and apparently several Supreme Court decisions before Madalyn Murray O'Hair--or at least before word of her hit the local school board.) I remember when gas was 78 cents a gallon during the Iran oil embargo, but it didn't matter because you couldn't find a gas station that had any. Not that I expected to live long enough to learn how to drive because the Russians (remember them?) were going to push the button and start the nuclear war that would destroy life on Earth. I remember "On the Beach" and "The Day After" and wondering why anyone would want to survive a nuclear war in the first place. (Yes, I was a fatalistic little kid. It was kind of hard not to be.)

I remember when Jimmy Carter was President and for a few shining years there, everything looked hopeful. We were going to have electric cars and we'd stop relying on oil from the Middle East. We'd all pass the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and devote our lives to community service and everything would be just grand. Then Reagan got elected and AIDS swept the planet (coincidence? Probably) and the Space Shuttle, that great symbol of American know-how, blew up because it got too cold out. And inevitably the jokes started: "What does NASA stand for?" "Need Another Seven Astronauts." Oh yes, the witty repartee never stopped.

On the other hand, I remember when there were no play dates and nobody had ever heard of day care. Kids ran around the neighborhood on bikes after school and hung around in each other's yards, and nobody panicked and called the local police department's gang control unit. I remember when there were no cell phones and no Internet, and you had to ask your parents' permission to use the phone because telephone calls were expensive. If you wanted to know something about something, you had to go look it up at the library because there was no such thing as "googling." I remember when you'd be walking to school, and somebody's mother would be driving by and she'd stop to pick you up and give you a ride the rest of the way, and it never occurred to you for one second that this might be an abduction about to happen. There was no "stranger danger" because there weren't any strangers. Everybody knew everybody, except that sinister old dude who lived across the street, and everybody still knew he was the sinister old dude across the street, so you still knew him even if you didn't know him. And after he died it turned out he was a millionaire several times over who'd left all his money to the library or the hospital or something. People were just weird like that.

I remember when the school day ended at three and the parents came home by five. I remember when we spent weekends at Snowbird because ski lift passes only cost $15 each (scary to think of now, isn't it?) I remember when you could get on an airplane and not only avoid being groped by the TSA (because there was no TSA), but you didn't even have to walk through a metal detector. There was no such thing as "skyjacking", the Twin Towers were still standing and Osama Bin Laden was just another reactionary fighting some pointless war in Afghanistan against the Russians, who used to be the bad guys. Oh, and we were financing him then, too. Your enemy's enemy is your friend.

And on that note, it looks like I've come full circle. So I'll just say this. I remember when I didn't have a blog, and I just blathered this stuff to myself in the shower. Heaven forfend we ever return to those days. Cheers, all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mini-Post: The Weird Dichotomy of Sunday

Hello all. The whole Osama Bin Laden thing sort of stole my thunder, but on Sunday I became an Official Buddhist by accepting the Five Precepts and going through a ridiculously long ceremony (Buddhist ceremonies are often long). Yeah, it's not like I was exactly an un-Buddhist beforehand, but now I feel kind of--official. Oddly enough, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that I can't join the office lottery pool anymore. One of the things I promised not to do was gamble. Not that I was exactly a card shark or anything, but that's out now. Which is probably for the best. I have a superstitious streak that's a mile wide and buried ten miles deep that just probably shouldn't ever be waked up, if it can be avoided.

So I went through this ceremony, and they gave me this pretty white scarf and a little jewel and cut off a little bit of my hair, and there was a lot of chanting, and we sat and meditated for what felt like a lot longer than half an hour, and I came home feeling all serene and, well, official. And less than two hours later, the Twitterverse lit up with all this stuff about how the President was going to address the nation. At 10:30 on a Sunday. I mean, I had to go wake Joan up. We always watch the President when he addresses the nation. And in the twenty or so minutes between finding out that the President was going to address the nation and finding out why the President was going to address the nation, my brain went rabid. Nuclear attack? Terrorist bombing? Did we just declare war on somebody? This had to be bad, right?

Well, no. It wasn't bad. It was Osama bin Laden. And I've managed to keep my big mouf shut up until now, but today I'm gonna say it. Yes, I'm glad my country and my fellow human beings no longer face a threat from that particular individual. And yes, I'm also glad that that particular individual's organization is, perhaps fatally, crippled and less able to hurt people. And I understand that a lot of people who lost loved ones and family members during 9/11 are very emotional right now. But still: The video footage of people celebrating his death, chanting, singing and waving flags all around the world, made me sick.

The death of any human being, even an enemy, is not, in my humble opinion, cause for celebration. Relief, yes; celebration, no. I've got backup here: God doesn't think so either. "As I live, says the lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live." Ezekiel 33:11. And "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the Lord will see and be displeased." Proverbs 24: 17-18. (The Buddhist quotes the Bible. In the Bible Belt. How apropos.) I'm just sayin'. Yes, there are plenty of Bible quotes that say the exact opposite. But it's my blog and that's my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

In closing, I'm gonna leave you this, from the Dhammapada: "Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own mind, unguarded." It's been a long ten years. It was also a long twenty minutes.