Monthly Archives: February 2005

UnderMars update (

In the last two weeks Michael Moore, Raed, and news around the world have demanded that the Pentagon/DoD investigate Under Mars, a documentary site of first-hand war photos that I host. I have received many angry emails about it wishing any number of terrible fates upon me (most assuming I am a US soldier), and a few of support as well. I have no plans to publish these letters because the site is intended to be apolitical and I feel the letters would violate that. So don't ask.

Warning: Site is extremely graphic.

In doing this site I've put myself and my family at risk from all sides, to say nothing of the thousands of dollars of bandwidth it has run through already. I hope I am making the right decision in keeping it running, as I believe very strongly it is important to show the experience of war for what it is, without censoring or political commentary in order to help people absorb the experience.

Thank you to those of you who have supported me in this effort and the site, and especially to one person who made it possible in the first place. The fact that the site even exists though breaks my heart.

War must end, but before then we must all face it.

Gay Marriage in Canada… soon!

Not that I'm much for blank “national pride” in general, but seeing Wednesday's speech by the Canadian Prime Minister makes me very proud to be Canadian. The subject was his support for Canada's Bill C-38 — the legalization of gay marriage. He made three core points debunking bigots in his speech demanding that all the provinces uphold Canadian law:

  1. Re: “Gay marriage violates religious freedom”
    This idea is fundamentally untrue, since gay marriage is about protecting and granting freedoms, rather than restricting them. A specific church has no responsibility to sanction a gay marriage, but the state does. Any other action would be restrictive of fundamental individual rights.
  2. Re: “We need a national vote on this”
    This notion violates the core spirit of the Charter of Rights, which is designed specifically to protect the rights of the minority from mob opinion. The whole point of a Bill of Rights type document is to protect the individual, not to protect the crowd.
  3. Re: “Civil unions” are an acceptable compromise
    Nothing short of full gay marriage rights is equality. Duh.

I hope this is the start of a wave that will encircle the globe.

And I hope America doesn't try and strong-arm Canada on this like they have on just about every other pro-freedom stance we've taken, with threats, increased sanctions, embargoes, and restrictions on tourists crossing the border… “they hate us for our freedom!”

The Hottest Blood of All

Earlier today we drove up to near San Carlos (about two and a half hours away) to where the gray whales hang out in a sheltered bay there. Along with an RVing couple from Alberta, Canada, Rachel and I went out in a small motorboat with Saira and Michael to meet the whales. I figured, OK, if we're lucky maybe we'll see some, but it the reality of it is a lot more overwhelming.

Almost immediately we saw that the bay was teeming with whales — pairs of them, each generally a fifty foot long thirty ton mother, each with a child maybe twenty feet long. Already this was more than I'd expected, but the babies are very curious and come right up to the boat, rolling over on their bellies asking to be rubbed. I was very surprised at how much they enjoy human contact… They approached the boat — it's not as if we chased them or anything like that. I have to emphasize that they came up to us and could leave any time they wanted; they chose to stay and I don't think there's anything I even could have bribed them with (except of course that barrel of krill I keep in my back pocket).

I shot a little video with my digital camera. Because it's not done with a proper camera, the quality is pretty poor, but if you'd like to get an idea of how close we were you can check out the footage above.

All in all we probably saw between fifty and a hundred whales and were at times surrounded by as many as a dozen simultaneously. Three pairs were curious enough to come and say hello, and they stayed within two or three feet of the boat for about five to fifteen minutes each. As I said, they appeared to absolutely love having their bellies and noses rubbed. Nothing I write here will adequately describe it and the video does not do it justice (although I admit I may be high-balling the sizes of the whales).

Honestly, the only thing that could have topped the experience would have been hopping out of the boat onto one of the whales and riding it to the depths of the sea to do battle with the kraken.

More later

I'll post some video footage later or in the next day or two but today we saw between fifty and a hundred grey whales, and came into immediate physical contact with six. They sure are friendly and like having their bellys rubbed. Pretty weird rubbing the belly of something that weighs thirty tons and is fifty feet long, but hey, they call the shots, and they wanted a belly rub.

Cabo san Vertigo

These are pictures from the three-hour bus ride ($14 I think) to Cabo San Lucas, where many people are flying into for BMEfest and then taking that same ride. The scenery is fairly nondescript because it's pretty much a desert “dead-zone” where there are no cell phone points or even radio stations. There are power lines though — the power for the region is all generated here in La Paz and then transmitted the rest of the way via high power lines.

Most of the drive looks like this — cacti as far as the eye can see, desert shrubs, and rows of mountains in the background.

Small farms (I think that's what they are) or ranch homes dot the highway. Some are deserted but most appear to have people living there.

This photo makes it look a lot more lush than it is. It's mostly dry desert, although there are oasis-like pockets full of green growth and palm trees.

This is coming into the city of Todos Santos I think. The highway is dotted with small shrines for people killed in accidents. This one isn't, but many of them are constructed with the parts of the car that killed them.

As I understand it, the highway shrines are not only symbols of the devotion of the family to their lost loved one — they're also a warning to other travelers, saying “be careful; the peligrosa signs are no joke!” It's a little disconcerting seeing a mangled bumper or the hood of a car with a rumpled, roughly body-shaped indentation wired to a fence pole with a cross sitting in front of it. It's sort of like those mangled MADD-sponsored drunk driving wrecks you see in America and Canada with a little less indignation and a little more Catholicism in the mix.

A small number of the farms are irrigated and stand out from the rest.

Cows behind a fence? How strange! You'll see cows, goats, and donkeys wandering around as if they've escaped, but they're not wild. They're all branded and owned, and the fellows you see here may well be on your dinner plate one day.

This is part of the main beach in Cabo San Lucas.

More of the beach in Cabo. This is one of the rocky parts of course; most of it is sand beach, but this is more fun to explore because it's more alive — fist size crabs are scampering all over these rocks.

If you've ever seen a tourist promo-photo of Cabo San Lucas, this arch (in the far background) is the one you'll probably see. At low tide you can walk to it, and at high tide you can sail around it.

It's cruise ship central. Every day we saw three or four big cruise ships come into the main bay, hang out for a while, and leave. They seem to put off a lot of smoke.

This satellite base-station was in one of the small towns between Cabo and La Paz. I'm assuming it supplies Internet and/or telephone service to the neighboring community. Or the guy's the biggest geek on the Baja.

Sunset on the drive home.

Cabo has a very different crowd of people than La Paz. It's very English-speaking and American tourist-oriented, so you'll see US flags hanging everywhere, and there's much more of an “ugly American” vibe to the visitors. La Paz tends to draw more of the people who want to experience Mexico (versus just somewhere warm) and stay a little longer… There's the occasional ass that'll walk into a restaurant and loudly demand, “doesn't anyone here speak American? but it's the exception. Most visitors here enjoy being in Mexico, and do their best to respect local customs and even stumble through a little Spanish when ordering their meals and so on.

You always meet interesting people here. On the bus ride sitting across from us was a guy from Guadalajara who was very excited to meet Canadians, because it's one of his dream destinations. I don't really think about it because these days I'm the ethnic minority, but Mexico is very mono-ethnic (culturally and racially)… At least in this region, other than tourists, it's pretty much an exclusively Hispanic population — no Asian population, no black population, no mix of European cultures (unlike cosmopolitan regions of the Hispanic world such as Buenos Aires). Anyway, of all the things he wanted to experience about Canada it was the embrace of multiculturalism and getting to live in a real world community, and I have to agree with him that's one of its perks.

There was also a narc cop, from Arizona, on the bus. He was complaining about how kids in the small college town he'd been assigned to didn't understand that when he was arresting them for pot, he was just trying to help them. He didn't want them to spend their lives in prison, but as he put it, “people have to be free to make their own decisions; they just have to learn for themselves what happens if you do drugs” — yeah, because throwing people in prison really teaches them about freedom.

He was sitting next to a retired social worker with equally idiotic views who did quite a bit of complaining about her vertigo problems. The narc had just gotten back from Iraq, not as a soldier, but as a missionary — like many other white guys down here, he's a Mormon trying to convince people to dump the Pope in exchange for Joe Smith. At the end of their conversation, her held her hands, looked deep into her eyes, and said very seriously,

“Other than your vertigo, is there anything else I can pray for?”