Thursday, December 26, 2013

A new low

Remember David Eckert? I certainly do. His harrowing tale was a graphic reminder of police overreach and an example of the excesses -- state-sanctioned kidnapping and rape, for example -- law enforcement will allow itself in its tireless attempts to Keep Us Safe. It's hard to think how that could get any worse, but as always, the universe provides an example of just how it could have been worse -- David Eckert could have been a woman.

Reason Magazine wins one shiny, new Internet for its headline "Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog". A 54-year-old New Mexico woman endured six hours of fruitless body cavity searches at the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border crossing, all on the supposed say-so of a dog.
Jane Doe was crossing the bridge between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso after visiting a family friend last December when she was chosen at random for "additional screening." This "secondary inspection" involved a pat-down during which an agent "inserted her finger in the crevice of Ms. Doe's buttocks"—a rather startling incursion inasmuch as the agents at this point had no basis to suspect that the woman was carrying contraband. But they were just getting started. ....
First the agents strip-searched the plaintiff, examining her anus and vagina with a flashlight. Finding nothing, they took her to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where they forced her to take a laxative and produce a bowel movement in their presence. Again they found no evidence of contraband. At this point one of their accomplices, a physician named Christopher Cabanillas, ordered an X-ray, which likewise found nothing suspicious. Then the plaintiff "endured a forced gynecological exam" and rectal probing at the hands of another doctor, Michael Parsa. Still nothing. Finally, Cabanillas ordered a CT scan of the plaintiff's abdomen and pelvis, which found no sign of illegal drugs. "After the CT scan," the complaint says, "a CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches." She refused, and later the hospital sent her a bill for $5,000, apparently the going rate for sexual assault and gratuitous radiological bombardment.
That's a whole $1,000 less than the bill Eckert received. What chivalry!

Remember, folks -- these aren't flaws in the system, this is how the system is supposed to work. One justice system for the upper crust, another for the rest of us. It's enough to make you want to burn the system to the ground and start over.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Invoking Zevon again

I've found religion again -- at least when it comes to what I drink. After much consideration and not a little consternation in trying to find somewhere to recycle cans and bottles here, I have decided to quit soda and caffeine.

Yes, again. There seems to be a pattern emerging: move somewhere new, get stressed out over the move and the settling-in process, lapse into bad habits (i.e. waking up 1-2 hours before my shift and/or drinking soda again), get annoyed with myself for said lapses, lather/rinse/repeat. So far I have two days back on the wagon and have yet to experience any of the usual side effects -- no headaches, and I'm no grumpier than usual.

What with the desert being a short drive away and all, drinking more water is obviously on the cards. A door-to-door salesman came by yesterday peddling water delivery service, much like what I had in Jakarta and Beijing, but tap water does fine for me. I've been drinking it for about two months now and have yet to keel over sick and/or dead.

Still, I want something for a change of pace. Coffee doesn't do it for me, and I just can't get into tea. Fruit juice (no concentrate, no added sugar) is good, but the extra calories mean it's only an occasional substitute. My new pursuit: ginger beer.

I first discovered ginger beer while on my whirlwind tour of New Zealand. George Hrab -- a fellow teetotaler -- mentioned how much he enjoyed Bundaberg ginger beer, so I made to sure to seek it out when I landed in Mordor-ville. When I tried it, the experience was, in a word, revelatory. Fizzy, gingery, non-alcoholic goodness.

Unfortunately, despite the wide variety of imported drinks on offer here in the AUH, I have yet to find anywhere that sells Bundaberg. Finicky as it sounds, none of the other varieties I've sampled so far live up to the original. Maybe it's because most of them come in cans instead of a snub-nosed brown bottle, or maybe it's because none of them have big bits of ginger sitting at the bottom. Maybe it's just nostalgia clouding my taste buds. My search for Bundaberg ginger beer here will continue, but in the meantime, I'll just keep looking for the next-best thing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


After two months of takeout, delivery and hotel breakfast buffets, it begins.

Click photos to en-curry-nate
For someone who's not particularly culinarily inclined, this cooking thing is remarkably addicting. There's more than little mad scientist feel to it. My first attempt at curry rice was a bit underwhelming, most likely because I tried to do too many things at once and used water instead of stock as the base for the curry. I used vegetable broth the second time around and added apples (Fuji, of course) to the potatoes, onions, carrots, peas and garlic for an extra bit of flavor. A bit of Bulldog Sauce helped, too. That's two days and four meals worth of food for a couple hours' effort. I probably came out ahead cost-wise, too.

For my next trick, I'll be making macaroni and cheese -- in my rice cooker. (Dun-dun-DUNNNN!)