This week's edition of "Lives of People Living In Madison" brings thrills, spills, and chills aplenty. Read about: - Harrowing encounters with The Law. - Harrowing encounters with Dentistry. - Harrowing encounters with Plumbing. - Not Quite Harrowing encounters with greenery. - And much more certain to leave you near the edge of your seat! Today saw the near conclusion of our brush with The Law that started in February. As some of our loyal readers may remember, Sarah and I were served with a court summons after we went away to Florida in February and it snowed while we were gone. That's not to imply that we were summoned because it snowed in February (even our god-like powers have limits), but rather because we didn't have anyone lined up to shovel our walk after it snowed.

This morning, I dug a shirt, tie, and slacks from the dank depths of my closet, ate a quick breakfast, and departed for the courthouse before dawn. OK, I departed at 08:00, but that's damn near dawn for us freelancers. Anyway, I got down there, checked in with the three(!) Madison PD officers manning the Municipal court, and waited about an hour for my two minutes with the judge. When I finally got in front of the judge, he asked me how I plead. I had spent the better part of an hour pondering that very question. If I plead "Not guilty" I would be sent to the back of the courtroom to bargain with one of the City Attorneys present. If I plead "No contest" or "Guilty" I could bargain with the judge who could assign any sort of penalty from the minimum to the maximum.

Originally, my thought was to plead "Not guilty" and try my luck with the two City Attorneys. However, as more and more people tried to pull a fast one on the City Attorneys, it became obvious that they were not in a collective good mood. The judge, by comparison, seemed to be in a fair and sensible mood.

Since there was no question about the fact that we had, in fact, violated the Madison Municipal Ordinance in question, I decided to plead "No Contest."The judge decided that since we had never been charged with this violation before, he would dismiss the charge on March 26, 2006 if we weren't charged with the violation again between now and then.

So, we got off relatively easy.

Interestingly enough, the city always summons the man in a couple down to answer for the lack of shoveling. Sarah wasn't summoned, it was "David Bogen" who was summoned to appear. When I was in the courtroom, all the other people answering for a lack of shoveling were all men, except for one woman who was there even though it was her husband's name on the summons.

While I was sitting there for the better part of an hour, I had plenty of time to observe the people coming before the judge, mostly for traffic violations. I came up with a quick tip-sheet for anyone who has to appear in small-time, city court:- Dress appropriately. I don't care how shiny and new your sneakers are. If you show up dressed in sneakers and a sports jersey, you start out with negative credibility. If you dress like a gang-banger, it is hard to come off as a pillar of the community. - Skip the bullshit. If you think that the judge or the City Attorney hasn't heard your clever excuse for driving 50 in a school zone, you're wrong. Most likely, trying to snow the judge will just annoy him or her. - Don't try to game the system. If cases are called in a particular order, they are called in a particular order. You can spend all the time in the world lobbying the bailiff but he's not going to tell the judge how to run his or her courtroom. - Show up ten or fifteen minutes early for your appearance. If I had shown up ten or so minutes before I did, my case would most likely have been one of the first to be called instead of one of the last. - Bring something to read. Sitting around watching traffic case after traffic case gets boring after a while. As if sitting around in a court room wasn't exciting enough, this afternoon I went to the dentist for a few more fillings. That's six down, only two more to go!At one point, I had a very lucid image of what Hell is like. I was sitting in the dentist's chair with half of my face numb from theanesthetic, staring out at a slate gray sky, while Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" played over the office sound system.

Last weekend, Sarah and I were very busy. She spent Saturday making rain barrels to capture some of the rain water that runs off the roof of our house. So, last night when it rained, we caught something like 40-50 gallons of fresh water that we can use to water our gardens.

While she was doing that, I was wrestling with the plumbing in our basement. I replaced some copper pipe with some CPVC to get rid of a leaky sill cock on the side of the house. When I started looking at the job, I was dreading it because it looked like I was going to be forced to sweat several copper joints in a very confined location. However, when I was at the hardware store to get supplies, I found some "push-on" ("push-fit," if you're in Europe) bits that allow one to bridge CPVC and copper pipe through a simple push-on adapter. That simplified the project by several orders of magnitude. I was able to use solvent welds on CPVC pipe and then simply use the push-on adapter to bridge the whole mess over to the legacy copperpipe.

The weather here has been so warm that we had to mow the lawn for the first time last weekend. Unlike many of those folks who take their mowers out of the garage and change the oil, massage the spark plug, sacrifice a cat in the general direction of Briggs and Stratton, and then curse profusely while futilely pulling the starting cord for their air and noise pollution belching gas mowers, we simply pulled our reel mower off a hook in the garage, put it on the ground, slipped a CD in the Walkman, and started walking.