Monday, November 15, 2004

Remember that guy I mentioned two weeks ago who's in Australia via the same work abroad program we'll soon jettison off on? Turns out the Miami Herald gave the doofus a travel column.

As the online edition requires registration, I'll post his first entry below. Enjoy.

22 years old, and soon to be a man of the world

A Gulliverian Traveler explains how he's counting on his wit to propel him around the globe. First stop: Australia.



Special to The Herald
Posted on Sun, Nov. 14, 2004

Apparently, at some point during my fairly expensive educational process, I was never informed of the true size of Australia. I've always assumed I could drive south to north in three hours or so, and maybe five or six to get east to west.

This apparently is a rather egregious error, as Australia is in fact about the size of the U.S. Who woulda thought? I just assumed that when people said, ''If you think the weather in Sydney's too chilly, you should go north to Brisbane, the water will be much better,'' it was some sort of weird Gulf Stream that made the water super hot only an hour's drive north. I'm not really sure why I was under this impression, but apparently I am also the only person who thought this, and well, I just feel silly.

Hello, and greetings from the other side of the world. As I write this, you are all sleeping soundly in your beds while I enjoy another Australian afternoon. You may be wondering who I am and what I'm here to sell you, so I guess we'd better get to that.

Who I am: Andrew Smith, 22, a Miamian (Coconut Grovite to be precise) my entire life who recently began traveling the world.

What I'm here to sell you: Similar, random, and hopefully somewhat humorous thoughts, as written in the first paragraph, about my upcoming travels throughout the world. They are intended to do nothing more meaningful than to make your day just a bit more enjoyable.

WHAT LED TO THIS

How I got here: I graduated from the Gulliver Schools in Miami, then moved on to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Last May I graduated with a bachelors degree in systems engineering (by which you will understand that I'm a huge nerd). I am your typical college kid, studying hard, drinking harder and just making the best of things.

I enjoyed Charlottesville and have loved Miami (Columbus Day Regatta, King Mango Strut, South Beach, what more can you ask for?) my whole life. But . . . I still wanted more.

So in college, I started traveling, doing a summer abroad program in Valencia, Spain, and knocking around to other parts of the Mediterranean. While I was there, I sent home lighthearted e-mails to a small group of people with my thoughts on such weighty matters as the unfairness of bullfights (my solutions: make it six bulls against one matador, or remove the exits in the bull ring so the fighters cannot leave until the fight is over) and how a common criminal could rob the city blind during a full country work strike -- during siesta time.

Over the next year, I picked up another following of people and continued my writing, and eventually my fourth year at college I began writing humor (at least I laughed) columns for the UVA newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, about everyday college life. (Example: ''Losing my ATM card is easily one of the better things that's happened lately. What a great way to save money. I'm too lazy to go to the bank to cash a check, and I have like $5 total left from my last withdrawal, so I just don't spend anything for the next two weeks.'') Just fun things to amuse people for the sole reason of amusing people.

When I graduated this year, I decided to keep sending similarly styled e-mails out to friends, family and others while I travel. They are intended to give me a release mentally and allow me to try to provide bits of sunshine to my Miami and UVA friends who are currently out in the real world working hard while in the prime of their lives.

And to you, via The Herald's travel section in print and online. Beginning next week, Nov. 21, an excerpt from my weekly e-mail will appear on page 2J, the second page of Travel. (An excerpt from my first e-mail appears on this page; the full e-mail is posted at www.herald.com/travel.)

The main thing that has led me to where I am now, which is not working a real world job 40 hours a week, is my desire to not be working a real world job 40 hours a week.

FORGET REAL LIFE

There we were, three friends at school sometime around a year or so ago, thinking, ''Well, we've all worked summer jobs, and we know we can actually have full-time jobs and accept that, and we know that we could get really good jobs with our engineering degrees, but do we really want to do that?'' Of course not. What we wanted to do was travel the world, see some kangaroos, try to locate the real General Tsao in China and figure out if his food was as delicious as it is back home and to find Carmen Sandiego.

So we -- Craig Eberhardt of Top Sail, N.C., Jon Hill of White Plains, N.Y. and I -- put together a plan, worked two jobs each this past summer, obtained some student work visas in Australia (silly Australians, never gonna know what hit them) and bought some plane tickets. Our plan: Spend four months working in Australia (the max our visas allow), then travel 'til the money runs out.

STARTED IN L.A.

Which brings us to present day.

We began our adventures in Los Angeles briefly followed by a week in Fiji, and are now in Manly, Australia, just across the harbor from Sydney, living, working (that would be waiting tables) and playing chess. Errr, that was a typo: drinking beer. Stupid auto-correct. We will be leaving here in February to continue traveling (i.e., sampling beers from around the world) to Thailand, Hong Kong, China, India, parts of Africa, most of Western Europe, hopefully a little South America and maybe at some point make it back to the States. Oh, and a stop in Baghdad and North Korea if we have time.

So anyway, these traveling thoughts are meant for everyone, so I hope you enjoy them, and if you do not, feel free to come to Australia and let me know.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I almost put this link into a post below about creatures in Australia, but then thought better of it. This old fish, of Hemmingway proportion not in size but in age, deserves his own discussion.

From the article:

Meanwhile, Granddad, an Australian lungfish who was brought to the Shedd back in April 1933 to attract visitors during the World's Fair, was being ignored (by visitors). True, he performs no flashy party tricks in his corner tank. But he has the sweetest disposition anyone could ask for in a fish: He has worked for more than 70 years without taking a sick day, and, in addition to being a member of an order that is more than 370 million years old, he is, the Shedd says, "the oldest aquatic animal in a public aquarium in the world."Clearly, we live in a time in which age counts for little.


Friday, November 05, 2004

A great article from Newsweek detailing problems during the Kerry campaign trail.

Howard Dean must be a sad man, these days, to know that he lost to Kerry, a candidate so fraught with a war voting record that was easily-attackable and a campaign that incurred many problems.

Although those Yahoo! commercials he's doing are quite hilarious -- maybe that was his plan all along.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Eric Zorn's response to Bush's election:


A PLACE CALLED HOPE

Twenty months ago I chose to put my trust in President Bush and hoped that he was right – that we'd reached the point where the threat posed by Iraq was so serious that it called for the solution of last resort -- a military attack.

I came to regret and disavow that choice.

And now, more than 1,100 American deaths and one quagmire later, it appears that I'm in the position once again of having to hope that Bush is right – that his approach to fighting international terrorism is the best approach, the one that, long-term, will result in maximum liberty and minimum loss of innocent life.

My hope this time is not accompanied by either trust or a sense of choice, but it is a hope.

Those of us who feel there is a better way had our turn at the polls Tuesday, and we lost.

(I wasn't in denial in the wee hours last night about acknowledging in this space the drift of these results, by the way. The Tribune is among the many news organizations that are very cautious about calling races.)

President Bush has won a second term.

Now he gets four more years to try to be a uniter not a divider, to increase respect for the United States throughout the world, to reduce the threat from Islamic fundamentalists who practice terror, to put more people back to work, to improve health care and extend educational opportunities to the disadvantaged, to stanch the flow of red ink in the Federal budget, to protect the environment and to do all the other things he promised he'd do.

Republican President Bush will enjoy a Republican Senate, a Republican House, Republican appointees in seven of the nine Supreme Court justice seats, 29 Republican governors and virtually 24/7 support from right-wing talk radio to help him realize those promises and confirm the beliefs of his supporters.

Credit and blame for what happens in this country and to this country in the upcoming years will belong to him and his party.

Speaking for myself, I'll be happy to apportion both and trust that they will accept it honestly.

They begged the electorate to give them responsibility. Well, they've got it:

Opportunity. Responsibility and that ol' devil Accountability.

No more blaming Dan Rather, Tom Daschle or the homosexual agenda when things go wrong.

No more bleating about what President Clinton did to the economy and a White House intern and didn't do to Osama bin Laden.

Some of my e-mail this morning has been taunting and ugly – celebrating the Bush victory by inviting me to eat crow and do anatomically impossible things.

But winning an election does not demonstrate the superiority of your principles and programs; it's merely a chance to do so.

To the old saying that the only poll that matters is the poll taken inside the voting booth on election day, I'd add that the only vote that matters is the vote ultimately cast by history.

I have more doubts than hopes about what history will say about George W. Bush. So does about 48 percent of the electorate.

The doubts will inspire our vigilance. The hopes will get us through.