Saturday, July 29, 2006

Zen Angel on Myspace

Thanks to Pixie, who sent me over to read an absolutely hilarious blog on Myspace...and for reminding me that I haven't shared MY Myspace page with my ZPT readers.

So here it is:

I do have a blog there, but being lazy by nature, I normally just copy & paste posts from here to there...although I do write a few Myspace-only posts (if you want a good laugh, check out "Yowsa!" I'm still waiting for someone who knew about this, because I certainly didn't....)

I am also in the midst of creating a Myspace group for my other blog,
Bad Baby Names!. When it's finished, I will post the link here and on Bad Baby Names. Hope to see y'all there!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

NDN NEWZ: No Fires This Year

Bans douse Indian fire ceremonies
By John Aguilar, Rocky Mountain News
July 5, 2006

For nearly a decade, Bobbie Gleason has hosted American Indian sweat lodge ceremonies at her home in Gilpin County - heating rocks with fire and purifying the spirits who gather.

"I've been doing this for eight years and I've never had a problem," said Gleason, who comes from Northern Cree heritage.

But that came to a halt late last month when Gilpin County officials declined to exempt from their fire ban Gleason's planned sweat lodge ceremonies, in which stones are heated over an open fire, brought inside a covered dome and doused with water to generate steam.

In a June 27 letter to Gleason, County Manager Roger Baker wrote that county commissioners "have no intention of interfering with anyone's religious practices" but that public safety concerns take precedence.

Commissioner Al Price said that allowing ceremonial fires in the bone-dry county would open the floodgates for other people seeking a way around the ban, raising the risk of a wildfire.

"It was all or nothing," Price said. "You allow them to do this and you're going to have to allow campfires and voodoo ceremonies. Where do you stop?"

Ray Rubio, who lives a short distance up Colorado 119 from Gleason and hosts his own ceremonies, resents Price's choice of words, saying that they show "disdain and scorn" for American Indian religious customs.

The 52-year-old Southern Paiute tribal member said it was fire-based ceremonies - such as vision quests, sweat lodges and sun dances - that enabled him to overcome his addiction to alcohol and pursue a law career.

"This is our method of prayer," Rubio said. "It's a social gathering; it's a spiritual gathering; it's an act of worship. "It saved my life."

All across Colorado, Indians who rely on fire to express their faith are coming up against challenges similar to those posed in Gilpin County, as the open fire ban on state lands enters its second month and fire restrictions continue to ripple across individual counties.

Even the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, one of only two reservations in the state, requires that special notification be given before a ceremonial fire can be lit.

During this sun dance season, many Indians are finding that the only way to freely exercise their religion in a state starved for moisture is to negotiate a fire ban exemption with local officials, find a substitute for fire or move their ceremonies to far corners of the state.

'Permit to pray'

Robert Cross, a Lakota Sioux spiritual leader from Littleton, said that after years of being "hassled" on the Front Range, he decided to relocate his ceremonies to a secluded spot near the Nebraska border in the Pawnee National Grassland.

"Almost every year, I have to go to some official or government and get a permit to pray," he said. "I'm tired of it."

Cross, 52, is in the fourth year of a five-year special-use permit on the Pawnee, where he conducts vision quests and sun dances for those seeking spiritual purification.

But while Cross is not subject to the statewide fire ban when he's on federal land, he still conducts healing ceremonies at an active sweat lodge site on Valmont Butte in Boulder.

And he keenly remembers New Year's Eve of 2004, when police raided a ceremony there.

Although Boulder officials later apologized for extinguishing his fire, blaming it on a misunderstanding, the incident left a foul taste in Cross' mouth.

"You have a church on every corner of the block, but you don't have cops going into churches and telling them to stop what they're doing," he said standing atop the butte. "But as soon as I light a fire, they were up here like we were doing the worst thing in the world."

Cross said he and other spiritual leaders respect the power of fire and take precautions - such as cutting back vegetation, clearing brush, appointing fire watchers and having plenty of water on hand - before ever striking a match.

"These ceremonies have been going on for untold thousands of generations," he said, sweeping his hand across the land below him. "These ceremonies have always been here."

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said the county tries to accommodate Cross and others who want to use fire for religious purposes, even during the ongoing countywide fire ban.

"We don't have problems with sweat lodge fires starting fires, we have problems with knuckleheads drinking in the woods and having campfires," he said.

In a recent e-mail, Pelle directed his deputies to work with a man who wants to hold a large fire-based "eastern religion ceremony" in the county, asking them to "help him comply (with the fire ban) and go ahead with the ceremony."

"We're trying to balance religious freedom with public safety needs," Pelle said.

Fireworks show cited

Rubio believes that kind of balancing act is sorely lacking in Gilpin County.

He said that while the county shut down his and Gleason's sweat lodges, it didn't say a thing about Black Hawk's massive fireworks show Tuesday night.

"If you stand this extravaganza against our little burn, it's exponentially a bigger risk to do what they're doing over what we're doing," Rubio said.

He said Gleason's ceremony would have involved heating about 30 rocks in contrast to the gambling town's plan to shoot hundreds of rockets into the air.

"If it's really a public safety issue, then why don't they raise an objection with the city of Black Hawk?" Rubio asked.

County Manager Baker said the county has no jurisdiction over the Black Hawk fireworks display, so the argument is moot.

He said the commissioners simply saw no "compelling reason" last week to exempt Gleason from the open fire ban.

"The decision was to ban open fires, not their fire in particular," he said.

In his letter to Gleason, Baker suggested she find "alternative methods for heating the stones" in order to conduct her ceremonies.

But for many American Indians, fire itself is so integral to the ceremony that heating rocks by any other means - with a propane stove, for example - would eviscerate the ritual's true meaning.

"In order for the Creator to answer our prayers, our ceremonies have to be done a certain way, and fire is at the center of that," said Lee Plenty Wolf, a Broomfield-based Lakota Sioux spiritual leader.

"We need that fire to pray for rain and that there won't be any wildfires," he said. "In the worst circumstances, that's when you really need prayer."

Taking precautions

At the same time, Plenty Wolf and others recognize there are limits to fire-dependent ceremonies, in both time and place.

"It's common sense that on some days it's too dry and windy and you can't fire it up," Plenty Wolf said.

He said he's not out to pick fights with authorities, but rather tries to always get their permission before sparking up.

Which is exactly how the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, chaired by Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, thinks a balance between religious freedom and public safety can best be achieved.

Ernest House Jr., executive secretary of the commission and a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in southwest Colorado, said his agency is preparing to send a letter to county officials across the state asking them to be mindful of American Indian religious practices when imposing fire bans and restrictions.

That letter may come too late to satisfy Gleason, who had to cancel her sweat lodge ceremony Saturday, even after she tried to mitigate the wildfire risk by cutting down trees on her property and bolstering the corrugated tin fence that surrounds her fire pit.

"I don't understand why we're not allowed to pray," she said.

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Nutbag Judge Exposes....Himself

Okla. Ex-Judge Convicted in Penis Pump Case
By SHAUN SCHAFER , 06.30.2006, 09:34 AM

A former judge could be sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of exposing himself by using a sex gadget while he presided over trials.

The jury on Thursday rejected Donald D. Thompson's contention that the device was a prank gift that he had never used, convicting the 23-year judicial veteran of four counts of indecent exposure.

The conviction will require Thompson to register as a sex offender and could jeopardize his $7,489.91-a-month pension. Jurors recommended one year in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count. Bond was set at $75,000, which Thompson's attorneys said would be posted Friday.

Thompson was accused of using the device during four jury trials in 2002 and 2003.

His former court reporter, Lisa Foster, testified that she saw Thompson expose himself at least 15 times. During one trial in 2002, she said, she heard the pump's "sh-sh" sound during the emotional testimony of the grandfather of a murdered toddler.

Foster told her story to authorities only after being subpoenaed, saying she feared she would lose her job. The investigation into Thompson's actions began after a police officer saw the pump in the judge's courtroom. Thompson fired Foster after the investigation began.

Thompson maintained his innocence, saying the white-handled device at the center of allegations against him was simply a prank gift that he never used.

"In 20-20 hindsight, I should have thrown it away," he testified.

In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Clark Brewster called the device "a joke."

Prosecutor Richard Smothermon said he would pursue a misdemeanor charge of misuse of state property against Thompson that was separated from the trial before opening statements.

"He was at the pinnacle of the justice system in Creek County, and now that justice system has held him to the same standard," Smothermon said.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Eight Years

Today marks eight years since the death of my mother from breast cancer.

Does this ever get any easier? Will it always feel like an unhealed, open wound, pulsating with pain after being prodded?

My mother wasn't just a mom. She really was my best friend. People were forever telling me how lucky I was to have a mom like mine, and well I knew it. She was one in a million, and I still feel her loss as keenly today as when it happened, eight years ago.

I rarely wish I was back in Ohio, but every year on this day, I wish I was well enough in to take the summer heat in Dayton, just so I could lay flowers on her grave. So I could be with people who knew her and loved her like I did. And do.

I was very lucky to have her. I miss her so much....

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Comedy of Errors: My Latest Rx

This is another long story, so bear with me...

First, some background information: every month, I have to pick up my Oxycodone prescription at my doctor's office. It cannot be faxed or called in, and no one else can pick it up for me. So no matter how badly I feel, or how hot it is outside, I must come and pick the prescription up at the doctor's office, then turn it into the pharmacy...who then must call the doctor's office to make sure the prescription is legit.

In order for the prescription to be there waiting for me, I have to call the Prescription Coordinator and leave her a voice mail. Every month, it's the same message: "Hi, it's Zen Angel again. I need to pick up my monthly Oxycodone prescription. Please call me when it's ready to be picked up. Thank you."

Here's where it starts to get prickly: there are a lot of problems with this current system. I can only get the prescription if I call ahead at no more than one week before I need it to be filled (the first of every month), and I cannot call on weekends. If I call earlier than one week, my message is pretty much ignored. If I call too late, I will generally have to call back several times before it's ready. The main problem is, I'm never sure what "too late" or "too early" is. I've been ignored at 6 days before the first, and had to call repeatedly at four days. At least three times out of every five times I call, the Coordinator's voice mail box is full, and the receptionists will not forward any messages to her directly. Every month, it's a crap shoot. I might get the prescription on time, and then again, I might not.

The worst part about this scenario is that with the current amount of Oxycodone I get a month, I run out the last week. I've tried stretching them out, but that means I am miserable all month long, instead of just one week out of the month. So I chose the lesser of two evils. But by the time the first rolls around, I am usually more than ready to get that refill.

Now, the Comedy of Errors....

I made my call 5 days before the prescription needed to be filled, mindful of the fact that the first was on a Saturday and it was 4th of July weekend. I get the call on Thursday that my prescription is ready for me to pick up. On Friday, we head out to the doctor's. Jonathan and the kids wait outside while I run in to get the prescription. This is usually a five-minute process, while I wait in line, show my ID, and check to be sure the prescription is correct.

I wait in line. I show my ID. I check the prescription...and there's a problem. Three, to be precise.

First of all, the prescription is dated for July 2nd, a day late. This would normally not be a problem, but July 2nd was a Sunday. No doctors to confirm. That means I would have to wait until Monday to drop it off, and with the holiday, there was no telling when I would get my medicine. I'd had a particularly bad time with pain recently, and the thought of waiting three or four days or more to get the medication was unpleasant in the extreme.

The second problem was with the date itself. Someone had scribbled over the date, re-wrote it, and then wrote it again underneath the "date" line. It looked very much as if someone had tampered with the prescription. There was no way the pharmacy was going to fill that.

The third problem was a note written on the bottom of the prescription: "Patient must find new PCP for next month's Rx". WTF? Did that mean my doctor was gone, or was I being dropped like a hot potato? No one had said anything to me about needing a new doctor!

I show the faulty prescription to the receptionist and explain my problems. She handed the paper over to the Prescription Coordinator (whom I have never met in person until then) to handle the problem.

With problem #1, the Coordinator tries to convince me that the 2nd is the correct date. No ma'am, I always get my pills on the first. She checks my chart, and sees that I am right. I also then point out to her that the 2nd is a Sunday, meaning it would be the 3rd or even the 5th before I was able to have the thing filled. She asks me if I want the prescription re-written. I say yes, and point out problem #2. This problem seems to irritate her. "Yes, I know about the scribbles, that's why she wrote the date underneath." That's all well and good, but there's no way I can get that filled, not for opiates! I looked like the original date had been Feb. 06 and not July 06. So she takes the prescription back to a doctor to get it re-written. I go out to the car to tell Jonathan what the hold-up is. He brings the kids inside out of the heat.

20 minutes go by before the Coordinator returns with my prescription. This also would normally not be a problem, but the air conditioning at the office is either not turned on or not working. Bad news for heat-reactive me.

When she brings out the new prescription, the note for a new doctor is still there, so I inquire. It turns out the Well-Accessoried Doctor is no longer with the clinic. I have no idea when this occured, because this is the first I'm hearing about it. I need to call the clinic and get a new PCP, I was told.

That actually might be a cloud with a silver lining for me, as I've been considering seeing a DO for some time now. It was only my good rapport with the Well-Accessoried Doctor that was keeping me at the clinic.

But I digress. You see, the Comedy of Errors is just beginning.

On the way back from the clinic, we go through the pharmacy drive-through and drop off the prescription. We are told to return tommorow morning to pick it up. No problem!

Saturday morning arrives. I have had a horrible night, dealing with pain. I have yet to sleep. Jonathan wakes up as soon as the pharmacy opens, to get me some relief.

He arrives to find the pharmacy is...closed. For the entire day.

He gets out of the car and goes in to find the manager. It appears the head pharmacist is getting married, and the assistant pharmacist is "sick." The manager has no keys to the pharmacy and cannot even get our original prescription back for us so we can go to another pharmacy. Had it been any other kind of medication, it would be in the computer and we could go to another pharmacy in the chain...but that isn't how it works with Oxycodone. You have to turn over the paper prescription, or it's a no-go.

It takes almost an hour before the manager has any advice for Jonathan. During this time, Jonathan is sitting inside the pharmacy in a white t-shirt and his Snoopy pajama pants (remember, he thought all he had to do was go through the drive-through). He is relieved when the manager tells him they have found a solution: a pharmacist who sometimes works at this pharmacy, but usually at another (hereafter referred to
as Pharmacy #2), will come in, unlock the door, and get the prescription. He will then take it to Pharmacy #2, fill it, and give it to us. Jonathan is told to return home and the pharmacist will call him when it is all done.

After waiting two hours, Jonathan calls Pharmacy #2. He is told that our presciption is not filled, and not on the premises. Baffled, Jonathan (dressed appropriately this time) heads out to Pharmacy #2.

The pharmacist tells Jonathan where the mix-up occured: another patient at Pharmacy #1 also needed a painkiller refill. The pharmacist had only been told about one prescription, so when he arrived at Pharmacy #1 and spoke with the other patient, he assumed that was the prescription that needed to be filled, and took only that one with him. Until my husband had called, and the pharmacist had checked the with manager of Pharmacy #1, the pharmacist had not been aware of our situation.

So now Jonathan returns to Pharmacy #1 to speak to the manager and find out what went wrong and what can be done to fix it. The manager makes a lot of frenzied phone calls, and finally a new solution has come up: the pharmacist from Pharmacy #2 would take a break, come to Pharmacy #1 and pick up the prescription, then go back to Pharmacy #2 and fill it.

This time, Jonathan decides to wait around until the pharmacist shows up so as to avoid the same situation from occuring again. He was also mindful of the time: he had to be at work in a matter of hours.

Finally, the pharmacist arrives. And instead of making Jonathan go to Pharmacy #2, he just fills the prescription right there and hands it over. Why no one thought of this in the first place is beyond me.

And so, a mere five hours after I was supposed to get the prescription, my Oxycodone finally makes it home. Relief!

I wonder what will happen NEXT month...

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Nutbag Judge Orders Man to Pay Son's Killer

This story is over a month old...but I had to post this. I am utterly outraged by it.

Alimony upheld after ex-wife's guilty plea

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

A judge rejected a Bergen County man's unusual request to end alimony payments to his ex- wife because she pleaded guilty to assault charges in the beating death of their son.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Eugene Austin yesterday agreed to suspend Christopher Calbi's payments to his former spouse, Linda, while she serves 30 months in jail. He must still pay $400 monthly to cover payments that had fallen into arrears, the judge said.

During an emotional hearing in Hackensack, the Teaneck father told the judge he has a "huge hole" in his heart and has fallen "financially destitute" since the death of his elder son, Matthew.

Calbi, an audiovisual products salesman, said his ex-wife doesn't deserve the alimony because she violated the moral obligations of their divorce settlement to "provide a secure home" for their children, Matthew, who was 14 when he died, and Dean, now 11.

Originally charged with murder, Linda Calbi pleaded guilty in April to the lesser charge of aggravated assault after admitting that she kicked Matthew in her Old Tappan home on Aug. 17, 2003, causing in juries that led to his death.

Her lawyer blamed the fatality on Pascack Valley Hospital, where the teen ultimately died of a ruptured neck artery 12 hours after he arrived there.

The boy's death shocked the upscale Bergen County area and drew the attention of then-Gov. James E. McGreevey, who ordered an intense review of how the state Division of Youth and Family Services handled the family's case. The agency had a 2 1/2-year history with the Calbis and an open file on the boy at the time of the death.

"That someone like me should have to support the woman who did this to my child is beyond comprehension," Christopher Calbi said after the hearing yesterday. The couple were not married at the time of Matthew's death.

Linda Calbi's attorney, Ian Hirsch, called the ruling fair. He argued that his client's criminal acts cannot be used as a legal reason to terminate the alimony.

"Mr. Calbi is using his son's death to take away any obligations he has," Hirsch said. "I think he's trying to take advantage of a tragedy and turn it around to his economic benefit."

Legal experts say the case is unusual because Christopher Calbi is seeking to terminate alimony based on the moral faults of his ex- wife, while the majority of alimony cases are fought on economic is sues.

"The purpose of alimony has nothing to do with moral obligations and duties," said Jim Cohen, who teaches criminal defense, criminal prosecution and ethics classes at Fordham Law School. "It's apples and oranges."

Judges have the power, however, to terminate or amend alimony payments when there are "substantially changed circumstances," said Bonnie Frost, chairwoman of the New Jersey State Bar Association's family law section.

While those circumstances typically revolve around economics such as bankruptcy or incarceration, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last year in Mani vs. Mani that alimony can be cut or denied when one person's behavior is "egregious," such as attempting to murder the other spouse.

"There are times when people's actions and behavior cannot be condoned, and quite frankly that's up to the discretion of the court," Frost said.

In court yesterday, Christopher Calbi argued that his case fits the Mani rule. "The egregious act on me and my son is forever. I am living with a huge hole in my heart. I live in fear that someday, somebody is going to take my one remaining child from me."

Austin refused to terminate or reduce Christopher Calbi's monthly payments of $3,183. Instead he ordered that payments be suspended while Linda Calbi serves her jail time and that her ex-husband pay $400 a month toward the $50,000 in which he has fallen in arrears.

"I am not going to terminate the contract," Austin said. "It's a valid obligation negotiated between the parties."

Austin told an angry Christopher Calbi that he was sorry the father had to go through the or deal of his son's death, yet he threatened him with jail time if he didn't come up with a "good faith" payment to his ex-wife.

"Mrs. Calbi has pleaded guilty," Austin said. "She will do her time. But for the next 30 or 40 years, you two are parents of the same child and you both are going to have to deal with that."

Under the terms of her plea deal, the 49-year-old mother, who has since moved to Fort Lee, will be sentenced in June to three years in prison. She will likely serve 85 percent of that time. She can seek a reinstatement of the alimony when she is released, the judge said.

The judge also ordered a supervised visitation between Dean Calbi -- who now lives with his father -- and his mother before she is incarcerated, if the boy agrees.
"I would very much like to see my son," Linda Calbi told the judge. "I have not been able to."