Note: I meant to post this last night but after getting home from the airport and checking out the Dylan documentary I went straight to bed.

4:24 p.m. Speed: 464 mph, Alt: 35,778 feet, If you read all of this you’re a crazy

Flying overhead Thivai’s fine state of Kentucky, testing out ecto, listening to Atari’s mix of Baile Funk, occasionally glancing up at CNN, trying to remember where I was last night when I stopped writing. I think I had just gotten to Georgetown Law. Nice campus, nice buildings, nerdy students. I sat in on one of Abogado’s classes – I think it was contracts – while posting some links to Global Voices and checking my email.

Thursday 9:00 p.m. Trio Restaurant, Dupont, D.C.

Abo, Anne Mack, and I head out to grab some board and brew.

Friday 9:00 a.m. National Press Club, D.C.

I guess I should explain why I came to D.C. in the first place. Rebecca gave me the heads-up about a couple available fellowships for bloggers to attend a seminar on Computer Assisted Reporting and Researching hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Yes, that Heritage Foundation. If you’re like me, you’re wondering what the hell one of the nation’s most prominent conservative think tanks is doing hosting a seminar to teach bloggers and journalists how to better interpret statistics and databases. Mark Tapscott, who besides working for Heritage is also a board member of the Media Bloggers Association, answered that very question in his introduction before anyone could ask it. Heritage has a near-paranoid distrust of government and they would love to have a contingent of conservatively-minded journalists watch-doggin’ every government payroll, budget, and study. Which I absolutely believe in – responsible journalism should look into all available data and make sure there isn’t anything fishy. I came away from the seminar most impressed by the fact that so much data is made available to the general public on various government websites. Everything from how much your child’s school district is spending on each student to how much anal sex is going on in our country. (more on that later)

stacy harp and la shawn barber at CARRIt is also very much to the Heritage Foundation’s credit that the two-day seminar focused wholly on techniques instead of ideology. It wasn’t until lunch that day – wild boar with citrus sauce – that I was able to talk with the other attendees and get a feel for just how heterogeneous they were in their politics. Besides Mark and Bob Cox, there were two other bloggers in the group of 12. First was La Shawn Barber, a black, Christian conservative who, according to the The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem, is the 27th most linked to blog in the world. From a recent post:

I thank God I was finished with compulsory education by the time ridiculous multicultural curricula began to pop up. I thought I’d blow a gasket when I found out American, taxpayer-supported schools were teaching American children to celebrate Guatemalan “freedom fighters” or some obscure “minority” abstract painter, but bash the “dead white males” who built the very foundation that allows such silly PC nonsense to exist in the first place.

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk, but she seemed tired of politics, jaded from the never-ending, 24-hour-a-day echo chamber of conservative blogging. At one point I asked her if she read any blogs outside of the United States. She said she mostly read conservative and Christian blogs, but maybe one of the blogs she liked to read sometimes was based in England.

The other blogger was Stacy Harp from Orange, California who blogs at Persecution Blog and Blog for Books. Compared to La Shawn’s sense of either exhaustion or boredom, Stacy was upbeat, talkative, and affable. She helped with the presidential campaign of Alan Keyes, who she cited as a personal hero and asked us if we thought terrorists were responsible for the recent power outage in Los Angeles. From a recent post:

This is one of the best books I’ve read in recent days and I can’t recommend it enough.
The premise of the book is that men in the church are “too nice” and also “not like Jesus” because of this niceness. Translated into therapeutic terms, Christian men are often passive aggressive and wimpy.

The rest of the participants were recent communication and journalism graduates in an internship program sponsored by the Heritage Foundation for aspiring, young, conservative journalists.

CARRI was genuinely interested in a lot of the techniques we were learning and spoke little of politics and definitely nothing about religion. On the second day an agreeable bleached-blonde who was interning for Fox News and lived in the Heritage Foundation Apartments asked me if I was “political.” I replied that I wasn’t interested in politics so much as policy and it wasn’t until after I said it that I realized it was true. Throughout college I spent so much time concentrating on political theory buzzwords and identities (liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, neoliberalist, communist, free-marketeer, internationalist, protectionist, anarchist, transnationalist) and now I’ve realized I couldn’t care less about these words. They are meaningless to me unless applied to very specific situations which they almost never are. Instead, we take meaning away from complex, individual situations by trying to force them through a given political prism. HP continues to impress me to this day how he can take any given topic and always reply, “this reminds me of how liberals look at this sort of thing compared to conservatives.” As if there really are only two ways of looking at any topic.

Friday 9 p.m. A Party

After being fairly amused by the geekery in Abogado’s law class, I wasn’t entirely sure what we had in store for us at a Gtown law party, but it turned out to not be what I had in mind. They were obviously intelligent, witty, and up to date on Washington. A few were also stereotypically liberal-elite (“what wine am I drinking,” architecture digest on the coffee table, Cuban film prints on the walls). But they also seemed like remarkably normal kids wanting to have fun. For much of the night I was talking to the same girl. A guy walked by and a friend of hers gave her the raised eyebrow. I inquired and with amazing non-chalance she explained that at some party she was dared to hold his penis in the bathroom and that “things had somehow gotten awkward.” Go figure. Anne Mack, true to form, had her fair share of moonshine and was rockin’ out to Janis on the dance floor. The three hours time difference didn’t let me get to sleep until around 3 a.m.

Saturday 10 a.m. National Press Club

Which made for a very very unwelcome alarm at 8 a.m. the next day. The entire city was crowded with the 100,000 visiting protesters and it took me twice as long to get there from my nearby hotel as it did from Abo’s not so near apartment. I mistakenly boarded a metro car full of a Code Pink contingent which kept singing the same verse of a song they must’ve thought up that same morning which, of course, compared the president with their own pubis. I realized I needed a cup of coffee.

Our seminar in “computer assisted reporting” was really a seminar in how to download statistics from government websites, import the data into Microsoft Excel, and find averages, means, modes, and correlations using some easy and some not so easy formulae. The logic pretty much follows PHP, which gave me a head start. Unfortunately, what I learned after the seminar already finished is that a lot of databases are too large for excel to handle and need to be dealt with using a statistics or database program. That led me to install MySQL and CocoaMySQL on my iBook, but I think I need to find a simpler option to interpret large database files.

If this all sounds too nerdy and tech to be of any interest, it’s exactly this kind of reporting that led someone at Slate Magazine to write a very important op-ed about the state of anal sex in America. The piece, entitled Ass Backwards questions how the major media interpreted the latest study by the CDC on sexual behavior of men and women aged 15 – 44. (the actual database of the study results is available here) Every single publication focused on the rise of oral sex among young people and took the slant of “abstinence programs spur increase in oral sex,” but not one of them focused on the gigantic rise of anal sex amongst heterosexual men and women. Like the article says, it’s probably because most publications today still aren’t comfortable reporting on anal sex rather than reporters overlooking numbers, but it does go to show that if you want the real story, you need to go in and look at the numbers yourself.

Saturday 11 p.m. White House Lawn

commiesAbo and Anne Mack are urinating under a tree on the White House lawn and I’m left contemplating the scene around me. The concert just ended – Thievery Corporation was amazing – and a steady stream of pungently fragrant lefties were working their way up the National Mall towards the White House. I was trying to understand what the purpose of the protest was; what they were trying to accomplish and how. Supposedly – as each screaming and fist pumping speaker on stage repeated over and over again – they wanted the U.S. troops out of Iraq. And somehow 100,000 fashionable liberals, a few good bands, and a couple dozen arrests in front of the White House were going to make that happen. But what if Iraqis themselves don’t want the U.S. troops out of their country? Then it’s called peace-keeping and isn’t that what liberals – myself included – are asking that the U.S. engage in in Sudan? The most obvious solution to me is to have Iraqis vote once and for all on if they want U.S. troops to stay or leave.

I couldn’t believe how mindless the rhetoric was coming off the stage. And it struck me that I related just as little to what these people were screaming as I do to La Shawn Barber’s relief that she never had to endure a multicultural school curriculum. It was a curious weekend, going from one echo chamber of knee-jerk conservatives (“campaign finance reform is an abomination of free speech, there’s no way around that”) to another of knee-jerk echo chamber of leftists holding signs which read “don’t get angry, start a revolution.”

Sunday 1 p.m. A Bolivian Restaurant on the Virginia Side of the Potomoc

If my trip to D.C. so far was highlighted by seemingly out-of-touch, ideological extremists on both sides, I was comforted by finally meeting a like-minded and well-informed independent thinker in Eduardo A. of Barrio Flores. He picked me up from the metro station and we headed over to one of his favorite Bolivian restaurants. The waitress seemed to recognize him immediately and I didn’t hear a single word of English spoken in the entire restaurant. I had no idea that the D.C. Metro area had so many Bolivian immigrants.

I am a fan of: Paceña beer, salteñas de pollo, and pique a lo macho – a mix of carne asada, salchicha, french fries, grilled onions, and jalapeños. Eduardo’s well-traveled, well-read, and much more involved in Bolivia than I had previously realized. Plus we like the same music – it was hard not to get along. After lunch he showed me where he works and dropped me off at the metro.

Sunday 9:30 p.m. Abo and Anne Mack’s Apartment

I was working on yesterday’s post and Abo was citing a paper when in walked Anne Mack with Melissa and Reena, all friends from UCSD, where Abo and I also went to school. But the connections lay deeper. Abo, Reena, and I also went to school together in Anaheim during junior high, but we completely lost touch with Reena until we were re-introduced by Anne Mack, who has her own strange story. After going to junior high with Reena in Anaheim proper, Abo and I head to Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills where we become friends with Moreno, Prince Dutt, and Prince Dutt’s then-girlfriend, Anne Mack. Junior year of high school, I then move to San Diego. Prince Dutt and I remain friends, but most of my Canyon contacts become strangers.

Four or five years later I am addicted to rock climbing and decide to volunteer for the summer at the UCSD climbing gym after getting back from a semester at Northern Arizona University. That is where I meet Wendy the oceanographer who one day shows me a picture of her friends, one of whom – after a second glance – I realize is Anne Mack from Canyon High.

If all of this is too much for you to follow, I agree, I barely follow it myself, but suffice it to say, Sunday night conversation was mostly reminiscence and a beautiful story by Reena of how a kid left her elementary school because she told him flowers were growing out of his butt.

Sunday 2:30 p.m. White House

Watching people get arrested and banging on drums. Pictures and videos coming soon.