Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rabbit Stew

Since we just celebrated Easter, I think it is appropriate to tell a bunny tale. One that is unfolding as you read this. It is the story of Toby.

Toby is a rabbit. A little one with big floppy ears and light brown fur. He's very cute.

Unfortunately, Toby's future is in jeopardy.

Toby will be butchered and eaten on June 30, 2005, if his owner does not receive $50,000.

I'm not kidding. The guy already has over $20k towards saving Toby. The money can come from donations or merchandise purchases via his online store.

As you can imagine, everyone has an opinion on this one. Toby's owner has already dealt with many of the issues you are thinking about right now. A rabbits' rights group (seriously) has persuaded PayPal to shut down his account. Many people have threatened bodily harm. To the human. Others have called him a genius. You should know that the site and what it describes are legal. People around the world eat rabbits every day.

Whatever you think, you should check out the website. There you can get the whole story of the rabbit along with a photo gallery.

Make sure you browse the Recipes page, too. You know, just in case the $50k goal is not met. What if he doesn't make enough money because he can't get donations through PayPal? Can we blame the rabbits' rights group for the Hassenpfeffer?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Non Habeas Corpus

I am supposed to be in court today. Well, at the courthouse anyway. On jury duty. So why am I watching The Price is Right and typing this blog instead?

I've been looking forward to serving the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County by Order of the Honorable Joseph M. James, President Judge, for some time now. I got my summons a month ago and have been planning how to get out of being chosen for a jury since then. It isn't the whole experience that I was looking to avoid - I had been called to jury duty before and I knew the deal. Being in the jury pool is one thing. I just didn't want to get picked to actually serve during a case. Would you want to decide the fate of people like the Lemkes?

I was going to enjoy the early ride into town, reliving my days of being a regular on the T. I was ready to turn off my cell phone for hours at a time and have lunch with my friend, Jason, who works nearby. The DaVinci Code has been staring at me from its perch beside the computer for quite some time now, and I was figuring on getting at least halfway through it. At the end of the day (or at 4:30 pm, whichever came first) I would proudly gather my $9.00 stipend. After paying for lunch and the trolley ride home, I'd arrive back at my car being down a couple bucks for the day, but who wouldn't pay that small sum to take place in the privilege of jury service?

Not that I would ever actually have to serve on a jury. My plan was always to enjoy the experience but not get picked to do anything. I didn't want to be involved in dispensing any justice, and I didn't want to have to spend more than one day doing the whole courthouse thing. No, I was going to do everything in my power to not be chosen to serve. I had even grown a beard to crank up the crazy factor. And I was practicing yelling "Guilty! Guilty!" and pointing at the accused if I was ever called up for voir dire (personal questioning). But all of this planning was in vain.

I called the jury hotline last night and was given the devastating news. Only jurors with last names starting with L - for Larry through Z - for Zach were needed. My last name is E - for Expendable.

Oh well. No T ride. No lunch with Jason. No Latin terms being thrown around by lawyer and judge types. And book reading has been held off indefinitely. I really was looking forward to getting out of serving on a jury. But the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County beat me to it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bleeding Black & Gold

Nothing tests the father/son bond quite like a lawsuit.

The story goes something like this. Herb Lemke owns two personal seat licenses (PSLs) for seats inside Heinz Field. These licenses allow the owner to purchase Steelers season tickets for those particular seats. Herb's son, Dan, reportedly paid almost $2,000 to acquire the two PSLs from his dear old dad. You know, keep them in the family. Herb accepted the cash but did not give the licenses to his son. Instead, he is attempting to sell them to someone else for more money.

So Dan is taking his dad to court. He wants a judge to order his father to hand over the licenses, and he also wants reimbursed the money required to file the suit. That ought to make for some lively Easter conversation.

"Happy Easter. Sorry, Dan, but you don’t have the seat licenses to sit at the adult table.”

“That’s nice, dad. Maybe for about $2,000 I could secure two seats – one for me and one for my lawyer."

"Please pass the ham."

I'm not sure I would believe this story if it happened anywhere else. But this is Pittsburgh, where the fans bleed black & gold. Especially Steelers fans, whose collective sanity is questioned by the nation on a weekly basis during the cold months. Maybe some of the fans really are nutty, but I don't think it is because of the sports teams. I think it is genetic. I would imagine that the genes that make a father not honor a couple thousand dollar agreement with his kid are the same ones that make a son bring a lawsuit against his dad.

To be fair, the PSLs aren't for any shabby nosebleed seats. They are in section 142 of Heinz Field.

Remember, also, that the waiting list for Steelers tickets is somewhere around 10 years long. And that's for seats in a building across the river. Bring your own binoculars.

Still, you would think that these two could have had a conversation to work out some sort of agreement before lawyers were allowed to get involved. I guess that for the Lemkes, black & gold blood is not thicker than water.

"Did everyone on that side of the table get their subpoenas? C’mon, keep passing. The food is getting cold.”

Thursday, March 3, 2005

No Checks In The Mail

I've decided to cut back on my funding of the United States Postal Service. Some might point to my personal experience with my mail carrier (unpredictable delivery times, random pick up of outgoing mail, walking through the yard when I took the time to shovel snow from the walkway) as the cause. But that is only some of the reason.

I have been able to check my bank balances online since we remortgaged a couple years ago. One day while looking at my account I saw an "Online Bill Pay" button. I clicked on it and haven't looked back. As of January 1st, 2005, all of my monthly bills are paid online (notice that I have waited 2 months to post on this topic). They aren't paid automatically - I still have to key in the amounts and due dates - so it isn't like the bank is just debiting my account in a free money frenzy. But it is very easy and convenient.

I no longer have to go through each bill and write a check and send it out a week in advance. And I don't have to lick an envelope. I hate that taste. And let's all remember what happened to George Costanza's fiancee, Susan.

I'm also saving money. My cash stays in my account longer since the debits are exactly on the due date. So my interest is building up. You would be amazed how much you can make with that
.00012 percent accruing for an extra couple of days. OK, not much. But stamps cost 37 cents. Each. With an average of 10 bills per month, that is at least a $44.40 decline in my annual contribution to the USPS.

Add to that the fact that I am refusing to send out any more cards via snail mail. Hallmark has gotten big enough. E-cards are the way to go, and they are free to send. And they're animated. Much cooler.

Now, don't worry about the Post Office. I'm sure they will be kept busy delivering credit card applications, grocery store ads and the PennySaver. They just won't get to be in the middle of my bill payment process anymore.

So go ahead and start paying your bills online, too. The only thing you'll have to worry about is what to do with your extra time and money. Maybe the cash you save can go towards your high-speed internet bill.