webcowgirl: (Reading)
Well, it's almost two weeks since I've back and really amazing to see what has happened since I've left Egypt! Let me be clear - EVERYONE wanted to talk about the political situation. Sunday we had a young man in a beach-side coffee and dive equipment rental place talking our ears off about how Hillary was going to give the Egyptians the answer, the VP was a good guy who would make everything better, and how if there were any problems the Bedouins would all come to our hotels to protect us and make sure people like him stayed outside. He also said that a few years ago he wouldn't have dared talk about something like this in anything other than a whisper - and to close friends - for fear of being arrested. (This guy was good for checking in on what was going on in Sharm - "The army is there but there is no shooting.") He also said that the army was seen as being on the side of the people - as it was made of the people - whereas the police were on Musharraf's side. This was all _very_ interesting to me - especially in light of what happened with the paid thugs coming into town.

Meanwhile, the cabbie that took us to the airport Monday was betting me (100 Egyptian pounds to my 100 English pounds) that they'd have a new president by Thursday. It didn't happen quite that fast but I think he reflected the sentiment throughout Egyptian society that this government was kaput. Will the secret police go away? I suspect not. The whole thing reminded me of what I read about in Palace Walk, as all of Egypt aroused from its torpor and shook off its chains. Making a stable civil society is a long process, and, while Egypt has the raw people-power, they haven't built up the culture of political involvement by the masses that is needed to really take back the reins from the centralized power-brokers. I guess this is all wait and see, though, huh?

Anyway ... Sunday was the day I decided we needed to chill out and do something fun and not exhausting. We'd booked with Soso at New Sphinx Safari (soso_diver at hotmail dot com) for both the "Take camels to Ras Al Galum and go snorkeling" tour and the Jordan tour: the camel trip, which came with lunch, was twenty quid a piece, embarrassingly cheap given that the hotel wanted 55 euros for the same thing and wouldn't guarantee it as there weren't two other people to go). For this price, we were picked up at our hotel at 9AM, driven out past the Canyon dive spot to the Blue Hole, kitted out with snorkels, fins, and masks, and handed over to Insert Name Here (we were never introduced, I'm afraid I couldn't get my eyes off of his camels) who walked alongside us north up the rocky shore of the Red Sea, past plywood shacks, lost shoes, and big buckets of nothing (I loved the intense desert terrain) to this curve of flat land with tents on the edge - the Ras Abu Galum national park. There's a lot written about it, but I'm convinced the various places that said there were manatees there were dreaming - there wasn't enough vegetable life to support them as near as I can tell. There was, however, a fabulous shelf of coral surrounding the beach that just begged for some attention.

We were settled in what became "our" tent (it could have held 20 easily), served some mint tea, offered wares from the people who lived in the shack behind our tent (all rather embarrassing, really, I wish I had more money with me - turns out it was our guide's family running the tent, cooking the food, etc., and living behind the tent in what seemed to me live extreme poverty), then warmed up enough to go do some snorkeling. The fish life was great and really easily accessible, but it was crazy how deserted the whole place was - clearly we were there in off-season. (You can spend the night there in one of the tents - which didn't seem to be too bad but not really my bag.) J got cold after not too long - the wind was kicking up and cooling us off fast - so we stopped after about half an hour and settled back down against the blanket-covered palm tree trunks to warm up (and chase off the beggar cats).

Lunch was pita bread, tomato/cucumber salad, baba ganoush, hummous, and a fish (for J) that I suspected might have been Nemo. After we'd done our best with the food (and given in and tossed the fish skeleton to the cats), we went beach combing rather than go back in the water, as the wind was discouraging. It was all just gorgeous and I found some really spectacular shells I tucked into my pockets to take home with me. I also found a red scarf blowing in the breeze, burnt and worn - and fell in love with it. It looked abandoned, and it became mine. By 2ish, it was time to get back on the camels and our trip back; my ass was pretty damned sore by this time, but I figured out how to ride a camel right (leg around hump and foot tucked under leg) and it did a lot to shift the discomfort to less bruised parts of my body. We had a long visit with the host at the dive shop (we were supposed to be doing more snorkeling but the wind and J's lack of fat put us off - I mean, it was winter after all!), then got a lift all the way back into town, where we attempted to get some cash together to finish paying for the Jordan trip. The bank wasn't having anything to do with giving me money off of my cash card, and J wound up taking out his daily max - after being turned down at one bank, were were just relieved to get anything, though we wound up having to make up the gap between what we needed to pay and what we needed to owe with the remaining pounds we'd brought over from England, leaving us with about 25 pounds for the whole day and a certain kind of uncomfortable "We're running out of money" edginess.

The next morning we were up at the harrowing hour of 4AM for our 4:45 pick-up and drive to the boat launch. Fortunately, our hotel packed breakfasts and lunches on request, and we took full advantage of this, heading out completely loaded with rolls, apples, cucumbers, cheese, and mystery meat. Our other Dahab traveler didn't have this, and given that we didn't get lunch until 3:30, we were immensely grateful for the ability to eat when we wanted to (more so because our $5 wasn't going to get us much in the expensive kingdom of Jordan). We had a two hour drive to the boat launch at the other far-north Red Sea resort (name?). We did customs before we got on the boat and finally took off at 8AM for Jordan.

The rest of the day ... what can I say? 45 minutes or so on the boat, Jordanian customs, then a long (90 minutes? two hours?) drive up the hills to Petra with a little break at a craft shop with a great view over the Badlands/Painted Desert landscape. Petra had a parking lot with, I don't know, twenty buses in it at least, and the ticket to get in was 50 pounds. Damn! Suddenly I understood why this trip cost so much - it wasn't our driver, or the guide, or the boat, it was getting in the damned park that was the big, inflexible money suck. There was a free horse ride included in the ticket price, but, man, pricey! And it was colder in the mountains than it had been next to the ocean - suddenly the cheesy red and black capes for sale at the tourist tat shop were looking really attractive - "20 pounds!" said the man at the shop as I fingered one ... "15 pounds!" he starts unpinning it from the mannequin as I heard J calling me to catch up to the group - "But I have to leave!" and the man thrusts it at me ("No no red!" and gets red) and tells me to pay when I return ... so suddenly I have a souvenir. And who wore it? Skinny boy. He looked a bit like a tall bandito Jawa but I think it was really helping keep him warm.

Oddly, I actually felt a little rushed through it all. It took about half an hour to walk to the site, through a slot canyon with old carvings and tombs in its sides, horse drawn carriages trotting past with less able or just richer visitors constantly. It was kind of crazy to walk on a road that was 2000 years old! When we got there, we only got about 10 minutes at the main building (the Treasury, the one that's in all of the pictures) before we were walked off to the rest of the site ... which went on for at least another half mile (and then clearly more as we were only in the tomb area and the "living" city, which had been totally destroyed in an earthquake, was still further down the road). J and I had some mint tea (it was a must, really) then scrambled up to a tomb way up in a wall and poked around, and then ... well, it was 15 minutes before the time the guy said we needed to be back at the slot canyon to walk out, and we still had to get down from our perch and walk past all the other stuff.

On our way, a man passed us, on camel back and leading two camels. Then he got a call on his cell phone. I looked up, and he was off in the distance, on his phone, with the two camels standing around looking bored, their lead on the ground. "Hmm," I thought. Then another guy came trotting from the opposite direction, saw the camels, and did a double take to the other guy, who continued to recede into the distance. "Hey Frank!" I think he said. "Did you forget soemthing?" I thought it was time to do something about it and, not being too scared of the camels after the day before, I grabbed their lead and walked them up to their owner.He was pretty impressed - but, you know, it's just what you do when people have loose animals.Petra. Caption: Me to camel driver: "Did you forget some... on Twitpic

Anyway, we got back to the hotel (after bus, then food, then bus, then boat, then long car drive) at 10:30 PM. That day was done! And so were we, pretty much. We slept until a luxurious 9AM the next day, had breakfast, made sure we were actually going to have someone come pick us up at the hotel (hadn't been able to get email the whole time so not sure), made sure we still had flights to catch (ditto) then went snorkeling for about half an hour in the beautiful reef just in front of the hotel. Then it was noon and lunchtime (they were nice and agreed to let us have lunch even though we were officially "off all-inclusive), which was extra great because it was free and we had no more things to worry about for the rest of the trip. The car showed up on time, we got in, and the worst thing that happened after that was discovering I wasn't allowed to take seashells back with me to the UK. Only ... "Where are you from?" "America." "Okay. No worries. Have a nice trip." and me and my shells were through! Yay Egypt and yay for nice Egyptian people and HURRAY for all of you, may you get a wonderful new government and never again fear being imprisoned for stating your political views to a stranger in a coffee shop.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
Someone explain to me how forcing people who are already poor to buy insurance (which I suspect will not offer much) is a big win for anyone besides the insurance companies? I'm sorry to have to ask, but from way over here it's been hard to follow this story as closely as I should given that Tiger Woods has received far more coverage.
webcowgirl: (Theater)
I've written up my review of the Kabuki Twelfth Night J and I went to see on Saturday. It was really pretty cool. Sad to see April is the closing of the Kabuki-za - who knows when I'll be able to see a performance again?

Also, Spain is suing Alberto Gonzalez and company for "redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention." I found it especially yummy to think they couldn't travel outside of the US without risking being arrested, just like Pinochet was. Really, it warms my heart. Extraordinary rendition? Right back at you, baby!

Meanwhile, tonight I'm off to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - the musical - and really looking forward to it. It should be a good week for boosting the stats on my theater blog, that's for sure!
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I get my first Christmas wish: Guantanamo is closing. And it's not just this festering boil of a jail; it's the entire network of black jails.

I would like a complete end to all of this foulness and the vile "extraordinary renditions." I don't want to be a citizen of a country that claims to be "free" and yet makes people disappear. Bad enough that we have lost the ability to respect habeus corpus after writing it into law over 200 years ago. America needs to get back on track and not be engaging in or sending people off to be tortured, or holding them "prisoner."

Ultimately, I'd like to see the Bush cabinet all tried for war crimes, but that may be a way off yet.
webcowgirl: (disco ball)
I've never had a political event charge me up so much. I've been away from the coverage for four - five hours now, but I can just feel it thrumming through me still.

I'm usually in a good mood after I go to Pilates, anyway, but I'm practically glowing right now.

I think this is going to be the start of the New Year for me, and hell, maybe I can pretend it's really 2000 and we're starting the millennium fresh.

*sighs happily*
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
AP Headline: "Bush set to say farewell to the nation"
Nation to Bush: "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."
World to Bush administration: "How about a little time in detention with Mr. Karadzic?" (I love the thought that any of them might be arrested if they travelled abroad. That would make my year!)

In a comedic moment, The Guardian's farewell to President ... Gore. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jhg - hysterical and highly recommended!
webcowgirl: (Queen Apple)
Well, at some point this summer I started going to Streatham rather more than occasionally to do water aerobics with [livejournal.com profile] spikeylady. I did this because 1) I wanted to get her out of the house 2) it's fun 3) it means we get to hang out all evening.

Three months later and hey, look, #3 is still a massive motivator for me. I've ditched my gym membership in favor of a new exercise routine I think will do more to help me reduce stress than my current one. Basically, one night of aqua, two lunches of Pilates, and, bang, a much happier me. I mean, the whole goal of the gym thing was to reduce my blood pressure, right?

So in keeping with that I was off to Streatham for a long overdue visit with Miss [livejournal.com profile] spikeylady. We had piles and piles of visiting to catch up with (conclusion: October was generally crap for me; there's hope that it may improve; her new job is ace). Sadly, the aqua start time had changed again, but in retrospect we were both relieved to be saved the extra 15 minutes of workout time. When we returned, [livejournal.com profile] ciphergoth was mixing up a pasta bake, and we flopped on the couch and snuggled up with some of the wine left over from Saturday's party. Shortly after [livejournal.com profile] lilithmagna showed up, and the pasta was done, and we got into the conversation! Obama, America, the Supreme Court, absentee voting, the NHS and the US medical system, Andrew Jackson, "what America stands for," how do Americans think, can the Republicans steal the election, Alexis de Toqueville, "Shining City on the Hill," JFK, was Bush the worst American president ever, transexuality, [livejournal.com profile] ciphergoth's star turn on DailyKos, EVERYTHING. Everything everything everything. It was great.

I, I, I felt like my own person. I felt like I was talking at a high level of intelligence about things I really cared about, about everything, like my whole life had been a preparation for having conversations like that. It was so great! And there was warm food and wine and I felt like I was home. It was great. I can't wait to go swimming again next Monday.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
Just saw a fantastic play at the Royal Court Jerwood, Now or Later by Christopher Shinn - a play which is receiving a world premiere at this venue (or did a month ago). Wow! When do new plays ever hit the ground this topical and this good? It's set on election night in America, where the Democratic candidate's son is holed up in his hotel room watching election results with his best college buddy. As the results come in, news of a scandal is unfolding - pictures of the son dressed as Mohammed at a campus party are showing up on the internet. Will he apologize for being offensive? Will he stand up for his right for political expression? Will his dad ever actually talk to him? Will anyone treat him like he's something other than a tool his parents use to further his father's political career?

I had never been to the Royal Court before (the plush seats reminded me of sitting in my dad's '69 Pontiac Bonneville, if it had had a brown interior instead of a white one), and starting off our relationship with this play was really just setting up a standard I can only hope the Jerwood can maintain. Eddie Redmayne (as John Junior) was very good, though he had a bit of a strange American accent and seemed to be playing up the mental instability a bit. Nancy Crane, as mom, really had the plasticky-fakeness of politicians down straight. John Senior (Matthew Marsh) seemed to be trying to hard to come off as a "type" (the way he was wiggling his hand by his side just seemed like something he'd seen on TV but not managed to make seem natural for hic character)

I was referred to this by the WestEnd Whingers (really just the best theater blog out there if you're looking for hot tips for shows to see, or warnings for turkeys), and I am really grateful to them for pointing me in the very, very right direction. It helped that it was a 75 minute long show, one easy to squeeze into a weekday evening. It's been extended to November 1st, though tickets are a bit hard to get - try SeeTickets as the venue has almost no availability.

Uh .... anyway, I said I was going to quote a passage from the script on my blog, so I went and bought the script after the show so I could do that. But I'm tired now, and far more interested in just getting this post up, and saying, "Hey! It's snowing in Putney now!" Cool, eh?
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
"Nothing says maverick like red leather."

(From this article.)

I just can't help thinking of the old quote from "Married with Children:" Read more... )
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
Inspired by this picture (of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan's mom at her son's grave in Arlington), Colin Powell has gone out and stood up for what's right:

He told Tom Brokaw that he was troubled by what other Republicans, not McCain, had said: “ ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no. That’s not America. Is something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

Well, alright, Mr. Powell. Thank you for that.

I am still against the war and I don't think anyone should join up to go fight in it. I am against armies in general. But man, I am really grateful to Colin Powell for saying what needed to be said. I would be happy and proud to have him serving my country again in a high office.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I can really feel the power!

This time I'm NOT waiting until the last minute to mail this baby in.

Now where's my "I Voted" button?
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
Meanwhile back in the US of A, we've got a great article about how Americans see race ... and Obama.

God, I want him to win. I want him to be president of my country, so I can be proud about my president again. And, you know, I'm sure I'll be disappointed in him in the end, but ... I want to hear the end of stuff like these quotes from the article.

Anyway, here's the article from the New York Times. Who's got time to fuss about what class you define as when race is what's driving my society? Some quotes:

“He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. “He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.”

Whether Mr. Obama is black, half-black or half-white often seemed to overshadow the question of his exact stand on particular issues, and rough-edged comments on the subject flowed easily even from voters who said race should not be an issue in the campaign. Many voters seemed to have no difficulty criticizing the mixing of the races — and thus the product of such mixtures — even as they indignantly said a candidate’s color held no importance for them.

“I would think of him as I would of another of mixed race,” said Glenn Reynolds, 74, a retired textile worker in Martinsville, Va., and a former supervisor at a Goodyear plant. “God taught the children of Israel not to intermarry. You should be proud of what you are, and not intermarry.”

Mr. Reynolds, standing outside a Kroger grocery store, described Mr. Obama as a “real charismatic person, in that he’s the type of person you can’t really hate, but you don’t really trust.”

Other voters swept past such ambiguities into old-fashioned racist gibes.

“He’s going to tear up the rose bushes and plant a watermelon patch,” said James Halsey, chuckling, while standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot with fellow workers in the environmental cleanup business. “I just don’t think we’ll ever have a black president.”

There is nothing unusual about mixed-race people in the South, although in decades past there was no ambiguity about the subject. Legally and socially, a person with any black blood was considered black when segregation was the law.
For those who care, I don't think most Americans see Obama as biracial, because most people don't even know the word. He looks like an American "black" (an "African American," which is kind of funny because Obama is very much African and American, while Africans who've moved to America define themselves as Africans and not as American blacks - see this great article by Charles Mudede for clarity - so Obama looks like what people in America call black, which is a culture of mixed race people, even though he doesn't come from that culture), and thus people see him as black. And that, I hope, is how I hope he looks to the rest of the world, and to black Americans - as a representative of America's black community.

And I want him to be the face of America to the rest of the world. I would be happy of him and proud, for the first time in nearly a decade, of my country.

Oh yeah, my ballot came in the mail two days ago. Time to mail it off and get this man in the White House.

PS: I have a hard time using the word African Americans at all these days, because after living among so many African immigrants in Seattle, it seemed like not really the right term to define native born Americans with a history of 150 - 200 years in the US. Thus I use "black," even though I know it doesn't mean the same thing in the UK as it does in the US.
webcowgirl: (disco ball)
My favorite editorialist has won the Nobel Prize in economics. Congratulations to Paul Krugman, the only national level editorial writer in the US I saw consistently attack the Bush regime's logic for invading Iraq. You speak truth to the people and I am proud of you.

An article I saw yesteday that nearly made me buy the Daily Mail: "Why are you Brits such drunks?" Now I can read it for free and see what the author thinks. The pictures are pretty amusing so far.
webcowgirl: (Default)
The bells of St. Mark's are ringing nine - another busy day of hustling tourists ahead.

Dreamed last night that Spikeylady got a job at my company (but only 15 hours week), while for some reason Bathtubgin was off to an interview wearing a fluffy gray wig.

I was asking my sister what her older son thought of Obama, and while she gave me a detailed answer about her son's response to Obama's stance on "the issues," she skipped what I wanted to hear about, which was whether or not he found Obama an inspiration. This morning I was wondering if her younger son found him inspiring, then realized he was so young that he would grow up never knowing a time when a black man couldn't be president. Now, _that_ was inspiring.

Two mornings ago I was sitting at breakfast and J asked me how I'd slept. "I'm still tired," I said. "I blame the penguins." "They are frequently at fault," he responded.

It is now probably time for me to not be wearing jammies and see about breakfast.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I about crapped my pants this morning when I ran my sister's flight through the "Where is it now?" feature on United's site and found that her plane landed two hours earlier. This was bad because I as at work. I then called the airline frantically and found out that they'd changed the number for her flight. Whew. ETA: 1:15 PM today. Yay!

Work is quiet still but I keep expecting the storm to hit any second. But since it hasn't:

This is in the run-up to the VP debate tonight.

"As evidenced by Katie Couric, Sarah Palin is unable to name any Supreme Court Case other than Roe v. Wade.

The Rules: Post info about ONE Supreme Court decision, modern or historical your lj. (Any decision, as long as it's not Roe v. Wade.) For those who see this on your f-list, take the meme to your OWN lj to spread the fun."

Off of the top of my head, I very easily came up with Brown vs. the Board of Education, and I should be able to come up with the Miranda that Miranda rights came from. However, I am rather more frequently finding myself thinking of Worcester v. Georgia of late, in which a president of the United States blatantly ignored the Supreme Court's mandate. When I read about this in high school, I was shocked that such a thing had happened, but it seems that this administration may get there yet, a membership in the lowest rungs of the American history books. (Not that I don't think it qualifies pretty well as is. Trials for crimes against humanity, anyone?)

While researching this, I found a good NY Times Magazine article on Harry Blackmun. Read and enjoy.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I'm curious - what do you think? Should Congress have passed the bailout or not passed it? Is it a good thing for the world economy? Is it just guaranteeing the demise of America as a superpower - er, either the passing of the bill or the non-passing?

Is it just staving off the inevitable?

What do you think?

In other news, I want new tea balls (I like the 1 1/2 inch size ball only, and they're hard to find), and I had to rebook Uffizi tickets (the first place was going to have us there in the morning after I'd specifically requested the afternoon). I'm a bit worried that there's something to do for the trip that I've forgotten (combo ticket for Colosseum and Palatine Hill?) I also stayed up late finishing my latest Charlaine Harris mystery (A Bone to Pick), and I did correctly guess the murderer! It was a fun book to read. Now I'm going to crack down on the Proust (I'm at page 255 of Time Regained, in the middle of a long and unflattering discussion of aging) - I have just more than a hundred pages to go and I want to have this finished by the end of the month. Oddly, I think I just might be done by Friday ...
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
I was really intrigued by this blog-type post I read (most of) last night, calling Sarah Palin America's Evita ("the designated muse of the coming American police state"). Now, the poster sounds a little wacky (is Naomi Wolf's mail really being read? is her email being hacked?), but I found the claims that Palin might actually be being set up to be Rove's little political puppet quite ... digestible. Please, have a look and let me know what you think.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
Time to shake out the penny jar and send money to the Obama campaign, I think.

This kind of makes it clear, don't you think?
webcowgirl: (Morning cuppa)
I am on about my third cup of tea today and (despite the LJ post) have barely had time to breathe, much less, say, hit the head. I have so many things going on at the same time I can barely keep up with the basics. Like doing my time sheet. Oops. And here I am supposed to be minding other people doing their timesheets.

It's a darned good thing I spent so much of yesterday doing so little, as I don't have brain to spare today and yesterday was all about just getting even a little bit of brain going. I did really enjoy having my brother call me and read me a children's book about going out for dim sum over the phone, though - that just made me laugh and laugh.

Thoughts: [livejournal.com profile] booklectic pointed out that a really good poem has been (effectively) banned from the school curriculum here. The comments in the article in the Guardian about this issue are so heinous in their ignorance and raw celebration of the repression of independent thought and insistence that only their view of things is correct that I have created a special new word to celebrate people like this: methane breathers. Why? Because they have their heads so far up their asses I can't imagine how they'd ever get any oxygen. I mean, seriously, who thinks that rap came from Jamaica? It's one thing to be the self-appointed thought police of the 21st century, but these people have made willful ignorance and scurrilous mislabeling of any other view a religion.
webcowgirl: (I Miss America)
So ... the Clintons name their daughter Chelsea ...

but the Palins (McCain's Veep in waiting) name their daughter Bristol.

Clarify this for me, English people, but is this not like choosing to name your daughter "Pittsburgh" or "Toledo" rather than "Sedona" (really nice town in the red rocks desert) or ... I don't know ... Tiffany (fancy jewelry store)?

What cultural implications does a name like Bristol have for you? (Other than that of a girl being kept locked up inside her house and forced to deny she's just had a baby in order to keep a stain off of the family's name. Note: now they admit she's 5 months pregnant - but who knows about the other one? Eight months absence for mono? I think not. There will be a book coming out about this that will make Mommie Dearest look like Good Night, Moon.)

News reports: Republican convention is being ruined by Hurricane Gustav. Gawd, now ain't that cosmic justice.


webcowgirl: (Default)

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