October 12th, 2009

storyteller doll

General News Items

First, I'm surprised that nobody on my friends list has commented on Salazar v. Bueno. That's the Supreme Court case involving a cross that was erected as a veteran's memorial. The issues are the usual separation of church and state ones, with the interesting question of whether just declaring a few square feet in the middle of federal property to not be public land is a legitimate work-around. What I've read so far makes Scalia look remarkably ignorant. That's unusual. Normally, I disagree with many of his opinions, but can respect that they have some sort of reasoning. But to claim that a cross is a secular memorial symbol is insulting.

Second, I want to note the death of Ben Ali. You have probably never heard the name, but he was the founder of Ben's Chili Bowl, a major D.C. institution. It's the sort of place one should go to once, for the atmosphere. It's even been visited by President Obama. (And one notable thing about the current first family is that they go out to eat more often and a far wider range of places than their recent predecessors did. This is a good thing.)

Finally, speaking of Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize flap is pretty much a non-story as far as I'm concerned. It's not like the prize has ever really meant anything beyond the committee's desire to give publicity to some idea or other. (In fact, it's often a good way to make sure the recipient ends up being further persecuted and/or marginalized.) That said, I' was surprised as I'd been expecting to to go to Morgan Tsvangirai.
storyteller doll

Travel Related Developments

My planning for my trip to Peru is progressing. I decided to splurge on a luxury resort for a night at Aguas Calientes, in lieu of staying at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. The Inkaterra is still mind-bogglingly expensive, but appears to be better value for money. And they have spectacled bears. Bears are good.

The contrast between that and the under 10 bucks a night rooms in some of my other stops is pretty dramatic. But there is only one night on the trip when I won't have running water. (That involves an overnight bus between Cuzco and Nazca. I'm somewhat apprehensive about a night bus, particularly over the Andes with its risk of bus plunge, but it's a 15 hour trip and there's not really a better way.

At any rate, I continue to be impressed by how much the internet has simplified travel planning in some ways. I was able to buy my Peru Rail tickets on-line for example. (And I will buy the bus tickets on line, but it's a bit early to do so.) However, I still had to fax my credit card info to one hotel to secure a reservation, so not everything is up to date in Inca cities. I am waiting to hear back from a couple of other places and I still need to decide between staying in Ica, Paracas or Pisco for one night between Nazca and Lima. (Paracas is the closest for seeing Islas Balleastas, but has the least infrastructure. Though I can probably get a room at the new Doubletree Hotel there free.)

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