Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I will say up front that I have only been on the receiving end of law enforcement. But I do watch those "dead people and how they got that way" shows on cable so I kind of know a little about how a search should be conducted. In short, not like this.

Professor Steven Kurtz of the University of Buffalo had a truly crappy week in May 2004. His wife died in her sleep of congenital heart failure. Somehow during the 911 response to this event emergency personnel became aware of a home laboratory and the biological equipment therein. Mr. Kurtz is an artist with an interest in science. It was decided to charge Mr. Kurtz with mail and wire fraud for illegally obtaining two bacteria cultures and transferring them to a colleague. The FBI became involved, detained Mr. Kurtz for 22 hours, searched his house for three days, trashing the joint in the process, took some of his stuff -- which he is only now just getting back-- and removed his late wife from the funeral home for 'analysis.' Forgive me for thinking they dissected the late Mrs. Kurtz. A judge dismissed the indictment and the Justice Department will not appeal or seek new charges. So they expend all the time and expense chasing this poor guy and they can't even prove their case.

Maybe this is why: Mr. Kurtz documented the devastation left behind by law enforcement and intends to put his pictures on public display. Even on "Murder, She Wrote" the pretend cops make a big show out of not disturbing the crime scene. Here in real life, when the alleged crime scene involved potential biohazards, Mr. Kurtz' house was left adrift in pizza boxes and Gatorade bottles. Yep. They felt strongly enough to bodysnatch the Mrs. so they could have a peek at her innards, and then these goofs ate and drank in the possible hazmat site. Not only was no effort made to preserve the integrity of the scene, but the G-men left behind lists of the things they were looking for and maps of Mr. Kurtz' home along with the garbage, so if he was up to something nefarious he'd know where not to hide the stuff on their list. Was it 'Take the kids to work day' that week or something? Did somebody lose a bet?

There is a very good reason most people have a low opinion of the FBI. They may have some very sharp people working for them, but the folks they put out front are a flat embarrassment. It is in the nature of intelligence (pardon me) that the successes are never spoken about, but must the failures be so spectacularly oafish?

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Short Duration Personal Hero

I love this guy. Not because of the amount of money potentially involved -- nobody's really going to pay him $2.2. The idea captures my imagination. He's selling everything he owns, including his job and introductions to his friends, and walking away with his passport and the clothes on his back. And the money. His only plan so far is to climb the Eiffel Tower, which even though it is in France is still a pretty cool idea. He decided to pack it all in and split because his wife left him. Nothing says "The feeling is mutual, honey" like dropping off the face of the earth. Go, daddy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Things to Look Out For

We have two seasons where I live: mud slide and grass fire. Grass fire season has been upon us since early May. For other parts of the country, the advent of summer is heralded by the issuance of a partial list of things allegedly caused by global warming.

I say 'partial' because it misses a few major quality-of-life issues. 'Excessive sweating' failed to make the list, as did thirst, funky smells, steering-wheel burns, popsicle cravings and leather upholstery adhesion. Also missing: Air Conditioning envy, Dog Wilting Syndrome and information overload from hearing all your neighbors' business due to open windows. I know; I was surprised they missed those, too, especially the sticking to your seat thing. I suppose that's what comes from allowing journalists to play with science. Important, life-altering details are overlooked. For instance, it was 104 degrees in my apartment yesterday and I couldn't get up to get another popsicle until after sundown.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Earth Has a Cold Sore

Al Gore, Oscar winner, Nobel Laureate, and Darwin Award nominee, has long been pestering all of us about the noxious effects of global warming, the primary one being it seems to make him sweat like a pack mule. Last year the Tennessee Center for Policy Research discovered what he actually meant was for us to cut down on electricity so there'd be more for him. The same way the father of four was about overpopulation back in the 1980's. Remember that, back when he was just some ineffectual nerd senator with a pushy wife?
Mr. Gore has taken my personal approach to financial management and applied it to his home's energy consumption. After the news broke in Feb. 2007 that he was a hypocritical slob, he fell all over himself to make his home more energy-efficient. Now, after the improvements, the house actually burns more energy than before. In fact, every single month Maison Gore consumes an amount of energy equal to what one and two thirds average houses consume in a year. That's a carbon footprint the size of a horse's ass. Poetic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Greetings From Bizarro World

If the democrats are the Party of Peace, why is the city of Denver investing in riot gear in advance of their convention? It's certainly not because Denver is a nest of right-wing fascists; I've been there. I was born in Boulder, in fact, a dubious honor at best and a tradition I've carried on to the next generation by forcing my child to admit to having been born in Berkeley. Nope, they're all peace, love and cheap incense in Denver. The place that you'd think ought to be battening down the hatches is St. Paul, MN, host to the republican convention. Yet after a diligent five-minute search on Dogpile the most I was able to find was this protest site. They plan to 'Demand peace, justice, and equality.' They don't say for whom. Ron Paul intends to hold a parallel convention outside the venue if they won't let him speak inside. He could carpool with the peace guys.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, The police are investing in everything from the "brown gun," a sonic device that allegedly makes you -- ahem -- let yourself go, to pepper spray grenades. There is a group called Recreate '68 that plans to -- I forget. Do something, I suppose. Get high on Oaxacan ditch weed and run people down with their Lark Scooters, maybe. I'm thinking that the brown gun might have been money poorly spent. Certainly this is not the crowd to test it on.

What a freaking headache all the way around for poor Denver. Imagine the police brutality lawsuit after some fragile firebrand shatters a hip. Or the property damage done by their more vigorous great-grandchildren. Remember Seattle? Also, I'm sure the local criminals would never take advantage of the chaos downtown and the slower response times to carry on with their business in other parts of the the Metro Area. No wonder DPD is considering the logistics of carpet bombing and napalm. I'm kidding. They would never use napalm. The carbon footprint is huge.

Somebody really ought to explain to Denver how this is supposed to be an honor for them. I bet they forgot. In the meantime, St. Paul seems pretty sedate, considering they're hosting a group of folks quite a few of them disagree vehemently with. I wonder how that's going to go. Hopefully it will be dull. Republicans are very good at dull. I'll bet they clean the hall up on their way out, too. That would be cute, and it's happened before. With the passing of my dear grandmother last year I no longer have family in Denver. If you do, seriously, you should offer them refuge come August. The Peace Lovers are coming.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summertime Rules

During the summers my giant child goes to live in Oakland with his Dad. They're both on summer vacation. I get to stay here and live like my first ex-husband.

Life calms down considerably. I don't have to share the computer. I can walk around naked in my living room. I can make what I want for meals and eat -- or not -- when I please. There's no arguments about what music to listen to, no cereal box with three Cheerios in the bottom put back in the cupboard, no hovering presence absorbing my phone calls, no waiting for the bathroom. And it's quiet. Luxuriantly, blissfully quiet. Hear yourself think quiet. The rest of the year is taken up in the racket and bustle of hamster-wheel existence, of forgotten homework assignments, permission slips produced at the last possible second, the Russian circus of getting him the places he needs to be the time he needs to be there, the endless round of the Next Size Up. And where does all the food go?

Summer is when I get to play by my own rules. This summer especially, my life is my own. Last year I was hiding out from the Second Mr. Right. I can go out at night. Every night, if the mood struck me. Such an odd concept. Probably seems perfectly mundane to you. There's a full moon tonight, or almost. I could go up into the hills and see them awash in moonlight bright enough to read by. See them how those first guys who walked out here from Virginia saw them, thinking their treasure was here. Feel the wind and smell the grass. This place -- the beauty of it can break your heart.

Thursday there's a Dixieland band playing at Armando's. I've never been. It's time I went. Music and people and beer and fun. Live drums tickling my feet through the floor and my shoes. Live trumpet ringing in my head, vibrating every one of my parts. I could go down to the water and watch the ships. Or I could stay in and work on my reading pile, or watch wierd old movies, or just go to bed when I felt like instead of waiting for homework to be finished. I sleep in the living room. I could take a soak in my big old fashioned tub, marvelling at the elbow room therein. People who don't even like each other could shower together in there. Thinking about it gives me a naughty thrill of environmental responsibility.

I'll miss him, my awkward funny darling boy. My pet giraffe, all elbows and knees and ears and feet, booming, authoritative voice issuing from a coltish, uncertain, treacherous body. Always taking up more space than he thought he needed. Usually on the wrong end of the joke. Not really caring about it. His loopy demeanor hides a fierce intelligence. It's easy to think he doesn't pay any attention to the world outside his peculiar passions, until he shocks me to my core with with an observation about me that goes right to the bone, tossed off as an afterthought or non sequitor, and I remember we once shared the same heart. I will miss him terribly, as I always do every summer.

Just not yet.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

They Blow up in the Most Delightful Way.

For years I have been wondering what it will take for western Feminists to finally get get all in a wad over how the Muslims seem to treat their women. Not allowing women to drive or go out unescorted by a male relative gets a yawn. Making them walk around in black tarps in 875-degree heat because the sight of the female hairline would incite the menfolk? Whatever. Beatings, rapes, arranged marriages between little girls and old men? Nope, nope, and nope. For some reason the whole 'honor killing' thing, where women exist at the whim and the pleasure of their male relatives, has failed to motivate the gang at NOW to voice a single cackle. Psst, wimmin -- I bet they're against abortion. Just saying.

I think I may have hit on it, the issue that will make them rev up the email blasts, hire the screen printers, and rouse them into a fury of righteous indignation in cute tops and shoes. Ready? Al-Qaida has a glass ceiling. You know, like at CBS. No girls allowed. Your place is in the kitchen, mama, barefoot and pregnant, making boy babies and shawarma for the cause. How could the poignant words of Rabeebat Al-Silah fail to stir the heart:

''How many times have I wished I were a man ... When Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri said there are no women in al-Qaida, he saddened and hurt me,'' wrote ''Companion of Weapons,'' who said she listened to the speech 10 times. ''I felt that my heart was about to explode in my chest...I am powerless.''

Wow. Elizabeth Cady Stanton expressed the same sentiments at Seneca Falls in 1848. Only I think she was talking about being denied the vote, not slaughtering infidels. I hope the little ladies don't worry their pretty heads about it too much; after all, we all have our place in this world. Theirs is to be brood mares and collateral casualties. Oh, and occasionally a really special girl comes along who has what it takes to blow herself up. Affirmative action, doncha know.

I realize "Sex and the City" opened this week so we can't expect to hear from the feminists any time soon, but I'm sure they'll be right on this just as soon as their hangovers clear and they figure out he's not actually going to call.