Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some Days You Can't Even Give It Away

Not you, Dawson, the waterbed!

It seemed nobody wanted the beautiful solid oak waterbed with a bookcase headboard and huge drawers under the mattress.We offered it first to family members, they didn't want it. Nor did friends. Hey, it's not like we are trying to sell it for money. It's free if somebody will take it away.

We hear that maybe a friend of a friend will take it. He might want to use the wood to make shelves. He comes over with a van and a flatbed trailer. Takes the bed apart and loads it up. And as he backs out of the driveway the trailer goes onto the lawn and hits our mail box. He continues on, breaking off the post at gound-level. Next he runs over the mail box crushing it. He then drives off leaving the flattened mailbox in the street. This, after we gave him all this expensive lumber for free!

He doesn't remember hitting anything when he backed out. But immediately he offered me $50 to replace it. So I replaced the whole thing. And it cost about $50, so maybe he's done this before.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Draining The Waterbed

For a variety of reasons, mostly my bad knee, we have decided to get rid of the waterbed. And this week is when we are going to do it. We've used it for nearly 18 years, but recently I am having great trouble getting in and out of it and changing the sheets has become a big problem too. We want one of those new, Scandinavian type, firm foam beds they advertise on TV. It's "foam with a memory." Oh, if beds could talk! And not just remember.

Now, the first step is to drain the mattress, or as they say in the waterbed business -- the bladder. It's a firm-sided, California King in a beautiful solid oak frame with big drawers in the base. It is six feet wide by seven feet long. This differs from the regular king-sized mattress that's four inches wider and four inches shorter. Who comes up with these rules?

Anyway, the bed we have holds 2000 pounds of water, so carrying it out is not an option. I have purchased a plastic nozzle that you attach with a hose to the bed drain hole and the other end of the hose attaches to a faucet and somehow if you turn the faucet on the bed drains. Slowly.

The directions say it might take 90 minutes. It works! After two hours the bed seems as flat as it's going to get. There is still some water in it but it is now light enough to roll up and cart away to the backyard. Step one, done.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mel or Fidel?

The planet's editorial cartoonists have had a wonderful couple of weeks since Mel had too much to drink and Fidel landed in the hospital. Daryl Cagle, at his site, Professional Cartoonists Index, offers you the following collections (and many more):
Mel Gibson Cartoons
Castro's Condition

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Cruise, Day 3


Still at sea -- until early Tuesday morning. It is fun being lazy and having almost nothing to do. Between reading and naps we sit on the balcony of the Caribbean Princess and watch for whales. So far we have seen none. If we do see one it will break our all-time record.

Today's Princess Patter had dozens of activities for us to ignore, but actually we schedules two events. We went to see a production show, a matinee of Piano Man, in the Princess Theater, Fiesta Deck 6. The show was good and the production values fabulous. The theater is sleek with all the up-to-date lighting sound and special effects you expect in a Las Vegas show. Costumes were modest however. If the performers had any skin at all, we didn't see it. The cast of four singers and eight dancers did a great job and there was an excellent live band.

To get to and from the main entrance of the Princess Theater you have to walk through the Grand Casino. So, after the show it was time to spend some of the afternoon there playing video poker.

The other activity we planned was dinner in the Sterling Steakhouse on Promenade Deck 7. It is one of two cozy specialty resaurants on board that charcge extra for the extra service they claim to provide the guests. In this case it was $15.00 per person. We thought the steaks in the regular dining rooms were just as good. Very good in fact.

When I finish these daily accounts I will post the review we wrote for the ships' review page. It has more of our opinions about the food and drink on board. And lots more.

If you are planning a cruise the Cruise Critic site,, has dozens, maybe actually hundreds, of reviews written by happy and sometimes unhappy customers. Plus lots of things to know about taking a cruise, especially for the first-time cruiser.

Tomorrow we arrive in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

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The Cruise, Day 2


We got up early and had our coffee on our balcony. We had planned to sleep late but all that fresh sea air wakes you up. It's sunny and calm and you can't see any land at all. A blip on the far horizon turned out to be a huge barge pulled by a tug. The Caribbean Princess is moving right along. The TV channel from the bridge says we are doing 18 knots.

We brought our own coffee and a little coffeemaker -- and mugs and filters. We love New Orleans blend coffee and chicory, roasted dark. Before the cruise we had read that the coffee on board was not good at all, unless you wanted to buy gourmet coffee at the Patisserie down on Plaza Deck 5. In our opinion the rumors were not true at all. The coffee served in the dining rooms was fine as was that on tap to serve yourself in the buffets.

It was wonderful to have coffee in the room or on the balcony as soon as we got up and not have to wait for room service or a trip way upstairs to the Horizon Court buffet.

Fearing that two whole days at sea might turn out to be a little boring we loked for things to while we read the morning's Princess Patter and had our coffee. There were a lot of shipboard events to choose from.

First of all there was the guided tour of the ship at 9:45 A.M. starting high up at the back of the ship at Skywalkers Nightclub on Sky Deck 19. We would have to miss the 10:00, non-denominational church service in Explorer's Lounge on Lido Deck 7. The collection plate money is donated "to Seaman's Charities world wide."

Later we could miss the daily bingo games, art auctions and pool-side talent shows but being avid fans of the website Cruise Critic we considered going to their "Meet & Greet," 10:30 in Crooner's Bar on the Lido Deck. I had read that often the CC members dress up for these meeting and wear nautical attire -- lots of pirates. All you need is an eye patch, really.

At 5:30, right at cocktail time it appears, there's the "GLBT Rainbow Get-Together" in Tradewinds Bar, Sun Deck 16. Our research had told of meetings on many ships of the "Friends of Dorothy' and I thought it would be fun to join in. But a GLBT meeting sounded less inviting. More sociological than social. Now I am as inclusive as the next guy (or gal) but this is a cruise. We are not demonstrating in front of city hall or having a sit-in at the university administration building. Let the gay guys meet and do their thing. And let the Ls, Bs and Ts have their own gatherings.

Of course aside from going to breakfast and lunch and dinner, we totally forgot to go to any of these social events. We did have a fine time reading on our balcony, walking around and having drinks in wonderful outdoor lounges. Having nothing to do was a treat.

As for gay males on board, during the week we noticed several couples who might have been gay, mostly quite young. Sometimes we all nodded and said hi. Just like at the Wal-Mart. But at the Wal-Mart there are lots more of them.

The Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party is tonight and, no coinsidence, the evening's dress code is Formal. And Thursday night, too. Before we left we decided not to do Formal, but we didn't want to spoil things for those who want to dress up so we ate in the buffet. Or we could have done room service. In the hallways we noticed a number of men wearing dark suits or sports coats but nobody was wearing a tux. As whipped as these guys were, I guess wearing a tux would have been going overboard, so to speak.

Apparently the dining room maitres d' let you in however you are dressed. The offical word is, "Shorts and T-Shirts are NOT permitted in the Dining Rooms. No Short Sleeves allowed on Formal Night." Certainly the short sleeves warning is for the gentlemen only. We did see many men wearing long-sleeved dark, open collared shirts along side their much more formally dressed women. What is the world coming to?

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Cruise, Day 1, Continued

Saturday Night

The map shows our stops on this cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. We are at sea all day Sunday and Monday, arriving in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Tuesday morning. Then the Caribbean Princess has stops at St. Maarten on Wednesday and Princess Cays on Friday.

We decided that this is a tropical vacation and we were not about to dress up. So we chose the less formal "Anytime Dining" option -- there is no set time to eat, no assigned tables, no strangers to eat with.

It's all the same food anyway. In the formal venue, the Island Dining Room, the dining experience is much more structured. You are assigned a specific meal service that's the same time every evening -- either 6:00 or 8:15 -- at the same table, served by the same waiters and you sit with the same dinner companions.

The evening dress code in all the dining rooms (but not for the buffet) is "Smart Casual," except on formal nights. I think the intention is to have no one wearing bathing suits, shorts, tank tops or flip-flops. We decided to blend in and wore long pants and Hawaiian shirts for our dress up clothes. Apparently it worked, the waiters treated us fine. And brought us more food than we asked for.

There are two dining rooms for us "Anytime Dining" folks, the Palm and the Coral, on Fiesta Deck 6. Both have lovely decor, waiter service and table linens and you can eat whenever you want to during normal evening meal hours -- 5:30 to 10:00. You just walk in and ask for a table. One time we had to wait a few minutes to get a table for two, no problem. Also there are a couple of buffets -- one is open 24/7. Plus burgers, hot dogs and pizzas by one of the pools. Except for two speciality restaurants that charge an extra fee, all the meals and snacks are included in the price of the cruise. Drinks cost extra.

The boat was going through some rough waters and I knew I couldn't manage the buffet with my bad knee so we ate in the Palm Dining Room and the food and service was very good. During the meal the ship was rocking a lot more, we assumed it's like that, that's the way it is. It's a boat -- there are waves.

When we left the dining room I was having trouble walking and almost needed to steady myself by grabbing the heads of diners as we headed for the exit. I didn't. Later we found out it was really quite rough, unusually so, and the captain had taken us on a wide detour to avoid the worst of the choppy seas.

Then we explored the ship a little to see it after dark. It is all quite beautiful and well maintained. When we got back to the room -- not tempted at all to join the "Ja'maican Me Crazy" Sailaway Party -- we read the ship's daily newspaper Princess Patter. It lists the events for the next day and is full of ads for the on-board shops. Lots o' sales and bargains!

The rocking motion of the ship was wonderful for sleeping and although we had no problems with being seasick we both took some mild motion sickness pills anyway. And slept well.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cruise, Day 1

A few weeks ago we went on a cruise. It was a first time for us and we really wondered if we would like the experience. After a lot of research, mostly online, and after getting countless brochures in the mail we decided to take a seven-night cruise on the Caribbean Princess.

It was a round trip out of Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, Saturday to Saturday. We could have parked at the cruise terminal but chose to park at a nearby long-term parking lot at the airport. Port Everglades is about 25 miles north of the Port of Miami and it serves almost 20 cruise lines.

The parking lot's van took us to the ship where there were huge lines at 12:15 P.M. We had disregarded instructions from Princess Cruises that told us to arrive at 2:00 P.M. for the shortest lines. However, the embarkation process was so efficient (and well staffed) that in less than an hour we were in our cabin -- meeting our steward, Cris. He kept our cabin ship-shape for the whole trip.

We had a room with balcony on Deck 11, the Baja Deck -- that's the 11th floor -- in what is essentially a huge, 19-story high, self-contained floating hotel. The Princess was launched in 2004 as the largest passenger ship afloat, with room for 3,110 paggengers and 1200 crew.

We took off at 5:00 P.M. and slowly left the port. We watched from our, surprisingly roomy, balcony as the resort hotels and condos of North Miami Beach faded away. Our cabin was on the starboard side so we looked south as we departed. Below us were the balconies of passengers who had suites and mini-suites.

We had originally booked a mini-suite for a little more room and a larger balcony, but we heard there was little privacy on the balconies on these decks. The folks online at Cruise Critic were right, although we had great privacy on our balcony, we could look right down into all the balconies below us and to the right and left.

Soon we were in the open ocean and put on some speed. The TV in the cabin said we were going 18 knots. That's almost 21 miles per hour. It seemed quite fast, especially if you looked down at the water rushing past the side of the ship.

All you could see was sky and ocean. The sun was setting and it was time for cocktails on our balcony.

NOTE -- NAUTICAL MILE is a unit of length used in marine navigation that is equal to a minute of arc of a great circle on a sphere. One international nautical mile is equivalent to 1852 meters, 6077 feet or 1.151 statute miles. A KNOT is a unit of measure for speed. If you are traveling at a speed of 1 nautical mile per hour, you are traveling at a speed of 1 knot. During this account I will sometimes convert nautical miles to statute miles but as we are Americans you will have to figure the meters out for yourself. We don't do metric.

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