My first chance to watch The Office on regular television in months (last week I was in the New England squash seeding meeting and was on the road for two months before that) and it turns out to be a repeat. Boo!
An easy three-hour flight from Miami to Aruba (whole row to myself--sweet!) deposited me at the Oranjestad Airport. Aruba is a little less than twenty miles long and six miles wide--a pretty small island just off the northern coast of Venezuela. Having left Perth, Australia on January 22 and traveled through Asia, Africa, Europe, and back home to North America, my arrival in South America this afternoon means I've logged time on six continents in just under six weeks! (I also visited six continents in 2006, but it took me almost exactly twelve months to do so.)
Here is the latest update to where I've been, where I am now, and where I am going before my sabbatical officially ends on March 20:
NAME="map" WIDTH="910" HEIGHT="455"
Here is a bigger version of the map.
I had dinner at the sushi bar by the casino here in the Marriott complex. Afterward, I took a walk along the beach under the full moon and it was windy, but the breezes were pleasantly WARM!
I caught back-to-back episodes of Digging For The Truth on The History Channel this afternoon. Both shows brought me back to my time in Egypt a few weeks back, with their backdrops at the Giza Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of Kings, the Karnak temple in Luxor, and Abu Simbel. One episode was about Tutankhamun and the other about Rameses II.
Indiana Jones wanna-be Josh Bernstein, who hosts the program, recently announced he is jumping over to The Discovery Network, which may mean the end of Digging For The Truth, at least as we know it. Bad news for The History Channel, as this has been its highest-rated show.
Apparently my aura is green:
Your Aura is Green
You're very driven, competitive, and even a bit jealous.
However, you seek out balance in your life - and you usually achieve it!
The purpose of your life: inspiring others to be better
Famous greens include: Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart
Careers for you to try: Guru, CEO, Talk Show Host
Congrats to the Wild Boars girls' ice hockey team, which captured the New England championship this afternoon, defeating Noble and Greenough School 5-2 in the final round.
The Marriott Surf Club here in Aruba sure is a swell place. Because it's set up as a time-share property, the units are fully furnished with complete kitchens, full living and dining rooms spaces, laundry facilities, etc. There's a marketplace right downstairs to stock the kitchen. The beach is beautiful and the multiple pools are clearly the centerpiece of the resort (although the poolside bar is an interesting concept, in that I've always thought that alcohol and swimming were not the best things to mix together). One of the pools is essentially a river, with a strong current that pulls you around an artificial island as you float your troubles away. The only critique I have is the resort's incessant soundtrack. This place pipes what I'd call "elevator music" all over the grounds, except that all the familiar radio-friendly tunes are performed exclusively by steel drum bands. It was cute at first, but after three days of this tropical treacle, I am about ready to go postal.
At the end of the month--March 30, to be exact--I'll pick up my new school-issued laptop, which will be a MacBook. This means I'm turning in my Dell Inspiron and cutting my use of Wintel machines to about nil. (Of course, I've asked the IT folks at school to load Windows on my new Intel chip Mac, so I'll have the best of both worlds.)
I'm enjoying the latest Daniel Silva spy novel, The Messenger, featuring the adventures of Gabriel Allon, an art restorer who is secretly an Israeli assassin. It's about the sixth in a series of novels featuring this character.
Since 24 and Heroes are airing at the same time--10 p.m. here in Aruba, which is an hour ahead of East Coast time--I had to choose which one to watch live. Then I remembered I bought a Season Pass for 24 on iTunes while I was in Australia, so I'll watch the NBC show now and check out the adventures of Jack Bauer when the episode downloads tomorrow.
I was planning to watch Prison Break in the time slot before, but I realized in the first minute of the show that I had not seen the previous episode, in spite of watching what I thought were the last two shows earlier in the day. So I have to download last week's episode of that show, as well as tonight's, to get current.
At the end of last night's airing of Heroes, NBC ran a short clip from the upcoming Spider-Man 3 flick, then announced there would be seven more minutes of footage posted on the NBC website for the next 24 hours. So I watched it this morning. The clip was basically the fight scene between Peter Parker and the new Green Goblin, Harry Osborne (formerly Peter's best friend). I think this is set in the beginning of the movie (as there are supposed to be two other villains--Sandman and Venom--on tap for the major story). At any rate, the action sequence featured some amazing visuals. I am looking forward to this movie.
Oh, the things I'll do for 15,000 Marriott Rewards points!
This being a time-share resort, the sales staff invited me to an exclusive 90-minute tour and presentation on the benefits of "fractional ownership." Spending this time would earn me the aforementioned points (and my mom would get bonus points, too, as my "referrer").
Anyway, after nearly three-and-a-half hours in which my host was determined to get my signature on a commitment, I finally escaped unscathed. I had to make up all kinds of stories about why this was a really bad time for me to make an investment. Of course, the sentimental sap I am, I actually felt guilty about the salesman not closing then deal.
The local language here in Aruba is Papiamento, which is a curious patiche of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and a smattering of West African tongues and English words. It's also spoken in Bonaire and Curaçao. But virtually everyone speaks English fluently, too, so tourists have no problem here.
To get out of the sun for a while this afternoon, I digested two entertaining Kevin Smith Q&A sessions--one in Toronto and another in London--in this international sequel to An Evening With Kevin Smith. (Look up the easter eggs for these DVDs online if you watch them.)
Just got in from the morning tennis clinic on the Marriott courts--an hour of light drilling and an informal doubles round-robin. It's nice to be back on the courts after a layoff of nearly five months. There's something truly satisfying in simply finding the sweet spot and hitting the ball well. What's different here is the incessant wind, a bit frustrating when one is trying find his service timing after being away from the game for a while.
Apparently, Aruba's primary agricultural export over time has been aloe--which is a pretty handy thing to grow locally, given all the sunburned bodies I see around these parts.
As an unabashed fan of all things Ricky Gervais--I loved the original British version of The Office and have listened to all the episodes of his podcasts--my initial reaction to the Extras series when it first aired on HBO was mild disappointment. But having seen the entire second season and now taking in the first six episodes again (and the hilarious gag reels) on DVD, it's really quite good.
. . . is the tag line on the license plates here. I'll miss the warm weather, the tropical breezes, and the friendly people. I won't miss hearing "Stand By Me" on the steel drums multiple times a day!
The flight back to Miami was uneventful (though actor Mickey Rooney was sitting up in first class, but no one else seemed to recognize him). The traffic on I-95 up to Boynton Beach was no picnic, but the Alamo office in Miami had an automatic check-in kiosk where, after scanning your credit card and driver's license, you could basically zip through the usual car rental rigamarole quickly and without a wait.
Since I've been an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time for the past week, I'll keep my watch (and my biological clock) set there so that when Daylight Savings Time kicks in tomorrow night, I'll be there waiting.
I am getting into the second season of HBO's The Wire on DVD. This is a terrific show, as good as its press.
Off to the Fort Lauderdale airport this morning for a brief flight over to Tampa to meet members of the Choate tennis team for a week of training at Saddlebrook resort.
Back at the Saddlebrook resort for the first time in two years (last year, Choate Tennis went to China over spring break). I've been coming here most years since 1990, aside from about a five year period beginning in the late 1990s when the team went out to Indian Wells, California. The resort itself is more or less unchanged (though wireless Internet access has been a welcome recent addition). What has changed is that Tampa has continued to spread out. Wesley Chapel used to be pretty remote from the city itself, but one doesn't have to travel very far to find the usual Florida-type sprawl of shopping centers and malls.
No Sci-Fi Channel among the offerings here at Saddlebrook, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to download tonight's Battlestar Galactica on iTunes. Also, you would think a tennis-oriented place like this might have The Tennis Channel, too, but no such luck. This means I'll have to wait until Wednesday for my pro tennis fix, when ESPN2 picks up coverage of the Indian Wells event.
At least there are a handful of HBOs to pick from!
I drove all over the area for about thirty minutes, trying in vain to locate a copy of today's The New York Times. Now that I am back in the States for good, I am trying to re-establish my daily newspaper habits (I subscribe to the Times and USA Today at home.) While I did have USA Today waiting at my doorstep this morning here in the resort, you would think the nation's pre-eminent newspaper might be available for purchase somewhere in this county!
This is an amusing mash-up of Dr. Seuss lyrics presented in the style of a mid-'60s Bob Dylan album: click here.
Turns out they carry The New York Times in the resort gift shop here at Saddlebrook.
Team trip to the movies tonight, where we saw 300, the adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel about King Leonidas and 300 Spartans taking on Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Terrific eye candy, which--like Sin City before it--faithfully captured Miller's visuals.
. . . well this month, anyway, that U2 released The Joshua Tree, the album that shot the band into the musical stratosphere. Hard to believe it was that long ago! I remember the 1987 tour announcement. I worked the autodial on the phone one Saturday morning in Andover, Massachusetts, trying to get tickets to no avail. But when I moved to Connecticut at the end of the summer, one of the students in my dorm had two tickets to the Boston Garden show but no way to get there. I had a car!
A recent Choate alum--who shall remain nameless--sent me this note some weeks back:
you were right. kerry was the better candidate in 2004 but hindsight is 20/20 and i was wrong at the time.
i said it
Give 'em time and most of them will see the light.
The fact that the numbers 2 and 3 ranked players in the world won their quarterfinal matches at Indian Wells yesterday means tomorrow we will be treated to a semifinal showdown between Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick. Strangely, the two have not played since December 2004. Their head-to-head record is 1-1, with the American winning in the U.S. Open and the Spaniard prevailing on clay in the Davis Cup final. This ought to be a great match to watch.
I spent much of the afternoon out at the practice courts watching the pros work out: James Blake, Martina Hingis, and the Bryan brothers--all of whom lost early out in Indian Wells--were tuning up their games before heading down to Miami for the next major event next week.
My dad always told me there were two types of people in the world: the Irish and those who want to be Irish. Happy St. Patrick's Day to both!
I am sitting in the Tampa airport (thanks for the free wireless Internet access!) about to board my flight to Hartford. Today was a spectacular day: a cloudless blue sky and a perfect temperature. I am steeling myself for the ice and cold that awaits me.
I returned to a Connecticut that is under a blanket of snow. (Note to self: though Crocs are convenient to wear through airports and on planes, they are really bad in a foot of snow when retrieving one's car.) The temperature tonight is below freezing, too. The winter I have been trying to avoid since December is still here.
Rafael Nadal gave Andy Roddick a lesson in yesterday's semifinal (which concluded conveniently before I had to head to the Tampa airport) and fended off up-and-comer Novak Djokovic in today's final to win his first title since Roland Garros last June.
The young Spaniard had been on a tear through 2005 and the first half 2006, earning a slew of tournament wins. He made it to the Wimbledon final in something of a surprise run last July, too, before hitting something of a slump (albeit a "slump" that any player in the world other than perhaps Roger Federer would have loved to have).
Good to see Rafa back in the winner's circle. Maybe a showdown with Federer is in the cards down in Miami in the next event on the circuit?
We'll likely see a rematch of Nadal-Roddick in the Davis Cup tie in North Carolina in a few weeks time, too. Hopefully for the U.S. squad, Blake and Roddick will bring their "A" games, for Nadal is clearly a force to be reckoned with on the hard courts again.
Well, the sabbatical is over now. This afternoon I head to a faculty professional development workshop, the students return to campus tonight, and then spring term classes are up and running tomorrow morning.
Outsiders that I have tried to explain this "sabbatical leave" concept to seem to conclude it's a fantastic perk that is the same as a long vacation. It's not really. It's true that most of my four-month leave, I've been able to enjoy days in which my time is relatively unstructured, or at least time that I've structured the way I've wanted it. But the broader goal of a sabbatical is really to expand one's horizons. I've tried to accomplish through mostly through travelling to parts of the world I haven't seen before. Hopefully I come back to work refreshed, reivigorated, and perhaps even a better teacher and person than when I left.
Four years into our misadventure in Iraq, it's clear this war is a disaster. The perception of the United States around the world has been diminished. Our ham-handed approach to the war has emboldened our enemies (Iran, North Korea) and given fresh motivation to those who would do us harm throughout the Middle East. We have diverted resources that would have been far better utilized against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The American people have lost faith in their government and in the media, all guilty of far too readily buying into what we now know to be bogus reasons for war. The long-term prospects for the U.S. economy are in the toilet now. And the loss of life in our armed forces and among Iraqi civilians has been catastrophic.
And now the president--in his news conference today--asks for patience?
Expect infrequent blogging the next couple of weeks as I ease back into my daily routine. I will need time to get caught up on correspondence and projects after four months away. I'll keep up the daily song recommendations, though.
My Dell Inspiron is gone and in its place is a shiny new black MacBook, courtesy of my employer. Sweet!