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December 2006 Archives

December 3, 2006

California Dreamin'

After getting home at about 10:30 p.m. last night, having spent most of the day up in Exeter, New Hampshire with the squash team, I had to get packed for a two-week swing through California and Miami. As my flight is scheduled for the ungodly hour of 6:05 this morning, I figured I could take my time, as going to bed would be pointless (and possibly a costly error if I were to sleep through my alarm). While driving up Interstate 91 at 3:30 in the morning, I noticed how unusually free of traffic the highway was. I was reminded of driving through the night on other trips I've taken: down the Pacific Coast Highway in California, from Sydney to Melbourne, and from Heathrow Airport to the northernmost tip of Scotland. I sorta like staying up late to drive, then crashing for a couple of hours on the side of the road.

Anyway, I am heading to San Francisco via Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles. Hopefully the warmer weather will knock out this cough that has been lingering in my system the last week or so.

Go West, Young Man


After three flights, I have arrived in the Bay Area. I am staying near the airport, south of San Francisco proper, but close enough that I can drive up the 101 and be in the city in less than fifteen minutes. I paid homage to the local In-N-Out Burger and drove along the Embarcadero and around the North Beach section of town. The city is bigger than I remember it, but beautiful at night. It's a bit colder than I expected, but then again, this is not Southern California.

December 4, 2006

Exploring The Bay Area

I spent most of the day on the go, ambling around downtown (had to check out the Apple Store, of course!), driving through the Presidio, and then checking out Berkeley (first time there) and Palo Alto (I drove around the Stanford campus). I haven't been in the area since 1992, and even then was just here for a quick stop. Highways are a big deal here, but the traffic is nowhere near as overwhelming as it is in the L.A. vicinity.

December 5, 2006

Man Of Leisure

Slept in this morning, which did wonders for getting rid of the last of this cough I've had since before Thanksgiving. I drove downtown around 11:30 a.m. I tried to visit my sister, who works in the Ferry Terminal, but we did not connect. I did visit with three old friends, however: one over lunch, one mid-afternoon, and a third over dinner down in Palo Alto. It's nice to have the time to do stuff like this without the constant pressure to be somewhere.

Note to self: when heading into San Francisco during a weekday, take the BART rather than paying nearly $30 for just a couple of hours in a parking garage!

December 6, 2006

A Breakthrough For Health


New York City officially acted yesterday to ban artificial trans fats from its restaurants in a move that may have a ripple effect in communities across the country. While the usual whiners will complain that this constitutes undue government interference, I argue it's a good move for two reasons: (1) it will raise awareness of the dangers of trans fatty acids in the typical American diet; and (2) chains that operate in New York City will be forced to innovate in their ingredients and food preparation to avoid violating the ban, which may mean healthier alternatives will become available nationwide sooner rather than later.

Common Sense

Sounds like the Baker/Hamilton bipartisan commission--the Iraq Study Group--is weighing in with a (gently worded, perhaps?) rebuke of administration policy, firmly rejecting "stay the course" as an approach with any credibility. This on the heels of yesterday's testimony by Robert Gates--the nominee for Secretary of Defense--before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which he candidly acknowledged that our Iraq policies had no hope of producing a victory. Such straight talk is long overdue. Of course, finding a sensible solution to the mess in Iraq is far easier said than done.

Daylight's End In The City By The Bay


Just got back to my hotel after parking by the beach and watching the sun slowly sink into the Pacific Ocean (at 4:51 p.m.--ugh!--but with the winter solstice not far away, the days soon will be getting longer!). After a leisurely morning, I spent most of the afternoon exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco. It's a special city. I was once told by one who had been all over the world that the three most beautiful cities are Cape Town, Sydney, and San Francisco. Nothing I've experienced the past few days would convince me otherwise (and I've spend some enjoyable time in the other two cities, too). The proximity of the hills and the water, the spectacularly scenic views all over the city, the energy and diversity of the people, the tolerant atmosphere, the tremendous range of cultural offerings, and the mild climate are all assets.

I was thinking of spending today at Yosemite Park, but a bit of research online suggested this was not the best time of year for such a trip (some of the main park roads are already closed for the winter).

I head back into the city tonight to meet 1993 Choate Tennis captain Jason Hancock for dinner. Then I am off early in the morning across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Napa Valley for a 10 a.m. winery tour and tasting session at Shafer Vineyards. Tomorrow night I fly to Los Angeles, where I'll spend a couple of days before going to Anaheim for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association annual conference for athletic directors.

Mmmmmmm . . . Burmese Food!

Just got in from a meal at Burma Superstar Restaurant (on Clement Street near Fourth Street in San Francisco). The food was delicious. Given Burma's shared borders with India, China, and Thailand and its proximity to Vietnam, it's not surprising that those countries' influences were strong in the cuisine, but Burma clearly has its own distinct twist on food. This restaurant is highly recommended, though it's likely you'll have to wait for a table.

December 7, 2006

Tom Toles = Funny


Dionysian Splendor


. . . in which the blogger goes through a Sideways phase--at least for a few hours.

I visited Shafer Vineyard in Napa Valley for a tasting session, which was fun, but probably mostly lost on me. The other five visitors seemed much more attuned to the nuances of wine than I, though it was a good exercise to compare merlot with cabernet and syrah. I liked the wines I sampled, though not enough to drop $190 for the top-of-the-range bottle.

The weather was wonderful--atypical for what I'm told is usually the rainy season in wine country. I gather it's off-season for the tourist crowd, too, which made my visit more enjoyable.

The City Of Angels

Got the to San Francisco Airport pretty early and thought I might be able to catch an earlier flight to L.A. Turned out my flight, scheduled for 6:50 p.m., was going to be delayed by two hours. The American agent managed to switch me to a United flight leaving at 5:08, which got me in long before I'd have left on my original schedule!

December 8, 2006

An Amusing Book Of Reflections On Pop Culture


This book--Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman--is an entertaining series of entries on all manner of low culture in American over the past thirty years or so: a perfect read for someone of my age and sensibility. The fact that the book is a collection of short, unconnected essays makes it perfect bathroom reading. (Thanks, Max Alpert, for showing me this.)

Livin' Large In L.A.


Well, that title is pretty hyperbolic, but I felt like one of the guys on Entourage today, in that I spent my morning and afternoon in Los Angeles with very little to do and all day to do it. I drove over to Santa Monica and spent a few hours strolling around the Third Street Promenade and then checked out Hollywood for a bit in the afternoon. The thing about life in L.A. is that it seems you spend half your day in traffic. The places one wants to go are pretty spread out and there is no decent public transportation to speak of. At least it's pretty warm: I spent the day in shorts and a T-shirt.

This Movie Looks Great


The film 300, based on the epic Spartan battle at Thermopylae, is based on a Frank Miller graphic novel (as was Sin City) and the trailer suggests this will be a visually striking flick. Check it out here.

December 9, 2006

Saying Goodbye To Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Slate.com has a thoughtful overview on the trans fat public policy issue here.

Hello Anaheim

Drove down the road this morning and checked into the Anaheim Marriott, adjacent to the convention center hosting the 37th Annual Conference of High School Athletic Directors. I am about to head into a four-hour workshop (the first of four I'll attend over the next three days) in preparation for a certification exam I'll take Tuesday morning.

December 10, 2006

Good Riddance


Augusto Pinochet, 1915-2006, mass murderer, enemy of human rights. He will not be missed. In observance of his death, I played Sting's "They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)," a mournful meditation about the women whose husbands, father, brothers, and sons went missing in Pinochet's Chile. "Someday we'll dance on his grave."

December 11, 2006

What's On Your iBook?


Apple ran a series of advertisements about a decade ago with the tagline "What's On Your PowerBook?" The ads featured both celebrities and regular Joes and Janes. (Click here to see a bigger version of the ad above and here to see more ads like this one.)

Now that laptops are much more ubiquitous, I thought'd I'd provide a smattering of what I am carrying with me on my iBook during my two-week California/Florida trip:

recent “In Our Time” podcasts from BBC
schedule for the upcoming Intercollegiate Tennis Association convention
case statement for artificial turf fields
Dashboard widgets
faculty lectures downloaded from iTunes.Berkeley.edu
faculty lectures downloaded from iTunes.Stanford.edu
Safari and Firefox browsers
syllabi for HI411: Constitutional Law and HI432: Modern Japan
Delicious Library containing catalogue of my books, CDs, and DVDs
RealVideo file of U2's Vertigo '05 concert from Sao Paolo
DVArchive to transfer recorded shows from my ReplayTV to my Mac
Solitaire Til Dawn
birthday list for Memorial House residents
episodes of season 3 of “Drawn Together” in QuickTime format
Google Earth
photos from recent cross country season to post on Facebook
Macromedia Studio 8
draft of handbook for the New England Interscholastic Squash Association
iWork ’06 with Keynote presentation for NEPSAC Annual Meeting
the complete Promethea by Alan Moore in pdf format
Circus Ponies Notebook with collections of text and image clippings
college recommendations for the Class of 2007
FileMakerPro 8 to access interscholastic athletic schedule data
notes on The Brothers Karamazov
iLife ’06 with Garage Band podcasts from Choate Tennis trip to China
Microsoft Office 2004 For Mac
raw digital video from South African safari in need of editing in iMovie
evaluations of coaches
downloaded audiobook file with Tom Friedman lecture on the flat world
VPN Client
my Great American Novel in progress

December 12, 2006

Aced A Test

It's been a while since I had to sit for an exam. I took a test for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which will theoretically make me a "Certified Athletic Administrator," should I pass. I found the 100 multiple choice questions ridiculously easy. There was an unlimited amount of time for people to finish the test, and they expected most to finish within two hours. I completed the "bubble sheet" in less than 45 minutes (and got a few dirty looks as I left the room)!

TV Mash-Up


If Battlestar Galactica were produced by the makers of The Simpsons, this is what you might see. More here.

No F/X Here

Looks like I won't get to see the Nip/Tuck season 4 finale tonight as planned. The Anaheim Marriott doesn't get the F/X cable network. What th-?

Hope my ReplayTV records the show as scheduled.

December 13, 2006

The Happiest Place On Earth


Up and at 'em today to get the early jump on Disneyland, my first visit to the park since 1970!

Back In L.A.

After spending the heart of the day exploring Disneyland, I drove through Newport Beach and Laguna Beach before heading back to Los Angeles for my early morning flight to Miami.

December 14, 2006

Welcome To The Sunshine State

Just arrived in Miami and the first thing that hit me when I left the airport was HUMIDITY. It's reasonably warm here, but humid in a way California was not.

Anyway I am staying at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa, which is pretty plush. I effectively checked in without using valet parking or the bell staff. I am here for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coaches Convention (I am an Auxiliary Member) through Saturday night.

Don't Miss This Show!


If you're not watching NBC's The Office, you are missing one of the truly great shows on television. Tonight's hour-long episode was hilarious.

December 15, 2006

Convening With College Tennis Coaches


Most of today was spent in workshop presentations aimed at college tennis coaches--whose work is not all that different from the kind of coaching I do each spring at Choate. It's the fiftieth anniversary of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. There's a big awards banquet tonight, which I will probably skip in favor of checking out the sights in Miami.

December 16, 2006

The Latest From Microsoft


In The New York Times this week, technology writer David Pogue reviewed the new PC operating system, Microsoft Vista. Apparently it looks real pretty and is a somewhat blatant rip-off of Mac OS X. It will be interesting to see how much distance the folks in Cupertino will put between their product and this new one when Leopard, the latest upgrade to the Mac OS, comes out in early 2007.

Read Pogue's review here (there is a witty video companion piece on the site showing a comparison between Vista and Mac OS X that is worth checking out, too).

December 17, 2006

Back Home

I suppose that, as a pretty seasoned world traveler, this really shouldn't impress me anymore, but I am amazed that I can eat dinner in Miami and be back in Connecticut three hours later. The jet age still boggles my mind!

December 19, 2006

Don't Forget To Congratulate Me


Time magazine has named me its 2006 Person Of The Year, much to my surprise. It's the first time I've been honored with this recognition, though some might argue it's long overdue.

December 21, 2006

Here Comes The Sun . . .

. . . eventually, anyway!

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. This means for the next six months days will be getting longer. (Of course, I will be in the southern hemisphere in about ten days' time, and the days will be be pretty long but getting shorter while I am there!

Where There Be Dragons


I saw Eragon tonight. It was not as bad as I had expected, given the pretty tepid reviews, but it was awfully derivative (about 60% Star Wars + 30% Lord Of The Rings + 10% Harry Potter).

December 22, 2006

A Different Kind Of History


I am now working my way through this book, And A Bottle of Rum, which is a fascinating historical overview linking rum and the New World in the last 500 years.

December 23, 2006

Data To Go


I am loading up my new tech accessory: the Western Digital Passport, a 120 GB compact hard drive which is about the size of an actual passport and weighs only a few ounces. Because the drive is powered directly through a USB cable, there is no power adapter to carry. It was a good bargain at $79 on Buy.com and will be very useful on my upcoming world tour. When I get back, I intend to use it for moving those bulky iMovie digital video files around.

December 24, 2006


Tomorrow I begin my round-the-world trip. I'll head west, and so will lose a day crossing the Pacific, but will gain it back in pieces over the next two months. The idea is to visit places I haven't been before (other than Australia, where I spent much of my last sabbatical in 1998; I'll be there in early January for a few weeks) such as Southeast Asia, India, Egypt, and Spain. I'll finish up with a couple of days in London, which means I'll have spent time in my five favorite cities during my four-month sabbatical: London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Tokyo (the latter only on a brief layover, unfortunately).

December 25, 2006

Off I Go!


The world tour begins.

I am in Bradley Airport, getting ready to head to Hong Kong via Chicago and Tokyo. I'll update when I arrive.

Until then, Merry Christmas everybody!

December 27, 2006

United Airlines = Santa Claus

I have arrived in Hong Kong, having spent most of Christmas Day in the air and having lost most of the 26th to the International Date Line. No Boxing Day for me this year!

On the first leg of my journey--from Hartford to Chicago--I thought it would be good to come up with a ranking system for the various air segments I’ll be flying in the weeks ahead. At first I figured there should be three categories: good, mediocre, and abysmal. Then I concluded I should add another rating at the high end for those times when you a get a row to yourself or similar such good luck. Little did I expect what happened to me in O’Hare Airport: I was summoned to the desk at the gate and bumped up to Business Class for my United flight from Chicago to Tokyo! And then the same thing happened again in Narita, for the final segment to Hong Kong! I had been bumped up to First Class once before--around 1991, I believe--on a Savannah to Hartford flight after spring break with the tennis team. That was nice for a relatively short trip, but these flights became worlds better because of the upgrades. I mean, if you are going to get a free upgrade, there’s no better time than a transcontinental flight! Here are a few of the advantages: significantly more room (in the seat itself, in the space between you and your neighbor, and in front and behind the seat), a much more comfortable chair--one that reclines to an acute angle for better sleeping, far better food and service, no charge for alcoholic beverages, a choice of free newspapers, less competition for the onboard lavatories, and first exiting privileges upon arrival. I concede I did adopt a certain air about the “great unwashed masses” behind me in the plane while sitting in the lap of luxury up front. I hope I have such good luck again on this round-the-world trip.


Anyway, after clearing immigration and customs and arranging transport to my hotel in the city, it’s now early in the morning on the 27th and I am going to crash.

Hong Kong Hotel

I am staying in a great boutique hotel, the Lanson Place, in Causeway Bay. There is complimentary wireless access in all the rooms, but apparently the Internet is down--it worked last night when I arrived--due to an offshore earthquake that damaged some of the undersea cables. (I thought the Internet was designed to deal with this sort of disruption, but access is down all over Asia. Go figure.) So I’ll have to wait to post this blog entry.

Exploring Hong Kong

I spent much of the late morning and early afternoon poking around Causeway Bay, which is a vibrant neighborhood. The architectural juxtapositions in the city are stark: gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers sit next to run-down old buildings with unit air conditioners and drying laundry everywhere you look.

Public transportation is varied (subway, buses, trams, and ferries), cheap, and efficient in Hong Kong. Taxis are a reliable and cheap way to get around, too.

I met up with my advisee Greg Van in the late afternoon; he showed me the sights in the central business district, and then we headed uphill to his home for an enjoyable dinner with the extended Van family.

December 28, 2006

The Outer Islands

Much of today was spent on a boat with the Van clan, heading out of the Aberdeen harbor for an enjoyable day on the water and visits to a pair of fishing villages. Greg was playing in a golf tournament, so Geoff '10 and his mom--not to mention the aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends on board!--played host to me. The day was a great chance to see a different side of Hong Kong, one most tourists probably never see.

December 29, 2006

City Lights

I met up with Charles Depman ’06, who is spending a gap year in China and popped down to Hong Kong for the holidays; we took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Kowloon and explored the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district and enjoyed a good sushi lunch on Nathan Road. Charles and I agreed that Hong Kong feels like a cross between Shanghai and Tokyo in some ways.


After Charles connected with one of his Choate classmates, I took the tram up to the Peak to check out sunset over the city from an incredible vantage point (higher than the skyscrapers filling the skyline in the picture above). Hong Kong at night is an absolutely incredible light show and the view from the Peak is not to be missed as day turns to night.

December 30, 2006

Nice Airports

Departing via the Hong Kong Airport was a dream. I checked in with my airline and dropped off my bags at Central Station in the city, and then had a leisurely ride out to the airport on an express train. The Hong Kong Airport still feels new and looks like a dream. It’s sensibly laid out and easy to navigate. I wish all airports were as good. By the way, I am blogging now from the Seoul Incheon Airport en route to Sydney and this seems like a pretty nifty airport as well!

Paul Krugman Gets It Right

In his last column of 2006, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman provides an overview of the "Republican revolution" of the last decade. His analysis (which I read in the International Herald Tribune while traveling today) seems to hit the spot:

"A Failed Revolution"

After first attempting to deny the scale of last month’s defeat, the apologists have settled on a story line that sounds just like Marxist explanations for the failure of the Soviet Union. What happened, you see, was that the noble ideals of the Republican revolution of 1994 were undermined by Washington’s corrupting ways. And the recent defeat was a good thing, because it will force a return to the true conservative path.

But the truth is that the movement that took power in 1994 — a movement that had little to do with true conservatism — was always based on a lie.

The lie is right there in “The Freedom Revolution,” the book that Dick Armey, who had just become the House majority leader, published in 1995. He declares that most government programs don’t do anything “to help American families with the needs of everyday life,” and that “very few American families would notice their disappearance.” He goes on to assert that “there is no reason we cannot, by the time our children come of age, reduce the federal government by half as a percentage of gross domestic product.”

Right. Somehow, I think more than a few families would notice the disappearance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and those three programs alone account for a majority of nondefense, noninterest spending. The truth is that the government delivers services and security that people want. Yes, there’s some waste — just as there is in any large organization. But there are no big programs that are easy to cut.

As long as people like Mr. Armey, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay were out of power, they could run on promises to eliminate vast government waste that existed only in the public’s imagination — all those welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But once in power, they couldn’t deliver.

That’s why government by the radical right has been an utter failure even on its own terms: the government hasn’t shrunk. Federal outlays other than interest payments and defense spending are a higher percentage of G.D.P. today than they were when Mr. Armey wrote his book: 14.8 percent in fiscal 2006, compared with 13.8 percent in fiscal 1995.

Unable to make good on its promises, the G.O.P., like other failed revolutionary movements, tried to maintain its grip by exploiting its position of power. Friends were rewarded with patronage: Jack Abramoff began building his web of corruption almost as soon as Republicans took control. Adversaries were harassed with smear campaigns and witch hunts: Congress spent six years and many millions of dollars investigating a failed land deal, and Bill Clinton was impeached over a consensual affair.

But it wasn’t enough. Without 9/11, the Republican revolution would probably have petered out quietly, with the loss of Congress in 2002 and the White House in 2004. Instead, the atrocity created a window of opportunity: four extra years gained by drowning out unfavorable news with terror alerts, starting a gratuitous war, and accusing Democrats of being weak on national security.

Yet the Bush administration failed to convert this electoral success into progress on a right-wing domestic agenda. The collapse of the push to privatize Social Security recapitulated the failure of the Republican revolution as a whole. Once the administration was forced to get specific about the details, it became obvious that private accounts couldn’t produce something for nothing, and the public’s support vanished.

In the end, Republicans didn’t shrink the government. But they did degrade it. Baghdad and New Orleans are the arrival destinations of a movement based on deep contempt for governance.

Is that the end for the radical right? Probably not. As a long-suffering civil servant once told me, bad policy ideas are like cockroaches: you can flush them down the toilet, but they keep coming back. Many of the ideas that failed in the Bush years had previously failed in the Reagan years. So there’s no reason to assume they’re gone for good.

Indeed, it appears that loss of power and the ensuing lack of accountability is liberating right-wingers to lie yet again: since last month’s election, I’ve noticed a number of Social Security privatizers propounding the same free-lunch falsehoods that the Bush administration had to abandon in the face of demands that it present an actual plan.

Still, the Republican revolution of 1994 is over. And not a moment too soon.

December 31, 2006

In A Land Down Under


I am now in Sydney, Australia, having arrived just after 8 a.m. on New Year's Eve. I've now visited six continents in 2006 (and will do the same in the first three months of 2007, by the way). I don't know if I'll ever make it to Antarctica, though.

I love this country and this city: everything feels entirely comfortable. I checked in at my hotel early and my room wasn't quite ready, so I had a couple of hours to wander around downtown before settling in. The Westin, where I am staying the next three nights, is an upscale hotel in the center of the business district, just a few blocks up from Circular Quay (which is the main ferry terminal in Sydney, located right in between the city's two most famous landmarks: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House). In fact, I can see a slice of the Harbour Bridge from my room!

There's Something About Liz


I saw The Queen this afternoon at a cinema right next to Circular Quay and the Opera House. It's a captivating film featuring a brilliant performance by Helen Mirren, who is already being tipped for Oscar honors. Don't miss this movie.

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to As Far As You Know in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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