Tuesday, September 29, 2009

*Beep* *Beep* *Beep*

The usual cliche is, "They must lay awake at night dreaming up new ways to irritate...", but that's not the case here. My Trinity From Hell *initates* its assaults as the day wanes so I can lay awake all night. Here is their latest:

I am awakened on Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. to a *beep* (2 secs) *beep* (2 secs) *beep* . . .

It is a sound familiar to everyone with a microwave oven, except these are not the closely spaced beep, beep, beep's. No, this audible warning seemed to be more that of an electonic gadget that has run out of storage media or was emitting its low-battery tone. Either way, it appeared to be coming from the neighbors' back porch, so I got up and placed a sound recorder to capture its duration.

The Monday morning recording picked up Theresa's 12:30 a.m. entrance onto the floodlit outdoor staging area, her multiple midnight meanderings around the gravel-covered yard to gather foodstuffs from various compressor-cooled appliances, and the metallic tap, tap, tap of her spatula on the catering truck's grill as she fried up some egg-sausage concoction to stuff into breakfast burritos.

The *beep* (2 secs) *beep* (2 secs) *beep* continued, even though Tight-Lipped Theresa traveled through the back porch several times over a couple hours.

Finally, at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning, . . . *beep (2 secs) *beep* (door banging) *beep* (2 secs) *bee/ (silence) . . .

Of course, the recorder continued and picked up the predawn Ice Bucket Brigade by Corky from 3:00 to 4:00 a.m., and the grand departure of the rumbling Monster Kitchen captained by the Alpha herself. Because this was a Monday morning, it also recorded the diesel truck deliveries by Crystal Dairy and Oroweat to TLCC's illegal commissary. Corky's 6:15 a.m. commute is also on it.

- - - - - - -

Most people hearing noise define it as "unwanted" sound. On the flip side, those creating the noise claim it is music (or money) to their ears. Everything is terribly subjective and the endless argument ensues with each side claiming superior interest.

Those who run the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse (NPC) wrestled with that problem for years before going back to the earlier definition of noise as sound that was out-of-place or inharmonious (see the article, The Nature of Noise, found on page 4 of The Quiet Zone, Fall 2006, a newsletter published by the NPC.) Icemakers grinding away, plastic pails and bumping wheelbarrows, yard radios, and electronic thingies beeping are certainly out-of-place at night; certainly out-of-place next to your neighbors window; completely out of harmony with the quiet that should prevail in a residential neighborhood. In other words, precisely the reason zoning laws came about in the early 1900's and the reason Manteca has such an ordinance today.

But for some reason the simian officers of the City of Manteca stand by - blind, deaf, dumb, and stupid.

- - - - - - -

An intriguing follow-on to the *beeps* from Monday morning occurred twenty-four hours later on Tuesday morning. Well after T, L, and C doused their house lights and retired, their back porch light came on briefly, indicating someone was up and about. Three hours later, at Theresa's 12:00 midnight cue, the house lights came on. Five minutes later, a large passenger truck (Bronco, Suburban, or somesuch) backed out of the driveway at 810 Fishback and swept its headlights across my house windows as the driver turned northward and drove away.

So what? you ask. In this cat-and-mouse game, they try to keep me guessing, too, so here are my two speculations:

A. One - or more - of the Mobile Meal Mavens had a lover for the evening, but he had to leave when cooking duties called... or he couldn't perform when the lights went on. (After all, we're only brain-storming here...)

B. The Ice Queens had a friend babysit their precious Icemaker Baby for a few hours of darkness while they slept. The changing of the guard took place at midnight upon one fair maiden's arousal. (Really makes you wonder what kind of Frog Prince - or Princess - would accept such a kiss!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Something Fishy, Smelling Stinky...

A while back I was informed that my neighbors' homeowner's insurance (Farmers Insurance Group) is paying for an attorney to defend them against my noise nuisance suit. (Never mind that I allege unlawful nonresidential, or business, use of property. Who knew that home-based businesses are covered under residential policies?)

I was also informed that California law prevents insurance companies from furnishing legal representation to policyholders directly and must, therefore, pay a third-party attorney to do the work. Here is what I discovered about John A. McFadden, Esq. - State Bar No. 173588, attorney for the defendants. Look carefully and tell me...

Why does this supposedly "independent attorney" list on his entry with the California State Bar an email address at FarmersInsurance.com?

Further, he works for the law offices of Field & Sanders in Rancho Cordova, CA, undoubtedly a respected and respectable firm, headed up by Douglas L. Field, Esq. - State Bar No. 56990. Alas, Mr. Field has no email address on file with the State Bar. However, this esteemed gentleman has a long and impressive resume on file with the San Joaquin County Court. Again, look closely and tell me...

How is "independence" maintained when the owner/managing partner of the law firm assigns an associate to this case, while himself occupies the position of Staff Counsel of Farmers Group of Companies since June 1997 according to his resume?

I know... I know... they'll tell me that because they are not "employees" of (any of) the Farmers Group of Companies, it is, therefore, not illegal to thusly represent Allen's & Brassey's illegal nonresidential (business) use of their property. (I'm pretty sure that's lawyer-speak for, Screw you.)

Mr. Field and Mr. McFadden may not be "employees" of Farmers Group, but be assured that their homes, boats, cars, childrens' college funds, and wives' clothes and jewelry will be purchased by all those policyholders who contribute premiums to one of the myriad corporations under the Farmers Group umbrella. The legal services these "interdependent esquires" render to Farmers is a balancing act between maximum billings to their firm and minimum impact to shareholders' stock value. Nobody wants to foul that honeypot spot called Staff Counsel.

One can no longer expect to receive impartial rulings from Blind Justice under the Rule of Law. In our system of Justice-for-Sale, individuals need to watch the rear view mirror to avoid being steam-rollered by Great Wads of Cash.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Great "White Noise" Cover-Up

I'm sure you have seen those speakers that look (almost) like rocks. They are marketed as outdoor sound system components. If you haven't seen them, here's one:

This particular speaker appeared in my neighbor's yard around three months ago, in June. Particularly note the direction it is pointed - for reasons that are deduced in this post. It was moved to a more permanent location on the side of the outbuilding, as seen in this September picture. Note that it is installed at the height of the top of the window.

Perhaps a half-acre lot is big enough to warrant an outdoor sound system, especially since the occupants spend massive amounts of time in their business yard messing around with the catering truck, the food inventories in various locations, the trash and waste dumps and, of course, the ice machine.
The questions begging for answers are: Why was THIS speaker patched into the outdoor radio system? and, Who is the intended audience for the "Mega 100.1" elevator music claptrap that plays every afternoon, into the evening, and all weekend?
Take a look at the physical layout sketch in this post and the recent pictures below. Immediately in front of the speaker is the graveled northwest corner of the lot, which is shaded by an enormous fruitless mulberry tree and is used only for storage.

The barbeque is pulled around the corner of the porch before each use. During the summer days, while they are gone, this shaded area also hosts a wading pool filled with water for their pack of dogs to drink from. (These practioners of sanitation used to just leave buckets of ice and water in front of the ice machine for their dogs, but then they put up the plywood box, which acts as a barrier for dogs but not for noise.)

Farther back behind the tree is more storage - bricks, boards, ladders, etc.

The residents simply do not spend much time in this corner of their yard. Out in the middle of the yard is a tented gazebo, where they do hang out and yard radio speakers would be expected.

Reasonable people with an outdoor sound system use self-restraint in order not to disturb others beyond their property boundaries. Reasonable people with a shred of human sensitivity realize that pointing a speaker at a fence, or installing it at a height sufficient for its output to clear the fence, is immature, selfish, mean-spirited and unbelieveably unneighborly. However, my previous sad experiences with these neighbors inured me to any shock at this latest action. If they believe that another layer of noise is the way to cover up all their other noise, they are again mistaken.
The ONLY conclusion that can be drawn from these observations is that my neighbors are deliberately pouring MORE of their noise across the fence and onto my property. Remember, the speaker appeared in June. The whole scheme is directed at me in retaliation for filing the noise nuisance lawsuit against them, served on them May 25th (Memorial Day).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Properties of Ice

Ice is a fascinating substance - when it's not being manufactured at night next to one's bedroom window. Here are some online articles of interest regarding its unique properties:

General -




Snowballs -


Glacial processes -


Here are some ice properties one doesn't hear about every day:

Ablation - Surface removal of ice or snow from a glacier or snowfield by melting, sublimation, and/or calving.

Sublimation - Where ice changes into water vapor without first becoming liquid. This process requires approximately 680 calories of heat energy for each gram of water converted.

Regelation - Where ice melts under pressure and then refreezes once the pressure has passed. Look for it in http://skua.gps.caltech.edu/hermann/ice.htm

All this gives new layers of meaning to phrases such as:
My NsFH regelated after each enforcement inquiry;
The City of Manteca ablated a long time ago;
The judicial process is glacial; and
Don't consume any ice from TLC Catering.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Is Two Times Zero?

A friend sent me a local newspaper story on adding another code enforcement officer to the city's workforce. (I'll leave the other discussion about general fund deficits and worker layoffs for later treatment.) The position is to be paid from Redevelopment Agency funds and the officer is to be proactive regarding blights in neighborhoods caused by failure to follow city ordinances.

Here is my nomination for his/her very first case: The owners of 810 Fishback Street are operating a catering truck and a commissary from their property, but they do not have the necessary zoning permit for a home occupation and do not meet the requirements to obtain one.

How long do I have to wait until this officer learns what the codes are, how to document the violations, and how to apply the enforcement sanctions? The ability to do background research is sorely lacking in current personnel, and we are to believe current personnel can train someone new?

Actually, the biggest question I have: How this officer is going to learn the city's procedures at all? It appears the City of Manteca does not have any procedures for code enforcement, judging from this email response.

- - - - -
Sent: Thu 1/15/2009 3:34 PM
From: Tilton, Joann [jtilton@ci.manteca.ca.us]
To: Richard Behling
Subject: Request for code enforcement policies and procedures

On January 6, 2009 you request copy's of Manteca's code enforcement policies and procedures, via email.

My research of my records and via the Police Chief shows we do not have the documents (policies and procedures) being requested.

I provided the Police Chief with the 2006-07 Grand Jury report you emailed to me and he is not familiar, nor could he find the information mentioned on page 51 of this report.

Thank you for your patience while awaiting a response.

Joann Tilton, MMC
Manteca City Clerk

- - - - -

The San Joaquin County Grand Jury reported that they reviewed code enforcement policies and procedures from cities around the county, including Manteca. But, as one can see, when those policies and procedures were requested, the Manteca Police Chief doesn't know what I'm asking for.

Time will tell if code enforcement in this city gets any better or remains just another way to keep payroll money flowing to the well-connected.

This whole thing seems to be one more example of city puffery. It follows very closely on the heels of last year's "plan" to delete a vacant sworn officer position and hire and train two CSO's (Community Service Officers), cross-training them to answer code enforcement complaints as well.

$130 Per Week

That's how much a local catering service business would charge me each week to park my catering truck in their corporate yard. You know... that truck I'm going to buy from "a guy."

The $130 weekly per truck price includes water and electrical outlets, Darling International waste grease dumps, trash dumps, and two "barrows" (large contractor wheelbarrows) of crushed ice each day. The account carries weekly charges for additional ice, cleaning and food service supplies, a very large assortment of prepackaged foodstuffs, and some institutional sized ingredients for cooking onboard the big kitchens-on-wheels.

$130 per week = $563 per month = $6, 760 per year per truck (today's dollars.) Below is a chart (larger chart) that lays out how many trucks TLC Catering had cleared for sanitary operations by County Health for each year from 1988 through 2008. Truck #3 is still in use in 2009 = 22 years.

In this calculation, the present value of the rent "savings" is assumed for all years.

If all these 22 years of business rent were transacted today, TLC Catering pockets $466,000 not available to any other catering businesses who operate legally. This is the core reason why TLC Catering was able to stay financially afloat all these years. This is the core reason Allen & Brassey fight like rabid dogs to preserve the false grandfathering claim of property use legality. For over two decades, this and other money was obtained illegally, while the City of Manteca stood by, blind and stupid.
Those hard dollars didn't appear out of thin air, either. They were purchased with non-monetary social costs paid by their neighbors: primarily, a quality of life degradation caused by noise pollution equivalent to harassment and assault and, secondarily, a continuing business blight putting severe pressure on residential property values.
There are a couple other very significant financial aspects to this case - the "savings" of middleman profit margins, and repeated refinancing while riding the real estate bubble. These will be discussed later as more information becomes available.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brassey Wakes Up (Finally)

Jeez, you would have thought I killed Teresa Brassey's firstborn, lastborn, and all the ones in between. Apparently her consanguinity with dogs runs deep.

During last year's dust up with Manteca's finest minds, I logged several city code complaints on
Manteca's state-of-the-art, Internet-based, tell-us-your-problem-you-whiner system, with full knowledge that the reports would be tagged as "Closed" before I even hit the "Submit" button. True to form, the K.M.A. officers * proffered only half-baked, erroneous, and/or conflicting reasons for closure. But I digress... My purpose was to have the items "on file", regardless of their summary administrative dismissal, in order to establish my neighbors' pattern of cavalier disregard for any lawful regulation of their illegal operation and activities. Allen & Brassey (and some of their associates) are truly not good citizens and definitely not good neighbors. With no fear of overstating, they are the archetype Neighbors From Hell (NFH). **

My teaching moment for Ms. Allen, utilizing her snaggle-tooth fence as the object lesson, brought me face to face with her three junk yard dogs, canine guardians of all things illegal at 810 Fishback Street. (To tell the truth, they were a lot quieter and more amenable than the two yappy house dogs or their owners.) It reminded me of something I was investigating many months ago - the City's zoning ordinance regarding animals.

Manteca Municipal Code, 17.07.030, The keeping of animals. In any district on a lot with a principal permitted use, no more than six small animals may be kept, provided none are kept for commercial use. Not more than three of such animals may be dogs or cats over ten weeks of age and not more than two may be pot belly pigs.

I am not quixotic enough to believe that Manteca minions will enforce this ordinance any more than any other ordinance, but I needed this item to be "on file." I started by asking Animal Control for info on owners, dogs and licenses. No such luck. Animal Control: "We don't have everything on this computer. Finance Dept. has it on the big computer." I drive over to City Hall. Finance Dept: "All we can say is, there are licensed dogs at that address." "How many?" "We can't [won't] say. If you have a complaint, you have to go to Animal Control."

[rant] Do you know the saying, You can't fight City Hall? The mental impression of a City Hall conjures up soaring Doric columns, expansive marble steps, and a giant statue of The Mayor, (Willie Weatherford ala Abraham Lincoln), sitting on his giant golden throne dispensing God-like wisdom and justice for all... except it ain't true. Everyone - elected, appointed, employed, contracted - everyone is a schmuck, just like me and you. If any heat or discomfort comes their way, they squiggle, they squirm, they crawl under their desks, and they point their fingers down the hallway or, better yet, across town to some other department, never a person, saying, Go try there. Every schmuck at city hall is busily engaged in staying disengaged from citizens who would like them to do their jobs. This is as good as administration-by-unaccountable-committee gets. [/rant]

So, I drove back over to Animal Control and verbally delivered my complaint that there are at least five dogs on the the neighboring property. (I realize now that was a mistake - not the number of dogs - but I should have used the technologically advanced, Internet-based, go-ahead-suckah-try-complaining system furnished to Manteca residents by their ever-lovin' City Hall.) What's so bad about five dogs, you ask? Only that the ordinance allows three dogs and/or cats per residential property. My neighbors' five dogs (more?), plus a cat or two, clearly exceeds the allowance.

Drove home, changed clothes, dug out lawn mower, and started mowing edges in preparation for straight lines. An Animal Services truck pulled up. (Whoa! I never before experienced this level of timely service in my prodding Manteca code enforcement.) The uniformed officer from the kennel rapped on the door next door. Brassey came out front and they chatted further over on the other driveway. By this time the mower bag needed emptying, during which break the officer hopped in her truck, pulled a U-turn, and drove away.

I must have missed the part where the Animal Control officer actually counted canine heads.

Reattached bag, fired up mower and started toward the property line. Brassey appeared suddenly, looking like a cartoonish, apoplectic bulldog barrelling down on me. Pausing, dipping, she picked up a garden hose, spun the faucet wide open, and continued the charge.

Visualize: Train Wreck. Judging from her eyes, expression and body language - and the fact she is spraying the water in an upward arch right at me as she approaches - I was positive the irate woman was going to hose me down in my own front yard.

Visualize: Train Wreck Chicken. She's now at the property line. Her water arch is tinkling on my mower. She spins 70 degrees left. Water begins landing on a brown patch at the edge of the grass. (I had sprayed it with Roundup two weeks prior.) Given the pit bull set of her jaw and her stance, she was nonverbally daring me to push my mower into the spray. Ten feet from her, I made two 90-degree turns to the right and mowed a line away from her, then turned back. This went on a half-dozen times until I finished all but the 10 by 10 patch of wet grass being overwatered by Brassey, while she yakked on her cell phone with the Alpha Female.

I proceeded with mowing my side yard, leaving her to pour more water on some dead grass for as long as she didn't feel foolish. Sure enough, another bag change and she was gone. Sheesh, that was a much closer call than Allen's photographic foray. Brassey was on the brink of turning this one into a felony assault.

What got her juices boiling? Did she think I was "attacking" her dogs? Perhaps it was because Brassey had to face the inquisition alone while Allen was out buying more inventory for their illegal commissary? Or because I had "unscrewed" their dip-see-do fencing folly that morning? (see previous post). Am I attacking their livelihood? (How do I know if moving and setting TLC Catering up like a legal company is economically infeasible?)

- - - - -

* Kiss My A...

** archetype (noun) - the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype. [ed., Hopefully, that mold was broken...]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jousting with Fence Boards

Labor Day was a very busy day for someone hired by Allen & Brassey to rebuild two portions of fence. The first job was to replace a "plywood patch" on their front fence, which remained unfinished until yesterday for lack of fence boards. It now looks halfway respectable.

The second project was a stunning farce, another over-the-top manipulation for which Lynda Allen is widely infamous.

To relate this properly, I must go back to last February. After the picture in this post appeared, Ms. Allen calculated the angles and added one-foot lattice toppers to the sections of the decrepit six-foot fence between our houses. A seven-foot fence still wasn't enough for her, so while I was gone away to friends on Father's Day in June, A&B hired a guy to rebuild several sections of our common property line fence, starting at the very back of our 185 feet deep lots. A couple more sections were done the next day, for a total of six eight-foot sections. The old boards were redeployed (horizontally!) as backstops to the sections up front, between our houses, until every chink, crack, and knothole was covered.

Good Neighbor fences are usually a joint effort, at joint cost, and the boards alternate sides with each eight-foot section. That was not the case here. First, I was not consulted on the fence replacement project; second, I was not asked to contribute to its costs; third, the fence was "bettered" (newer and higher than the original one); and fourth, the old fence boards were appropriated for other uses by A&B as described above - for these reasons I did not object to the installation of the new fence, even though I got the side with all the 2x4 stringers. Better fence... neighbors' nickel... NOT a problem... really. I accepted her offer. Everything was cool... so far.

The funniest aspect of Ms. Allen's charade is that after she closed all the knotholes, the knothead discovered she could no longer see if my truck was in my yard, or if my blinds were drawn, or if my lights were on. (Keep 'em guessing, I say.) It was no longer easy for her to detect signs of my presence. How do I know? Because, during my ladder-assisted project described next, I observed their step ladder set up next to the fence just for such use. On rare occasions it is put away, but generally not.

A month ago, I embarked on a modest beautification project: a freestanding screen or trellis to span the gap between my house and my outbuilding. A row of 4x4's was set in the ground five feet away from the property line fence, 2x4 stringers were bolted on, and two courses of 4x8 redwood lattice attached horizontally. Ivy, bougainvillea, morning glories, and other climbing greenery would in the future provide a "green screen" - a visual break from TLC Catering's ugly backside always mooning me over the fence.

[Special note: this trellis, even overgrown, IS NOT a noise barrier - in spite of Ms. Allen's acoustical architechure and engineering degrees and her assertions to Manteca's code enforcement pencil pushers, duly noted, that lattice and plywood perform that function. (Honest! I don't make this stuff up!)]

In the inscrutable and infinitesimal mind of the genius next door, however, that damned trellis was interfering with her ability to ascend her step ladder, surmount her own lattice fence topper, and scan my house and property for signs of my presence. Reverting to the Machiavellian axiom that imitation is the best form of flattery, she hired a guy on Labor Day to pull the boards off two sections of the "new" fence and redo those sections using the staggered offset pattern I used on my northern front fence (away from her property.) She may want an "open" fence on our property line, but I certainly do not. I was not flattered. (We're not even friends, let alone intimates!)

It is obvious that her architectural genius is exceeded only by her dog training skills. The fence boards she used were only 5 1/2 inches wide (cheap, cheap), with gaps between them ranging randomly from 2 inches to 4 1/2 inches ("eyeball" method?), and the offset pattern on the other side of the stringers was nowhere close to precise (it's really hard to find good [free?] help these days!) The result looked like shit - but produced her desired goal of opening my property to her view without revealing any of her own property.

Unfortunately for the hammering hamsters, there is this little bit of common law regarding common fences that does not allow one party to dictate the structural elements employed on the side of the other party without consent. Her erection constituted a solicitation for agreement. I rejected her proposition the next morning by removing the fence boards on my side, piling them neatly next to the fence, and placing the container of removed screws on top of the stack. Nothing oral by either party, but the communications (advance and rebuff) were absolutely clear and unmistakeable.

With great regret, I was absent when the roach coach co-pilots returned to their business yard, but I truly hope their disappointment, with wailing and gnashing of teeth, was not inflicted on their very nice junk yard dogs. As expected, however, by my return in midafternoon, a large blue tarp had been carefully stretched out and tucked over the tops of the gap-tooth boards remaining on A&B's side of the fence. At 5:00 p.m. a guy appeared, retrieved the boards, and for another hour removed the ones on the other side and did the best he could to reattach them in a close approximation of their previous, simpler layout. I hope he allowed for the small "summer gaps" that accommodate the winter's swelling of wooden fence boards to prevent them from warping and popping off the fence.

Oh, and let me tell you about the junk yard dogs... and the house dogs... and the narrowly averted hosing down...