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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mini-Post: In a Big Country...

Yeah, yeah, I know I haven't done a blog post this week, but BIG COUNTRY TOTALLY HAS A NEW ALBUM COMING OUT ON TUESDAY, and what can I say, I've been a little distracted, it's only been like TWENTY YEARS since the last one, and yes, I know Stuart's dead, but Mike Peters is a good guy and he'll do a good job, okay?  You can order it here. If you think Amazon is evil incarnate you can also get it here or here. Sorry about the CAPITAL LETTERS but I'm a LITTLE EXCITED.  Caesar the Cat is not excited; he is asleep next to my keyboard.  To be continued.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Retreat Retreat

I'm not even sure how long it's been since I did this, but in two weeks I'm going on a weekend meditation retreat.  I think it may have been a couple of years, actually.  I do recall I went with some folks from the Unity Church in Grapevine, which is hell and gone from Cartagenia, in a manner of speaking. It rained most of the weekend and opportunities to meditate outside were pretty much nonexistent.  Plus my idiot neighbor (have I mentioned my idiot neighbor?  He's an idiot)  chose that weekend to chop down half of our live oak and demand payment for having done so, and I fielded a lot of frantic calls from Joan (understandably).  Since then, I've done quite a few half-day retreats and I think a couple of full days, but nothing beyond that.

Devout Buddhists, by which I mean rich Buddhists, go on retreats a lot, and they go on much longer ones; a week, two weeks, even a month or more.  Yes, it is technically possible to meditate ten hours a day for a month.  Real Buddhist monks do it for years, sometimes their whole lives.  But to go on retreats to meditate that much, you pretty much have to have money. Oh, no one's ever turned away from lack of funds, and all that, but even the Scholarship Rate can get pretty pricey.  Take this one at the Shambhala Mountain Center, for example.  Yeah, tuition's only $100 for an entire month, but lordy lordy, look at that room and boardy.  $2,315.00 for a shared room.  Same price for solitude in a tent.  A tent.  Scholarship rate, $1500.  Okay, it's true that rent and food and everything else you need to live in the world probably costs that much or more, and if you spent that much for a week on a cruise ship you'd just be getting started, but you don't have to come up with it all at once, do you?  Plus there's the getting there, and the incidentals, and the laundry, and the paying bills for the place you left behind (it's not like your landlord gives you a rent holiday or anything), and the sending postcards (I wonder if they let you send postcards).

Then there's the Retreats With Famous People, like this one.  I, personally, have never heard of His Eminence Jigme Lodro Rinpoche Khandro Nyingtik, nor do I have any idea what the Heart Essence of the Dakinis is, but given the advertisement, I certainly should know, and I'd darned well better find out before I show up.  Here's another one, and I've actually heard of Jack Kornfield.  He's the author of The Wise Heart, which I've been trying to get through for a couple of years now.  (It's full of lists.  Buddha apparently liked making lists.)  This one's nine days long, for a cost of between $1350 and $2110 depending on how comfortable you want to be. Kids, if I'm going to have my butt on a kapok-stuffed cushion for ten hours a day, I want to be as comfortable as possible.  And there better be a swimming pool, too.

No, when it comes to retreats I'm kind of low-rent.  I hang around with two different groups of Buddhists; the Maria Kannon group (all Zen, all the time) and the Dallas Meditation Center (Brother ChiSing's cult of personality and Tiep Hien - Order of Interbeing for those of you that don't speak Viet Namese, ie, practically everybody). Bet you didn't know Dallas had two gangs of Buddhists.  How's this: There are actually more than a dozen.  The DMC has a mini-retreat one Saturday morning every month, and I try never to miss one because by the time they roll around I'm usually in desperate need of some peace and quiet.  The MKZC has zazenkai (day-long meditation) about once a month, and while I've thought many times about going, I've never actually managed it. Zen meditation is formal to the point of being scary and after about an hour I need a chair.  What would they think if I dragged a chair in there?  Terror of exclusion from the group; it's all very Japanese.

Well, there's one on the 27th and I might go.  Maybe it would be a good warm-up. Until then, hoping for less rain and fewer altercations with my idiot neighbor.  I did mention he's an idiot?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

We're Not In Kansas Anymore.

"Women do not lose their rights to medical decision making, bodily integrity and physical liberty upon becoming pregnant or at any stage of pregnancy, labor or delivery."

--Farah Diaz-Tello, attorney and advocate for pregnant women


--every male Republican politician in the United States

It was only a matter of time.  History will record that on April 11, 2028, it officially became illegal to be in New York City while pregnant. New York City posted a PAH ratio (that's polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, for you science types) of 4.0 - almost double the 2.26 nanograms per cubic meter that's considered safe for human breathing.  That's a measure of air pollution, and New York City's is one of the highest in the country. Since it's been proven that air pollution can negatively affect a child's IQ, and since pregnant women are criminally liable if they do anything during their pregnancies that might harm their babies, New York City is off limits to anyone who's more than two weeks late. 

But New York wasn't the only city that closed its doors to pregnant women.  Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano--pretty much the entire Metroplex and the quad-county area was off limits.  San Francisco and San Diego were out.  So was most of the Eastern seaboard.  In fact, as the oil began to run out and more and more coal was trucked in to take its place, more and more cities went over the PAH ratio and more and more pregnant women were shipped to homes for expectant mothers in the Midwest. Kansas was a particular favorite  And why not?  It was a lot safer there.  No ski resorts, no mountain climbing, no surfing, nothing dangerous to do during leisure time. Cigarettes were banned, alcohol consumption during pregnancy was already a class III misdemeanor, and though abortion was still technically legal, there were no providers in the state since the last clinic was run out of business by new regulations.  

The Kansas homes were known for their fine security.  Since that woman in Indiana ate rat poison to try to kill herself in her eighth month of pregnancy, many of the homes offer 24-hour "supervision" of all residents (they didn't like it if you called it "suicide watch"). Husband visits were encouraged, but only with a chaperon-no sex, of course; it might hurt the baby.  By 2028, the biggest problem for the homes was keeping up with demand.  With most forms of birth control banned on the theory that they "might" cause an abortion, and abortion still legal but for the most part unavailable, the average heterosexual female was having between five and six children, at least three of them unplanned.  Some liberal feminists still complained that the new laws treated women like "walking wombs," but few paid attention.  Most of the population agreed that if you were going to conceive a child, it was your duty to take care of it from the moment of conception to the moment of birth.  What happened after that, of course, was somebody else's problem.  

Okay, that's enough narrative.  Now I'll tell you what in hell I'm talking about.  I'm talking about this survey, which reviewed so-called "pro-life" laws in all 50 states and came up with 413 incidents in 44 states in which the laws were used not to help babies but to hurt women.  Women have been on the receiving end of court orders, prosecutions, lawsuits and civil commitments that demand they put aside their own personal autonomy, their civil rights, their dignity and their personhood for the sake of the baby they're carrying. 

Yeah. Personhood.  Maybe you've heard that term before. You'll hear it again.

Think I'm hysterical?  Thank you for that anti-woman sentiment (you did know that "hysterical" meant "a state of distress brought about by having a womb," didn't you?).  Ponder these cases:  A woman threatened with arrest because she wanted to have a c-section on Friday instead of Tuesday. A woman  charged with attempted feticide for falling down a flight of stairs on the assumption she did it on purpose to kill her fetus. A woman in Idaho who was arrested for inducing her own abortion with RU-486, on the logic that somebody else can give you an abortion in Idaho, but you can't bring about your own.   A woman in Indiana who, while severely mentally ill, tried to kill herself by eating rat poison.  (Sorry, but this one just kills me.)  She was eight months pregnant.  She let some friends take her to a hospital, where she had an emergency C-section to get the baby out of harm's way.  The baby died anyway.  She was charged with murder and attempted feticide.  The murder charge didn't stick but the attempted feticide charge did.  You can follow the case here.  It's unbelievable.  Suicide is not against the law in Indiana.  And if none of those make you think something's terribly wrong here, check this one out: A woman in Tennessee was arrested for child endangerment and driving while intoxicated, with no children in the car and with a blood alcohol level that was 0.04 - well below the legal limit of 0.08.  Why?  She admitted to having had a glass of wine and being pregnant.

I mean, I could go on.  I have laws pending in Alabama and Tennessee that would make a fetus a "child" for reasons of "child abuse" once a fetal heartbeat is detected. I have a judge in Ohio that kept a woman in jail past her release date because he didn't want her to have an abortion.  I have a woman in Oregon who was civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital because she refused to be tested for gestational diabetes.  (Refusing a test, people.  She was locked in a mental ward for refusing a test. In 2005.)  But you get the idea.  The idea is that somehow, legally, pregnant women form this whole underclass (like slaves, or gays, or 19th-century women) that has laws specifically applying to them that can apply to no one else.  

[N]or shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

--United States Constitution, 5th Amendment

 No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

--United States Constitution, 14th Amendment


At what stage in pregnancy does a woman lose her civil rights? 

More to the point, at what stage in pregnancy does a woman cease to be a person?

Thursday, April 4, 2013


There is  a lot going on.

In fact, there's so much going on I'm not sure where to start.  I guess I should start with apologizing for my conspicuous absence last week. I wrote this thing for this new writing group I'm in, see, and it came out sounding like a blog post. Coincidence? Probably. Anyway, I kept meaning to get back here and write a blog post, but it kind of never happened, and the writing group liked the piece, and did I mention I'm in a new writing group? Remind me to get back to that.

I guess I'll start with the Big News and wind my way down to the Lesser News.  (Maybe we could call that the Children of a Lesser Blog, or something.) The first Item on the agenda is that we are no longer selling our house.  That's right; we yanked it back off the market, troublesome sewer pipe and all.  The reasons are many and varied, from the grim realization that it would probably cost us as much to move as it would to just fix the damn sewer pipe, to the Issues we were having with our real estate person.  (I, as a general rule, do not do very well with real estate persons.  Last time we did a transaction like this I fired three of them. I am not easy to put up with, either, and I know that, so I won't air the Real Estate Person Dirty Laundry in a semipublic forum. That would be Wrong. Doesn't mean I won't gossip about it shamelessly in a more private setting, however.)

Another one of the reasons was The Big Trial, which was supposed to start Monday.  It was my first trial since I started with this firm (three years ago yesterday).  As the trial date approached, I was getting more and more wound up. I mean out of all proportion to the actual situation, which was pretty good; we had a solid case, we were prepared, we thought we'd be able to pick a pretty good jury, etc. etc. Then one night I suddenly realized that I was having flashbacks to my last trial, which was an unmitigated disaster.  It was for another firm in another world long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but, uh, it was pretty traumatic.

This dirty laundry, I can share in public.  Most of it's public record anyway.  To start with, it was a horrendous case.  A commercial truck carrying a driver and two employees ran off the road and crashed when the driver fell asleep at the wheel.  The driver lived, the other men died. Our client was the grown son of one of the men who died, and the other plaintiff was the widower of the other employee.

We had the company dead to rights, tho.  There was a "smoking gun" memo from Personnel about how the driver was working too many hours. Why the case didn't settle long before trial, I have no idea, but two days before we started, the lawyer-in-charge suddenly decided he didn't want to try it.  He handed it to his new junior associate who had been out of law school like a week and working for the firm for a day and a half.  Our client didn't know New Guy and kept looking for the other lawyer, you know, the one he'd actually hired?  (What a concept.)  Once the trial started, New Guy basically let the defendants' lawyers pick the jury because he didn't know how.  The widower's lawyer did his opening statement and when it came time for ours, New Guy leaned over and whispered, "I can't do it.  I have stage fright."

Can we say, not a really good time to find this out?

So he stood up and waived our opening statement and our client looked at him like he had nine heads and things just deteriorated from there. Three days in, the company finally offered a settlement and we basically strongarmed our client into taking it.  That was the worst part of all.  Our client didn't really care about the money.  What he wanted was to get up in front of a jury and tell his story, and we didn't let him.  He went home with some money and boy was he ever pissed.  And yes, I know none of this is really my fault, but I actually care about our clients and I actually want them to have a good outcome, and that one really got blown out of the water.  I mean, the only thing that could have been worse is -- no, never say that.  Anyway, it was bad.  It was really, really bad.  It was so bad I'd never even told Joan about it.

So I told Joan about it.  And Joan began to explain why nothing like that could ever, ever ever happen with the firm I work for now.  And she was, of course, right.

And then I felt better.

And then, out of nowhere, the other side in this trial we were going to have on Monday offered a settlement.  And we took it.  And our client's fine with it, so now there's no trial starting Monday.  Which, by the way, is JUST FINE.

(I have another one in August.)

Let's see what else:  I'm in a new writing group.  Six of us meeting in a lady's private house in the White Rock Lake area.  Our person-in-charge is a retired judge (!), and she's pretty sharp.  She also has fish, and you've just got to love people who have fish.  (I miss my fish.)  The group's take on my mopey here's-where-I'm-at piece was that I need to quit whining and write another book, already.  Yeah, working on that.  Right after I finish digging up that sewer pipe.

I had to kill something this morning.  (I hate killing things.  It's un-Buddhist-y.)  A wasp, or a couple of wasps, that were making a nest ON OUR FRONT DOOR.  I thought we had an arrangement.  They stayed away from the front of the house and I left them alone.  I hope my sudden intervention with a rock won't shatter our truce, or I'll have to call Mikey, the exterminator.  (Get Mikey.  He kills everything.)  That's right, I outsource my random acts of murder.  Ask Joan how many six-legged flying cockroaches she's had to dispatch because I'm too afraid of them to catch them in a glass.

The mighty Law Dogs lost the last game 7 to 14.  Still respectable.  I got two hits, batted in three runners and made it to second base, prompting the usual assortment of bad jokes.  And I did it all with a giant rip in the back of my pants.  That's right, our legion of screaming fans (both of them) now know what color underwear I had on.  Thanks, everybody, for letting me know five minutes before the game ended.

Tonight we got rained out.  So technically we won, right?

One more thing -- R.I.P. Roger Ebert.  You made us love the movies, even when they sucked.  I will miss you on Twitter.