aVisitToPuertoRico

A Visit to Puerto Rico

Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of a babymoon. The basic idea is that an expecting couple takes a trip to a relaxing, ideally beachy destination to revel in each other’s company and stock up on sleep before the arrival of a child. It also gives a very pregnant mom the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the water where the invisible hand of gravity doesn’t press quite so hard.

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It was on this manner of errand that my wife and I repaired to Puerto Rico for a week. In addition to lots of swimming, reading, chatting, watching US Open tennis, and lazing around, we also went on two excursions. The first was into Old San Juan, a charming old city easily covered by foot. The buildings lent a seductive European flavor to the area, while the drowsiness of late summer kept most of the tourist hordes at bay.

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The second outing proved less sedate. We zipped off in a rental car toward Jayuya, the highways giving way to back roads and then to back-back-roads and then to roads that seemed not to be roads at all. Our local guide, Google Maps, seemed unconcerned that Route 530 was little more than two strips of dirt running through the meadow of an abandoned farm. We picked our way through the landscape as softball-sized rocks clattered off the undercarriage of our rented vehicle.

After a mile of this, it seemed foolish to turn around and subject ourselves to the same punishment, so we pushed on into a rutted, muddy track that wound up through a wood. Like a hero in an old book, I asked my pregnant wife to walk ahead and roll away the larger rocks and branches so that our car could safely pass. Even then, there were moments when it seemed we could progress no further.

Finally, we rounded the last bend and found… a chain across the drive, blocking our access to the paved roadway beyond. Proving the theorem that two wrongs can make a right, we decided to prop up the chain as best we could with a bamboo pole on one side and my wife on the other, wrapping that chain in our clothes so as not to scratch the roof as we eased the car under. It was quite a sight, or would have been if anyone else was around.

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This concluded the most adventurous part of our drive, though there were still several hours of rain-drenched, impossibly steep, and sharply curving roads ahead to fray the nerves. In between, we sampled fresh coffee at a plantation and visited a couple out-of-the-way museums. One told the tale of the island’s very brief uprising in the name of independence, promptly quashed by American bombs. The other was devoted to the native culture, which we follow up with a swim in a river, surrounded by Taíno petroglyphs carved into the boulders. When lightning and rain came, we climbed out of the water and lay there, savoring the cool drops falling from above and the sun-baked rock warming us from below.

It was a good trip.

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footballPredictions2

English Premier League Predictions 2014-2015

Another season of association football is upon us, which calls for another helping of painfully naive predictions. Like many others, I struggle to look past Chelsea for this year’s title, who have strengthened well enough that even Jose Mourinho claims to have no excuse for failure, an unprecedented occurrence that should strike fear into the hearts of rivals. In Cesc Fabregas, they have a wonderful player who Barcelona fans mysteriously failed to embrace, despite scoring better than a goal every three games and providing plenty of ammunition to Messi & co. Manchester United still look lightweight compared to their rivals, while Arsenal are buoyed by their capture of the aforementioned Sanchez, a fine player who nevertheless won’t make quite as much of an impact as Gunners fans hope. Read on for a look into the future of the final standings and key players come May 2015.

  1. Chelsea (Fabregas)
  2. Manchester City (Toure)
  3. Arsenal (Ramsey)
  4. Liverpool (Sterling)
  5. Manchester United (Rooney)
  6. Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen)
  7. Everton (Baines)
  8. Newcastle (Siem de Jong)
  9. Southampton (Tadic)
  10. Stoke City (Moses)
  11. Swansea City (Williams)
  12. Aston Villa (Weimann)
  13. Queens Park Rangers (Rémy)
  14. Sunderland (Larsson)
  15. West Ham (Nolan)
  16. West Bromwich Albion (Foster)
  17. Crystal Palace (Campbell)
  18. Hull City (Ince)
  19. Leicester City (Ulloa)
  20. Burnley (Ings)

Bonus predictions:

  • Champions League: Real Madrid
  • Spain: Barcelona
  • Germany: Bayern Munich
  • Italy: Juventus
  • France: PSG

 

presidentialLibraries

Map of Presidential Libraries

I recently had a chance to visit the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. A platinum LEED building, it’s certainly worth the tour if you should ever find yourself in town. Out of curiosity, I plotted all of the presidential libraries on a Google Geochart, which illustrates how heavily they’re clustered in the eastern half of the United States.

briefHistoryOfBookClub

A Brief History of Book Club

My book club has met each month for over three years. Though it started in February of 2010, I only became a member after moving to the District of Columbia in 2011. Since then, we’ve read: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor After Rain by William Trevor Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar Waiting by Ha Jin A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. by Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes The Fault in Our Stars by John Green What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander Blue Nights by Joan Didion Swamplandia! by Karen Russell Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter Tenth of December by George Saunders The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes The Manhattan Transfer by John dos Passos The Round House by Louise Erdrich The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri These books account for the vast majority of my reading, given my other projects and ways I choose to spend my free time. As a group, we tend to pick a lot of contemporary, literary fiction novels, though I’ve advocated successfully for short story collections, older classics, and non-fiction. Judging by the lukewarm response to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I’m not sure everyone appreciates those deviations.Book Club I’ve thoroughly enjoyed gathering to share perspectives on what we read. Though the group is mostly female and, aside from me, all current or former teachers, opinions and insights are varied and the discussions are intellectually stimulating. Moreover, the book club has introduced me to fabulous authors like David Mitchell and George Saunders. Our meetings remain among the most anticipated items on my calendar.

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Nine Earworms for October 2013

There is so much great new music these days from the likes of Lucius, The National and Phoenix. With the cooler weather and changing colors, it’s also a fine time to revisit some older stuff that still stands up. Here are nine songs I’ve been listening to these lately, and I hope you enjoy them, too.

  1. Lucius – Tempest
  2. Townes Van Zandt – When She Doesn’t Need Me
  3. Iron & Wine – Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
  4. The Strokes – Under the Cover of Darkness
  5. Phoenix – Entertainment
  6. Felice Brothers – Whiskey in My Whiskey
  7. Delta Spirit – The Flood
  8. The Rosewood Thieves – Honey, Stay Awhile
  9. The National – HumiliationOctober Earworms

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