Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Churches, taxes and politics

I sent the following letter to the Los Angeles Times (not published):
Churches, taxes and politics

Trump vows to "totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," which bans tax-exempt nonprofits such as churches from participating in any political candidate’s campaign.

Better yet: Tax the churches. Then they can politick all they want.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tijuana — Dec. 1997

(Most of the) group after dinner
(Hugh took the photo.)

After the third denial of a tourist visa for Victor in the mid-1990s, we gave up trying to get Victor to Los Angeles. I decided to try to set up an event to get some of my Los Angeles friends to Mexico instead.

A dinner party in Tijuana seemed like it might work. Although I had briefly visited Tijuana, I didn't know a suitable restaurant, or whether there might be a good gay restaurant or a gay hotel for Victor and me to stay at. I posted a note on a gay email discussion list asking for anyone who might be able to help me with that. I was hoping that Rex Wockner might respond, and he did! So I paid Rex to show me around a bit in Tijuana, and picked a good, easy-to-find restaurant.

I set up a trip to Tijuana for Victor and me, and invited friends, including Rex and partner Jess (third and second from the right, respectively, in the photo above), to dinner. I didn't tell Victor anything about the dinner. It was to be a surprise for him.

The trip was Victor's first time on an airplane! Everything went very well. This was before 9/11, and border crossings were easier then, so most of the invitees did attend. Victor was surprised, at least a couple of my friends knew who Rex was, and everyone had a fine time.

Victor and I spent several days in Tijuana. We enjoyed the art in the Tijuana Cultural Center. But overall, Victor found Tijuana unappealing.

Trump nominees contradict Trump

I sent the following letter to the Los Angeles Times (not published):
Re: Trump said it, but Cabinet picks differ

Trump's cabinet nominees are contradicting Trump: How can you tell, since Trump contradicts Trump all the time?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Belize — December 2016

At Big Rock Falls


Link to more photos

Victor and I spent a week in Belize. It was this tour (but at a different lodge; see below). The week included hiking, canoeing, Mayan ruins, caving, horseback riding, zip-lining, cave tubing, and snorkeling.

But on the second day, Victor and I tipped the canoe twice, and my phone, despite being in a plastic bag, got wet and died. The only photos I have are a few taken before that and the two above, taken by others.

We were at Mystic River Lodge (mapped) most of the time, then at Pelican Beach Resort on a small island in South Water Caye for two days.

Belize is awfully wet! December is not the rainiest season, but there was still quite a bit of rain. The caves were both filled with water and required some swimming. The country is beautifully green, but definitely wet!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thoughts on Trump's victory

Scattered thoughts after Trump's victory:

  • It's shocking, overwhelming, depressing, bleak.
  • I waited until after 8 pm to even begin looking at election results, expecting to see how big a margin HRC had. It actually took me a few minutes to realize how bad things looked.
  • As I've always thought, we should eliminate the Electoral College and elect the President by popular vote. That, of course, would change yesterday's outcome!
  • I'm glad none of my friends voted for Trump. I'm disgusted to live among so many millions who would vote for such a charlatan.
  • I'm sorry so many people apparently don't like where we've been headed during Obama. I'm generally happy with it, and I always prefer to look forward, not backward.
  • I'm glad only 33% of Californians, and less than 24% of L.A. County voted for Trump.
  • Celebrity trumps (!) all.
  • It's the death of political polling. How could they all get it so wrong?
  • I'm sorry that the death of the Republican Party I have long hoped for and predicted is now out of sight.
  • I'm scared for the future Supreme Court. Fortunately, I think gay rights are now firmly in place, but I worry about economic and political issues.
  • We need to bring back the American Travelers Apology T-shirt of the early 2000s, which says, in six languages: "I'm sorry my president's an idiot. I didn't vote for him."
  • I suspect this blog may return to its title and original purpose in the years to come.
  • I may spend more time in Yucat√°n!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Confirming Justices

I won't give up on this idea. In response to some Republican senators threatening to not confirm any Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nominees, I sent another version of my constitutional amendment letter to The New York Times this week (not published):
It is time to change the Senate's confirmation power to a time-limited, majority vote veto power.

If Senate obstructionists persist, a constitutional amendment could succeed.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Napa Valley - October 2016

Vineyard and Grape Crusher statue

I made a quick trip to Napa Valley. Almost a year ago, I attended a Wyndham Resorts timeshare presentation and was rewarded for my time with two nights at one of their resorts. After trying unsuccessfully for more than a month to use those nights for my Hawaii trip, I switched and used them for Napa.

I had never been to Napa before. I was also comped winery tours and gift certificates, so I did visit several of them.

With my JPL background, I also liked this sticker:

If you click on that photo to enlarge it, you can see that the item orbiting the word is a wine bottle cork!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hawai'i — Sept. 2016

Lava entering the sea
Sea turtle at a black sand beach

More photos:

I visited the Big Island of Hawaii, mainly to see Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Avoiding rain was a bit of a problem. The forecasts were not very reliable. My first full day was forecast to be pretty rainy, but it stayed dry until after dinner. Because of the forecast, I saw waterfalls and gardens closer to my Hilo hotel, instead of going to the National Park.

I then spent the next several days at the National Park. The museum, steam vents, sulphur banks, petroglyphs, craters, and old lava were interesting enough, but I most wanted to see lava.

I first tried hiking to the nearest point allowed where the lava enters the sea. I could see some lava, but it was still quite far away. The next morning, I took a helicopter ride (my first). Better views of the lava, but still too far away (vertically now). Later that day, I took a boat ride, and that was fantastic (and pricey)! Really close (I could feel the heat!), for many minutes, and lots and lots of time to take great photos.

The sea turtle pictured above was one of several. They were each about 3-feet across. I didn't manage to photograph either the wild pigs or the mongooses I saw.

My return flight was a red-eye. I hadn't done that in years. I slept very little.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Still no tourist visa for Victor

Another discouraging update on this 20+ year battle.

As many friends suggested, I tried contacting my political representatives. I had no luck with either my Congressman, Xavier Becerra, or Senator Barbara Boxer.

From Boxer's staff's stock reply:

... It is up to the interviewing Consular officer to consider all the evidence and conclude whether or not the applicant has compelling social, economic and familial ties to leave the United States at the end of a temporary stay....
(emphasis added) Of course, that's our problem: the interviewer does not consider all the evidence! Everyone who does agrees that Victor should get a tourist visa, but that's only my friends and readers. Sigh.