Here's a Mercury News profile of Bob Wallace, an 88-year-old chemist who started a very successful cottage business selling iodine crystals under the "Polar Pure" brand new, used by hikers and disaster relief workers for water purification. Wallace has been put out of business by the Drug Enforcement Agency, who say they once busted a meth lab that was using Wallace's iodine in their process. The DEA says it's not their fault: "If Mr. Wallace is no longer in business he has perhaps become part of that collateral damage, for it was not a result of DEA regulations, but rather the selfish actions of criminal opportunists. Individuals that readily sacrifice human lives for money."
"This old couple, barely surviving old farts, and we're supposed to be meth dealers? This is just plain stupid," Wallace said, as he sat in the nerve center of his not-so-clandestine compound surrounded by contoured hiking maps, periodic tables and the prototypes of metal snowshoes he invented a few years ago. "These are the same knotheads that make you take your shoes off in the airport..."
For Wallace to comply, the state Department of Justice fingerprinted the couple and told Wallace he needed to show them such things as a solid security system for his product. Wallace sent a photograph of Buddy sitting on the front porch.
"These guys don't go for my humor," Wallace said. "Cops are the most humorless knotheads on the planet." Even so, Marco Campagna, Wallace's lawyer, promised to strengthen security and make other improvements to allay the government's concerns.
(Image: thumbnail cropped from a photo by Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.