“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bachabaze, "playing with boys", an Afghani Sport

The sexually abused dancing boys of Afghanistan
By Rustam Qobil
BBC World Service

In Afghanistan women are not allowed to dance in public, but boys can be made to dance in women's clothing - and they are often sexually abused.

It's after midnight. I'm at a wedding party in a remote village in northern Afghanistan.

There is no sign of the bride or groom, or any women, only men. Some of them are armed, some of them are taking drugs.

"Sometimes we gather together and put women's clothes and dancing bells on our boys and they dance for us for two-three hours - that's all

Almost everyone's attention is focused on a 15-year-old boy. He's dancing for the crowd in a long and shiny woman's dress, his face covered by a red scarf.

He is wearing fake breasts and bells around his ankles. Someone offers him some US dollars and he grabs them with his teeth.

This is an ancient tradition. People call it bachabaze which literally means "playing with boys".

The most disturbing thing is what happens after the parties. Often the boys are taken to hotels and sexually abused.

The men behind the practice are often wealthy and powerful. Some of them keep several bachas (boys) and use them as status symbols - a display of their riches. The boys, who can be as young as 12, are usually orphans or from very poor families.

Omid's story

I spent months trying to find a bacha who was willing to talk about his experience.

Omid (not his real name) is 15 years old. His father died in the fields, when he stepped on a landmine. As the eldest son, it's his job to look after his mother - who begs on the streets - and two younger brothers.

"I started dancing at wedding parties when I was 10, when my father died," says Omid.

"We were hungry, I had no choice. Sometimes we go to bed on empty stomachs. When I dance at parties I earn about $2 or some pilau rice."

I ask him what happens when people take him to hotels. He bows his head and pauses for a long time before answering.

Omid says he is paid about $2 for the night. Sometimes he is gang raped.

I ask him why he doesn't go to the police for help.

"They are powerful and rich men. The police can't do anything against them."

Omid's mother is in her early 30s, but her hair is white and her face creased. She looks at least 50. She tells me she only has half a kilo of rice and a few onions for dinner. They've run out of cooking oil.

She knows that her son dances at parties but she is more concerned about what they will eat tomorrow. The fact that her son is vulnerable to abuse is far from her mind.

In denial
There have been very few attempts by the authorities to clamp down on the bachabaze tradition.

Muhammad Ibrahim, deputy Police Chief of Jowzjan province, denies that the practice continues.

"We haven't had any cases of bachabaze in the last four-to-five years. It doesn't exist here any more," he says.

It is the on the increase in almost every region of Afghanistan - I asked local authorities to act to stop this practice but they don't do anything”

Abdulkhabir Uchqun, Afghan MP, "If we find any man practising it we'll punish them."

According to Abdulkhabir Uchqun, an MP from northern Afghanistan, the tradition is not just alive, but steadily growing.

"Unfortunately it is the on the increase in almost every region of Afghanistan. I asked local authorities to act to stop this practice but they don't do anything," he says.

"Our officials are too ashamed to admit that it even exists."

Afghanistan is a country where Islamic values are cherished so I asked a Grand Mullah at the Shrine of Ali in Mazar-e Sharif - the holiest place in Afghanistan - for his views on bachabaze.

"Bachabaze is in no way acceptable in Islam. Actually, it's child abuse. It's happening because our justice system doesn't work.

"This country has been lawless for many years and responsible bodies and people can't protect children," he explains.

Dancing boys are picked out at a young age by men who cruise the streets looking for effeminate boys among the poor and vulnerable. They offer them money and food.

The Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul is one of the few organisations that has attempted to address the bachabaze practice.

The group's head, Musa Mahmudi, says while it is common in many parts of Afghanistan there have been no studies to determine how many children are abused across the country.

He takes me to the street in front of his office to show me just how difficult it is to protect children here.

The streets of Afghanistan are full of working children. They polish shoes, they beg, they gather plastic bottles to resell. They will take on any job which will earn them some money, he says.

Dancing bells

Every Afghan I spoke to knew about bachabaze. Many tried to convince me that it exists only in remote areas.

But I went to a party late at night in the old quarter of Kabul, less than a mile from the government's headquarters.

It was there that I met Zabi (again not his real name), a 40-year-old man who is proud to have three dancing boys.

"Some people like dog fighting, some practice cockfighting - everyone has their hobby, and for me, it's bachabaze”


"My youngest bacha is 15 and the oldest is 18. It wasn't easy to find them. But if you want it badly - you will find them," he says.

Zabi says he has a good job and he gives them money.

"We have a circle of close friends who also have bachas. Sometimes we gather together and put women's clothes and dancing bells on our bachas and they dance for us for two-to-three hours. That's all."

He says he has never slept with his boys, though he admits he hugs and kisses them.

I tell him that many people think this practice is wrong.

"Some people like dog fighting, some practice cockfighting. Everyone has their hobby, for me, it's bachabaze," he says.

When we leave the party at two in the morning a teenage boy is still dancing and offering drugs to the men around him.

Zabi is not especially wealthy or powerful, yet he has three bachas. There are many people who support this tradition across Afghanistan and many of them are very influential.

The Afghan government is unable and some say unwilling to tackle the problem. They are facing a growing insurgent movement. How long international troops will stay in the country is uncertain.

The justice system is weak, poverty is widespread, and there are thousands of children on the streets trying to make a living.

So bachabaze will continue.


  1. It is incomprehensible to me how a culture and a religion could permit such an outrage. The so-called religion, a term and concept I have come to despise, is part and parcel of the continuing indignity of these abused boys.

    The problem is that there is not enough indignity.

  2. The Roman Catholic Church has permitted a similar abuse by homosexual priests.

    Damn them all.

  3. Reminds me of the "down low" situation among Black American men.

    It's the Elephant in the room no one wants to notice.

  4. Any religion that systematically treats woman as less than equal should be forced to change. Eliminating their tax exemption would be a modest first step.

  5. Maybe a mistake was made when the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass. Whatever it was called, you know, no discrimanation based on sex.

    That could have put some screws to the muzzies here.

  6. Amazing how the constitution is so easily dismissed when it becomes inconvenient.

    Next step France.


  7. "Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you've got an audience”

    Michelle Hosts Bump and
    Grind Event At White House

  8. Historical reminiscence--

    As in a mist, I recall the argument in Idaho about the Equal Rights Amendment. We passed it, then rescinded it. Then went to court about the rescinding, which was held to be okydoky. The arguments being made against the ERA were women in combat situations, and then there was some heavy Mormon influence in the Idaho House; these folks didn't seem to much like the idea, at the time. I think it would be ratified here now if it were ever to come up again.

  9. Blogger Deuce said...

    "Any religion that systematically treats woman as less than equal should be forced to change. Eliminating their tax exemption would be a modest first step."

    Are you suggesting that the Catholic Church should lose its tax exempt status?

  10. Here's a guy that suggests just burning the hateful parts of the koran, I'm not sure if he has his tongue in cheek, or what.

    Don't complicate things with questions like that, Ash.

    Or pretty soon you'll be bringing up the Mormons, too.

    Maybe just take away the tax exempt from those groups that want to overthrow the constitution, sharia like, is the way to go.

  11. Yes, the Mormons would have a problem, Jews too it seems.

    Just yank the tax-exempt status from them all!

  12. Good speech by Obama today.


  13. SHIT!

    From what I'm hearing from the wife, Jack Abbot's brother is marrying Viktor Newman's daughter. If I've got it right.

    This is a coup for the Abbots.

  14. I am a Roman Catholic. I can recite the mass in Latin.

    I am not indicting Catholics, but there is a systemic problem in the Church that needs to be corrected. The bans on married priests and female priests needs to be changed. The laws of any religion needs to conform with civil rights, which are the law of the land. The Church need not reform as is its right, but it should not be given tax privileges until it does.

  15. How can I criticize the sexual abuse of young boys in Afghanistan and ignore it in my own church?

    The base problem is an unhealthy regard for woman. That has to stop everywhere.

  16. I read, or maybe heard it on G Gordon Liddy, that orginally the male only priesthood arose, which hadn't originally been celibate, unmarried, as an economic matter, the married priests would die early, and the church was left to care for the mother and kids.

    I do not know if this is true or not, however.

  17. heh--Luther's view--

    "Nature never lets up", Luther warned, "we are all driven to the secret sin. To say it crudely but honestly, if it doesn't go into a woman it goes into your shirt."

    heh, ah, Martin!

  18. I didn't say that, Luther did.

  19. How long before Mexican incandescent light bulb cartels emerge, and the new threat to Arizona comes not from drug mules but light bulb smugglers?

  20. The military burned up Bibles in Afganistan to avoid offending Muslims, but they want to raise holy hell about a pastor in Florida burning a Koran?

  21. "Disgusting...

    Simply disgusting...."

    Um, yes. It IS disgusting. And monstrously common.

  22. Fidel finally gets it--

    Report: Castro says Cuban model doesn't work

    HAVANA – Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba's communist economic model doesn't work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.

    The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

    Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

    He said Castro made the comment casually over lunch following a long talk about the Middle East, and did not elaborate. The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Goldberg's account.

  23. Another day, another waltz through the psych ward.

  24. Yeah, don't everyone rush to jump on that one.

  25. I am a Roman Catholic. I can recite the mass in Latin.

    Who can't.

    Things started going to hell about the time they stopped saying it in Latin.


  26. Er, maybe that was just me that started going to hell about that time.

    I forget.


  27. heheh, driving home I was listening to the Lars Larson program and he had on some guy from some radio station in Vegas, who had gotten some interviews with Dirty Harry's old campaign manager, now fallen out, and the guy has taken many a polygraph and swears up and down Harry had him getting very big bucks from the hooker industry to fund Harry's campaigns.

    Who woulda thunk it.

    Las Vegas is the scuddiest place in all of America, though kinda fun, once in a while.

  28. Yeah, don't everyone rush to jump on that one.

    Okay, I'll bite.

    Were you referring to the whirled in general or the EB in particular?

  29. Decades of Dirty Deeds

    from the Dirty Harry story, it does have a nice ring and alliteration to it

    They may have been referring to Luther's earthy quote, Whit

  30. Re: Burning Korans.

    The Pastor has the right to do it but that doesn't make it right.

    Sound familiar?

  31. One thing about the koran burning thing, it's certainly got people talking about double standards.

  32. Headlines from Drudge:
    NYPD: 'Dangerous'...
    Holder: 'Idiotic'...
    Clinton: 'Disgraceful'...
    It certainly is dangerous.

  33. The Pastor is not lacking for courage. Wife said he packs a .45

  34. Boxer's aide busted for mary jane. Worked on joint committee.

  35. heh

    I think that Grier fellow will get off all right.

  36. Kind of a slow evening at the Bar.

  37. A lady out walking found a snake almost dead and frozen. She took him into the house and put him by a warm fire and fed him and gave him a cute name: "Sharia".

    When he regained health he bit her.

    She said, "Hey, I saved your life! Why would you do that?"

    And Sharia replied, "Lady, you knew I was a snake when you let me in."

  38. I always answer the phone at work good morning, my company. Today as I was answering the phone I was looking down at the call book where two names were written and I said, "Good morning, Hymen." Yes, that is someone's last name and there wasn't even a pause when the man on the other end burst into laughter. I was mortified.

  39. Get Ready for $50 Oil

    Total U.S. supplies of petroleum and products refined from it (including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) surpassed 1.8 billion barrels, reaching the highest level in the last 20 years. Since then the total has continued to edge upward, hitting 1.87 billion barrels in the week ended August 27, according to the Energy Information Administration.

  40. Better'n "Bad Morning, Hymen".

  41. We could all take a hit or two at Quirk for saying he'd vote for Obama rather than Sarah Palin.

  42. The FBI is concerned that Islamic extremists might attack and retaliate at this Saturday's Koran burning planned by radical Florida pastor Terry Jones, ABC News has learned.

    "While the FBI has no information to indicate a specific attack has been planned against the United States or U.S. assets in response to the 'International Burn a Koran Day' event, the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremist actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers, or attendees the event," an FBI intelligence bulletin notes.

    One would advise a healthy insurance policy on the church building, and life insurance policies for the pastor and laity.

  43. Washington has also said it will begin drawing down troops from July next year, a move many say has emboldened the Taliban.

    In a section of the statement addressed to the "American Rulers and the Misinformed American People," Omar called for a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    "This is in your interest and in the interest of your people and the best option for regional stability," the statement said.

    Taliban Victory 'Close'

  44. Whit

    Thanks for dropping by. I have a small response to your comment.

  45. Regardless of their rationale, most voters who firmly oppose the center's construction in Lower Manhattan say they feel strongly enough about the issue that it would influence their congressional vote in November. These voters side by a wide margin with Republican over Democratic candidates.

    Overall, 83 percent of Republicans oppose the Muslim center, as do 65 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats. Among Republicans, generally negative views have spiked higher: 67 percent of those who identify as Republican say they have unfavorable views of Islam, up from 42 percent in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Big majorities of Protestants and Catholics are against it, with opposition peaking among white evangelical Protestants. By contrast, most people with no professed religion support the construction.

    Ground 0

  46. Quirk, you were wondering about 'triage' the other night, as it concerns the democrats. Jon Stewart explains it as 'death panels for democratic candidates'.

    Maybe that will help clear the concept up in your mind.

  47. As in taking 'em off the money life support line, as in, they ain't worth the effort, as in, they're gonners anyways.

  48. $50.00 Oil? Not a chance. Not unless we go into another very bad world-wide recession.

    That's a really weak article, T. The guy just bounces around from one bit of wishful thinking to another. 12 Million bbl/day from those old beat-up fields in Iraq? Never gonnna hoppen, GI. Maybe 3 1/2 or 4 some day. Maybe not.

    Kashegon? "Cash is gone." A mess, 21% Sulfur, Political headaches/corruption run rampant. A disaster. Total disaster.

    Inventories are up? Yep, but not nearly as much as the "floating" inventory is down. We're using, globally, about 600,000 bbl/day more than we're producing right now.

    The Global economy is growing about 4.7%, annually, at present. That portends a growth of 2 Million bbl/day annual growth in oil demand. Ain't there. We'll produce less crude this year than we did in 2005, and the same will go for next year, probably, and
    the next year for double-damned certain.

    Electric cars in China? Give me a break. They'll produce and buy about 13 Million cars this year (and scrap zero,) and I'll be twenty thousand won't be electric. I doubt that 10 thousand will be.

    It was just a silly article.

  49. Oil Rises for Second Day After Stockpiles Drop, Dollar Falls

    Oil advanced for a second day after an industry report showed U.S. crude inventories declined and the dollar retreated against the euro, boosting commodities’ appeal as an alternative investment.

    Refiners Cut Oil Output to April Low in Survey: Energy Markets

    U.S. refiners probably cut crude- processing rates to the lowest level since April as they began seasonal maintenance, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

    BP Says Transocean, Halliburton Share Blame in Spill (Update4)

    BP Plc faulted its own engineers for the fatal drilling-rig blast that triggered a record U.S. oil spill and said contractors Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co. share the blame.

    Market News

  50. Author Unknown

    My love in her attire doth show her wit,
    It doth so well become her:
    For every season she hath dressings, fit,
    For winter, spring, and summer.
    No beauty she doth miss,
    When all her robes are on:
    But Beauty's self she is,
    When all her robes are gone.


  51. Here's a good informative article, T:

    The Energy Department said in May 2009 that as much as 130 million barrels were floating on ships around the world. The strategy helped boost BP’s profit by $500 million in the first quarter of 2009, the company said.

    The TI Europe, the tanker hired by ConocoPhillips for storage in the Gulf, has a capacity of 3 million barrels, and ConocoPhillips is paying $41,000 a day, according to RS Platou’s website. John Roper, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips in Houston, declined to comment.

    The trade diminished as spreads narrowed. The amount held on Very Large Crude Carriers hired for long-term storage has fallen 49 percent this year to 39 million barrels as of Aug. 27, according ICAP Shipping International Ltd.

    The price advantage shrank 82 percent to $1.79 on July 20 from this year’s peak of $9.88 in May. As the premium evaporated, traders unloaded cargoes, pushing oil imports into the Gulf of Mexico to a record high in July.

    The contango widened again as inventories resumed their climb. Stockpiles of crude, gasoline and heating oil rose to 1.14 billion barrels the week ended Aug. 27, the highest since the Energy Department began keeping the data in January 1990.

    Informative Article

  52. Mr Jones was dismissed as a fringe figure by locals who regretted his growing notoriety.

    ''He represents only 30 people in this town,'' said Larry Reimer, a local pastor. ''It needs to get out somehow to the rest of the world that this isn't the face of Christianity.''

    Mr Jones has previously called for a ban on the building of new mosques in America and a halt to the immigration of Muslims.

    Burn the Koran

  53. One thing: It's estimated that there was about twice that amount of oil in floating storage. That article, and most others only refer to VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers.)

    There was just about as much oil stored on smaller tankers parked around the world. One "educated" estimate was that there was about 250 Million Barrels floating around at one point.

  54. I do not think I have read one single article, anywhere, that advocated for the government Local, State or Federal to step in and stop the book burning.

    While both the book burning and Park 51 may not be "right" no one is tying to stop the book burner with the law.

    So no, whit, it is not familiar in the way you alluded to.

  55. As for the butt boy abusers of Afghanistan, all the more reason for US to vacate the premises.

    Especially if we are not going to use that locale as a jumping off point to disrupt the aQ elements in Pakistan. If all we are going to do is strike at them with Predators, there is no need for a 120,000 man footprint.

  56. Robert Reich: Stimulate Economy With 90% Tax On Top Earners


  57. Also, the Park 51 project will not endanger US troops in the field by further radicalizing the populous where those troops are stationed.

    Another reason that any attempt to allude to similarity between the two falls far short of realistic conflation.

  58. Stuff you probably really don't want to know about business:

    The difference between those liabilities’ carrying amounts and fair values gave rise to goodwill. The bigger the difference, the more goodwill GM booked. In other instances, GM said it recorded certain tax assets at less than their fair value, which also resulted in goodwill.

    On the liabilities side, for example, GM said the fair values were lower than the carrying amounts on its balance sheet because it used higher discount rates to calculate the fair value figures. The higher discount rates took GM’s own risk of default into account, which drove the fair values lower.

    Here’s where it gets really funky. If GM’s creditworthiness improves, this would reduce the difference between the liabilities’ fair values and carrying amounts. Put another way, GM said, the goodwill balance implied by that spread would decline. That could make GM’s goodwill vulnerable to writedowns in future periods, which would reduce earnings.

    Unexpected Outcome

    A similar effect would ensue on the asset side if GM’s long-term profit forecasts improved. Under that scenario, GM could recognize higher tax assets and bring their carrying amount closer to fair value, narrowing the spread between them.

    So, to sum up, the stronger and more creditworthy GM becomes, the less its goodwill assets may be worth in the future. An intuitive outcome, this is not.

    How GM pulled $30 Billion out of . . . . . . . . thin air?

    thin air really isn't the phrase I would have used, but . . . . . .

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  65. But they won't, Q, not in Afpakistan or Iraq.

    So some young American will end up paying the price for that absurdity, in Florida.

    No one will die because there was a building remodeled at Park 51.

    That cab drivers' passenger was inept, inadequate to the task he put himself up to. A drunken sot.


  66. Sixth Mayor killed in Mexico, this year

    MEXICO CITY - Hooded gunmen killed the mayor of a small town in the northern Mexico state of San Luis Potosi on Wednesday, and prosecutors announced the arrest of seven suspects in the massacre of 72 migrants in August.

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  68. Clinton says Mexico drug wars starting to look like insurgency

    LA Times

    Reporting from Washington —
    Mexico's violent drug cartels increasingly resemble an insurgency with the power to challenge the government's control of wide swaths of its own soil, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

    Clinton's comments reflected a striking shift in the public comments of the Obama administration about the bloodshed that has cost 28,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006. They come as U.S. officials weigh a large increase in aid to the southern neighbor to help fight the cartels.

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  71. Well, Q, watch and learn what fuels an insurgency and increased opposition to an armed occupation.

    The battle for legitimacy.
    When what you are perceived to represent disrespects the core values of the populous.

    The excrement will hit the rotating blades, that is not conjecture, but experience.
    Watch and learn.

    It will set US back well beyond what is conjectured, today.

    All across the Islamic Arc.
    Maybe amongst the home grown, too.
    Mohamed and Malvo, won't be the last of the crazies.

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  76. We're not giving up who we profess to be.

    The books will burn. We will allow our citizens to do it. Without fear of governmental reprisal against the burners.

    That is who we profess to be, that is who we are. Both in Florida and in New York, where Park 51 will move ahead.

    But the two are not equivalent, from a deployed military perspective.

    I think we are going to lose the battle for "hearts and minds" in Afpakistan. Always have.

    My hope was that we'd push the aQ elements in Pakistan to the breaking point. But that does not seem to be happening. If that mission is not completed soon, it never will be.

    It is a matter of priorities, from my perspective. There is a very limited amount of time left, before there will be no chance of delivering either Osama or Doc Z to their fruit basket of virgins.

    Without their heads on a pike, Park 51 becomes significant. Simply an outlet, a way and a place to vent frustration with our government's incompetence and lack of focus.

    But really of no importance.
    Just as the book burning would be insignificant, if we had either of their scalps on a belt.

    But that is not the mission that the military has tasked, for itself. I guess they decided it wouldn't be prudent.

    But as long as we remain there, in the Islamic Arc, the sensibilities or lack there of amongst the populous must or at least should be accommodated.

    We owe our soldiers that much, and more.
    That there are so many that do not understand the consequences of their hedonistic tantrums, par for the course of our self-centered society.

  77. Yep, posting on someone else's dime.

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  79. Congressman Mike Coffman, a decorated military man, said yesterday that a Florida Christian pastor’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 will lead to increased danger for U.S. troops and Americans throughout the world.


    Coffman believes with great confidence that Jones’ actions could lead to increased danger for the nation’s troops.

    “Having served in the Iraq War, I know firsthand that Mr. Jones’ actions will lead to higher casualties and increased threat of attack for U.S. servicemen and women,” Coffman continued. “Mr. Jones will have the blood on his hands of those who may die as a result of his actions.”

    Burn Troops?

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  81. I saw some references to 'looters' in some threads awhile back but didn't get it.

    I must have missed something along the way there somewhere while I was on vacation.

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  84. Ah, gotchya. Though I don't know who it is.

    Is it possible to be both? Or do you have to pick one?

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  86. Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria says America overreacted to 9-11. But the Arab "street" response to the Mohammad cartoons was JUST right.

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  89. Hey, T.

    What are you doing up at this hour?

    Working on my Wiki, which is better than a blog, anyone can play.

    Yes, I'm too sick to work still.

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  92. T,

    I went to Windy Ridge last July.

    Quirk, Producer.

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  95. Sam, I had been to Windy Ridge via FR99 before, and when I was a girl scout I went to summer camp on Spirit Lake in 1979, last batch to see it the way it was. Fely had never been to the mountain, and I had never been to the Johnston Observatory.

  96. Heck, what did I do this time?

    Whatever it was it was probably just stupid and not intentional.


  97. Another reason that any attempt to allude to similarity between the two falls far short of realistic conflation.

    Someone has kneejerk reactive syndrome.

    I know I never made any attempt at "realistic conflation".