Friday, December 26, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #312] San Fransissyco!

Hey all,

Made it to the City by the Bay!  Went out last night after arriving 20 minutes later than originally planned.  Russ's bag hasn't arrived yet, so he's a bit miffed.  He was originally on Virgin America, but it was long delayed, so he paid to come on my flight while his bag stayed on the Virgin plane.  There's confusion now reuniting it with him on this side of the flight.

Went out - a bit questioning about the changes in the Castro bars since I was here last (are The Café and The Bar on Castro ethnic bars now, or are Thursdays different?  Who closed Detour?  I'm going to kill 'em!)

Happy to be back in SF, missing people left in Vegas already.

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #311] Happy Chriskwanzikka!

I hope you're all enjoying your holiday season, whatever you happen to call it.  I will be celebrating by doing a tour of the Castro bars this evening - I can't think of a better way!

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #310] Xmas: A four-part story

Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols's son, Joshua Nichols, lives in Vegas.  John Wayne Bobbit moved here after he achieved penisless fame.  Dana Plato also committed suicide here.

The first leg of my flight here was London-Dallas.  I was overcome with preconceptions and prejudices about the people I would be sharing the plane with, but then I reminded myself that no, these were the kind of people who travelled - they were not the gun-toting, deer-hunting, Bush-lovin' 'Murkans of general Texas.  The guy sitting across the aisle from me had an empty Coke bottle at the beginning of the flight.  He proceeded to fill it with his chewing tobacco spit over the course of the 10.5 hours we shared space together.

I called a bouncer an immigrant last night!  I don't know why - all he did was ask for my ID.  I didn't mean to say it, it just fell out of my mouth.  My friends excused me by saying I've been in London too long, which was a diversion in intent, but I think is actually true.  Living in the world city that is London, immigrant has taken on a completely different sense for me - it's certainly not an insult.  His response was "I am not Mexican".  I think that's more offensive.

They tried to get me to pay $20 to go into 8.5 (a gay bar) last night!  It was circus night or some such idiocy.  Locals get in for free, out-of-towners pay $20.  My reaction was "$20 for out-of-towners and free for locals?  I know what people who live here look like, you have it backwards."  Russ ended up getting Schnookums and I in via a drag queen he knew, but still - twenty gay damn dollars for Angles & Lace?!  I would sooner go to All Bar One.

Two more days till SF.  I think my body is rejecting Vegas.

These are my Christmas gifts to you all:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gKq5f-EcOc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHZEOweeoaE

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Monday, December 22, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #309] Viva Lost Wages

Friends married?  Check.  Massive amounts of alcohol consumed?  Check.  Dancing pole used, embarrassing pulling story*, Taco Bell consumed?  Check, check, check.  Vegas is coming along swimmingly!

It's been great seeing many friends here, and that will continue throughout the rest of the visit, and to show Natasha and Chris my home town.  I've already bumped up against my tolerance limit, though, and there's more than three full days left before SF.  I'll be OK - still many friends to see, including a mini high school reunion tomorrow at one of Vegas's trashiest bars, the Double Down Saloon ("Home of the fabled ass juice, birthplace of the bacon martini" - this is a place I've got to see!).

Had a bit of a stressful and dramatic Saturday night out.  After the wedding and post-nuptual festivities, Russ and I went to gay intersecion.  After about just an hour there we got a call from my Mom - she had just called an ambulance to take my Dad to the hospital.  He'd been having chest pains/breathing difficulties for about a week and they hit hard that night.  He's all right and been relesaed after being kept overnight.  Tests confirmed it wasn't a heart attack, but he's going to have to see a doctor as soon as he gets back to Miami to monitor the situation.

So, crazy start to my American adventure!  Off now to pick my folks up from visiting a friend.  Hope all your pre-Xmas days are going well.

Cheers from the Mojave Desert,
Shaun

*Not mine


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #307] Yahooey! Yippey-skippy! Cheers! Faboo!

I? Am on holiday! Hoorah! Just the last tidbits to do here (drinks, packing, finding my passport [I kid, I kid!]) and then it's off tomorrow morning to Vegas via Dallas. (I wonder which will be a tougher immigration as an tattooed, homosexual, American in exile: Texas or Israel...) Three hours there (fingers crossed) and then it's a tiny (half-continent) hop to Sin City and Mexican food. (Oh yeah, Natasha, where/what is the restaurant again?)

Vegas will be chock-a-block with family, friends and festivities - I am quite looking forward to it. (Looking forward to Vegas! Who'd'a thunk?) Then nine glorious days in Northern California to boost the local wine economy and see homosexuals in their native habitat.

Anyway, I will be getting one of those cheap phones from Target, so I will send out a contact update once I am back in Amurka (I think I'll get a Mississippi area code or something ridiculous. No! Alaska! Palin Power!), but until then, if you need to reach me, my secretary Russ will be glad to take your calls at 702-###-####.

OK, off to pack! See many of you tomorrow!

Cheers cheers cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #306] Wine tasting pics & Lost

Hey all,

Just downloaded pics from our last night of wine tasting class, so thought I'd share.

1. DSC00032 - Our table: Kimb'uh & Garret on the left, the back of Lottie's head, Simon & Clare on the right
2. DSC00033 - The spread (We were the only ones who ever brought stuff, and it got more elaborate each week; we definitely had the most fun.)
3. DSC00034 - Garret & Kimb'uh
4. DSC00035 - Me and Lottie toasting
5. DSC00036 - Simon & Clare nibbling
6. DSC00037 - Me pouring £60 champers
7. DSC00039 - The aftermath
8. DSC00041 - And for good measure, Wimpy's new burger - have you ever seen anything more disgusting that you are expected to eat?!

And, unrelated, finally saw season four of Lost - woah!

Off to America in 58h55, not that I am counting; looking so forward to Natasha's & Chris's wedding, its enshrining festivities and nine glorious days in Northern California. The last few months have been a bit bumpy - I am ready for some release!

Cheers,
Shaun



Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #305] New flatmate

My new flatmate is due to arrive within the hour.  And I am so hung over.  I fell like a big piece of poo.  Ah well.  Best not to have any pretences - he should get used to me like this, eh?

Cheers?
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Monday, December 08, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #304] Georgian

I have been corrected that E'burgh is Georgian, not Edwardian.  Just goes to show you, you can't believe everything you read on the internet!

Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #303] Edinburgh

Lesson learned: do not go to a museum of optical illusions when you are hung over; weary heads and fragile stomachs do not appreciate the deceptions.

So, as you can guess, my weekend in Scotland was focused on the usual targets of my holidays: booze, boys and bed. I saw the inside of most of Edinburgh's gay bars and the bits of the city you can see between where I slept and getting to and from said bars. I tried to do a little walking around with my host Tomasz, seeing the castle from the outside and Princess Street for some shops. But it was pretty cold and sober for me, so we stopped that and got back to the drinking pretty quickly.

I have to admit, I left Edinburgh feeling a little bit disappointed. There's nothing wrong with it - it's a plainly nice, orderly, agreeable Edwardian city. It's just that from the way people go on about it, you'd think that Nirvana had been founded just East of the Pennines. I'm not sure just what I was expecting, but somehow I just thought there'd be more there there. My friend showed me a good time, though; in fact, I think I may have had more fun, since I am more amenable to Dolly Parton and tracks from Hairspray than he. Two Jack & Cokes were £6 and I got to see Diana Vickers voted off of X Factor. Sweet!

Two pics attached - me squinting atop the hill where the castle is and some earring holders. I was waiting by them while Tomasz bought a secret Santa gift and could not believe how many women came by and commented on how "lovely" they were. It was a very misogynistic moment.

Unrelated: if you haven't done so yet, watch "Paris, je t'aime". There are a few stories in it that I could've done without, but there are more good ones than bad, a couple that are great, and one that just really got me.

Also unrelated, Jim Halpert is perfect.

Oh, and no, I didn't get to ask any Scotsmen if they wear underwear under their kilts. Maybe in Glasgow...

Cheers,
Shaun



Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Friday, December 05, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #302] En route

I am currently on the train to Edinburgh and online.  I am well chuffed.  Trains rock.  We need some of these in America.

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #300] Haggis & Kilts

Just a quick note -- I am off to Britain's second nation tomorrow, a nation whose national dish is pig intestines stuffed with sheep's heart, liver and lungs, and the men wear skirts: Scotland.

After two or three thwarted trips across my Northern border, I am finally, fingers crossed, going to make it.  I have the 17.00 train from King's Cross and a happy, four-hour ride in which I will need to pay attention to no one but Jim Halpert, Bodie and Jack Shephard.  I may just stay on the train and ride it back and (Firth of) forth (da dum dum) a few times.

Nah, my lovely Polish friend who lives there (he was attracted by the haute cuisine) has quite an evening planned for me, so my liver and I are ready for it.

Looking very forward to a pre-break to my American extravaganza* from 19 Dec - 04 Jan.  That one's gonna be a doozey.  2008's going out with a bang**.

Have a great weekend all,
Shaun

*Vegas/SF people, get in touch with me so we can make plans!


**And 2009 will be starting with a trip to Middlesbrough.  I?  Know how to travel.


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #299] How's that 24% working out for ya?

OK, this is completely off-topic, but I was a little shocked when I read it and thought I should put on my consumer advocate hat and share.

The link to the whole story is below, but, given the proclivity of CC issuers to raise rates out of the blue currently, the bit below is the important part since the cards certainly don't make this obvious:

If you carry a balance and your issuer lobs a rate hike on that balance, you can opt-out by either calling the credit-card issuer or sending a letter. Hardekopf recommends sending a letter certified mail for record-keeping purposes.

By opting-out, you agree to pay off the balance owed at your current rate. Often, opting out means you stop charging new purchases on the card. But in Citigroup's recent rate-hike announcement, the company said cardholders could opt out of the higher rate yet still continue to make purchases at the lower rate until the card's expiration date.

Those sneaky gits!

Oh, and, happy Thanksgiving!  Not such a big deal over here, as you can imagine, which is sad - it's my favorite [u omitted for appropriate context] holiday.

Cheers,
Shaun


Full article:

http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=8506832e2e224c0aa48df3b099184723&siteid=nwhpf&sguid=PG2JPoZRm06taxH2l1R8wg

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Friday, November 21, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #297] Safe...

for now...

We lost two head count today and, by all rights, as the newest person on the team, I should be gone.  But, I think, I am the happy beneficiary of circumstance. 

Our team's divided into two parts: margin and risk support.  Two weeks after I joined, someone from the risk support side left.  Someone from the margin side moved over to that side "temporarily" - it's permanent now.  Happy circumstance.

So that was just a head count naturally gone not replaced...  we also actively lost a headcount from our half of the team.  But another lucky situation for me here.  She is (was) on a 70% time contract.  Problem is, she came and left at the times that were officially 70% of our "40 hour" week - there was no margin (ha!) for necessity.  Happy circumstance.

Stressful day, glad it's over and glad to still be on my team.  A glass (read: four bottles) of wine was shared with two colleagues tonight to reflect.

Thanks for all your crossed fingers and toes - keep them that way since, as we were told we were safe now, we were also told to be realistic about the current market conditions.

Keeping my chin up,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #296] A nervous plebe

Morgan Stanley announced 10% layoffs in some areas of the business last week and the blood began to let today. Rumours started slinging around the office this morning: traders today, CSRs tomorrow, ops (me) on Friday; then later it was ops tomorrow and CSRs on Friday. As ever, only those-who-know know, but there was some truth to the tales as traders were let go (made redundant in Britspeak) today. As the newest member of my team, I am understandably nervous - as much as I love my friends in Vegas, I really don't want to end up working at Taco Bell on Nellis.

Counterweighting that negativity, I am half way through something I've wanted to do for a long time - a wine tasting class! Five friends from Cass and I are taking it at the Capital Club in the City on Wednesday nights. The setting is sufficiently stodgy and I've learned how to tell red from white -- and that's about it. I should be able to tell old from young, old world from new, fermented from not, but other than the most swinging vagaries, I am hopeless. Kimb'uh took one whiff of one last week and said "That smells like fennel, it's a Sauvignon blanc" or some such impossibility.

The instructor and excelling students are able to distinguish between a variety of citrus and/or fruit aromas and tastes, discern the waxy ones from the viscous ones, and nod knowingly to each other about which ones hug their tongues and which ones migrate bodiless around the mouth. I am told there is lemon scent and voilà, there it is! Wait? Earthy? Why yes! It does smell earthy! And how could I have possibly missed that obvious smell of stone?

Nonetheless, I am enjoying it and the time with my friends thoroughly and do feel at least more familiar with wine if not more knowledgeable (sidebar: chardonnay can be good, Riesling is not only for dessert and chavs, and keep your brie away from red). It doesn't matter if it's not quite what the instructor is trying to impress - it's adding a new layer to a libation I love and I've never enjoyed doing homework so much.

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #295] H8 is hate

My friend Aaron in SF sent me this - I love that Proposion 8 has sparked this anger, complacency will accomplish nothing.  Hooray for America!
 
CNN International had a good story on it, focusing on the protest in their home city of Atlanta (Gay rights protests in Georgia!  Who'd'a thunk it?!).  My favourite sign was "We have a dream too."
 
Cheers,
Shaun
 
--

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #294] Obamamania Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on New Hampshire Primary Night

Two little tidbits to feed the Obamamania for those of you who still have it. (My friend David in New York told me it's still vibrantly alive there, though Fox News has moved on. It's still kicking here; however, Barack was bumped out of the first story position on BBC tonight by the only thing more popular in Europe than politics, football.)

First, here is a link to "Yes We Can" - it's a hip hop song done over and to the words of Obama's remarks the night of the New Hampshire primary. It is a stunning speech and I can't help but feel greatness when I hear it, like something you read about in a history book, but never live through.

http://yeswecan.dipdive.com/#/~/videoplayer/0/169/2207/~/

Second, this is a short article from this morning's Metro, one of London's free papers. It made me smile.


The day America became a little bit cool again

The election of Barack Obama has already transformed public opinion of the US, it emerged yesterday.

After eight years of the Bush administration which saw anti-US sentiment soar, expat Americans were greeted warmly around the world once more.

One US journalist in Vienna said a young woman walked up and kissed him on a bus after she overheard his accent. In France - demonised by Washington for opposing the US-led invasion of Iraq - one politician proclaimed "the America we love is back" while revellers held a "Goodbye George" party in Paris.

There was worldwide goodwill at the election of America's first black president. Prache Kanjananent, a 29-year-old Thai, said "He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president."

Mr. Obama himself said his victory showed the American dream was still alive. Even Mr. Bush said all voters could be "proud of the history" that the election of the 47-year-old represented.

He added: "I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long."

Cheers,
Shaun
Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #292] Speech Addendum

For those who haven't seen the speeches and want to, links to them are
below. After the gaping hole of pain Bush's mouth was every time it
opened, the contrast could not be starker.

Obama: http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/speeches/obama-victory-speech.html#

McCain: http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/speeches/mccain-concession-speech.html#

Cheers,
Shaun
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[The Life of Shaun #291] Depressed

That I am not in America right now celebrating! It must be electric.
I love the spontaneous celebration in front of the White House! I
wanted this to be a repudiation of the Bush years and it is.

I woke up at 04.00, at 04.01 Sky called it for Obama; it was head-
spinning. I cried several times. Obama's speech was enormous.
McCain's was a gracious acknowledgement to the day, and for that, at
least, he can be commended.

I can tell you Europe is relieved. What a stunning overnight change -
today, expats are saying "I am American" without that look of shame in
their eyes. The VP of my team shook my and the other American on the
team's hands and said "Good job" when he came in this morning.

I know there will be troubles, but for today all seems right with the
world. Until you remember CA and Prop 8. But I have faith that too
will fall.

Happily optimistic,
Shaun

PS - I am very proud of my home state, Nevada; its percentage for
Obama was right up there with California, Washington and Oregon; it is
truly becoming a West Coast state rather than a Mountain West state.
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #290] Happy voting day!

Just a quick reminder in case any of my American friends and family
have forgotten today is election day. Get out and vote - complacency
cannot be allowed to kill this! I personally know two of the 98
people who let Florida go to Bush in 2000 - don't be the cause of
shame in your state this year around.

I really wish I were there today to be a part of it, it's so
exciting. There's quite a buzz over here too, though - it's all
anyone can talk about on my team. We've put up an appropriately
mocking printout on our wall with the words "LN Margin <hearts>
Palin".

As an aside, I saw Starbucks is giving a free cup of coffee to anyone
who votes and Ben & Jerry's a scoop of ice cream.

So hurry up - the day is slipping away!

Cheers,
Shaun
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #289] The Economist and the New York Times

The Economist is like porn to me; I get excited every time I get to read it.  Any man I date will have to accept that, more nights than not, The Economist will be coming to bed with us.

One of the things I miss most since moving away is the New York Times; I don't think any other newspaper comes close.  It is my first port of call for news online and I've not found any journals of any kind that can colour a story better.

With that, I am sending on an article from each that has given this politically-obsessed expat a some comfort this weekend, for those who are keen to read.  First, The Economist has endorsed Obama, not a guarantee for such a fiscally conservative magazine.  Second, an article that captures the fears many of us are experiencing; it's a bit comforting to know that I am not alone in this.

Two days to go...

Cheers,
Shaun


Economist.com



The presidential election

It's time
Oct 30th 2008
From The Economist print edition


America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world




IT IS impossible to forecast how important any presidency will be. Back in 2000 America stood tall as the undisputed superpower, at peace with a generally admiring world. The main argument was over what to do with the federal government's huge budget surplus. Nobody foresaw the seismic events of the next eight years. When Americans go to the polls next week the mood will be very different. The United States is unhappy, divided and foundering both at home and abroad. Its self-belief and values are under attack.

For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them. The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America's self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama's inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.


The immediate focus, which has dominated the campaign, looks daunting enough: repairing America's economy and its international reputation. The financial crisis is far from finished. The United States is at the start of a painful recession. Some form of further fiscal stimulus is needed (see article), though estimates of the budget deficit next year already spiral above $1 trillion. Some 50m Americans have negligible health-care cover. Abroad, even though troops are dying in two countries, the cack-handed way in which George Bush has prosecuted his war on terror has left America less feared by its enemies and less admired by its friends than it once was.

Yet there are also longer-term challenges, worth stressing if only because they have been so ignored on the campaign. Jump forward to 2017, when the next president will hope to relinquish office. A combination of demography and the rising costs of America's huge entitlement programmes—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—will be starting to bankrupt the country (see article). Abroad a greater task is already evident: welding the new emerging powers to the West. That is not just a matter of handling the rise of India and China, drawing them into global efforts, such as curbs on climate change; it means reselling economic and political freedom to a world that too quickly associates American capitalism with Lehman Brothers and American justice with Guantánamo Bay. This will take patience, fortitude, salesmanship and strategy.

At the beginning of this election year, there were strong arguments against putting another Republican in the White House. A spell in opposition seemed apt punishment for the incompetence, cronyism and extremism of the Bush presidency. Conservative America also needs to recover its vim. Somehow Ronald Reagan's party of western individualism and limited government has ended up not just increasing the size of the state but turning it into a tool of southern-fried moralism.

The selection of Mr McCain as the Republicans' candidate was a powerful reason to reconsider. Mr McCain has his faults: he is an instinctive politician, quick to judge and with a sharp temper. And his age has long been a concern (how many global companies in distress would bring in a new 72-year-old boss?). Yet he has bravely taken unpopular positions—for free trade, immigration reform, the surge in Iraq, tackling climate change and campaign-finance reform. A western Republican in the Reagan mould, he has a long record of working with both Democrats and America's allies.


That, however, was Senator McCain; the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as "agents of intolerance" now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

Meanwhile his temperament, always perhaps his weak spot, has been found wanting. Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works: his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers (Doug Holtz-Eakin being the impressive exception).

The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.

Ironically, given that he first won over so many independents by speaking his mind, the case for Mr McCain comes down to a piece of artifice: vote for him on the assumption that he does not believe a word of what he has been saying. Once he reaches the White House, runs this argument, he will put Mrs Palin back in her box, throw away his unrealistic tax plan and begin negotiations with the Democratic Congress. That is plausible; but it is a long way from the convincing case that Mr McCain could have made. Had he become president in 2000 instead of Mr Bush, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems, and Mr McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.

Is Mr Obama any better? Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham. America's allies would rally to him: the global electoral college on our website shows a landslide in his favour. At home he would salve, if not close, the ugly racial wound left by America's history and lessen the tendency of American blacks to blame all their problems on racism.

So Mr Obama's star quality will be useful to him as president. But that alone is not enough to earn him the job. Charisma will not fix Medicare nor deal with Iran. Can he govern well? Two doubts present themselves: his lack of executive experience; and the suspicion that he is too far to the left.

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama's résumé is thin for the world's biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and out-fought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain's has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

It is hard too nowadays to depict him as soft when it comes to dealing with America's enemies. Part of Mr Obama's original appeal to the Democratic left was his keenness to get American troops out of Iraq; but since the primaries he has moved to the centre, pragmatically saying the troops will leave only when the conditions are right. His determination to focus American power on Afghanistan, Pakistan and proliferation was prescient. He is keener to talk to Iran than Mr McCain is— but that makes sense, providing certain conditions are met.

Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy. Despite the protectionist rhetoric that still sometimes seeps into his speeches, Mr Obama would not sponsor a China-bashing bill. But what happens if one appears out of Congress? Worryingly, he has a poor record of defying his party's baronies, especially the unions. His advisers insist that Mr Obama is too clever to usher in a new age of over-regulation, that he will stop such nonsense getting out of Congress, that he is a political chameleon who would move to the centre in Washington. But the risk remains that on economic matters the centre that Mr Obama moves to would be that of his party, not that of the country as a whole.


So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble. But the same goes for Mr McCain on at least as many counts, not least the possibility of President Palin. And this cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.



Copyright © 2008 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.




The New York Times
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November 1, 2008

Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It

In the den of his home in New Hope, Pa., a liberal Democrat sits tap-tapping at his computer.

Jon Downs works the electoral vote maps on Yahoo like a spiritualist shaking his Ouija board. He calibrates and recalibrates: Give Senator John McCain Ohio, Missouri, even Florida. But Virginia and Pennsylvania, those go to Senator Barack Obama. And Vermont, Democrats can count on Vermont, right?

Right.

Almost always, Mr. Downs, 53, ends with Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, ahead, which should please this confirmed liberal and profound Obama fan. But just as often he feels worried.

"Look, I have this sense of impending doom; we've had a couple of elections stolen already," Mr. Downs said. "The only thing worse than losing is to think that you're going to win and then lose."

He considers that prospect and mutters, almost involuntarily, "Oh, God."

To talk with left-leaning Democrats in New Hope, San Francisco or Miami Beach, to drill deep into their id, is to stand at the intersection of Liberal and High Anxiety.

Right now, more than a few are having a these-polls-are-too-good-to-be-true, we-still-could-lose-this-election moment. Their consuming and possibly over-caffeinated worry is that their prayers and nightly phone calls to undecided voters in Toledo, Ohio, notwithstanding, Mr. Obama might fall short on Election Day.

To walk on Broadway, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is to feel their pain. "Oh, God, I'm optimistic, but I can't look at the polls," said Patricia Kuhlman, 54, nervously tapping her Obama/Biden '08 button. "I'm a PBS/NPR kind of person, and, O.K., I do look at some polls."

Ms. Kuhlman shakes her head and says, "If he doesn't get this, I'll be crying so hard."

A young woman, Shana Rosen, walks by. She is from Denver and said she had told her boyfriend that their love life was on hold while she sweated out Mr. Obama's performance in Colorado. Ask Lucy Slurzberg, an Upper West Side psychotherapist, how many of her liberal patients speak of their electoral fears during their sessions, and she answers: "Oh, only about 90 percent of them."

Certainly, national and swing state polls suggest that Democrats might allow themselves a deep breath or two. But liberals are not inclined to relax, given the circumstances of their last two defeats. Hanging chad, the Supreme Court decisions, and Florida and Ohio's electoral problems: it is a lifetime of agita to staunch Democrats. The prospect of success now comes scented with dread.

Conservatives, it must be said, are not immune from the worry vapors. Therapists report that Republicans are hyperventilating too. "Wealthy Republicans are very anxious about taxes," Jamie Wasserman, a psychotherapist with a practice on the Upper West Side and in Montclair, N.J., said of her patients. "They are not pretending to vote for the black man."

And in Ohio, evangelical radio stations feature pastors praying for God to help voters ignore these "awful" polls and vote his will.

Many liberal Democrats watch MSNBC, but some say it sounds too much like comfort food. CNN serves its election coverage with a stiff little chaser of doubt for Democrats, and many liberals say CNN and NPR are their regular evening companions. If they really want to rub the sore tooth of worry, they dial over to the "Obama's radical friend Bill Ayers" channel, otherwise known as Fox News.

"Mostly I flip between CNN and MSNBC, but I go to Fox if I want to get enraged," Mr. Downs said.

Richard Schrader, a senior staff member for a national environmental organization, lives in Amherst, Mass., where politics start liberal and traipse left. He is fairly liberal, but his neighbors worry that he does not worry nearly enough. "They wake up, drink that pot of coffee and hit the polling Web sites," Mr. Schrader said. "Too much good news has to be a lie."

Recently he sat down with a friend who was sweating about Minnesota.

"Minnesota?" Mr. Schrader told his friend. "What, are you kidding me? Obama's up 14 points there."

The friend shook his head sadly. Take off seven points for hidden racial animus. Subtract another five for polling error. It is down to two points, and that is within the margin of error in sampling, and that could mean Mr. Obama might be behind.

"It was perversely impressive," Mr. Schrader said.

Another friend worries that every undecided voter will break for Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee. Mr. Schrader said, "I told him: 'O.K., that will be the first time that has ever happened in American history, but sure.' "

Pre-election rituals are much the same, from Oberlin, Ohio, to San Francisco. Many liberals describe waking up in the predawn, padding to the kitchen, firing up the coffeemaker and logging on before the children wake up. Lisa Serizawa, 44, of San Francisco leaps from site to site, from national newspapers to one in Ohio to another in Pennsylvania, then a blur of CNN, polling sites, and whatever.

"I just want reassurance; or is it a heads-up?" Ms. Serizawa said. "I'm cautiously, cautiously optimistic. Though I worry: Am I going to be hurt again?"

Liberals are found in almost every corner of the United States, as are their conservative counterparts. But the tribe's denser concentrations are along the ideological Interstate that runs from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, to the Adams Morgan section of Washington, to Montclair, to Park Slope in Brooklyn, to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, to Cambridge, Mass., Burlington, Vt., and Ann Arbor, Mich., and so on until it reaches the Pacific.

And from those redoubts, how can one gauge what is going on in the fairly broad expanses of this nation that are not 94.3 percent liberal Democrat? Unfamiliarity spikes the anxiety.

"We live in a bubble," Ms. Serizawa said. "I drove to Monterey recently, and I saw my first McCain placard ever."

Some East Coast liberals deal with the uncertainty by volunteering to call undecided voters, in hopes that a half-hour talk with a voter in Missouri will stop the mind from yapping.

"It makes them less worried to phone the middle of the country," said Ms. Wasserman, the psychotherapist. "Those who are anxious are becoming more so; some spend an entire session going on about what they heard on CNN."

Still, it is not as though election is a psychiatric condition. Recent years have offered a bad run for many Democrats. The United States is fighting wars on two fronts. The global economy has pitched into recession, and many say the economic elevator has yet to reach the basement.

For many liberals, the chance to elect Mr. Obama, who would be the nation's first black president, gives the United States a second chance to walk across the stage of world history. (Which also makes the possibility of his loss unspeakably more depressing; given his present lead in every poll, many liberals fear that race will explain any defeat.)

"The last two elections have been so disappointing, so disturbing," said Paula Guarnaccia, an assistant dean at the University of Vermont. "The idea that we could now elect this impressive man as president, I guess it heightens the anxiety."

And yet, sometimes, a poll, or five, can tease out a smile.

Ellen Beth Bellet, a tax lawyer in Miami and an ardent liberal, confesses to being electorally obsessed. (She recently vacationed with a friend who threatened to machine gun the hotel television if Ms. Bellet did not shut off CNN.)

But of late a curious calm has descended. "I wrote an e-mail to a friend and said, 'I'm afraid to put this in writing, but I'm really excited about the way this is going,' " Ms. Bellet said.

Within minutes, the phone rang; her friend was very worried about Mr. Obama's prospects. "Don't say that!" the friend said. "No, no, no. What were you thinking? We can't go there yet!"


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #287] Tick, tock...

Just seven days to go until election day - it seems unfathomable! It's been very interesting to experience a presidential campaign from overseas. I have to say, there has been more coverage, analysis and debate (but no adverts - hoorah!) about the presidential election than there was when our own head of government changed hands a little over a year ago. They are obsessed with it. Of course that wasn't an election, but I can't help but be reminded about a Brysonism where he commented that if you were to draw up a map of the world based on the news you hear and read in Britain, you'd suppose America is about where Ireland is.

Britain is definitely Obama country; there is a palpable collective holding of breath about Obama winning, almost like a kid on Christmas Eve. People want the good America back and are desperately hoping not to be disappointed again.

I'm chuffed about the momentum of Barack, but still hesitate in the memories of 2000 and 2004; I wish Tuesday would get here already. At least one other American will be joining me at mine for a pow-pow Tuesday night and bloodshot eyes Wednesday. (Slightly less than might have been, however; unlike America, Europe did not adjust its DST start/end dates, so currently we are one hour less ahead of America than normal.) I am hoping, at the least, I will know which way the majority of the swing states have swung by 02:00.

Unfortunately, penduluming against Barack, in the latest polling, Proposition 8 looks like it is going to pass. This will amend the California constitution to ban same-sex marriage and nullify the marriages that have taken place so far. The campaign to pass 8 has massive financial backing from the Mormon (and other) church and is out-gunning the No side by large margins, allowing them to plaster the airwaves with adverts depicting the end of life as we know it should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry.

So... in my last political plea of 2008 (I promise!), I encourage those of you who can to go to this site:

https://secure.ga4.org/01/equalityforall

and donate so that the No side has a chance to fight back in this last week. There are just six days left to try and get people to see the light - I just contributed $50 more. And besides, when was the last time some of your dollars got go to ensure the civil liberties of over three million people? How cool is that?! Money well spent!

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #286] Guilty

I am home sick today from work, legitimately - but I still always feel guilty for taking a day off.  Does anyone else have this problem?  Where did I get this ethic?!  Damn it wherever it's from!

<sigh>

I'll go in tomorrow, irregardless (sic) of my condition.

Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #285] Cooper

I miss my retarded kitty.

That is all.

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Friday, October 10, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #284] H8ppy birthd8y to Sh8un!

Amongst all the big stakes and flash of the presidential campaign, another important story has gotten lost: the not-so-little-state-that-could, has started to can't.

Earlier this year, California became the second state to legally recognise that gays and lesbians are full citizens, too, and legalised same-sex marriage.  Immediately, the hateful amongst its population (and from other states) mobilised to take away this right.  The fruits of their effort is Proposition 8 on this November's ballot.  Proposition 8 is a state constitutional amendment that would not only ban same-sex marriage for future couples, but would strip all those who have already wed of their marriages and all the rights inherent with them.

I don't send out Life of Shaun eMails for political donations normally, but... well, as many of you know, my birthday is coming up next month.  Those of you out there who would be so inclined to buy me a drink on my birthday, but cannot, I would ask that instead you go here:

https://secure.ga4.org/01/equalityforall

and donate the cost of a drink to fight this amendment in lieu.

Here's hoping that prejudice fails in the Golden State!

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #283] Vote follow up

I am very proud that, in my adopted home, the result so far in the theoretical world vote is 87% Obama to 13% McCain:

http://www.economist.com/vote2008/index.cfm

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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[The Life of Shaun #282] One for Obama...

...just 62,040,609 or so more to go!

I've received my absentee ballot and voted, my voice has been heard: Obama rocks, McCain is an old @ssfart buttmunch - and those are his good qualities.

I have every faith in the Repugnican party to materialise a hateful trick with the 3Gs* and pull out a win, but I am sitting here with crossed fingers, toes, legs and even pubic hair for good measure that America couldn't be so stupid to fall for it.  Again.  It can't, can it?

Hopefully yours,
Shaun

*Guns, God and Gays


Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #281] Back in Shadwell

Hey all,

We made it back to London safely and without too much pain; Israeli security is as crazy as everyone says, but we eventually made it through, though I learned there's no reason to bother packing neatly since they ravage everything.

Tel Aviv was definitely my favourite part of the trip. It's a less interesting and dramatic city tourist-wise, but it's a very fun, vibrant city, which catapulted it to gold for me. I would go back in a heartbeat.

OK, time for bed here - a work week starts again! <sigh>

Cheers,
Shaun


1) DSC00003 - Downtown Tel Aviv from our room


2) DSC00006 - The Mediterranean from our room



3) DSC00007 - The Shabbat elevator; can my Jewish friends explain this to me? If one should avoid modern technology on Shabbat, how can one elevator be OK but another not?

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #280] Shabbat lo sababa

Observant Jews follow the dictates of Shabbat from sundown Friday till sundown Saturday; during this time, they don't use modern technologies, and much of Tel Aviv follows this.  This is not a good for late-night revelers wanting post-party pre-sleep hangover diminishing food, or recovery hangover-satisfying greasy food the following day.  I had sushi - that's just wrong with a hang over!
 
Tel Aviv is fantastic.  This city doesn't do moderation - it's definitely my spiritual home in the Holy Land. 
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #279] Half a country on a tank of gas

Phew, wow - Mary and I have done quite the circuit of Northern Israel: the mount from the Sermon on the Mount, a settlement, Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa, Netanya and now we've arrived in Tel Aviv. Just a short message to send a few pics and let my parents know I haven't been killed or abducted for ransom - there's a city out there that needs exploring and a Mary Keany that deserves some quiet alone time.

Cheers,
Shaun

1) DSC00059 - The Six Commandments of the Sermon of the Mount; notice the bottom left one - apparently, Jesus did not approve of martinis (I guess this is why he turned water into wine instead of one straight up with a twist, eh?)

2) DSC00036 - A settlement in Northern Israel - you too can live the Zionist dream!

3) DSC00041 - Nazareth. If Jesus's professional output has carried through into modern times, I can see why he decided to give up carpentry and give being the son of God a chance instead

4) DSC00044 - Tiberias - view from our hotel of the Sea of Galilee across to the Golan Heights - looks nice, right?

5) DSC00053 - It's not - it's the kind of city that has an old ruin and builds a shopping mall around it. Tiberias seems to be where Israel's B&T/Essex crowd go on holiday

6) DSC00073 - Haifa - much nicer! Temple of the Baha'i here; after Jerusalem I was considering taking up Judaism, but I think Baha'i's the way to go now

7) DSC00076 - See, it's just a very pleasant city when Hezbollah aren't dropping missiles on it

8) DSC00080 - Netanya - we had lunch there - it was enough

9) DSC00084 - Entering Tel Aviv, Israel's New York. Full evaluation in three hangovers' time. Initial thoughts? Mary was right - me likie!


--

Shaun Coley
Tel Aviv
Isreal

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #278] Armed Civilians

Pursuant to my last eMail, a friend commented about "armed civilians".  Everywhere (as in everywhere - from the streets to the hotel pool and lobby, restaurants, holy sites - everywhere) we see either obvious military personnel with big guns or seemingly regular folk - with big guns.  And I suppose this is why - you never know when a car's gonna come smashing through a crowd and someone's gonna have to kill the driver.
 
Armed civilians - you're right, Ajay - Israelis do live like Americans.
 
OK, off for the last viewings in Jerusalem and then we're off through the Jordan Valley to the Sea of Galilee to see if anyone feels like walking on water today!
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--

Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism

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Monday, September 22, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #277] 15 hurt in vehicle terror attack in Jerusalem

This afternoon, Mary and I randomly walked by a rainbow flag on a building while we were walking about, so I decided to check it out, and it turned out to be Jerusalem's GLBT organisation.  The only gay bar in Jerusalem closed down last year, but talking to the people inside we learned that there was still a weekly night, Mondays, that was still gay.  So we had a nice dinner here in East Jerusalem and then got into a taxi and asked to go to Jaffa Road, where the bar is, and we were told:
 
"It's closed, someone just drove a car into people there.  It was just on the radio." 
 
"On purpose?" we ask. 
 
"Yes, on purpose."
 
He tried to drive us there, as we weren't sure how bad it really was, but the roads to it were all blocked.  We're back at the hotel, which is very near, and we can hear sirens zooming by right now.  I guess all's not quiet on the Western front just yet.
 
Cheers,
Shaun
 
 
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
________________________________
Last update - 23:25 22/09/2008
 
15 hurt in vehicle terror attack in Jerusalem
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press
 
Israel's rescue services on Monday evening said 15 people had been hurt in an attack at a busy Jerusalem intersection.
 
One of the victims sustained serious injuries, while the rest were lightly to moderately hurt.
 
The rescue service said a driver drove his car into a group of people at the intersection. The driver was shot and killed.
 
Channel 10 News reported that the perpetrator was driving a black BMW.
 
Police said armed civilians killed the driver. He was not immediately identified, but the wording of the police statement indicated it was believed he was a Palestinian.
 
The intersection is situated near Jerusalem's Old City.
 
--
Shaun Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

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[The Life of Shaun #276] The Holy Land

Mary and I did our traversing through the Holy Land yesterday, touring through Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jerusalem is definitely a special place, though the legions of tourists do their best to detract from that fact. Nevertheless, it's hard not to feel a little awed when you are walking on streets that are 6,000 years old and are the heart of holiness to billions of disparately-minded people.

Christians are definitely more capitalistic than the Muslims or Jews; non-Muslims are not allowed near their holiest sites, and the Jews are content to pray at foundation stones, preferring the coming of Judgement Day to the stone façades of the present. Christians, however, are invited and encouraged to walk, trample, touch and fondle everywhere that Christ may have concievably been: where he was born, where he was laid in a manger, where he preached, where he walked, where he cried, where he carried the cross, where he died, where he was bathed, where he was buried, where he ascended to heaven, where he had his first wank - there is no moment in Christ's life unworthly of a digital photo and a souveneir.

Bethlehem was fascinating - not for the Church of the Nativity (which is actually three churches - who knew?), but for the glimpse of life behind the security wall. The residents of Bethlehem, technically in Palestinian-controlled "Palestine", effectively live in a cage*. Israelis live like Americans, Palestinians like Tiajuanans. I did my bit to support their economy by buying a key chain (hey, a people that, as a rule, do not sell alcohol can't expect more economic support from me than that, I am sorry), but for the most part, tourists pop in and pop out again without really understanding the 'facts on the ground'. Hangover willing, I am taking a tour of the central West Bank on Friday to get a better grasp.

Attached are a few pics from the day.

Shalom / שָׁלוֹם / حالة حبّ وسلام,
Shaun



1) DSC00003 - Overlooking Holy City from the Mount of Olives

2) 000_0985 - Next to some of Jerusalem's holiest sights

3) DSC00013 - At the Wailing Wall; you write down a request for a blessing or help from God and put it in between the bricks of the wall. I asked the Jewish God for my foreskin back - he was not amused.

4) DSC00024 - Entering Palestine

5) DSC00025 - The entrance to Bethlehem

6) DSC00045 - Graffiti on the wall

7) DSC00049 - Exiting back to Israel



*Political aside here - skip at will:

I am sympathetic to the Palestinians - at least the ones who aren't blowing up Jews. I am also, however, sympathetic to the Jews who are getting blown up by Palestinians, so I cannot begrudge them security measures, even if used overzealously as a guise for further colonisation. It's a maddeningly intractable situation full of mutual wrongs, so in discussions with Mary Keany over drinks last night, we agreed on the following solution for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict:

1) The Old City will become a world city, under the jurisdiction of neither, but the UN, guaranteeing free access to all regardless of religion
2) Israel will pull back to the green line at a measured pace; for each year free from attacks, Israel will return 5% of the land it has occupied. This will put the onus on the Palestinians to break the cycle of violence and the Israelis to stop the cycle of land-grabs. It will also give Israel two decades to plan for and extract its recalcitrant settlers from the West Bank and the Palestinians to build up a government that can govern the reverted territory.

Neither side will be fully happy with this, but all good compromises leave everyone equally pleased and displeased.

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey, right? Mary and I should rule the world.

--

Shaun Coley
East Jerusalem
Palestine

http://www.friendster.com/shaunism


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

[The Life of Shaun #275] I'm #1!

We've made it safely to Jerusalem via a nice restful first day and a half at the Dead Sea and a drive through the West Bank.

Going to the Dead Sea for day one was good planning as, as unique as the Dead Sea is, there's really not a whole lot to see or do other than verify that, yup, you can float on the water in the Dead Sea. But I don't mean that to sound belittling, as it is quite a nifty feeling. It's not just that you can float, but that you pretty much have to fight to not float - your legs just raise up to the top of the water if you don't work to keep them below you.

In a typical moment of grace, my legs floated up, flipping me over, an act from which I learned the very painful lesson that one does not want to get the salty water of the Dead Sea in one's throat, mouth and eyes. In my pain, however, I did have a small tinge of pleasure from the realisation that, barring any simultaneous manned deep-sea explorations, since the other swimmers were smart and graceful enough to keep theirs above water, at that very moment, my head was at a lower elevation than anyone else's on Earth. Not a great accomplishment, no, but there aren't many superlatives one collects in their lifetime where they can be reasonably certain they are first in a list of 6.5 billion people.

The drive through the West Bank was surprisingly normal, other than two Israeli checkpoints; at least until we were approaching Jerusalem, and then, next to the four-lane highway we were driving 70 on, we saw Palestinians riding on donkeys and living in tin and wood shacks. We've just been in Jerusalem about six hours, but it's ancient, gritty, alive and engaging. We're plonking down for a guided tour of the Old City and Bethlehem tomorrow, then satisfying personal wanderlust the next day. We seem to be staying in a Palestinian section of the city as it's mostly Muslim around us and we're 50 feet from a prayer tower - should make sunrise fun! At dinner, the hummus? Was amazing.

OK, bedtime in the Holy Land!

Shalom,
Shaun

1) 100_0832 - Me looking Eurotrash at the Dead Sea; Jordan behind that

2) 100_0835 - Me with our hotel and the Vegasesque landscape

3) 100B0950 - Mary Keany afloat in the Dead Sea

4) DSC00032 - Entering Jerusalem


--

Shaun Coley
East Jerusalem
Palestine



http://www.friendster.com/shaunism


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