MONDAY, DECEMBER 17 Dear readers: Welcome to the final Last Days of 2007, ushering in, as fate would have it, The Stranger's annual Regrets issue. This is fitting, as 98 percent of the stories that appear in this column concern deeply regrettable events, from the terrible things people do to the lower half of infants to the terrible things people do with the corpse of Jesus. We kick off our Regrets column with a perennially regrettable staple of the slow news week: a roundup of local restaurants with the most health-code violations. Doing the legwork: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which analyzed the 2007 records of the elegantly named Public Health—Seattle & King County and published a list of Seattle's top-10 health-code-violating restaurants. Topping the list: the classic Ballard hamburgery Zesto's, which earned 15 "red critical" violations. As the P-I reports, "red" violations relate directly to the spread of food-borne illness, such as E. coli infection and botulism, while "blue" violations are those unlikely to cause disease, such as mishandling garbage, rat and vermin infestation, and improper disposal of sewage or wastewater. Among Zesto's code-red whoopsies: failure to properly sanitize the food-preparation area, cold food stored at more than 45 degrees, and "poor worker hygiene." Hygiene and storage were also problems for the city's number-two offender, swanky pan-Asian eatery Wild Ginger, whose inspection records include reports of shrimp stored at 80 degrees instead of 41 degrees, steamed duck left on a counter to cool, and chicken meat dripping juices onto a box of squid. "It's a big deal," admits owner Rick Yoder, who nevertheless feels his Wild Ginger is unfairly targeted by inspectors due to its prominence. Another challenge: the intricacies of dealing with cooks drawn from China, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. "It's still a challenge to try to get people to understand how we view what's sanitary versus culture that's 5,000 years old," said Yoder to the P-I. "They think I'm crazy. I say this is the way we have to do it." (Challenging the "dirty foreigner" theory: The absence of any International District restaurants among Seattle's top-10 health-code busters.) But Wild Ginger shouldn't feel too picked-on: In 2007, the health department cited more than 1,200 restaurants for problems with refrigeration or storage of cold foods and more than 1,300 for problems with employee hand washing. One of the gnarliest cases: Cilantro Asian Cuisine, the downtown Thai restaurant (number three on the list of 2007 offenders) where inspectors found cockroaches on cooked vegetables stored on a shelf, raw fish placed on top of cans of soda, "dried blood on the floor," and a customer complaining of a cockroach found in a takeout order, leading to the closure of the Cilantro House of Horrors this past May.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18 Speaking of horrors: Today brings a thoroughly regrettable mess from Boston, where a prank call led to the electric shock therapy of at least two teenagers. Details come from the Associated Press, which locates the saga within the walls of Boston's Judge Rotenberg Education Center, a residential center for people with special needs, ranging from "autistic-like students [with] aggressive, self-injurious, or destructive behaviors" to "high-functioning students with psychiatric or emotional problems." It's also believed to be the only school in the nation using two-second skin-shock punishments to change destructive behavior. These treatments, school officials told the AP, are reserved for "very deeply emotionally disturbed young adults," who receive the treatments "only after [doctors obtain] prior parental, medical, psychiatric, human rights, peer review, and individual approval from a Massachusetts Probate Court." So, how to explain the events of August 26, when someone claiming to be on the staff of the school's founding psychologist phoned the school with "fake" orders to administer skin-shock punishments to two of the center's teenage residents. Unaware the orders were a hoax, school staff did what they were told, and now the unnecessary treatments are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, with the Disabled Persons Protection Committee of Massachusetts investigating claims that a third resident of the center—an adult—was also subjected to prank shock therapy. It's all fun and games until some vulnerable member of society gets electrocuted.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19 Speaking of vulnerable members of society: They'll soon be encountering more formidable obstacles when they attempt to jump to their deaths from Seattle's Aurora Bridge. As longtime residents know, the half-mile bridge spanning the channel between Lake Union and the Lake Washington Ship Canal has long reigned as the Northwest's premier suicide plunge, drawing more than 40 fatal jumpers over the past decade. (Making matters worse: Many jumpers fall on solid ground, such as the parking lot adjoining a popular collection of shops and restaurants.) In hopes of diminishing the depression-meets-gravity-based carnage, yesterday Governor Christine Gregoire proposed a fresh deterrent: an eight-foot-high suicide-prevention fence, to be constructed along both sides of the Aurora Bridge, at an estimated total cost of $7.5 million. The importance of foiling self-destructive jumpers is negligible. (Suicide may be the most selfish thing a person can do besides murder, but that doesn't mean it should be illegal.) But the importance of protecting innocent citizens from suicide corpses raining down on their parked cars cannot be underestimated.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20 In lighter news: Today we turn to Arizona, where a tattooed penis has stirred up a shit storm. The owner of the adorned wang: Sean Dubowik, a 37-year-old strip-club owner who checked himself into Phoenix's Mayo Clinic Hospital for gallbladder surgery on December 11. The instigator of the shit storm: Dr. Adam Hansen, the hospital's chief resident of general surgery and the doctor assigned to Dubowik, whose tattooed penis—inked with the words "HOT ROD" on the shaft—so entranced Dr. Hansen that the surgeon couldn't resist whipping out his cell phone to take a photo. Even stupider: Dr. Hansen showed the photo to members of the surgical staff, one of whom alerted the Arizona Republic. Thus came the aforementioned poop storm, as Dubowik was informed of the photographic violation and Dr. Hansen was placed on administrative leave. "It was the most horrible thing I ever went through in my life," said Dubowik to the Republic, which reports the mercilessly violated strip-club owner got his "HOT ROD" tattoo on a $1,000 bet. As for his impromptu pornographic debut, Dubowik says he plans to contact an attorney.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21 Nothing happened today, unless you count the countdown to the winter solstice, marking the commencement of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22 The week continues with warm birthday wishes for June Cleaver/jive-talking Airplane! passenger Barbara Billingsley (1915), Cheap Trick's boyishly flamboyant lead guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen (1946), beloved Law & Order/Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? actress Lynne Thigpen (1948), and freak-brained diet guru/alleged insanity-stopper Susan Powter (1957).
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23 The week ends with death-day commemorations for 18-year-old Raymond Belknap, whose successful 1985 suicide led to the notorious "subliminal message" suit against Judas Priest, and 42-year-old Eddie Hazel, whose 1992 death from liver failure brought a premature end to a singularly funky life, and whose "Maggot Brain" guitar solo will continue to blow people's minds for as long as humans have ears.
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