Trip to the Outhouse’s Favorite Players of World Cup 2010 (Yup, there are some redeeming factors)

Another weekend in full force, with summer baking (actually here in southeast Texas, summer steams more often than bakes) most everything outside, I’ve cranked down the AC inside and “chillin'” on this Saturday afternoon.

I’ve just finished watching the 3rd Place World Cup game–and that’s a big lie, I clicked over less than three times to see what the score was.  The first time the national anthems of Uruguay and Germany were being played, so the score must have been 0-0, or nil-nil, as they like to say in Futbol-speak.  Then I clicked it over later to watch all the excitement, but, alas, too late, I was, and the game was over with the Germans weinerschnitzeling the South Americans 3-2.

I’ve kind of worn out my opinion of soccer in an earlier post. (See here.)  But, we must, I say, give credit where credit is due, and place the laurel crowns where they are deserved.  And too, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here just for prurient interests.

So without further ado, here are Trip to the Outhouse’s Favorite Players of World Cup 2010:

Piotr Trochowski, member of the German team that placed 3rd

Robin van Persie, member of the Dutch team, which was defeated by Spain in the championship game

Lukas Podolski, teammate of Trochowski

Carlos Bocanegra of Team USA, which made it out of the group rounds only to lose to Ghana

Vicuña, Chile–One of Those “Magical” Places

Valle de Elqui (The Elqui Valley)--if you look closely you can see the tops of some of the buildings of Vicuña.

Valle de Elqui (The Elqui Valley)--if you look closely you can see the tops of some of the buildings of Vicuña. It may not look "magical" but it is.

I was sorting through the box of photos that I have, both tonight and last night, remembering old friendships and re-visiting past trips.

It makes me wonder, in these digital days, whether in the future people will be able to enjoy this kind of collection–either in the hodgepodge of envelopes still from the developer like I have or in nicely arranged albums that others have. I just can’t see much pleasure involved in pulling out DVDs and slipping them into the computer as a way of enjoying photos. And what about all those images that just got deleted? My photo box contains lots of “mistakes” that I can enjoy today and some, not necessarily mistakes, but ones I might like to cut someone out of. But this dilemma is not really my point here. Let me share some of the photos from my box.

Grape vines and the Andes Mountains near Vicuña, Chile.

Grape vines and the Andes Mountains near Vicuña, Chile.

Amongst all the others, I have a couple of full envelopes from trips to Chile. I’ve been there a couple of times, the last in 2000. Chile, that long thin country in South America, has as its border with Argentina the Andes Mountains and its other limit the cold Pacific Ocean. Because of its geography, it’s an absolutely beautiful country, which goes from almost arid desert in the north to cold and wet the further south you go.

Chile is a country with so much unspoiled nature that it’s almost hard to believe. I was fortunate enough to have friends whom I had met through internet chat to welcome me there and show me around.

There is a place there that has to be one of earth’s “magical” places, something like what I’ve heard about Sedona, Arizona.

Vicuña is a town that lies a good day’s bus ride north of Santiago up in one of the many valleys of the Chilean Andes, where the run-off from the snow flows from the mountains in a westerly direction, eventually into the Pacific. A lot of this water is used for irrigation. In the Valle de Elqui, where Vicuña sits, much of the water is used for the grape vineyards, but other fruits and vegetables are also grown in the area. Vicuña is a center for the production of pisco, a brandy-like liquor that is processed in several distilleries in the area. I had a chance to visit the Capel pisco plant there. I still can make a mean Pisco Sour, one of those drinks that tastes so good, but might have your socks knocked off after just a couple.

The church and the old German Bauer Tower sit in the center of Vicuña.

The church and the old German Bauer Tower sit in the center of Vicuña.

But let me get back to the “magic” of this place. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like it before. I guess I might attribute this feeling partly to the quaintness of the town itself. It has a unique old tower that was originally built in Germany but was brought in pieces by immigrants and re-constructed in the center of town. But I’ve been to many other quaint towns, so I really don’t think that’s it.

It could be because the sky there is absolutely clear, and the view goes on for miles. In fact, there are at least two observatories that have been located right in the area just because of this clear, clean air.

Maybe it’s the quiet, slow-paced atmosphere of the place, where even the dogs on the street couldn’t be bothered to lift their heads to bark at an intruder trudging down their narrow street.

One of the quiet streets of Vicuña.

One of the quiet streets of Vicuña.

I really can’t say what gives Vicuña this special feeling, but I do know that I felt it when I arrived and felt its absence later. I doubt, too, that I am able in any way to convey this magic through a few photos, but I remember it well and I have the urge to experience Vicuña’s special magic again.

When It Comes to Gays in the Military, Many “Developing” Countries Are Forward-Thinking, While the U.S. Continues To Discharge Highly Qualified Service Members

Growing up, I always saw my country as the one which was the most inventive, the most progressive, the one with the most forward-looking people. I mean aren’t we the country that put the first men on the moon, the country that fought in wars so other people could live in freedom?

What I see now is a country that has so many people that are not only afraid of being on the cutting-edge in all aspects, whether in science and medicine (think stem cell research), inventions (think new forms of energy), or social progress (think equal rights), but also people who want to live in the past, rather than help move the country forward.

south-americaI’m really amazed when I see what is happening in some “so-called” third-world, or developing, countries when it comes to equal rights, especially in terms of gays in the military. While President Obama has been waffling on his campaign promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, President Tabaré Vázquez of the South American country of Uruguay announced that his country would no longer deny entrance into their armed forces to someone who is gay. In a meeting with Vazquez, the President of the neighboring country of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, agreed, saying his country will follow suit because Paraguay does not discriminate in any manner, including on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

Additionally from South America comes the news of the first same-sex couple to receive spousal benefits through the Armed Forces. Based on the decision of the Constitutional Court (Supreme Court) of Colombia, the gay couple of Fabián Chibcha Romero and Javier Osorio will be able to take advantage of these benefits because one of them is a member of the Public Forces (includes both the military and civil police). After processing their Union Marital de Hecho (which formalizes common law marriages after two years of cohabitation for both heterosexual and homosexual couples), Romero and Osorio sought the spousal benefits and were the first same-sex couple to be granted them based on military membership.

However, here in the U.S. even with the change to a new administration, valuable members of the military are still being drummed out based on their sexuality.

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. Army told Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the New York National Guard, that he would be dismissed for being gay. Choi is a graduate of West Point, and an Arab linguist recently returned from Iraq.

Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network said the the Pentagon is ready to kick out another highly-skilled, veteran service member for being gay. SLDN says the U.S. Air Force is about to discharge fighter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, after 18 years of service to his country. Among his long list of accolades is that he was especially selected to fly sorties over the U.S. capital after the 9/ll attacks. (I’m not going to do a “cut and paste”; read more about Fehrenbach’s illustrious career here and watch the eye-opening interview and report from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.)

It is really a sad situation that we have in this country when we are ready to kick people who have given so much of themselves for their country out of the military just because of their sexuality. Is this what kind of country we are? One that judges people based on antiquated social mores? Are we a country that would rather let some people’s bigotry get in the way of having able-bodied and well-qualified service members protecting our country?

I don’t get it. Our forefathers came to this land with the idea of making a better life based on the principles of individual freedom and strove to be the best. They and their descendants were creative and worked to invent the best and newest, whatever that might be.

Now we have become a country of too many stick-in-the-muds. They only want to hide themselves in their “moral values” because, in reality, they are scared of the future. How did we ever get so many of these who are so filled with their own self-interest–yes, really these political and religious conservatives are really very selfish people; though, they would claim otherwise–that they cannot see that this country has to be progressive and future-thinking in order to be the country that we used to be.