Friday, September 28, 2007

Obama's Email

I just got an email from Barak Obama. Actually, I've been getting quite a few from him lately.

The subject line was "Hey."


Like, Dude...ya think like that might be way informal for a would be president?

I mean, seriously.

To Touch the Face of God

There was a moment during the Peru hike when I was all alone with this mountain. The LTR had gone ahead on horseback. The rest of our band was behind and I was the first to reach a "saddle" between two glacier-laden mountain peaks, at about 14,000 feet above sea level.

The Incas believed this was a sacred place. While standing there I believed it too. There was such a feeling of both contentment and awe in that place like I have never experienced. With no other humans in sight I didn't feel alone. Maybe it was Mother Earth -- what the Peruvians call "Pacha Mama." It felt as though Pacha Mama were singing to me, wrapping me in a blanket of sound. Somehow through the mountains I felt connected to the universe.

I am reminded -- in hindsight -- of the verse that goes:

All things by immortal power
Near of far
To each other linked are
Thou cannost stir a flower
Without troubling a star

And yet -- as grand as this was, I also find truth in this line from Moby Dick:

Come, stand close to me. Let me look into a human eye. Far better than to gaze upon sea or sky. Far better than to gaze upon God.

Can both be true? Maybe. For whether gazing at the mountains and sky at the top of the world or gazing into the eyes of those you love, you are beholding beauty. And maybe that is what it is to behold God.

Unfashionable Friday

Don't look now, but the Friday Fashionista himself just showed up at my doorstep un-showered, in red shorts, flip flops and a green teeshirt. Which brings to mind his advice, proffered here in a previous post:

Whatever you do, be sensible and look at yourself in the full length mirror before you leave the house. If in doubt, call a friend for help.

Friday Fashionista: If It Suits You...

Since I am focused on reader comments, I have another I would like to share. I feel kind of like Dear Abby! The reader question was as follows:

I have a 5 year old suit. It is a very deep blue, almost black with a lighter blue pattern weave that is very subtle and you only notice it when you're up close. The issue (or problem) is that the pants have pleats and have cuffs. It is also a three button jacket. The suit was not cheap, and was wondering if it is okay to wear this anymore. Also, are three button jackets still okay? And if so, when not in a sitting position, do you button the top two buttons and leave the bottom third one unbuttoned? Am I all confused and hopelessly living in the 90's? Thanks.

Okay Blue Suit, let’s take this one item at a time.

First, a navy blue suit is a staple item, especially in Washington DC. So that is fine. In fact, good for you and your sense to pick a good basic that will transcend over the years.

As for the pants, you know how I feel about pleated pants. They drive me bonkers. They make anyone whether thin or sturdy look like they have a donut around their middle section.

So here is my advice – donate the pants, keep the jacket to use as an accessory with a contrasting flat front trouser. Here’s why. The cuffs could be removed, not a big deal. In fact, the cuffs could stay if they are not huge. But the pleats are not so easy to take out. Although a good tailor is worth his/her weight in gold, so you may want to check into it. Many of us get caught up in wearing articles of clothing well past their expiration because we paid a lot of money. And I am glad you brought that up. A routine cleansing of the wardrobe is necessary, and regardless of how much you paid, if something is out of style, get rid of it. Donate it or throw it away. New clothes are made every day. Plus, it’s better to walk into a meeting looking well put together, crisp and fresh in your up to date suit than to look dated frumpy because the suit was trendy at the time of purchase.

The jacket with three buttons is a classic. Two buttons and one button jackets may be en vogue, but a classic three button jacket is always a winner. When you get to four buttons, it’s too trendy and tends to look a little too modern, like someone on MTV would wear to an awards show.

As for your final question – wear your three button jacket with your tie and the top two buttons “buttoned” and the last “unbuttoned.” When you sit, unbutton your jacket (or take it off depending whether or not the leader of your meeting takes his/her jacket off).

I hope that answers your queries. If not, remember I am available for consultation!
Stay tuned for Croq and more Flip-Flop bashing next week when I take adults who wear children’s footwear…

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A True Offense to Christianity

Of these two photos, I would argue the one on the right is the greater offense to Christianity.The message "God hates," whether it's fags, jews, infidels or left-handed blue-eyed people has been responsible for how much misery on this planet? The message "God hates" will continue to justify real violence long after the image of the dildo-laden last supper parody is forgotten. Christians -- know the real enemy to Christ's teachings.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iran's Non-Existent Gays

Farsad and Farnma. They began life secretly as a couple in Tehran, and 15 minutes into a small gathering they put together to celebrate their relationship, the Iranian police burst into their apartment and arrested them. They received 60 lashes. Each.

"We were beaten to the point that my spine hurt permanently; I still feel the pain caused by the fists pounding my face," Farsad says.

Iran's code on intercourse between two men (lavat):

Article 110: The hadd [punishment] for lavat where penetration has occurred is death and the method of execution is at the discretion of the Sharia judge.

There is an Iranian gay rights organization called the IRanian Queer Organization. I intend to donate.

Al Jazeera on Ahmadinejad

The Iranian president was "reaching out" to Americans and met with vilification, mostly from American Jews.

That's the way Al Jazeera sees it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

So Why Invite the Iranian President?

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger told Ahmadinejad from a podium across the stage. He said that the Iranian's denial of the Holocaust might fool "the illiterate and ignorant," but that "when you come to a place like this, it makes you quite simply ridiculous." Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust suggested he was either "brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," Bollinger said.

The university president's caustic comments were met with cheers and sustained applause from the roughly 700 people in the audience, most of them students.

So if he's so ridiculous, why did you invite him? These comments make the whole thing seem like a stunt.

And, of course, Ahmadinejad's remarks -- and the laughter that ensued in his denial of the existence of Gay Iranians -- only helped prove how ridiculous he is.

Free speech has a way of doing that.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Bar Conversation

The LTR and I stopped at a gayborhood watering hole on the way home tonight. The LTR left to go the men's room.

Stranger (to me): I like your beard.

Me: Thanks. I'm going to shave it off soon, though.

Stranger: Why?

Me: Makes me look scruffy, old.

Stranger: It just needs trimmed.

(LTR returns.)

Stranger (To LTR): I like your shaved head.

Me (To Myself) Could we come up with a follicle independent pick up line?

LTR: Thanks. God did most of it.

Stranger: It looks good.

Me: I like shaved heads, but I wouldn't look good with one.

Stranger: No, your forehead is too high, your eyes would be in the middle of your face. People would think you're Frankenstein.

Me (Locking eyes with LTR and communicating wordlessly): He just compared me with Frankenstein.

LTR (looking back, responding non-verbally): He didn't mean it as an insult, let it go.

Me (to stranger): You know, I wouldn't drink too many more beers, or that beer belly you have may remind people of Jabba the Hutt.

LTR (to us both): We're leaving.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

He Lucked Out

Our son is sooooo lucky we didn't see this Halloween costume while he was a baby...

A Week's Worth of Altitude Sickness

This is what a week of oxygen deprivation will do to you. The LTR (left) and I getting back to sea level after living at 12,000 - 15,000 feet for seven days. Yes, the LTR will kill me if he sees this. But I think he stopped reading the don't tell him.

I've many other Peru pics I'm dying to share but would like to edit them into a slideshow presentation with music and Ken Burns like effects. I don't know what program to use.

The Advocate Article and Hillary

Is out. The earlier portrayal was accurate.

Hate Crimes: Entitlement for Vengeance?

" is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order." -- Thomas Jefferson

I'm not a fan of hate crime legislation, and recent events in Jena, Louisiana have not led me to change my mind. Far from it, I wonder if part of what we're seeing in Jena is a sense of entitlement for vengeance from a class of people given permanent victim status by hate crimes laws.

This WaPo article got me thinking that. Consider this:

The outrage over the Jena 6 arose initially after the teenagers were charged with attempted murder. Moreover, critics complained, three white teenagers who had hung three hangman's nooses in a tree at the high school in August 2006 -- the incident that began a spiral of events that culminated in the December altercation -- were never prosecuted for committing a hate crime.

The Post story says the fact that white cretins who hung the nooses on the tree were never "prosecuted" for a hate crime...a failure that led to the mob beating of Justin Barker (no relation).

As I understand them, Hate Crime laws don't punish non-criminal actions. Hate Crimes laws tack on more severe punishments and reporting requirements for violent acts actually committed. Unless LA has a statute on the books that prohibits symbolic noose hanging, this act -- while hateful -- was not a crime. It should have been (and was) punished by the school (the students involved were expelled, then the school relented and only suspended them, a mistake, I think). The noose hanging, however, does not appear to be illegal.

However, I don't think that's the popular understanding of hate crimes laws. Because those white boys did something hateful, some in the Jena community (according to the Post) thought they had committed a crime. When the government didn't punish them for that crime, feelings of injustice were stoked. And the community then felt justified taking matters into their own hands which led to a mob beating of Barker, who, from what I have seen in the media, had no connection to the nooses.

There are many other issues at play here, notably the inequity of punishment of blacks compared to whites. I'm just wondering what, if any, role the mis-perception of hate crime laws played in creating a sense of entitlement to vengeance by the mob.

A timeline of events in Jena here.

A list of Louisiana hate crime laws here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Fashionista – You Ask, I Tell…

A few weeks ago before I took a little hiatus, I asked for your input on topics of interest regarding what to or not to wear. One response was as follows:

I need your thoughts on a good pair of dress shoes. I'm still in that penny loafer "phase, (without the penny now). Some say to go retro with "wing tips" but that reminds me too much of Dad. :-)

When it comes to shoes, I must admit, I tend to channel Carrie Bradshaw from HBO’s Sex and the City. I LOVE shoes and shopping for them. So if this advice leaves you with more questions, the Friday Fashionista is available personal shopping advisory trips.

You cannot beat a classic and the wine tip certain lives on today in an updated format. You can still wear a modern wing tip and not look like “dad.” Although if you are truly looking for something new, here are some tips for shopping… I recommend you begin at a store such as Nordstrom. Even if you do not buy anything there, visit the shoe department, pick out something you like (make certain they measure you for size), and their well trained sales staff will bring you at least 4 or 5 pairs that are comparable in style. They typically are showing items in various price ranges, but I must admit there are times I selected one thing and bought one of the recommendations because I found it more stylish and more comfortable.

If you don’t feel the price is in line with your budget, at least try out the experience for fit and style and then go to DSW where you simply help yourself. The idea is to get a trained salesperson helping you and limit some of the choices. Places like DSW can be overwhelming unless you know what you are looking for, and sometimes the savings is not significant.

With respect to actual style, stay away from square toes. No one needs to look like Crocket and Tubs (circa 1985 Miami Vice). You need not buy a shoe with the pointiest toe out there, but there are alternatives to the blunt square toe. Slip-on loafers are a nice modern version of the penny loafer, and there is wide variety of styles – but I recommend whichever you choose, stick with a nice black or cordovan leather shoe. You can use them with your suit, your business casual attire and jeans.

Stay tuned for next Friday when I take on another reader’s query of what to do with the 5 year old suit.

GLAA of DC: An Old Dog That Won't Hunt (esp. for marriage rights)

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) released results of its survey showing that Gay Marriage in the District of Columbia has overwhelming support of the Mayor and the City Council.

Too bad it doesn't have full support of GLAA. They continue to advise DC's elected officials to sit on their hands and do nothing, fearing a Congressional backlash. I've been harping on this as long as I've been blogging, but I'm glad to see Matt at Malcontent jump on the bandwagon:

Our courageous gay leaders say the overriding fear is that “an ill-timed same-sex marriage bill in D.C. might also prompt Congress to pass a law banning the city from adopting full marriage rights for gays in the future.”

So we’re going to sit on our hands at the back of the bus because of what “might” happen?

Here’s a better idea: Call the Democrats’ bluff. Pass gay marriage in DC, then see what happens. Force the Democratic leadership into the position of letting it stand, overturning it, or even “banning” gay marriage “in the future,” as the wussies at GLAA seem to worry. If these groups have so little faith in Democrats, why do they support them over and over and over? The answer increasingly appears to be that they’re more concerned about consolidating Democrats’ hold on political power than about doing right by gays.

It's actually obvious what is happening -- none of the Democratic bosses -- least of all Hillary Clinton -- wants to tackle such an issue, not now, maybe not ever. The folks at GLAA are more or less lobbyists, and like lobbyists everywhere, they are in the business of keeping those they lobby happy. The problem is -- the interests or the Democratic Party and the interests of the gay community are not one and the same but GLAA is treating them like they are.

It's an unhappy standoff -- the gay establishment doesn't want to make their friends in the Democratic Party uncomfortable and the Democratic establishment doesn't feel it needs to carry water for it's gay constituents because, after all, where else are we going to go?

Bull dogs, water hoses, and hell, bullets, bombs and the lynch mob's noose faced the freedom fighters of 1960s. And our leaders are afraid of....Congress? Martin Luther King and the others didn't wait until that perfect time when we could resolve our race problems over a nice cup of tea. They acted.

And so should we. When has sitting passively on butt doing nothing brought about social change? To do so is to cease to be a civil rights movement. It means we have become passive spectators to our own cause, watching from the sidelines hoping the world will change itself.

Why is the Pants Suit Judge Still on the DC Payroll?

DC Administrative Judge Roy Pearson, known round the world for suing his dry cleaner for $54 million for allegedly losing a pair of pants, is still collecting his $100,000 per year salary from DC taxpayers, even though his job "expired" back in May.

This week, the owners of the dry cleaners closed the store involved, citing financial strain and the emotional toll.

The Administrative board that was evaluating whether or not to retain Pearson for a 10-year stint and was expected to release a decision in early August. That never happened. Pearson is currently working as attorney advisor to the DC Office of Administrative Hearings.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Tyrone Butler (202.442.9091) -- why is this whackjob still on the City Payroll almost six months after his term expired?


Change is about to sweep into my life, once again.

This week I accepted the position of Vice President of Communication Services with a PR firm in Alexandria. They have been my largest client, before I left for Peru they said, "Name your price" to come work for us, I did, they said yes, and so, here we go.

Part of my price was I wanted to be able to spend the 10 weeks my son is here with him, and not in an office while he sits in day care. They agreed to that.

So, starting on Oct. 1, instead of rolling out of my bed, grabbing a cup of java and perusing the Internets to see what sort of inane contribution I could make, I'll be rolling out of bed and commuting (via bike -- their office sits on the George Washington Memorial Parkway bike trail).

I don't know what the future of the this blog will be; right now I'm taking a wait and see and attitude. Writing the blog has been a good form of expression for me. As someone who has made his living helping others craft messages on corporate and public issues, it's been a great form of expression for me to just write what I want and say what I think. At times I've been worried about crossing my personal opinions and personal live with my professional life in a way that might be harmful to me. But being an independent consultant I was able to keep that fairly balanced. Working for a firm (again) may make that balance more difficult. We'll see.

Since I started this little blog more than 45,000 people have dropped by. True, many of you came to see the pic of Chris Evans that MattyDale posted, but a small number of you liked the content enough to come by often. There is a small burgeoning community of Scott's Take regulars. Small, but it is burgeoning nonetheless. I hope that continues, because the best part about blogging is community.

So, for the next week I'll be on here doing my thing like I have been. After that we'll have to see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hillary to Advocate: I'm not for Marriage Equality

That's reportedly what she made clear in an interview to the Advocate magazine, according to the Daily Intelligencer. I'll wait to read the entire Advocate piece, but whether or not she believes in marriage equality, I'm willing to bet you President Hillary Clinton would never take as outspoken or courageous a stand for marriage equality as, say, well the Republican Mayor of San Diego.

Here's what the Intelligencer had to say about the Advocate article:

Some hopeful gay voters take her carefully worded objections to marriage equality and interpret them as hints that she really, deep down, believes in it. But in the Advocate story, Clinton for the first time makes it aggressively clear that this is not the case. "I would tell you [if it was]," she said to Kennedy. "This is an issue that I’ve had very few years of my life to think about when you really look at it, when you compare it to a whole life span. I am where I am right now, and it is a position that I come to authentically."

Darth Cheney?

Hillary referred to Veep Dick Cheney as Darth Vader at a recent campaign event.

One could hope so. After all, Vader did fulfill his destiny and restored balance to the Force.

Maybe even now Mary Cheney is at the Veep's residence saying, "Father, I can feel the good in you." Perhaps as the Emperor President and his minions try to squelch the rights of gays, DC residents and everyone declared an enemy combatant Cheney will see the light and toss him down the Dupont Metro escalator pit. Thus freedom and the values of the Old Republic would be restored.

Or perhaps I'm taking Hillary's Star Wars analogy a bit too far.

I have a bad feeling about all of this.

It's a Tear-Jerk Morning -- More Straight/Gay Reconcilliation

Watching the San Diego Mayor's Presser brought tears to my eyes. This letter to Dear Abby from the widow who finally accepts her gay son and her partner had them rolling down my cheeks:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I raised our two sons and two daughters. One son and both daughters married well. Our other son, "Neil," is gay. He and his partner, "Ron," have been together 15 years, but Neil's father and I never wanted to know Ron because we disapproved of their lifestyle.

When I was 74, my husband died, leaving me in ill health and nearly penniless. No longer able to live alone, I asked my married son and two daughters if I could "visit" each of them for four months a year. (I didn't want to burden any one family, and thought living out of a suitcase would be best for everyone.) All three turned me down. Feeling unwanted, I wanted to die.

When Neil and Ron heard what had happened, they invited me to move across country and live with them. They welcomed me into their home, and even removed a wall between two rooms so I'd have a bedroom with a private bath and sitting room -- although we spend most of our time together.

They also include me in many of their plans. Since I moved in with them, I have traveled more than I have my whole life and seen places I only read about in books. They never mention the fact that they are supporting me, or that I ignored them in the past.

When old friends ask how it feels living with my gay son, I tell them I hope they're lucky enough to have one who will take them in one day. Please continue urging your readers to accept their children as they are. My only regret is that I wasted 15 years. -- GRATEFUL MOM

DEAR GRATEFUL MOM: You are indeed fortunate to have such a loving, generous and forgiving son. Sexual orientation is not a measure of anyone's humanity or worth. Thank you for pointing out how important it is that people respect each other for who they are, not for what we would like them to be.

Hat tip: Pam. More letters of this sort to Abby on her Site.

Republican San Diego Mayor Reverses Course and Supports Gay Marriage Resolution

Thanks in no small part, apparently, to his gay daughter and openly gay staffers (Cheney family, take note). From his statement:

“As I reflected on the choices that I had before me last night I could just not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation,” Sanders said.

In a reference to his daughter and two staff members who are gay, he said, “I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones, for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and loves them back, someone with whom they can grow old together and share life's experiences, and I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law.

Watch the video of his news conference. It's very emotional and moving. (hat tip: Rex Wockner)

Hillary and Obama take note: this is what conviction looks like.

The Last Gasp of Gunga Dan?

Dan Rather suing CBS is the latest example of the disgraced newsman distorting facts to fit his quirky world view.

Courage, CBS.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Photo Editing Software?

Can anyone recommend a good photo editing software program that is easy to use? I want to be able to edit photos and collect them into a slideshow with music and effects. I'm an idiot, so the easier the better.

Autopsy Report:

You're Not Dead!

On the Banks of Lake Titicaca

Enjoying a Cusquena beer.

Don't I look damned relaxed?

Quote for the Day II

From Tom Bridge, at Metroblogging DC:

Damn Congress, you always leave me walking away muttering under my breath, wondering what possible subset of jackasses and morons brought you here to our town.

I guess that is the one consolation. What were you people out there thinking when you elected these idiots?

Quote for the Day I

After perusing this morning's headlines, I remembered this quote from good ol' Abe Lincoln, commenting on the "know-nothing" party, a political movement in the mid-1880s that was anti-immigrant. Substitute "Republican" for know-nothing and gays or DC residents for the "low classes of white people" or "Negroes" and the quote well reflects the sorry state of affairs today:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal except Negroes." When the know-nothings get control, it will read, "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics."

When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty. To Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

From a letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1865.

Taxation without Representation - Still

The U.S. Senate refused yesterday to consider a bill giving the District of Columbia voting rights in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Earlier this week, I wrote a check for $4,500 to the U.S. Treasurer. It's my quarterly estimated income tax payment. Since I live in DC, I have no voice in the US House, which controls spending (at least according to the Constitution).

Ironies abound. We're spending blood and treasure to bring democracy to people who didn't ask for it half a world away while ignoring the pleas of people in Congress' back yard who dearly want it.

Voting rights for the District is one of those "debates" where there is no reason and often just emotion.

Senate opponents of the bill which would have given DC voting rights said it was unconstitutional -- they support, they say, voting rights, but it has to be done by making DC a state. Okay, Sen. Mitch McConnell et al, prove your sincerity by sponsoring a bill for DC statehood. But I know you wont, because you don't give a damn about DC voting rights, especially if it means two Democratic Senate seats.

Can I have my money back?

The Children of Gay Couples Don't Matter in Maryland

Maryland is now officially not marry land for gays, with yesterday's MD Supreme Court decision declaring that denying gay couples their nuptials is not unconstitutional. What troubles me is the apparent reasoning:

In reversing a lower court's decision, the divided Court of Appeals ruled that limiting marriage to a man and a woman does not discriminate against gay couples or deny them constitutional rights. Although the judges acknowledged that gay men and lesbians have been targets of discrimination, they said the prohibition on same-sex marriage promotes the state's interest in heterosexual marriage as a means of having and protecting children.

Um, hello...many gay couples have kids (and many straight married people do not). Like so many others opponents of gay marriage, the Maryland supremes are hiding behind the kids of straight parents while ignoring the children of gay couples. If it's in the state's interest to protect children who are progeny of straight people, why isn't it in the state's interest to protect the kids of gays?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Hypocrisy Behind Fred Thompson's Stand Against Gay Marriage?

Fred Thompson, having just announced (surprise!) that he's running for president, made haste to tackle what he clearly considers one of the top priorities confronting the nation today: Stopping Gay Marriage:

“I am proposing a constitutional amendment that would stop gay marriages as a practical matter in this country."

Is this because Thompson clearly believes gay marriages are a serious moral threat or because Republican strategist Rich Galen -- who is a senior advisor on the Thompson campaign -- told him that playing the gay card was a good way to win conservative votes.

Lat fall, before the 2006 Congressional elections, Galen publicly (in a column published Oct. 27) called on GOP candidates to tie the then-recent NJ Supreme Court decision supporting gay unions to Nancy Pelosi, her "San Francisco values" and to Congressional Democrats.

Okay, pandering to homophobia to win votes isn't that new, but then comes the blatant hypocrisy from Galen:

I know I will be accused of gay-bashing, but I am not. I am looking at this from a purely political standpoint. I understand homosexuality exists and denying that is foolhardy. If we want to reduce the effects of HIV/AIDS on society, fostering long-term relationships - even homosexual relationships - would be one very good way to do it.

I was so stunned that someone could acknowledge that gay unions might be a good thing for society (Rich equates it with reducing the the effects of HIV/AIDS, which I might point out, people still die from) but at the same time abandon that moral and public good for partisan political gain. I am naive, which Rich pointed out to me when I emailed him challenging him on this point. He wrote me:'re shocked that political people look at things through a political prism? Oh, please.

So, the questions that Fred Thompson should be asked:

  1. Are you privately supportive of gay people and their relationships (surely you came across many in Hollywood) despite this public stand?
  2. Are you viewing the gay marriage issue through a "political prism" and not a societal/moral/public policy one?
  3. With senior advisers on your payroll who believe one thing but abandon their beliefs to win votes, how will the American people know you are sincere about your beliefs when you stake out a position, especially on polarizing issues?
  4. Will you take stands on issues you believe in even if you know it may cost you votes?

Monday, September 17, 2007

They Have a Way of Finding You

So, I was out of the USA for two weeks and the one and only time someone was able to actually track me down and get a call to me in Peru was: my dentist's office, reminding me I have a routine appointment on the 18th.

Mormons Exposed

Shirtless priests are so last year -- the new thing is shirtless Mormon Boys. Like J.D. here.

It's from a calendar (of course!) the proceeds of which will benefit various charities.

Hat Tip: Jokohomo.

Shia and Sunni

Like most westerners, what I know of Islam could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. I have learned from the Iraq conflict that peace there is tied up in the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. But trying to understand the difference between the two has been almost as puzzling as figuring out how a religion that claims belief in a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost can still call itself a monotheism. Enter Vali Naser's book, "The Shia Revival."

I'm just starting into it, but one revelation thus far sheds light on the foundation of our miscalculations in Iraq: Since the Iranian revolution in the late 70s that knocked the Shah off the throne, the US has known and worked with only Sunni Muslims and fundamentally misunderstood the centuries of differences and domination between Sunnis and Shia. From the book's intro:

The Middle East today is more vulnerable to instability and extremism than at any time since Iran's Islamic revolution swept a U.S. ally of the throne of that country and brought Shia radicals to power there. America's call for democracy in the region has rattled its friends [Sunnis] while failing to placate its enemies [Shias].

Thus far the book is persuading me that America's "role" in the region can be to pull back, maintain Iraq's border integrity and protect U.S. interests there.

Nasr's book makes it clear why Bush's failed attempt to transplant Democracy in the Middle East was doomed from the start, but he doesn't rule it out altogether:

Peace and stability will come to the Middle East only when the distribution of power and wealth reflects the balance between the communities and the political system includes all and provides for peaceful ways of resolving disputes. Once the conflicts that have already been set in motion are exhausted, the majority of Shias and Sunnis will settle for a political order they can share-- not dominated by one or the other, theologically or politically -- and that represents everyone's social, economic and political aspirations.

Yes - that seems like a tall order, and the key words here are "Once the conflicts that have already been set in motion are exhausted." I think we have a long, terrifying way to go before those conflicts are exhausted. But I hope by the time I finish this book I will be optimistic that they will be.

Iraqi Security Forces

Are working. According to Al Jazeera:

The Iraqis in the district [Baghdad] have welcomed the patrols and the security. They say there has been a marked improvement in security in the past few months.

Let's hope so. Al Jazeera goes on to say many have Iraqi families have given up and already left. but this is still good news.

Obama: Tie Funding to Withdraw

From the HuffPo:

Obama signaled Sunday he would only support a future Iraq funding measure if it included a deadline.

“We are going to bring an end to this war and I will fight hard in the United States Senate to make sure we don’t pass any funding bill that does not have a deadline,” Obama told the crowd.

He'll change his tune if elected president.

Which means he's not leaving this song.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Three Kids

These Three Kids were playing in our third camp, I pulled out my camera, and they wanted me to take their picture. When I did, they clamored around me and asked to see it. I wish I oculd have given them a copy.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

The sun's rays stream into Machu Picchu, over the Watch Tower.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

The LTR and I in our Andes-Wear at MP at daybreak

Delta SkyMiles: Really Delta SuxMiles

If you take a flight using Delta SkyMiles --Delta's points program with American Express, you may get to fly for "free." But the cost is you end up at the lowest end of the totem pole if you run into problems and you'll find yourself facing an army of Delta employees whose sole mission in life is not to help you.

That's what confronted us on our trip home from Peru. I was going to let my anger against Delta drop, but in going through the mail I found a promo from Delta extolling their SkyMiles program.

Let me tell you our experience with Delta SkyMiles.

We have many points on American Express and used them to "purchase" our return flight from Lima, Peru to Atlanta and on to DC. However, our connecting flight on Peruvian airline LAN from Juliaca, Peru in Southern Peru back to Lima was canceled. We found this out when we showed up at the Juliaca airport and were told the airport was closed because they couldn't get the lights turned on the runway.

This meant we couldn't get to Lima to catch our Delta flight for Atlanta that night scheduled for 12:20 am. (it's nearly a two day trip from Juliaca to Lima by land). On the taxi ride back to our hotel in Puno, 30 miles away, we immediately began our siege of calls to Delta.

We were immediately given the runaround. The long story short is that since we purchased our tickets through SkyMiles NO ONE COULD HELP US. We were told we could purchase tickets home, at a cost of more than $3,000. Or wait until the 18th, (four days hence) when SkyMiles seats were available (BTW, according to Delta's Web site, there were 50 seats available on the flight we wanted to get on that night when I checked from the hotel's computer).

Eventually we were told that if we went to the ticket desk at Lima they could help us as agents on the ground had more "leeway." When arrived at Lima (taking the first plane out of Juliaca the next day), arriving at 11:30 am, we found out the Delta desk didn't open until 9 pm that night.

What to do?

We could buy tixs on Spirit airline for $511 each. That flight left at 10:30 pm. So if we waited until 9 to find out our Delta fate it would be too late to get on that flight.

The LTR kept up a seemingly Quixotic effort to call Delta under the theory he eventually might find someone to help us. He finally succeeded.

At about 4 pm Lima time, the LTR reached an agent who transferred him to "International Re-Issue." He spoke to a Delta agent named Saint Teresa of Distressed Delta Travelers (well, her name was just Teresa, but this is what we called her) who listened to our tale and confirmed us on the flight out at that night. Although the lines were long and the flight took off nearly two hours later than scheduled (2 a.m. instead of 12:20 a.m.) we made it home safe albeit with one less bag than we started with.

Do you know the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Glinda tells Dorothy she had the power to go home all along? Wouldn't you feel like beating Glinda upside the head for holding back that important little bit of info after all the calamities faced on the Yellow Brick Road? That's the way I feel about Delta:

Each agent we spoke to could have confirmed us on the flight or transfered us to Saint Teresa (or her equivalent) who could have confirmed us. Because we were SkyMiles passengers, however, each agent chose not to. Delta's internal rules are obviously rigged to discourage agents from helping SkyMiles travelers.

So -- traveler beware -- SkyMiles may be "free" but the cost may be your abandonment by Delta if you run into problems.

Things Haven't Changed

I wasn't able to follow world events during my sojourn in Peru (truthfully I didn't want to). I see now that I'm back nothing has changed.

The saddest thing of all is the lack of seriousness on Iraq. We were stuck in traffic on the way home from the airport due to the anti-war demonstration. I wish the war debate could move beyond the "staying the course" and "fight them there instead of here" empty rhetoric of the administration vs. the "bring them home now" mentality of the Dems and the Move crowd. Both approaches seem mindless.

Meanwhile, the administration wants to run the clock and the Dems have eyes -- not on a secure America and a foreign policy that will support stability and protect American interests in the world -- but instead on the 2008 election. The lightening-quick Democratic response to Gen. David Petraeus' testimony and the announcement of a troop withdrawl?

When House Democratic leaders convened in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) at 5:30 p.m. Monday, strategists concluded they were already getting credit for what was happening but that voters wanted much more. So Pelosi, according to aides at the meeting, insisted that Democrats coordinate their message and dictated what that message would be: The general's plan meant 10 more years of war, or even "endless war."

Good -- let's focus on the message that will win votes on not on policy that will save lives.

But surely, there are serious minds in the Democratic leadership looking for the right solution to the mess Bush has gotten us into? Well, probably not:

Now that the president has endorsed the Petraeus-Crocker plan for Iraq, it is worth noting one exchange from their Senate hearings.

Some senators, such as Barbara Boxer of California, were so self-absorbed they could not manage to ask a single question in their allotted time, even when they had Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker ready to provide answers.

The Official Welcome Home

When it was our turn to go through the U.S. Customs checkpoint at the Atlanta airport, the LTR and I progressed to the agent when called. She looked at me and said, "are you related?" I said,
"we've been partners for 20 years." She said, "Get back in line, you're not related."

It was the only time during our travel to South America and back that any official or anyone in authority forcibly separated us.

In other words, "Welcome back to America, faggot."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peru -- a Quick Peek

Here are a few iconic photos from the first part of our Peru trip.

From our hotel room in Cusco, the charming town of Cusco:

The first day of our Andean Trek, the LTR and I enjoy a break. We would soon be looking down on the peaks behind us.

The daunting goal...Salkantay.

The LTR and I at the pass. We were the first.

The LTR, during a low moment.

The cloud forest, later the same day.

The victory cake the next morning, made from scratch in a sauce pan over an open flame.

Thanks to Zac and MattyDale

For posting here in my absence (though in my absence I seem to have posted here more than they did).

I'll leave them on as teammates so they can post here as they wish. Zac's posts I thought were high-quality. And MattyDale blessed us not only with his usual fashion sense and wit, but an extraordinarily large picture of himself.

We're Home -- and Delta Still Sucks

We made it home finally.

And Delta lost one of our bags -- the one with all the textiles and presents we bought in Peru.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Still in Peru

We couldn´t get out of southern Peru last night ...the airport couldn´t get the lights on, and had to close down. I-m not making that up. Anyway, we´re in Lima now, and we hopefully will be home tomorrow, a full day later than planned.

Let me leave you with this thought...Delta sucks.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Thoughts from Peru

Today is our last day in Peru. We're in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable body of water in the world. Today we will boat out to one of the man made floating islands where the natives live. Back to Puno, jet to Lima, then Atlanta, then home.

A few random observations:

By far the most obnoxious people we have encountered have been Americans. Example: Yesterday, we boarded a swanky, Orient-Express type train to take us from Cusco to Puno. (In fact, Peru Rail is owned by Orient Express). A group of older American tourists from Pennsylvania sat behind us. All of us were in jeans, the LTR was in his customary bib overalls he wears when travelling. One of the men from PA said, in a loud voice, "I thought there was supposed to be nice people on this train but there's a farmer in his overalls."

I'm looking forward to being able to flush the toilet paper down the toilet instead of throwing it in the wastebasket. However, I am grateful when there IS a toilet.

The stewards on Peru Rail are very gay.

Pisco Sours, the national drink of Peru, are yummy. One is enough, however. They are strong.

High altitude wreaks havoc on one's dreamlife. I've had vivid dreams of every fear I normally keep buried deep in my subconscious and on several nights have awoken to sounds of myself screaming. As you can imagine, this made me a hit on the trail with my fellow trekkers.

Alpaca is delicious. Who knew?

Peru is not burdended with the same strict rules and regulations that govern everyday American life. This can lead to pleasures, like being able to lean out the back of an open (no windows or walls, just a rail) railroad car while enjoying a cervaza, to annoying, like having to fight through a crowd of sign waving would be taxi drivers (many unlicensed) who greet travellers at every exit from train stations and airports. It's a mob and scary when arriving in an unknown city where you are warned to be careful about who you get in a car with.

The Peruvian people are by and large extremely friendly. This perhaps is a carryover from Inka days, when (according to our trail guide Fernando) one of the qualities expected of people was to be a "sweet guy" (Fernando's words). Here, strangers greet one another as "Amigo." Sure, in the touristy areas that is often a sales strategy, but I've encountered it in the remote areas and places you wouldn't expect it. Everyone here is your friend, unless proven otherwise.

Okay, our boat should be here shortly. If all goes well, I'll be writing you soon from Scott's Take global HQ back in Washington, DC.

Until then, Adios, Amigos.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

She Needed Her Butcher's Knife

I wasn't aware that such disgusting things happened outside of the movies anymore. But apparently in Sea Cliff, NY (of all places!), gay-bashing is still pretty common. And, of course, by "bashing," I mean "screaming anti-gay epithets, spitting on them and then beating them."

One of the women in a group who was asked to leave a bar over Labor Day weekend and then targeted because of their apparent homosexual tendencies is Josie Smith-Malave, a former contestant on Bravo's "Top Chef." Her straight sister, who was among those in the small group, was also spat upon and beaten. I'm sorry, but it's a sad day in New York state when the residents can't even stop the straight-on-straight hate?

As someone from a small town who would expect to hear of these things more often, I don't get a sense of this going on around here or in any part of the nation. I'm thankful for that. But at the same time, this sort of thing both surprises and sickens me even more when it happens. Shame on them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Andean Trek

The LTR and I survived our five day Andean Trek. I have been trying to think of how to describe it. First of all, some basic facts:

We walked near 50 miles
Our lowest elevation reached was 4,800 feet.
Our highest elevation reached was nearly 15,000 feet.
(this should make the 50 miles sound more impressive ... most of the miles were vertical, either up or down...very little flat.)

¿How to describe the Andes?

Well, the word that comes to mind is a single day we experienced wind driven snow on the rock-strewn mountain pass of Abu Salkantay, standing near two large glaciers, later descending through a highland plain and then cloud forest and camping that night in the Andean jungle. The nearest thing I can think of in the U.S. would be to combine the Sierra Nevadas with the high Rockies with a bit of Florida and Louisiana thrown in.

Our expidition was comprised of the LTR and I, a middle aged German couple, two Belgian girls, three German girls, a French couple, and another French "couple," though I use the word advisedly as although they were French and a couple none of us were sure how they fit together. The three german girls and the one non-strange French couple left the tour on the third day and the rest of us bonded much better after that.

Supporting us was our guide, Fernando, a horseman, two porters, a cook, a cook´s assistant and a nurse, and six horses. The horses carried all our stuff, plus the mess. I never would have imagined how we´d eat on the trail - hot food all three meals, which usually included la comida tipical de Peru of pòtatoes, rice and some type of meat. The chef, Percy, surprised us with a fresh baked cake on the third morning, which he cooked from scratch in a frying pan over the portable gas stove. It was incredible!

The most challenge part of the hike was the ascent up Abu Salkantay (Wild Mountain), from our base camp at Sura Pampa at elevation 11,400 feet. It was a three hour hike to the pass up to near 15,000 feet and it was guellingly steep. In fact theclimb is called De Monio or the demon. About 2/3 of the way up you enter a highland meadow the locals call "Headache Park" due to the thinness of the atmosphere.

I was the first of our group to reach Headache Park on foot (More on that in a moment) and I was headache-free. I was standing in this meadow, completely alone, with two glaciers on either side of me, wind blowing and snow falling. I felt like I was not only the only person in the world but also a profound sense of the mystical. The Incas considered Salkantay a sacred place and I understood why.

Altitude Sickness played a big role in the expidition. On the first day, both the LTR and one of the Belgian girls were stuggling for air so much that they fell way behind the group. I stayed with them, and at one point started carrying Latrish´s pack. About a half a mile before camp, we met up with Fernando, who had come back looking for us. It was dark by this point, and quite bleak. He gave both of them some medicine, and we began walking. Latrish was the worst off, and about 1/4 of a mile from camp one of the horsemen brought a horse for her. The LTR made it on his feet. That night we decided, at the suggestion of the guide, to get horse for Dave for the ascent to the pass. It was a hard decision, and the LTR was not happy about it, but I´m proud of him as he recognized the reality of the situation. Altitude sickness, like sea sickness, is nothing you can control. It plagued the LTR the rest of the trip, but he didn´t let it stop him from enjoying the trek. Coming down the pass from the top one girl collapsed and had to be given oxygen. She was fine after that.

The third night we camped in a small town and we had a large bonfire (the only one on the trek). A guitar was produced and the German man and I took turns butchering several songs. I did get the group singing along to "leaving on a jet plane" and "Let it Be." Needless to say, alcohol was flowing freely, again, an exception on the journey.

For some of the final parts of the trek we took a train for a short distance, and a troop truck up from the Ura Bomba river valley. By troop truck I mean a World War II like truck minus the canvass on the sides. It took us over bumpy unpaved roads on the edge of a cliff through the peruvian jungle. Everyone in our group was grinning ear to ear.

Final day was in Machu was amazing, both in therms of mountain views and the Inca architecture. No one really knows much about what Machu Picchu was...the Incas never kept records (they had not developed the written word) and the Spanish invaders never discovered it.

Those are the highlights --it was an amazing journey and I was thrilled the whole way.

I have a bunch of pictures and I took some notes during the Trek. I may set up a travel blog with pics and more commentary when I get home.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Calling All Queers, Calling All Queers

The Friday Fashionista needs your help... I have been experiencing a dry spell with my Friday postings to Scott's Take.

I would like to know what YOU, the readers, are interested to learn regarding what's hot and what's not, or just some good old fashioned advice on putting the details together and looking great.

Recently one reader asked me for photographic examples of the items I mention in articles, which is a great idea and I will be implementing. However, the summer heat and busy work schedule have gotten be down. So please send me your thoughts via the comments section and I will see what I can do to accommodate.

Yours Truly,
The Friday Fashionista - Matty Dale

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For People Who Can't Read Good

I was waiting for Scott to post one more time before I chimed in so that he would have the honor of writing the 1,000th post on his own blog. But now that that's over, let's talk about the Jerry Lewis incident. It's definitely something Scott would write about if he were here, and I think this incident speaks volumes of how far we've come -- or haven't.

Here's a recap for the few of you who might need a refresher: At about 18-hours into the 21 1/2-hour annual Labor Day telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Jerry Lewis referred to a member of his production staff as "the illiterate faggot" while on live television, which led to one website to blog the headline, "Jerry Lewis Hates Gays Who Can't Read."

Feeling just about as awful as a human can, Mr. Lewis issued an apology on Tuesday. I would've forgotten about the whole thing in a few days time, but Richard Belzer, one helluvan actor from one of my all-time favorite television shows, Homicide, wrote to the Huffington Post today in defense of his friend and said this:

Jerry was joshing with his crew, (locker room humor is an age old harmless bonding between teammates, co-workers, firemen, police officers, soldiers etc) it was a teasing and harmless moment that did not have any vitriol or meanness involved.

I'm sorry, but that's not cool. You can't excuse using a nasty, disgusting word for a homosexual man with "but everyone else is doing it." How is calling a straight man a derogatory term for a gay man a bonding exercise, anyway?

Recently, during an interview with Rush Hour 3's Brett Ratner -- in which the very attractive director reveals that his first oral sex experience came from a man -- the reporter from The Advocate laments the rise in Mr. Belzer's brand of "teasing" in action movies.

Being gay has increasingly become a punch line. It happens several times in this film.

Mr. Ratner assures the interviewer that nothing is meant by the insinuations and winking locker room humor. It's all in jest, he says. But what does it say about our society when this increase in gay humor is acceptable?

And what happens when the joke is seen by someone who doesn't see it as being funny, but sees it as reinforcement that his small-minded bigotry is likewise shared by the crew of the movie? Perhaps it's asking a lot from Hollywood to stop making fun of the gays and move onto a group more worthy of ridicule like the GOP. But until a gay teenager doesn't see coming out as an opportunity for himself to get beat up, maybe we shouldn't encourage movie makers and comedians to make fun of him either.

Entrado Obscuridad en el Camino Inca

I´m not sure that´s correct Spanish but that worry hasn´t stopped me from using the Scott version of Spanish here in Peru.

Tomorrow, at 4:30 am, we get picked up for our trip to hike the Inca Trail (Cambio de Inca). For the next five days the LTR and I will be hiking the Andes, treading a trail blazed by the Incas before the arrival of Columbus and Pizarro. It will culminate in a dawn visit to Machu Pichu, on Monday. Most of our gear will be carried by horses and we have a Andean guide, who met us here at the Casa de San Blas where we are staying and basically reviewed with us how challenging the next five days are gonna be. There are six other people besides our sherpas and guides and the LTR and I are hoping they will be more like the chain smoking overweight women in the suite next to ours and not the thin, young, healthy energetic brits who were hanging out on the calle above the hotel last night. We don´t want to be the group stragglers.

Both of us are doing better with the alttitude but are not yet 100%. I am doing better than the LTR, which he won´t admit but is true nonetheless.

Anyway, I won´t be on her again until Monday night (doubtful, as I think I´ll be a little tired) or Tuesday. I´m thinking of carrying a notebook and recording my thoughts so I can retro blog, but we´ll see how much weight it adds to my backpack. Although most of our stuff is being carried by horses, we will carry a personal pack for stuff we need tduring the day.

MattyDale and Euphonic Gumshoe are supposed to be keeping this updated, but so far I see they´ve been tongue-tied.

I apologize for more mispelled words than usual, but I can´t seem to get spell check to work and the keyboard, which includes Spanish characters like the ¡ and the ¿ and the Ç is laid out a bit differently.

Adios, mis amigos. ¡Muchas gracias por leer este blog!

Bottles and Pots

Today was all about bottles and pots. We toured the Museo de Inca and the Museo de arte pre-Columbian. Both were mostly pots and bottles. But, still impressive. The civilization here before the Spanish arrived was remarkable. We did see also some Inca crowns and jewlery, like nose pins and ¨"earplugs" which I think were the ear rings. If you seen any movie about the Incas or other South American natives you´ve seen these items and it was easy to imagine them adorning some priest or chieftain during a ceremony.

The one thing I wish they did better here was have some narrative history of the Incas. This was their capitol city, after all. They are represented in many ways, but it´s difficult to piece together a linear history. The modern city Cusco is built on the ruins of the Incan city Cusco and it would be cool to know more about the original as you walk around. As it is, there are many Incan walls still extant (in fact, these form the foundations of many colonial structures) and they are still solid and fit together neatly without mortar.

Cusco is clean and modern but today we were again at the Mercardo Centro buying more stuff when my digestive system made it be known that a restroom was needed pronto. At the back of the Mercado was the staction hygenico para hombres y damas. You paid .40 soles for a few squares of thin toilet paper and entrance to a pviate stall that consisted of a two places to put your feet and a porcelin hole in the floor you could squat over. Larry Craig would have fallen down if he tried to tap his feet. When finished, an attendant threw a bucket of water in your stall. A hose dumped water in a barrel for you to wash your hands. It was an experience. It rounded out my day of experiences of Peruvian bottles and pots.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


In Cusco now, at 11,000 feet elevation in the Andes. The thinner air made itself known as soon as we stepped off the plane, my heart raced and it felt harder to breathe. Walking up a flight of stairs is difficult. And think about that -- I´m a person who bikes everyday and I live on one of the steepest hills in DC.

It´s getting better though, I think my body is adapting. To help, we went down to the Mercado Centro and bought coca leaves. This is the same plant used to make cocaine, but everyone here chews them and it raises the metabolism and helps with the altitude sickness. I´m drinking a tea steeped in its leaves right now. The stairs are getting easier and, man I really love ya...

Cusco is the longest continously inhabited city in the Americas. It was the captiol for the Incas, whose population once reached 15 million and who built 15,000 miles of roads through the Andes. And then the Spanish invaded and the civilization fell. The LTR and I toured a church built by the Spanish in the mid 1600s over the remains of the Inca Emperorer´s palace. Several huge altars guilded with gold stolen from the Incas grace the church.

Tomorrow we´ll do more touring and coca leaf chewing and then Thursday we start our five day hike of the Inca Trail.

One cool thing -- this is our first time in the Southern Hemisphere. We´re seeing stars we´ve never ever seen. ¡Fantastico!

Hola Desde Peru

We landed in Lima last night aruond 10 pm and got to the hotel at 11. This morning up at 6, then a flight to Cusco at 7:20. Then for two days we relax in the ancient Inca capitol before heading out on the Inca trail.

Our first Peruvian experience was to order Pizza Hut last was the only food option available.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A few random pics from the last month before I go...

Peru Bound

I'm just returned from Hawaii, heading to Peru in the morning.

This space will be managed by Matt and Zac for the next two weeks. I've told them to post what they want, I don't want them to try and post what I would, I just want to keep this space active.

I leave you to their interesting musings.

--- Scott

Saturday, September 01, 2007