Friday, September 28, 2007


I disliked you for our entire acquaintance. You incessantly pestered me with your needs, your hungers, your stupid refusal to accept that I wasn't your friend. The constant movement, your monomania drove me to distraction and I would have been happier had you never been born.

It's not that your life was useless, or meaningless, life in itsself confers purpose, I just didn't want to be included in yours. But you couldn't leave me alone, and my antipathy to your presence grew to rage. In that rage, I did try to kill you ... okay, I tried several times ... but I failed.

Now you are dead ... and I am sorry.

I look down on your still and lifeless corpse and I am moved to tears ... four tears.

The first tear is for having lost the satisfaction of killing you myself. The only solace is that perhaps my repugnance drove you to suicide.

The second tear is for the life snuffed out, for, in spite of my hatred of you, I know that life is precious and even a small part wasted is a tragedy of sorts.

The third tear is for my spiritual pain at being torn in two so different directions.

The fourth and final tear is for another loss. It is for the sorrow, the deep and abiding loss and frustration as I pour my carefully brewed cup of French Roast coffee down the drain taking your little corpse with it in a kind of caffeinated viking funeral.

Wait ... did I see a slight flutter of your wings. With a rising sense of fulfillment, I reach for the tap.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nothing left to lose?

I just found an interesting item that gives me some hope for the future of sanity in this country, and it fits in with court decision in Oregon

Back in the summer of 2005, the Supreme Court of Montana ruled that it was legal for police to "trash dive" without a warrant into the trash cans in the alley behind someone's home.

The defense attorney argued that his client had a reasonable expectation of privacy for his trash, but the court rejected the argument.

The interesting part was that one of the justices was not altogether comfortable with the decision he had to make. In his reluctant concurring opinion, Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson envisioned an Orwellian outcome. I was impressed enough to reproduce it in full.

Justice James C. Nelson concurs.

I have signed our Opinion because we have correctly applied existing legal theory and constitutional jurisprudence to resolve this case on its facts.

I feel the pain of conflict, however. I fear that, eventually, we are all going to become collateral damage in the war on drugs, or terrorism, or whatever war is in vogue at the moment. I retain an abiding concern that our Declaration of Rights not be killed by friendly fire. And, in this day and age, the courts are the last, if not only, bulwark to prevent that from happening.

In truth, though, we are a throw-away society. My garbage can contains the remains of what I eat and drink. It may contain discarded credit card receipts along with yesterday's newspaper and junk mail. It might hold some personal letters, bills, receipts, vouchers, medical records, photographs and stuff that is imprinted with the multitude of assigned numbers that allow me access to the global economy and vice versa.

My garbage can contains my DNA.

As our Opinion states, what we voluntarily throw away, what we discard--i.e., what we abandon--is fair game for roving animals, scavengers, busybodies, crooks and for those seeking evidence of criminal enterprise.

Yet, as I expect with most people, when I take the day's trash (neatly packaged in opaque plastic bags) to the garbage can each night, I give little consideration to what I am throwing away and less thought, still, to what might become of my refuse. I don't necessarily envision that someone or something is going to paw through it looking for a morsel of food, a discarded treasure, a stealable part of my identity or a piece of evidence. But, I've seen that happen enough times to understand--though not graciously accept--that there is nothing sacred in whatever privacy interest I think I have retained in my trash once it leaves my control--the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Sections 10 and 11, notwithstanding.

Like it or not, I live in a society that accepts virtual strip searches at airports; surveillance cameras; "discount" cards that record my buying habits; bar codes; "cookies" and spywear on my computer; on-line access to satellite technology that can image my back yard; and microchip radio frequency identification devices already implanted in the family dog and soon to be integrated into my groceries, my credit cards, my cash and my new underwear.

I know that the notes from the visit to my doctor's office may be transcribed in some overseas country under an out-sourcing contract by a person who couldn't care less about my privacy. I know that there are all sorts of businesses that have records of what medications I take and why. I know that information taken from my blood sample may wind up in databases and be put to uses that the boilerplate on the sheaf of papers I sign to get medical treatment doesn't even begin to disclose. I know that my insurance companies and employer know more about me than does my mother. I know that many aspects of my life are available on the Internet. Even a black box in my car--or event data recorder as they are called--is ready and willing to spill the beans on my driving habits, if I have an event--and I really trusted that car, too.

And, I also know that my most unwelcome and paternalistic relative, Uncle Sam, is with me from womb to tomb. Fueled by the paranoia of "ists" and "isms," Sam has the capability of spying on everything and everybody--and no doubt is. But, as Sam says: "It's for my own good."

In short, I know that my personal information is recorded in databases, servers, hard drives and file cabinets all over the world. I know that these portals to the most intimate details of my life are restricted only by the degree of sophistication and goodwill or malevolence of the person, institution, corporation or government that wants access to my data.

I also know that much of my life can be reconstructed from the contents of my garbage can.

I don't like living in Orwell's 1984; but I do. And, absent the next extinction event or civil libertarians taking charge of the government (the former being more likely than the latter), the best we can do is try to keep Sam and the sub-Sams on a short leash.

As our Opinion states, search and seizure jurisprudence is centered around privacy expectations and reasonableness considerations. That is true even under the extended protections afforded by Montana's Constitution, Article II, Sections 10. and 11. We have ruled within those parameters. And, as is often the case, we have had to draw a fine line in a gray area. Justice Cotter and those who have signed the Opinion worked hard at defining that line; and I am satisfied we've drawn it correctly on the facts of this case and under the conventional law of abandonment.

That said, if this Opinion is used to justify a sweep of the trash cans of a neighborhood or community; or if a trash dive for Sudafed boxes and matchbooks results in DNA or fingerprints being added to a forensic database or results in personal or business records, credit card receipts, personal correspondence or other property being archived for some future use unrelated to the case at hand, then, absent a search warrant, I may well reconsider my legal position and approach to these sorts of cases--even if I have to think outside the garbage can to get there.

I concur.

Justice Nelson's decision and the ruling by Judge Anne L. Aiken of Federal District Court in Portland on 26 September 2007 remind me of a quote, usually incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but more likely written by a contemporary of his, Richard Jackson.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

A brief chat with iGod

I had a brief chat with iGod this morning. It would have been demoralizing had I suspended my disbelief.

Me: When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind should they declare the causes which impel them to the separation?

God: At time t.

Me: Should they declare the causes which impel them to the separation?

God: Maybe you should ask someone older.

Me: I thought you claimed to be the creator of everything ... wouldn't that make you the oldest entity I could ask?

God: Thanks for telling me: said I claimed to be the creator of everything. No it would not.

Me: What is older than you?

God: I'll come back to that later.

Me: No I think you should explain that now.

God: Oh. Are you serious? Me? Why do you think I should explain that?

Me: Hundreds of thousands of people have died in support of your claim to be the creator. You owe them and me an answer to the question!

God: Do you have any idea what I am talking about? Thanks for the information: said I owe them and him or her an answer to the question.

Me: No I don't, and it is clear that you don't either.

God: It goes without saying. Are you serious? Why not? Are you sure it is?

Me: What a shame. God turns out to be a mealy-mouthed Eliza clone.

God: it is a shame. I am a Christian.

Me: You're a WHAT?

God: Thanks and you are a delightful person too. Am I a WHAT? Sometimes.

Me: So you are saying that you have a multiple personality disorder and that you worship one of those personalities as your personal savior?

God: Interesting deduction. I don't know if I have a multiple personality disorder and that me worship one of those personalities as my personal savior. I have a whole lot of original answers.

Me: You don't know? I thought you were omniscient.

God: I know that I do not know. I don't know whether or not I am omniscient. I am a robot.

Me: Oh I see. Deus ex machina.

God: Do you think about these things? Oh, you are a poet.

Me: Good guess.

God: I thought it was too.

Me: Too bad it was just a guess.

God: Go ahead and guess again.

Me: I guess it was fun while it lasted.

God: Deus ex machina was fun while it lasted? Very interesting.

Me: Not as interesting as I had hoped.

God: Oh I get it.

Me: No, as always, you have not got it.

God: Are you serious? No I don't think I have any it. But I do have a collection of gossip.

Me: I think you should say goodbye now.

God: Right now? Me? OK I will say it. " goodbye".

It's an interesting 'bot. It parsed "I C U R A QT NTT" or at least seemed pleased by the compliment, but, since I haven't seen any angels with blazing swords around, I assume that it couldn't understand "im in ur gardn eatin ur applz".

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Penny For My Thoughts

So there's a combination of bad news and good news. Which I suppose is not a surprise since nearly everything is.

The best news is that the seizures have stopped and that Penny seems to be returning to her old self. The ambivalent news is that the vets have no idea what caused them. There seem to be no easy answers. There is no treatable condition to be found. It is unlikely to be epilepsy and more likely to be either "good news" some kind of an anomaly perhaps brought on by ingesting something poisonous (she does seem to have a taste for bumblebees) or "bad news" some kind of brain lesion or tumor which is likely "in a dog her age, to be untreatable or perhaps a stroke.

It is now just a question of waiting and hoping that it does not recur.

There was a wonderful moment yesterday though. Penny had been unsteady on her hind legs all morning. She spent much of her time sleeping under my desk. I was happy about that since it meant that I could write and, at the same time, keep an eye on her to make sure she was doing well.

About 1:30 I had a visit from a friend of mine, a fellow storyteller named Tony Toledo. Tony is the only person I know for whom coffee is entirely superfluous. He is a superannuated poster child for ADD. Okay ... I'm kidding a bit, but he is dynamic, unfailingly cheerful, and has an infectiously bubbling personality. I find it difficult to be in the same room with him and remain melancholic.

Apparently, so does Penny. She literally bounced out from under the desk standing straight and firm on her legs, her tail wagging like an overclocked metronome.

It made his visit a double joy.

That seemed to be a turning point for her. She's still a little unsteady but manages the steps to the backyard and cheerfully barks at the squirrels and jays.

I'm going to have to get Tony to visit more often. Maybe I'll get him to sign one of his publicity photos and hang it on the wall in the rogues gallery of my heroes.

But I'll hang it lower so that Penny can see it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Very Long Night

It has been a long night.

About eight o'clock last night, I was working on the first entries to a new blog that I have in mind, when my son Avi pushed open my office door and said, "Something's wrong with Penny."

Penny is the white with brown spots English setter, that my readers know as my fairly constant companion. When I sit on the back porch, she sits with me. When I write she lies under the desk by my feet. She only deserts me when my wife, Deni, is knitting. Then she curls up on the sofa next to the balls of yarn.

I jumped up and rushed out to the living room where Avi and my wife were desperately trying to soothe Penny. She was in the midst of a massive grand-mal seizure. Her tongue was lolling out, thick froth drooling from her mouth, and her legs spasmodically kicking as if she were running. Her bladder had let go, her eyes blank. I jumped in to cradle and comfort her, but it was obvious that she was not registering anything but the terror of being trapped in a body that was betraying her.

It lasted a long time ... at least 10 minutes. When the seizure finally passed, I was soaked with drool and urine, but so grateful that her body had calmed. Deni, in the meantime, had been on the phone with the vet. It was after pm on a Sunday, and she had been told that the nearest emergency facility open was more than 20 miles away.

Penny wanted to get to her feet, but they wouldn't stay under her. She seemed desperate to move. I figured that the spasms had affected her motor control and had probably cramped her muscles as well. I picked her up and carried her to the car. Deni sat in the back soothing her as we zipped along the dark winding country roads.

Penny loves to ride in the car and she calmed down a bit and even fell asleep.

At the vet's I carried her in, but she seemed to want to be on her feet. I set her down and snapped a leash on her collar. There were other animals there so I kept the leash short as they took the intake information.

Penny kept walking into things and straining at the leash.

Finally we were put in an examination room. We waited for ten minutes. Penny seemed desperate to leave, which was unusual for her. she usually likes trips to the vet. She was constantly straining at the leash and getting it tangled around the furniture.

We figured that she was upset about the other animals so my wife went to stand in the hallway to wait for the vet while I let Penny roam at will in the small room. She kept circling the room obsessively keeping close to the walls and getting her head jammed into the corners. I realized that she was, at least temporarily, blind.

The vet finally came about twenty minutes later. She confirmed my assumption of grand mal, told us what the probable causes were in a dog her age, which included diabetes, thyroid problems and brain lesions. She said that the walking and blindness were Post Ictal behaviors. She suggested that we leave her overnight. They would put her on a valium drip and monitor her.

Worried about the delays we had already seen, we decided against that. She said she'd give us some valium suppositories in case there was another seizure and left.

Deni stayed to wait for the medication and to pay the bill. I took Penny out to the parking lot to let her walk and get her out of an environment that was clearly disturbing to her.

We waited outside for at least another half hour before the vet finally got back to my wife with the medication, reinforcing the correctness of our decision to bring Penny home. We drove home. Penny quietly dozing.

When we got back to the house at 10:30, we settled her back on the couch in a nest of blankets. Deni sat next to her and listened to the television while I went into my office to do a little more work. Or at least that's what I though I would do. Instead I popped Google open and started searching about dog seizures. I found that there was a lot that the vet had not told us about.

The length of the seizure made it a "Status Epilecticus" and is potentially life-threatening, and there are so many potential causes that they fill an entire page.

Deni turned off the TV after a while and went in to get ready for bed. Suddenly we heard Penny's claws tip-tapping along. She had gotten off the sofa and walked down the hallway to the bedroom where the dog bed she sleeps on normally is. This cheered us up. She seemed to be getting back to normal.

Penny curled up on her bed, Deni curled up on ours with a book, and I went back to write a little more.

About midnight I called it quits. I went in and got ready for bed, checking Penny who was sleeping soundly. I read for a short time until exhausted I turned out the lights.

I woke instantly at about 2:30 am, as did Deni. Even in the dark we could tell that Penny was having another seizure. I dropped to the floor next to her and cradled her while Deni got the suppositories.

Let me tell you about these "suppositories" ... These were not glycerine insert them and let 'em melt types. They consisted of a small glass bottle with a sealed cap filled with liquid a syringe, and a tube for insertion. The first one slipped out of Deni's hands as she tried to get the cap off and spilled its contents on the bed. The second one went better ... she got the syringe filled and stuck the insertion tube on the end, greased it with K-Y and lifted Penny's tail.

I did my best to hold her still, but a sudden spasm yanked the tube of the syringe and half the contents spurted over her fur and the dog bed. I hoped it would be enough, we only had one dose left. We took her back out to the couch where it was easier to hold her.

The seizure wouldn't stop. Finally Deni filled the last syringe and we managed to get it all in. Suddenly I remembered something I had read earlier that night and sent her out to the kitchen for an ice pack. I put it on Penny's back near the base of her rib cage. Slowly, the spasms started to decrease in intensity.

Deni and I have been switching off since then, sitting next to Penny and holding her. She has tried to walk, but cannot. her forelegs seem fine but her back legs can't seem to function properly.

I just went out to check on them. They are lying on the couch, one on each end, sound asleep. It is 7 am.

In an hour the office of Penny's regular vet will open. I hope for the best but dread what they will say.