Saturday, May 28, 2011


As humans we always like to categorize things, so here’s my take at one type of classification. I think there are two kinds of people: those who enjoy crowds and those who don’t. Earlier today, I volunteered to help at the Boulder Police Department booth at the Boulder Creek Festival. My duties including popping popcorn that was given away and encouraging people to buy raffle tickets and donate to the Special Olympics. After my tour of duty I strolled through the acres of attractions, food stands and booths that sold and promoted every imaginable product and service. I like to walk an hour a day and I got that in just making the rounds of the festival. I even brought my notepad in case an idea struck me for the current novel I’m writing. As I headed back to the car, what did occur to me was a visceral reaction to being confined in wall-to-wall people for an hour. I enjoy speaking with people, but the mob scene wasn’t for me—too noisy, too crowded, too much pushing and shoving. I would have preferred to be hiking in the mountains. You can tell where I fit in the crowd classification.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

After the End of the World

With today being the predicted rapture by certain religious group, it brings to mind what happens to someone who has bought into one of these predictions.

Put yourself in this situation. You expect the end of the world to occur on the stroke of midnight. In preparation you have set your life in order and have gone out in your backyard to await the event. You gaze up toward the Milky Way, say a prayer and take a deep breath. A car backfires and you jump, your heart racing faster than the winner approaching a NASCAR finish line. You check your watch. 11:59. The second hand approaches the top of the dial. You countdown like when the ball descends at Times Square on New Years Eve. 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . You scrunch your eyes shut and then open them. Your oak tree still stands where you last saw it. The knot hole in your fence is still there and, in fact, your whole fence has not been incinerated by a fiery explosion. You regard your neighbor’s house. Still standing, not demolished by a blast of hot air. You look around. Your house looks the same and your patio devoid of furniture that you donated to the Salvation Army remains immaculate. You check your watch again. 12:01. You tap the dial. Can it be correct? Maybe it’s set wrong. Then you remember an hour ago you synchronized it with the atomic clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

What are you going to do now? You’ve given away all your possessions, deeded your house to your alienated son, told all your friends that the end is coming. When you stumble out the door in the morning to pick up the newspaper, your neighbor Fred will laugh and say, “You’re still here. Didn’t happen did it?” Oh, yeah, you forgot. You discontinued the newspaper. You won’t have to face Fred, but you won’t be able to hide in your house for long. Your son will show up to take possession and be delighted to kick you out. You decided not to sign up for Social Security or Medicare since a stipend and health care wouldn’t be needed after the end of the world. You gave all your savings to the bearded prophet in the flowing robe who convinced you doomsday was approaching. Now what?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How True Crime Cases Differ From CSI on Television

Several years ago I attended the Boulder Citizens Police Academy. As a mystery writer, I found this program extremely useful in learning about police procedures and the incredible contribution that the police department makes in our community. I’m now vice president of the Boulder Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, and we meet once a month to hear a presentation on some aspect of law enforcement. This last week we heard from a detective regarding a homicide case that took over ten years from the time of the rape/murder until the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

One of the key attributes of writers is patience and perseverance. This is equally true of police detectives. Although the perpetrator’s DNA was collected from the victim and entered into the national database, there was no match for over a decade. The perpetrator had been arrested and was in prison in another state, but the DNA was not entered by law enforcement in that state for seven years. One DNA analysis along the way determined the racial background of the suspect, but this couldn’t be taken any father until a matching DNA sample was found. Another piece of evidence was a fiber that was identified by an expert as coming from a particular model of car. This became useful for later corroboration. After the DNA match was made, the police department needed to produce significant information for the trial including over 14,000 documents during discovery and an extensive chain of evidence list of everyone who had handled DNA samples over the ten plus year period. The reality of police work is much different from the quick resolution during a CSI television episode.

One other intriguing aspect of the case. The ER doctor on duty when the female victim was brought in insisted that she had not been raped. Fortunately, two ER nurses saw evidence of rape and stood up to the doctor and insisted that a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) be brought in with a rape kit. Semen was recovered, producing the DNA sample eventually leading to conviction of the rapist/murderer (the victim died a day after the rape and brutal beating). If these nurses had not stood up to the doctor, the perpetrator never would have been brought to justice.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Elders and the Future of Our Country

Given that I write about older characters, I’m always interested in information about the aging population. An article appeared in our local newspaper this week stating that Americans 45 and older now account for the majority of the voting population. The aging populations has grown rapidly with a 43% increase in people aged 55-64 from 2000 to 2010 and a 33% increase in the 85 and older segment. Of even more political interest is the statement based on actual election turnout that people 45 plus represent 60% of the voters in national elections. So in addition to being an increasing percentage of the population, older people actually exercise their votes more than younger people. Let’s use this voting power to steer our country away from the polarized rhetoric of the extreme right and extreme left, to vote for and bring into office politicians who forego the distracting symbolic issues of both extremes and focus on the real needs of the economy, jobs, environment and health.