Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cruisin'

We are home recovering from our cruise. I've been working ten-hour days every day since we made landfall. I figured everyone worked extra hours to cover for me, so now I'm giving everyone else as much of a break as I can. I may have overestimated my abilities....

The cruise was a blast, as all cruises are (other than the occasional diarrhea cruise, which thank God we have avoided so far). We drove over to Miami a couple days early and booked a hotel in Brickell that was basically walking distance from the port. Our first day there (Thursday), we ventured out to find some food. The front desk guy basically told us to just start walking straight down the road until we found whatever we were looking for. We ended up in a Brazilian restaurant where no one spoke English. (If you ever find yourself in a "foreign" restaurant where the entire staff and clientele are Americans, RUN!) As is standard these days, there were TV's everywhere. I'm not sure when people became so addicted to screens that there has to be a TV hanging on every available inch of wall in every building, but I've accepted that the battle is already lost.

And get off my lawn!

Ahem. What was on the TV's had us cracking up the entire time we were there. It was some bizarre telenovela that combined Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Pirates of the Caribbean with some Mayan Vampires thrown in. I'm pretty sure that even if we spoke Portuguese or Spanish or whatever language it was in, it still would have made absolutely no sense to us. But it was still fun watching the crazy jump-cuts between a 16th-century British country house, a pirate ship, and Mayan human sacrifice while eating dinner.

The next day (Friday), we jumped on a van that took us to a bus that dropped us on an air boat that did a lot of this:


We were in the front of the boat, which steers from the rear, so it was like riding on a bar of soap. I was holding the camera pointed straight ahead the entire time (except when I had to throw it behind me to keep it from getting drenched with the water coming in over the side). So yea, the parts where it looks like I'm pointing the camera out the side of the boat? That was when the boat was going sideways. Which was most of the time. We only saw a couple small alligators because it was too hot out even for cold-blooded reptiles. The park has some captive breeding going on, so we wandered around a bit checking that out. At one point, we both felt the hair on our necks stand up. We turned around to this:


It's an odd feeling to have something sizing you up for lunch....

When we got back to Miami, the bus dumped us off right outside Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, so we headed in for dinner where I got revenge on that croc by munching on some of his cousins. We wandered the waterfront a bit, listened to some jazz, then hopped on the people-mover-thingy to our hotel and crashed. It sucks not being able to handle the sun and living in Florida of all places. Maybe we should move to Seattle.

Saturday was All Aboard!! the Carnival Vista for fun and frolics. This is our first mega-ship, the flagship of the Carnival line. The upside was that I had the best mac-n-cheese EVAAAAAR! Unfortunately, there was a lot to be disappointed in, like a lack of staff and too many people in too small of a space. There were the same number of stairwells and elevators as there are in ships half the size, so getting anywhere was a royal pain. Room stewards only hit the rooms once a day instead of twice. Takes forever to get food in some areas. The buffet had limited selection. Even main dining was a disappointment unless you wanted to pay an upcharge for the "specialty meals". All of which is supposed to entice (force?) people into the "specialty dining restaurants" that cost extra. I know it's a first-world problem, but it just isn't what I expect from a cruise. And the ship is just over a year old, and some of the public areas are already looking tired. I realize that sea air is hard on everything, and that people, especially the low-brow types that are drawn to Carnival, are even harder on things. But, as we were reminded 50 times a day, we were on the Flagship of the Fleet. I would expect a little extra effort from the maintenance department.

And the rocking. A ship can only be so wide and so long and still be able to use standard port facilities, so they keep making them taller. Any wind or swells whatsoever and it's rocky-rock, rocky-rock, rocky-rock. Kinda makes you wonder about the stability of the thing if it ever encounters serious weather. I know the cruise lines are very good about ducking and dodging around storms, but stuff happens.

And even the cruise director was making jokes about how crappy the theater was. Flat seating on the main floor? How many fractions of a percent did that brilliant move save on the construction costs? And don't even get me started on the stupid little drink tables screwed into the arms of the seats. They are right where your arm goes, which means that every last one of them is bent, making them completely useless as drink tables. But some ass-hat in management won't allow the maintenance guys to just get rid of the useless things. And thanks to giant pillars all over the place, about half the seats have no view of the stage. The cruise director offered to meet us there at midnight with sledge hammers for a little "repair party". I'm not sure he was actually joking.

But. And this is a very big "but".

The crew was great. They ran themselves half to death trying to get everything done without enough staff, always smiling, knew us by name after the first day, etc. And our favorite place on the ship was listening to Elizabeth in the piano bar. In our comments to the cruise line, we told them that "Elizabeth is a goddess and should be allowed to drive the ship." I'm not sure that's going to happen, but if it does and you're reading this, Elizabeth, give us a couple short blasts on the horn, K? And the Debbie Frost Whip dance craze will live forever. (Sometime when my post isn't already tl;dr, I'll explain that.)

The first day was taken up with boarding and getting settled, then a full day of sailing. We woke up Monday morning in Grand Turks. We didn't bother getting off the ship because a) we've been there before, and b) other than sitting on the beach or sitting in the bar/restaurant at the end of the pier, there really wasn't much to see. So we stayed on board and enjoyed short lines for things like the buffet and the SkyRide.




Next on the itinerary was La Romana in the Dominican Republic. We went through the Cueva de las Maravillas National Park. As is now typical, no photos are allowed in the cave due to concerns about blinding the bats and damaging the cave paintings. Of course, the Googles has 'em. The description of the shore excursion had some blah-blah-blah about steps. What we should have noticed was the number of steps. During the entire cave tour, you are going deeper and deeper in.  When you exit, you are greeted by a single staircase of some 200+ steps. We stopped about two-thirds the way to the top to try to breathe. Some young snot with his LL Bean Hiking Shorts (tm) and his LL Bean Hiking Stick (tm) and his LL Bean Hiking Boots (tm) that still had the tags attached says, "Oh, we're taking a break?" Yea, ya little shit, 'cause as soon as I can stop panting, I'm gonna toss your scrawny ass back down to the bottom of the stairs. Which I totally would have said to him, except I was busy trying to get enough oxygen to my brain so I could see.

After that we headed up to Altos de Chavon, a replication of a 16th Mediterranean village. It had steps. Not as many as the cave, but too many.



Debbie wanted me to climb down to the bottom of the amphitheater for a photo. I told her, "You first!"


Nice place to just hang out, but other than a gift shop and a guy charging to have your picture taken with his donkey, I'm not sure what really goes on there.

Next up: Aruba. The short version; Central Arizona with iguanas. After the whole Stairmaster routine the day before, we were looking for something easy, so we took an island bus tour. The first stop wasn't bad, just some uneven ground. And no steps.


Then the second stop was a giant boulder with these:


Not just steps, but irregular, uneven, crooked, stone steps.

And then this:


And this:


And then back to the ship.

In Curacao, we did another cave. This one was privately owned rather than a national park, but they had done a good job developing the cave. It was a much smaller and younger cave system than the one in the Dominican Republic. Very few full columns, but still a very nice cave. The best part was the guide shutting off all the lights when we were in the back of the cave. Always a good time for anyone who hadn't been in a cave before. Which included Debbie. I thought that she had been in a cave when she was a kid, but that must have been one of my other wives.... Again, no photos allowed and, likely because it's a private cave, I can't find any online. I do have a picture of (you guessed it) stairs!



The next stop was an ostrich farm. This little guy is the only chick that survived this year. They don't know what happened. Probably some sort of virus. Blood and tissue went out to various labs with the hope that they can come up with some sort of vaccine that can be given to the adult birds which will give immunity to next year's brood.


The babies are cute. The adults... well....


So after all that, it was two days at sea that consisted mostly of sleeping, eating and hanging out with the Goddess Elizabeth in the piano bar.

Then, back to reality....

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Busy, Busy, Busy

I think this is like the dozenth post with that title, but what can I say? We are.

I have a new job at the lodge. The administrator went back to his old job outside the lodge. He is still the administrator, but now I'm the Office/Social Quarters Manager. I also have a new assistant so I don't have to be there 7 days a week. More pay, longer hours and more headaches, mostly people bitching about the administrator not being at the lodge basically 24/7. I've already had to tell several people (in varying degrees of my not-nice voice) that they can either tell me what they want or they can just suck it up. Sheesh. Old people.

To add to the fun and games, the Annual Moose International Convention was held in Tampa this year. Someone had the bright idea of running four vans between the convention center and our lodge from noon to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yea. That turned out just about how you would expect. Actually, it was a nice financial shot in the arm for the lodge in the midst of our summer doldrums, and given the amount of alcohol consumed, it didn't go too badly. Trying to train a new guy while learning a new job myself with sheer bedlam right outside the door and even right at my desk was... interesting. I think I got about 10 hours of sleep over the three days. Nearly two weeks later, we are still cleaning up the last of the debris.

On the CLL front, my white cell count is going the wrong way, but my hemo guy insists that all is well and other numbers indicate the drug is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. If you say so, dude. It's not like you have a Plan B, so what else are you going to say? Physically, I'm the same; tired all the damn time, open sores and rashes popping up at random (mostly on the right side of my body, which is really odd...). I've gotten outside to take a wack at the six months of junk piled up all over the place, but I just can't be out there for very long without feeling like I'm gong to black out. Of course the 90-100 degree heat may have something to do with that.

Oh, and because we don't have enough other stuff going on, we finally got the plumber and tile guys out here and completely ripped out the bathroom and all the plumbing and replaced everything:

While we were at it, we had the old kitchen sink taken out and replaced with a deeper one, a new faucet and a water filter.

Bathroom floor.

New sink top to replace the 1970's gold marble (that "matched" the original green shag carpet).

Front of the shower stall.

Back of the shower stall. The seat is more of a perch; one cheek at a time ONLY please.
We only had to spend one night down at my parents and only had to use the park bathhouse for showers a couple times. The tile people and the plumber dude did a good job of leaving the place livable at the end of the day. We still have to replace the 1970's antique brass faux-Gothic towel rod, hand towel hanger and toilet paper holder. We are also replacing the light fixture and the mirror and medicine cabinet. Then the last step will be to peel off the old-people wallpaper boarder around the top of the room and painting the room something other than old-people beige.

Well, I probably should go get dinner started.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Happy Fourth of July

A couple days late. Sue me.


Edited to add this (which relates the first one):



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Adam West RIP

First Gene Cernan and now Batman. Are there any heroes left?

Adam West died on Friday, June 9th. I realize West did a great deal more than just play Batman for a couple years. I was only three or four years old on the the show's first run, so I probably remember them when they were reruns on Channel 50, when it was operated by Kaiser Broadcasting. It was pretty cheesy stuff, even back then, but I was hooked. It doesn't matter how many posers have tried to play Batman since, Adam West will always be THE BATMAN.

I love this:


I assume this was West's idea. Someone who played himself on such shows as The Simpsons and Family Guy probably didn't take himself very seriously.

Speaking of fallen icons, America's "Newspaper of Record" has about as much credibility as that former mainstay of American journalism, The Weekly World News. This is from an article written by comedian Lee Camp demolishing a Times article about himself:

This past Thursday the New York Times vomited up a hit piece on little ol’ me – a guy who has been doing stand-up comedy for nearly 20 years and thought maybe that comedy could be used to inform and inspire audiences, rather than just make fun of the differences between men and women.

At first when you’re the center of a smear job, you’re annoyed and frustrated. But as I read further through the piece, I realized it was a master class in how to write propaganda for one of the most “respected” news outlets in our country. I’m actually grateful it was written about me because now I can see with my own eyes exactly how the glorious chicanery is done. I count no less than 15 lies, manipulations, and false implications in this short article, a score that even our fearless prevaricator-in-chief Donald Trump would envy.

So here now is a “How To” for writing propaganda for the New York Times – using the smear piece against me as an example.

It really is worth it to take five minutes and read the entire article. 

Personal update:

I'm back to a sort-of normal. I cannot do any real physical activity for more than a few minutes, and I can't take direct sun at all. But I'm able to get to work and make it back home to watch TV, so that makes me better off than most of our neighbors. I'm on some drug that Johnson & Johnson thinks is worth $110 a pill wholesale. (At three pills a day, that comes to $10,000/month.) Of course, I'm not paying that. In fact, I'm not paying anything. J&J has a program for poor sots like me so I can get it for free. When I read up on the drug's side effects, I wondered if I would even be able to continue working. But so far, they've been mild to the point of non-existent. In fact, I'm wondering if the stuff is even working as many of the side effects are the result of the destruction and flushing of all the defective white blood cells floating around in my bloodstream. My last round of blood work was inconclusive; the blood work I had done today will show if I'm one of the lucky few who will not experience any of the common side effects, or if I'm one of the unlucky few for whom the drug does nothing. I have no idea what happens if it's the latter. Everyone seems to have placed all my eggs in one basket.

Central Florida had one of the worst droughts ever over the winter. The wet season seemed like it would never get here. Most of our plants were dead or nearly so; even some of the trees in the woods behind us died completely. About two weeks ago, we finally got some rain. Now we wish we were back in the drought. So far, flooding has been minimal because the ground is so dry, most of the water is soaking in as fast as it can come down. But that won't last forever. The good news is that most of our plants came back. We lost a few and I will likely replace a couple others that are so beat down and deformed that even if they recover, they will never be anything but ugly. I'll do a little trimming and give them one last chance, then if they don't shape up it's off to the compost bin.

Well, that's all I have for now.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

This Place Sucks

If you want to know why where you live sucks dead bunnies and, more importantly, why you can't even force yourself to care that it sucks dead bunnies, watch this:



Someday I'll post some pictures from around town. Which sucks.