Brad’s Elephant

July 21st, 2014 1 comment

I have known the Harper’s since my first tour in Heidelberg. If I remember correctly, Brad transferred from Stuttgart after they closed in 1994, which I got there in 1993. Actually, it wasn’t “Heidelberg” then but the 130th Station hospital which had be there since WWII and had the distinction of having the Patton Room. (who knew it would be important to be the place where that particular officer died of complications following an MVA).

Any how, Brad, Cheré and their two girls overlapped with me and my crew. Since that time we managed to maintain our friendship over multiple PCS’s, deployments, countries and kids growing up. Cheré  and I also have a few hobbies in common, mostly having to do with sewing and other needle related crafts. Besides being a professional harpist, Cheré is a speech pathologist. Add all that up and you have fabric, sewing machines, books, craft supplies, several harps (one full concert size), key boards and stacks of music.

When I visited their new house in Virginia fall of 2011 Brad was complaining that he would have to take up Elephants for a hobby in order to have the same volume of “stuff.” He was absolutely horrified when I offered to give Cheré  the hammer dulcimer that I have been carting around for years but haven’t played for a couple of decades.  I suggested that perhaps he could learn to play it….

In reality, I don’t think there is excessive craft supplies in their house. Much less that we have in Heidelberg. But then if you take away the knitting, spinning and weaving it might be just about the same.

As of 8 August, the dulcimer will leave here with the rest of the household goods heading to the US. I think that it will be much closer to the Harper’s house once it arrives and it shouldn’t be all that difficult to ship it from California.  It has been my white elephant – I am going to make it Brads!

one each dulcimer, hammered in case with stand....

one each dulcimer, hammered in case with stand….


<h4>Detrashing update</h4>

Done with the three store rooms. Have the downstairs hall cleared out except for the top and two shelves of the bookcase.  Noah is taking out the three large garbage bags and two overflowing large boxes of trash.

Packed up toys, sweaters. Dropped off five boxes of books @ Librarys, some found items at LRMC PAD and have one more bag of clothing/shoes for the Humana bin and three bags for the Refugee Charity.

Categories: Fiber, home Tags:


July 20th, 2014 No comments

It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. One of those 1000 pieces x about another thousand that is either a repeating geometric or red. Not a regular shape either so that you can start from the edges and work in but rather a multi-sided figure complicated with undulations. Just to add to the fun, the puzzle is two stories + an attic + the garage and minus two mice who very considerately placed their heads in traps sometime early this morning. #3 was seen heading across the patio while we were outside sorting.

I still have no idea if everything is going to come together or not, but the first two packers will be here 1 Aug.

But I decided that I am going to be brave and let you see the extent of the job/challenge and some actual progress.  Of course, it when I went looking for pictures that I realized it has been a few days since I downloaded photos from my 5D. iPhone, no problem it is out and about. But “real” photos – would you believe Norway (about 21 May)?


So let me start with the three storage rooms in the basement. When we started about 9 days ago you could not get in the door of any of them. Only a few things left that need to come out for the movers. The rest will stay/be donated.  The heavy lifting was done by the Eldest.

Next – downstairs -

We are taking little furniture from this level – only one full bed, a couple of stackable frames, the Eldests chairs.  And books of course. The plan is to limit the number of rooms the packers visit. The family room is sorted – if you can see it on the shelves it comes along.  The one bedroom still has a bit of sorting, but the shrank is empty the book case organized and the art supplies actually in a container. I can’t say anything about the mess in the hall except that it is better now. College Guy and the Eldest have been really good about doing a bit here and there

Then we climb up the stairs which are now box free and get to the back hall. I spent more than a day back here sorting out books, then adding to the collection as I sorted all the books from the attic as well as rounded up strays.

Speaking of books -

I will end here, only partway through the house with the terrace. I has started putting boxes of donate books out here the beginning of the month. Then we had George’s 66th birthday party so they all got moved. They are back and will stay there till the movers are gone. Just so you know, that is a regular size (seats 8 +) table which has a meter between it and the back wall. Well what was the back wall if it wasn’t completely obstructed by more than 100 boxes.  It is going to take a while to get them all gone….

It is raining – the curtain is gallantly giving the last of its useful life to protect the written word.

Categories: home Tags:

three car loads

July 19th, 2014 1 comment


Today actually wasn’t technically all that productive but I am going to claim it anyway. Three car loads left the house. Two were our car filled to the brim with donations to one of the local charity shops. This particular volunteer group deals primarily with refugees and is in partnership with a small town in Bosnia. Still recovering from last year’s floods, think fabric, yarn, notions. (I mentioned them before I think). What I didn’t mention the last time was their charity shop primarily because I didn’t know it existed. So add in some office supplies, household small items, clothing, bedding, shoes, toys. You get the idea.


Following that, Diana’s sister came by to pick up a large box of fleece. While she was at it, she was willing to take all the extra magazines that were looking for a home. She will share them with her knitting and spinning groups as she gets them sorted out. Oh, and some old costumes, and a bit of fabric (found after the other batch had left).  Diana took a number of mags, some yarn and some fiber. Their third sister took a few children’s books. End result? The back of her station wagon packed full. And yes, I did thank them most sincerely!


As part of this, I sorted out three boxes of English Language children’s books headed to a specific school in Africa, all the clothes so far in the donate pile. Those that didn’t go out today will windup at the Thrift Store on Ramstein. All the Jewish children’s books to be dropped at the Ramstein Chapel on Monday.


Did I mention dropping off three large bags of books @ the Neuegasse swap shelf before 0600 this morning (prior to the parking restrictions), going to the Strikktreff at Red and heading down the street for several hours this evening to a BBQ.


I left George there chatting, but I was too tired to be even mildly coherent by 2200.


Tomorrow will be more of the same, only with rain.


Categories: home Tags:

Idiots on two wheels

July 17th, 2014 1 comment

Ok, so not all bicyclists are idiots. I will admit to doing a bit of generalizing; I just have no interest in decorating my car with blood, guts or gore. I don’t think riders make good hood ornaments either.

Let me explain.

Heidelberg is a University town. That capital letter is on purpose. There are literally thousands of students here (35-50k depending on how you count it). On top of that you have to consider all the admin and faculty. Those student numbers are on top of the ~275,000 residents. Since students are poor, bicycles are an excellent form of transportation. After the initial outlay, there is only minimal cost to owning a bike. Unlike public transportation there are no automatic monthly tithes to the gods of Rhein-Nekar-Trans. All you need is air in your tires and away you go. Since the basic city is fairly flat, all the way to Mannheim and other towns along the rivers, there is little strain to peddling along.

This is a bike friendly area. The most recent road improvements included bike lanes along all the major non-autobahn routes. Clearly marked, they are in the road, not the parking areas. And as you are probably aware, bikes are wheeled vehicles and as such are subject to all traffic laws and regulations.  Makes perfect sense to any one with a modicum of brains in their heads which leads me back to my starting point.

The helmet law covers only those up to age 6. That means that you will see helmets, most likely ill fitting, on toddlers and pre-K riding along with helmetless parents. Exactly how is that going to help the child when the parent in front piloting the bike manages to leave their brains (obviously not being used) on the pavement?  Few of the rest bother at all. Then there are the women with the long flowing skirts – that’s right – peasant skirts just floating along the chain.  I am not even going to mention those riding a bike one handed while the other holds their handi to their ear (see comment above on vehicle laws being applicable). Stop at traffic lights? Hand signals before cutting left across traffic?

Heading home after dropping George off at his Stammtisch I was observing how 80% make life really miserable for those 20% who are obviously serious about their riding. It is those on well maintained bikes, safely attired and topped with well fitted helmets that leave me with a faint ray of hope.

I commuted by bike to the U of MN when I lived in South Minneapolis. I rode when the weather was nice, when it rained and when it snowed. I dressed properly and was extremely cautious about cars. I survived without accident or injury. So I know it is possible to commute by bike, to ride for pleasure and to do it safely especially today with the better engineering.  I will always give a rider plenty of room and leeway.  I just wish most of them would ride more safely. A smile for me after I wait at the top or the bottom of one of the few hills so their ride isn’t interupted also might be appreciated.

Categories: home Tags:

Empty the water, clean the filter

July 16th, 2014 No comments

It must be a remnant of my university days where laundry meant coins in slots and waiting on spinning agitators and tumbling dryers in order to have clean clothes ready to be hauled back to where ever I might be living. Or maybe it is the result of having lived in military stairwells where a bank of washers and dryers is shared property.

In any case, I think it should be an automatic courtesy when sharing laundry facilities with others, even if they are members of your own family.

After running the first load the other day I shoved them in the dryer. I just happened to glance down at the filter. Frowning I pulled it out, not all that amazed to find it covered lightly with lint. Given that happenstance it should be pretty obvious why I decided to check to make sure the water collector was empty. If you are scratching your head – we have a condenser dryer. No blowing hot air, no need to vent to the outside and no layer of dust attempting to snuggle into the clean clothes someone forgot to take upstairs this week. Last week? Month?

It wasn’t at all empty. In fact it was full.  The volume was enough that I would have had a mess on the floor if I had started this load. Now in the US you wouldn’t be able to start the dryer should the water receptacle be full as someone somewhere would have made that error, gotten a wet floor and promptly sued the manufacture when they slipped and fell. I live in Germany. There is an assumption of common sense and intelligence. We don’t have warnings on the toaster reminding us that sticking a fork in there could be hazardous to our health. Or that sitting in the bathtub with a hair dryer is more the sign of a Darwin candidate than not. Here – you are expected to figure out completely on your own that if the water is condensed out of your clothes in the drying process that the removable container needs to be emptied before it overflows.

I don’t mind loads being forgotten on occasion, that happens to all of us especially as age creeps up and the to-do list becomes overwhelmingly long. But not cleaning up after yourself? That is like leaving dishes in the sink.

Oh, wait. Forget that comparison since I am the one most likely to do that…..


Categories: family, home Tags:

Loose Change

July 9th, 2014 1 comment

One of the interesting things that happens when you live outside the US is accumulating multiple countries worth of spare change. Admittedly it is not as bad now as it was 20-30 years ago. Prior to the EU, every last country had its own currency which obviously included coinage. Now it is just the UK (and Scotland, we can’t forget Scotland which insists on printing its own Pound Notes) of the major countries which don’t play.

There are several other EU countries which have their own but frankly the merchants are more than willing to take Euros. Scandinavia is uses various Kroner (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) but Finland has been on the Euro since the start.

The reason I started down this line? Cleaning which involves picking up loose change.

Now it would be sensible to expect that we would have some US coinage given how often one of us travels to the US. Euros – well we live in the EU. Swiss Francs because George is there three days a week on those weeks where he can’t find a reason to be else where.

Then you have to remember that I have traveled to the UK and Norway more than once in the last year. And Australia last fall along with New Zealand and various stops in Canada. I pretty much avoided changing money in South America.

All told, I think I have a couple of kilos of mixed coins. I’m going to try and sort it out into spendable and not-spendable. The first category are those coins where I can physically use them (Euros for candy bars), US swapped for real money at the credit union, Swiss back in George’s pocket or back pack. I’ll use whatever pence and pounds I can find when I fly to London for WorldCon in Aug. I can probably even find Canadians and Aussies on my next cruise and send their coinage back with them (or see option below).

But there are coins for which there is no hope. I am even hesitant to drop them in one of the airplane donation envelopes. After all – DM have been out of circulation for over a decade; ditto with the French Franc.  Then there are the dinar, shekels, hwan.  I need to ask Terry what they do with weird coins. Especially since it might make up a good third of what we have on hand….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

The Fourth

July 4th, 2014 No comments

Courtesy of Maus since I spent the day shoveling more out of my studio. Visits from both Brigitte and Diana made the day go much faster.

Categories: family, home Tags:


July 3rd, 2014 3 comments

I got sick of clothing and books so decided to tackle two of the cabinets in the living room.


cupboard on the one end

cupboard on the one end

all the "what do I do with it" contents

all the “what do I do with it” contents

cupboard on the other

#1  - cupboard on the left side

The first was easy – bunch of cruise stuff, scrapbook kits from cruises, never opened jigsaw puzzles and a hundred weight of 33 1/3 vinyl records ranging from German kids music to Jefferson Airplane and Israeli Folkdance music. I am currently ignoring the cassette tapes on the top shelf although I will have to decide about them fairly soon. I am thinking they are the missing Harry Potter audio tapes.

There are sturdy bookshelves between the sides which at one time were nicely organized but have since gained a dressing of book piles, decorative mugs, stones and a topping of Hannukah candles.  Please rest assured that no knitting contributed to the mess. Just additional books picked up in the last five years and dumped there by my husband who ran out of shelf space.

The other cupboard was more interesting to explore. I found a heavy duty folder stuffed with brochures, maps, museum books and leaflets from the Norway trip we made ~ 1996. At least that is what seems to match most of the dates. I also found German hotel and restaurant guides from 1990 and some school books. The top shelf held multiple decks of cards in their original wrappings from various museums, post cards and empty tins.

The middle shelf also had several folders where I found these -

the boy

the boy



who later became these two

IMG_0425 IMG_0426


and I just will leave you with one of their selfies from Jan

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

Categories: family, home Tags:

Insanity for a reason

July 2nd, 2014 2 comments

So anyway, to recap my insanity. (and we will not go into the long involved story of “The Bet”, George’s loss of same, and the lack of decision as a result of where we will live when we retire). When one bails out, leaves or otherwise separates from the military (aka US Army active duty in my case) normally you are not particularly where you are going to eventually live. Especially if that last particular location happens to be in one of the ‘Stans. As a result, the government promises to move your “stuff” one last time, normally to what is considered your home of record – the rules about which have changed multiple times over the years.

I was technically stationed in the UK, attached to the US Army HQ in Heidelberg and on loan to the Medical HQ in Afghanistan. Taking all your stuff to a combat zone is neither bright nor allowed. Besides, there is no way to carry it all to Ft Benning. Instead you have your family mail you things, order what ever you need extra off the internet and wind up facing a whole pile of belongings at the end of a tour. Gee – bit of digression there. But that is exactly what happens to most of us over the course of years.

You start out with a couch, a bed, a kitchen set and a few pots and pans. Then you add a spouse, off spring and pets. The amount dragged along increases with every move unless you are super disciplined and burn everything before packing. Our last family move was in 2001 when we relocated from Munich to Heidelberg, buying a house in the process. The Eldest was already on her own but wasn’t in a permanent location, so we had her stuff as well. We also pulled everything out of storage (some of which had been dropped there in, oh, about 1993….)

Then there were the household things moved back from the UK in 2010 prior to that last deployment, additions from the kids over the years. Consider that our house has an attic and three storage rooms and you start to see the extent of the problem.

I like books. And yarn and wool and fabric and well …. fiber related toys. George also really likes books. The kids all have stuff….and I really think that possessions either reproduce or just gather up stuff of their own.

In any case – I can move 19000 # (US, not metric) back to the US at government expense. I would be stupid not to take advantage of that. The particular shipping offer has a limited time span. I received a couple of extensions, but this year is my last chance to ship. Use it or lose it – really.

The house in Berkeley will be tenant free mid Sept. I will have the Eldest and College Guy in the Bay Area for school. Add up all that information and you can understand why I am talking about shipping. Using up weight allowance on things that need to remain here would be dumb.  Hence, the reason for the sorting and tossing.

We will start with a couple of views taken in the livingroom


the living room window sill

the living room window sill

the yarn end of the living room pile

the yarn end of the living room pile

then move to the terrace


the terrace table - (note the pile of book boxes behind)

the terrace table – (note the pile of book boxes behind)

which is reached by walking out the door by the dining room table, currently covered by things for the flea market


all the lose, extra cables...

all the lose, extra cables…

and then I started tackling the back hall

part of the back hall

part of the back hall


tomorrow I will entertain you with piles of clothes, the studio and the hall bookcases

Categories: home Tags:

Making progress

July 1st, 2014 1 comment

Well, I managed to get through more shelves in the studio, both closets, the upper cupboards and three bins of yarn. Since by that time I was throughly sick of the mess, I started on the back hall.

Several years ago we put a major bookcase in the back hall. I lovingly placed some books on the shelves and filled all the gaps with various stuffed animals, musical instruments and ornamental things. The Judaica went in the glass fronted cabinet and the cookbooks in the corner section. Over the last ten years those shelves have filled. First completely, then with paperbacks doubled and tripled up on many of the shelves. The YA section overflowed into the Cookbooks. The travel books had expanded from the living room and invaded all my medical reference on the bottom shelf and dust settled happily over the whole thing.

My first pass through was pretty brutal. All the medical references older than 10 years (other than Gray’s Anatomy which never goes out of date) are leaving as are 90+% of the mysteries, most of the romances and a lot of the junk fiction. I am hanging onto many of the hardbacks (which I no longer buy) as well as the Urban Fantasy (which doesn’t contain lovingly described vampires. I on the side of not buying sparkles). I now have several hundred books on both the terrace table and on the living room ledge backing up the knitting and sewing mags.

Yes, I know that I could make something on them in Berkeley if I wanted to haul them along. But really – given a weight allowance, if I want to make money bringing zauberball would be a lot smatter for the kilo.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:

Star Alliance Lounge

June 28th, 2014 No comments

And, in spite of the best effort of traffic, weather and obnoxious passengers I have made it to Heathrow T1, check-in and the lounge.

The weather was lovely this morning in Southampton – at least when I got off the ship and strolled over to the NationalExpress Station. As it turns out, there were several ships in port today – one of the Princess Line, one of the Queens, the Indy and perhaps an entry from Carnival/P&O/other. In any case, the terminal was packed and all the seats sold out on coaches early than the one I booked. Eliminating completely my chance to get out a few hours earlier than planned.

As I waited till my 1130 departure, the temperature started to drop. The clouds rolling in hinted of winds, wetness and an unpleasant cruise out of port of those who are boarding today. Finally, the bus rolled in and taught one of those fun life lessons in two movements – a) if you get on the bus early you get to pick a seat. With full bus when traveling alone you don’t get to pick your seatmate. b) first on means luggage gets unloaded last.

Enough said. I figured since the trip took almost 3 hours worth of extremely frustrating travel made dangerous by wind, rain and stupid drivers. Did I mention road construction? Mental note to self – carry luggage off ship as it is worth it in order to make an earlier bus. I really don’t like arriving at an airport with less than two hours till flight time. Not with check-in and the excitement of security still to go.

Since I am obviously on line you may correctly assume that I safely managed all gates and arrived at a safe and secure location that has both electric outlets and free Wifi.

Flight in a short while, then sleep on the plane and just a train left to catch on the far end. You may be then astonished to learn that I am off the seas for over 60 days….

Categories: Travel Tags:


June 22nd, 2014 No comments

If you want to visit Toulon from a cruise ship, you find that docking is actually  at La Seyne sur Mer.  A bit out of town, there isn’t a whole lot in the area except for ships, beaches and a bike rental. Since this isn’t a port I have visited before, I elected to take the Ferry at 0830. There weren’t all that many of us headed out that early. I think most people assumed that since it is Sunday, there was going to be absolutely nothing open before lunch.

A new port for me. It is lovely to find I had a couple of hours to explore the city without being overrun by either locals or tourists managing to walk into my frame just as I click the shutter.



the town shield imbedded in the sidewalk

the town shield imbedded in the sidewalk

I don't know that Athena's owl really appreciates the pidgeons

I don’t know that Athena’s owl really appreciates the pidgeons

overlooking the market square

overlooking the market square

Toulon has the history of long being a major French Naval Base.Which means the usual ancillary services.

The Port Hotel

The Port Hotel

where I think the ladies

where I think the ladies

spent time with the naval "gentlemen"

spent time with the naval “gentlemen”

today's services are a bit more obvious

today’s services are a bit more obvious



It is still home to ships, training and the Maritime Museum (which opens at 1000).

Model of the Charles de Gaul

Model of the Charles de Gaul

Amazing detail

Amazing detail

and wooden sculptures of major French Naval Figures

and wooden sculptures of major French Naval Figures




Oh, and the cherries were terrific!

A kilo from the Sunday Market

A kilo from the Sunday Market

Categories: Travel Tags:

Street Markets

June 21st, 2014 No comments

Most of the time, when I think of Livorno it is either as the gateway to Pisa & Florence or as the unofficial R&R military location in Italy. For years the Army clinic at Livorno was a one doc affair tasked with primarily an occupational health mission and incidentally supporting the few military and families that were stationed there. For administrative purposes, it fell to Vicenza for command and control.

Today, I wasn’t thinking of any of that as I wound my way through various streets. The port authorities, not being any fools, charge for the shuttle bus service to town. It isn’t that town is not walkable, but as a working port there are safety considerations. Most ports provide this service to at least the front gate without charge (although I think the cost is buried into the docking fees charged the cruise ships). But here in Livorno? Why not get 5 E from each passenger? It isn’t a lot – not enough to really upset anyone or make them question why but should pay for the salaries of the drivers and cost of fuel for the thousand or so using the service.

Where was I? Oh, yes – it is Saturday and Market Day. Not only are there fish, fruit and butcher stands but there are breads and cheese and flowers. Then walk on to find the clothing, linens, shoes and kitchen wares sections. There are also stands for buttons, yarn, notions and fabrics. Walking around for a few hours was relaxing and interesting.


What I didn’t find since I didn’t walk far enough were major stores other than H&M and Zara. I didn’t find any decent size sports stores; I didn’t find any additions to my fussball jersey collection, especially not home or away World Cup Italy. So I sent my postcards off since the tobacco stand on the corner near the bus stop had both cards and stamps. No pick up on the weekends, but I can live with that.

A quiet time was had late afternoon back on the ship!

Categories: Travel Tags:

Ships in the harbor

June 20th, 2014 No comments


Ships in a the Harbor

Most of the time, toursts are only familiar with Civitavecchia as the port associated with Rome. Never mind that it is about as much Rome as Southampton is London or Le Harve is Paris. Thought that counts and nearest ocean port is the hook for cruise ships. All of the great cities were port towns once in their history when ships were small and locating at the interchange of river and sea was both smart and good for commerce Today, those of us hooked on cruising only think of the inconvenience to us and not the current reality of commercial logistics and shipping. In real world terms, most goods move between continents by ship. Major harbors are a necessity.

Having both cruises out of “Rome” before and arriving in Civitavecchia the night before a cruise or three, I at least somewhat familiar with the town. I know how to get from the train station to my favorite hotel. From the train station to the port. The location of the post office and the Saturday morning market. How to find both shops and wifi. That might have been why I ignored all the offered tours & travels today in favor of ship watchings.

This harbor is primarily one that supports container ships. The cruise ships that dock are served by customs officials in tents, baggage handlers and port buses to prevent idiots walking somewhere dangerous. What I hadn’t realized was that it is also a major embarkation point for travelers and goods for Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Barcelona. I don’t know why it surprised me – traveling by ferry would make sense both for trucks and vacationers. Being able to move a fair amount of goods along with one’s self and personal transport is often a smart thing.

the sign of a ferry

the sign of a ferry

So I watched the Queen Elizabeth, the newest of Cunard’s three ships board her passengers for a seven day cruise to Venice. (Ok, so I looked it up. I couldn’t find a cruise starting on the 20th, but there is one listed for the ship starting on the 27th in Venice….)

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

There was the Barcelona bound ferry with rear doors large enough for the biggest 18 wheeler.

Fast Ferry

Fast Ferry


and the MSC Lirica which I don’t remember as being quite as old or small as she appeared. But then, I haven’t been on her for three years and the perspective from deck 3 there is much different than a 9th deck balcony on the Independence.

MSC Lirica

MSC Lirica

There are also the container ships and tugs all of which I enjoyed from my bird’s eye view.

the tug

the tug

Categories: Travel Tags:

Another Kilo of Cherries

June 19th, 2014 No comments

We sailed into the Ajaccio, Corsica harbor this morning to sunshine and blue skies.

The rest of the harbor

The rest of the harbor



I seem to remember the weather was just as nice three years ago when, along with 3/4 offspring, our ship stopped here on a 7-day Mediterranean cruise. We were on the MSC Lirica for the simple reason that we could embark in Majorca. Both the dates and location were important since I had timed the cruise to coordinate with George’s office’s annual Ausflug which just happened to be in Majorca that year. It started the day after the cruise ended, and thus the reason for dates, location and ship. I had only looked at Costa and MSC having been on both lines several times without problems. The only cruise I had taken to this point on Royal was the disaster the previous year on the Brilliance and NCL didn’t have a ship that offered Majorca as embarkation point (hello? Someone else is paying the airfare, why wouldn’t I want that advantage?) (the 25 June 2011 post is here 

dwarfing the sailing vessels

dwarfing the sailing vessels


Anyway, Corsica. I spent the day hiking around the city. There were a lot more tourist type shops than I remember from the last time. Of course, the plethora of English Speakers off this ship didn’t really help. Taking care of the postcards early on, I decided just to walk up a few hills to see what I could see.


for the pizza oven

for the pizza oven

the same park as last time

the same park as last time

and cheeriness

and cheeriness

Besides several lovely gardens, mopeds and motorcycles where ever their riders felt like leaving them,

si, si

si, si

The Front Side of the Government Complex

The Front Side of the Government Complex


I found (on the way out through the pedestrian security gate) that I had managed to walk through the regional government headquarters complex.

Once again I didn’t manage to get to the Palace Fesh- not just because in typical French fashion the opening days and hours are fixed (never mind having a few thousand tourists who just might add money to your coffers) but the last major exhibit closed on the 12th…

when open, includes Napoleon Exhibits

when open, includes Napoleon Exhibits

The occasional shop (postcards up front), local markets and the outside of several museums were all fair game.  After enjoying the scents from the spice vendor



I bought a kilo of cherries to eat on the way back to the ship. Since I paid only a Euro more than three years ago I figured it was actually a good deal, completely refusing to calculate the inflation (in double digits).


The England vs Uruguay match just ended. Not a lot of happy campers here.

Categories: Travel Tags:

One complete

June 18th, 2014 No comments

Today was a sea day. Time to knit. And watch lectures. And listen to Takedown Twenty-One, but mostly to knit.

Reflections is completed except for the fiddly weaving in of a half-dozen ends and blocking. It badly needs blocking.



and Downover started and section I completed.

known as Downover

known as Downover

Also a Cheryl Oberle shawl pattern, this one knit in two sections, with the second triangle being picked up from one side of the first. The yarn is Zauberball in two different color combinations. One is shades of blues, the other purples-blues.

Categories: Knitting Tags:

Hazy Straits

June 17th, 2014 No comments
that red arrow? Africa

that red arrow? Africa

It wasn’t exactly clear and shining when we pulled in this morning. Admittedly part of the blur could have been my eyes from getting to sleep rather late and waking even later.

Last night's sun set

Last night’s sunset

Heading off the ship this morning I was greeted by the lovely display of antique vehicles from the old days when England didn’t compromise. Back when it didn’t matter than the rest of the continent was driving on the right with left hand drive cars.

the Auto Club's exhibit

the Auto Club’s exhibit

from back when they had right had drive here

from back when they had right had drive here

But now this territory, due to the realities of the amount of traffic between it and Spain drives the same was as the rest of Europe. True, there are still the occasional imported right hand drive car, but the vast majority of cars, buses and trucks can easily drive across Spain.

the city

the city

I hiked into town past all of the statues which seem to occupy street locations, roundabouts and centre squares.

as new as 2004

as new as 2004

What was surprising to me is that among all the stores, there were really none that had decent sports equipment or running shoes or soccer jerseys. Except for the two Gibraltar Teams…. Perhaps sport isn’t important here, but you would think that perhaps England World Cup Jersey’s might sell? And it was not that they were sold out, it was rather that they had never been ordered. Promptly at 1600 we pulled back from the pier and set sail for the next stop on our adventure. As we swung around, it was possible to see the entire Strait. From my starboard side balcony, the European Promontory was easily visible. Less so the African Side of the Straits. Given the amount of haze, you need both a good imagination and clicking on the pix for a larger version to have a chance of actually seeing more that imagining.

the Straits

the Straits

Africa Side

Africa Side

Shawl Update

all but the top border

all but the top border

Categories: Travel Tags:

D 4 ; P 0

June 16th, 2014 No comments
I only have the away jersey

I only have the away jersey

I didn’t feel lonely at all, sitting in the On Air pub to watch Germany vs Portugal. At first there were only about five of us sitting there watching the first half of the game. Then the ice show let out with the usual intelligent folks who get partway across a lounge then stop to watch the big screen completely oblivious to the fact that their rather large size bodies are blocking the view of, oh say, about seven people behind them.

I had my knitting, my no-beer (the bar tender got it this morning just in case I came back for the next games) and a front row seat. Now, normally I don’t like sitting right up front with my back to the room. But I made an exception. Sitting up front gave me more light for knitting and placed me about as close to the viewing screens as was polite without getting my glasses smudged. You are aware that I don’t exactly have 20/20 vision even with my trifocals?

The game was fun, watching the crowd was a blast and even started feeling sorry for Portugal…

Meanwhile, Maus & Angel are watching in NYC

they have the real jerseys

they have the real jerseys

And Dani headed to the park for the later US-Ghana game

But I am not really sure how well you can see the screen ...

But I am not really sure how well you can see the screen …

(thanks to the two girls for sending me pix)

The Eldest was in Germany where I am sure it got a bit insane ad George was in the New York location where there was no live coverage.

Oh and College Guy? He was hanging out at SFO waiting to see if he was going to get bumped from a flight. He did volunteer (later flight to Munich, connector to Frankfurt and $800 for his pocket – why not volunteer….)

By the time it was close to midnight, I was just too tired to head down to a pub for the game…


one wing complete and 16 rows short of the second wing

one wing complete and 16 rows short of the second wing

Categories: Travel Tags:

Watching the World Cup

June 15th, 2014 No comments
location is everything

location is everything

It seems, unlike last fall in Australia, that RCI doesn’t have a difficulty recognizing that passengers just might be interested in The World Cup. I mention last fall because the Melbourne Cup wasn’t even on the Radiance’s horizon. Admittedly racing and fuss ball are completely different sport but still. When you are sailing out of Australia it might behove the Cruise Director’s Staff to take note of local/regional main sporting events, celebrations and holidays.

Back to Fussball (aka soccer for the North Americans). However, let us not be completely naive, there is an opportunity for Royal to make money. The previous day’s games are broadcast on Chanel 41 so that anyone who missed them can catch up.

the perfect set up for watching reruns

the perfect set up for watching reruns

Today’s games? Available to you on multiple screens only in specific locations around the ship. Locations where you might just be interested in purchasing some refreshments to improve your viewing pleasure.

My personal favorite

My personal favorite

for when I am hanging out in the CL or DL and have access to the coffee machine. The choices for the World Cup are more limited: the outdoor screen by the Pool Deck for a couple of the games – otherwise a couple of the bars when it is dim, loud and beer is on tap. The choices do not include the DL (Diamond Lounge) on Deck 14 where I could hit happy hour between 1700-2030.

The problem with the pubs is the lighting… can’t easily knit where I don’t have enough light. I did discover while watching Switzerland squeak by Ecuador that the Indy’s new policy of allowing 3 drinks per evening during normal club hours meant getting my Sprite Zero without charge while sitting at the bar in On Air.

Starting another shawl

The shawl is a Cheryl Oberle pattern which starts with a central section, then adds a couple of wings. Written for sport weight yarn… but I don’t have much of that so the blue is an Opal yarn I found in the back of a closet, the multi-color is from my Crazy Zauberball stash. Both are sock weight.

the latest project

the latest project

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

All the way to Italy

June 14th, 2014 No comments

The long way around. Yes, I am back on the Indie where I am going to visit a few of my favorite locations and otherwise knit and finish up the last of the courses I have underway.






Sat Jun 14 London (Southampton), England 4:30pm
Sun Jun 15 At Sea
Mon Jun 16 At Sea
Tue Jun 17 Gibraltar, UK Territory 10:00am 4:00pm
Wed Jun 18 At Sea
Thu Jun 19 Ajaccio, Corsica, France 9:00am 6:00pm
Fri Jun 20 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Sat Jun 21 Florence / Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Sun Jun 22 Toulon, France 8:30am 5:00pm
Mon Jun 23 At Sea
Tue Jun 24 Cadiz, Spain 9:00am 5:00pm
Wed Jun 25 Lisbon, Portugal 8:00am 4:30pm
Thu Jun 26 Vigo, Spain 9:30am 3:00pm
Fri Jun 27 At Sea
Sat Jun 28 London (Southampton), England 5:30am

And I am not saying I did it on purpose, but I will miss the office trip again this year. Since it is back in Mallorca, there are much worse things to skip.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Terminal B – Lufthansa Lounge

June 13th, 2014 No comments

As you might not be surprised – I am sitting at my computer in the Lufthansa Lounge at Frankfurt. It just happens to be in Terminal B this time rather than Z. But then I am headed to Heathrow and the UK flights seem to cluster around just a few gates. Since it is also not in Schengen, I had to go through Passkontrole this morning as well.  I received the usual strange look as the agent slides my passport, looks at the screen and then pages & pages & pages till he finds a place to stamp. Unlike the US, Germans like to stamp passports. I could write a whole essay on what countries do and don’t bother to stamp passports….

Where was I? Oh yes, drinking a latte or three after taking the early train to the airport. Since the Air-Rail terminal was open, I just dropped off my suitcase and had a nice stroll from there directly to security which could have been much worse considering everything.  The lounge is lovely and not terribly crowded. Unlike United, they offer a fairly wide range of edibles and drinkables without hidden charges.

Since I have my shiny new Miles & More card, I decided to check on my mileage.  Why was I not surprised to find that I still have not received credit for either my flight home in Feb from Calgary or my flight to Buenos Aires? Looks like I am going to have to spend hours going through papers, boxes and hard drives till I find copies of everything. I need those miles….  It is not like I haven’t supplied the etix, the booking number … the emails… but I haven’t given them baggage tags or boarding passes yet. Being a packrat might just be paying off.

Categories: Travel Tags:


June 12th, 2014 No comments

am I? In Germany I think. As long as I fall over my own feet too much from fatigue. It is not like I do all that well with the time zone changes in this direction. I keep quietly howling with laughter to myself when I hear all those on transatlantic crossings complain about losing 5 hours over 13 nights between Florida and Southampton.

I mean really, it is not all that much compared to – oh let us just say – the nine hours between San Francisco and Frankfurt done in one swell foop. So here I am after having been home a couple of days still staggering around with fatigue during the day and wide awake like a petulant toddler at night. All of which means that my original ambition to run errands and clean like mad just hasn’t happened.

But books – yes, I have managed to haul down 20 boxes of books from the attic and end up with 17 that are headed to swap shelves. Two of the other boxes are kids books and as such are not mine to give away and the 20th is SciFi/Fantasy which actually could be sold at various used book stores in the US if I was so inclined.

The end result is that I had no big adventures today…

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:


June 11th, 2014 No comments

If you walk away from any computer for a number of minutes some preset programing will kick in. Perhaps you have yours set to shut down to save battery life or to screen lock requiring a password to break back in.

In the old days, most of us set various assorted screen savers, especially on PCs before someone figured out that it was an excellent way to spread viruses. The built in ones usually, but not always sucked. Either there were toasters flying around, some word spinning, flipping or morphing, or the ever popular logo.

I haven’t figured out how to import screen savers to my MacAir, but it turns out not to be relevant. I just have it set to flip up a montage of entries from iPhotos. Sometimes they are whole screens, sometimes 1/2 to 1/8 screen shots in various orders. Some of them actually have turned out to be pretty interesting.

old world doors

old world doors

New world Canadian Rockies

New world Canadian Rockies

Now, I wish I could just predict what was going to come up next….

Categories: Photos Tags:


June 10th, 2014 No comments

Once upon a time children didn’t fly in business class and the Bundesbahn was always on time.

Ok, now that I am done living in fairy land I will deal with the realities of today. The young lady in the row ahead of me was an angel for all but 15 minutes of the entire flight. The train, on the other hand – there is little on can do about that. A detour into the Lufthansa Arrival Lounge in Terminal B let me email George about what train I was going to be on since he had volunteered to pick me up in Mannheim. There was also plenty of time to get to the platform as our luggage did not exactly arrive promptly. I do understand; any plane with 500+ passengers is going to have a lot of luggage..

The train – ah yes. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare on Track 5 only to find that my train was running 55 minutes late. I was so not in the mood. As I stood there reading the sign slowly and carefully to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, I hear an announcement. Arriving on my platform is a different train, bound for Karlsruhe and Basel but stopping in Mannheim. It is running 30 minutes late. Do I care that I had made a seat reservation? Not at all.

The upshot is that I arrived in Mannheim 1 minute before my original scheduled arrival time. I had barely made the meeting point before George pulled up. Luckily he had not bothered to check for train delays….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Going home

June 9th, 2014 No comments

The United Club in the International Terminal of SFO is sad when compared to any of its partnership airlines. They offer coffee, tea, sodas, cheese&crackers, cookies and carrots. Consider me not impressed, but then it should be obvious that cost cutting does have occasional and obvious effects on customer services.

I am headed home on a Lufthansa flight this afternoon to arrive midday tomorrow. I am traveling once again with just my backpack and suitcase. Anything extra stayed in the US and nothing I picked up was heavy or large enough to make a difference. Plus, the dear husband tarted me to business class so I might even be able to get a bit of sleep on this flight.

So, have iPad fully charged, books to read and knitting. What could be better? Why a 14 day cruise home….

Categories: Travel Tags:

San Francisco

June 7th, 2014 No comments

So anyway, I wound up with a whole day free and a courtesy shuttle to Union square. It seemed the thing todo – walk over to the Embarcadero, hike up to Pier 39 and just enjoy the weather. Since I brought only a small camera instead of the heavy ones, I wasn’t even on a photo hunt.

There were crowds, street musicians and beggars. The Farmer’s Market was in full swing along with dozens of artisans under tents with bright coloured wares just inviting a look. Restraining myself, I window shopped only the earrings. Prints and pottery are just too hard to haul home especially with having to plan for shipping household good in the next couple of months.

It was late afternoon when I caught the bus back, electing not to wait for what was going to be the extremely overcrowded last shuttle.

I started another version on the December Scarf and finished listening to Charming by Elliot James. It is a lovely quirky urban fantasy that doesn’t have sparkly vampires.

Categories: Travel Tags:


June 6th, 2014 2 comments

There were a number of construction zones on my drive. There was also a serious accident on northbound I-5 less than 10 miles from the 580 junction that cost over 90 minutes of time. Of course, that is nothing compared to the cost of the flattened RV, smashed car and possessions strewn over the highway enough to cause the entire highway to be forced down to one lane which had to drive single file on a slant in the median to get by. I couldn’t find the accident listed late tonight so perhaps there were only survivors. There is a good reason why there is a speed limit for cars towing trailers, especially in posted high wind areas.

I try to obey the driving rules and avoid too much speeding especially at the current price of fuel. I had a number of idiots pass me at significant speeds at various points. None was more irritating than a black sedan moving so fast I couldn’t even catch its license plate even he almost ran the car ahead of me off the road when they didn’t clear the left lane fast enough.

I was contemplating the usual – where is the highway patrol when you need them as I was exiting the construction zone. My answer was right there in a crisp uniform at the side of the road. With the idiot driver who had recklessly passed me. Thank you CHP!

From there it was a matter of passing the accident mentioned above, signing in and unloading College Guy’s stuff (along with some cookbooks for the Eldest) into the storage unit. I made the hotel without problems, went to Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco, and returned the rental car.

Successful day, that.

Categories: Travel Tags:

It looks the same

June 5th, 2014 7 comments

I hit the road this morning after swapping out rental cars, checking out, and having Noah load the van with all of his stuff.

The first part of the trip went smoothly, if not so stupefyingly boring that I had to play with the radio to keep focused. Then there was the accident on I10W which was in the final stages of being cleaned up. I must assume that most of the looky-loos hadn’t ever seen anyone with a broom before. Otherwise how can one explain a three mile stau?

After hitting road construction and another hour lost to laboriously slow traffic where my only entertainment was watching the couple in the car ahead of me. He was driving while she was all over him, less subtle than a cat in heat. After 30 minutes, I changed lanes and took myself out of range.

The landscape ranged from desert to high desert punctuated by the occasional rest stop (closed). Liking the google directions better than my GPS, I bailed off the interstate to take CA62 toward 29 Palms with the plan of then picking up 347 to Barstow where I could pick up I15 followed by CA 58. Actually you don’t care about the roads and directions – except probably for Brad & Cheré who were stationed at FT Irwin a couple of decades ago.

But while I was going on with all of my two lane cross country driving one of those blinding flashes of the obvious hit me. This is desert, high desert to be sure, but desert none the less. 29 Palms is in the desert. No wonder all the Marines & supporting Navy staff rotating from there through the various camps in Kuwait didn’t think anything of the environment. After all, it was just like home only a bit hotter.

Admittedly, the roads here are better and the chances of IEDs are less, bit there is no lack of trashed, abandoned vehicles along some of the roads. Add in a few camels….. Anyway, my drive across a couple hundred miles of roads had me thinking back a decade or more to temperatures that would make today’s 42*C (~108F) seem like a balmy spring day. It is nice to be driving a civilian vehicle. To not be wearing battle rattle and absent people shooting at me is a definite plus.

Spending 15 months in the deserts of Kuwait was one thing. Living in this type of area as a choice? A bit too barren for my tastes.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Hot and Dry

June 3rd, 2014 No comments

Did I mention that AZ is not exactly my favorite place in the world?

I briefly toyed with the idea of the Desert Botanical Gardens. In fact, I got as far as the parking lot and started looking around

most of it looked like this

most of it looked like this


and when you got closer, it didn't look any friendlier

and when you got closer, it didn’t look any friendlier

I reconsidered and got back in the car. I remember hanging out in Kuwait and hiking when it was well over 40*C because I had to get from one end of the camp to the other for a meeting.

I want to voluntarily go out and look at cactus and scrub because?????

Categories: Travel Tags:

Three Degrees

May 31st, 2014 No comments

Breakfast with College Guy and errands took up a significant chunk of the day. Which goes absolutely nowhere in explains why I took a detour to Jessica Knits.

While standing at the counter I overheard the two lovely women speaking about a friend on an educational ship in the Baltic. I looked up and asked if that would be the U of VA’s “semester at sea” ship? Startled, they said yes as a matter of fact. I then hazarded a guess that their friend had boarded the ship in Hamburg. yes again. I then told them they should ask their friend if she had met Mac (from the Independence TA) and if so say hi for me.

I met Mac, who teaches/taught Spanish in real life because he was brave/foolish enough to join Roy, Dave, myself and whomever else wanted an insane conversation early mornings in the Diamond Lounge. Good guy and able to hold his own which was actually pretty impressive considering. He was leaving the ship in Southampton to fly Hamburg. Six weeks on another ship, huh.

Anyway. No good dead should go unpunished. For that matter, this is only two degrees of separation after all. If I had gotten Mac’s email, I would include him on this post. Ah, well.

And I replaced the knitting needle I lost along the journey so all is goo.

Categories: Travel Tags:

On Star

May 30th, 2014 No comments

As you probably have figured out, I have not exactly been doing a lot of driving in the last year what with all the cruising and all. Didn’t stop me from taking the hotel shuttle back to the airport, the transfer bus to the Car Rentals and picking up a rent-a-beast.

The first try was this cute little Fiat that reminded me of the Eldest’s car. This one however instead of having a trunk had one of those back spaces with a cover. Said cover did not wish to cooperate which is what led me to the red Chevy Sonic.

I don’t know what led me to drop the keys in the trunk. Tiredness? Carelessness? Or just not thinking about the fact that the car doors were closed. Hello? We have a station wagon. Anyway, as I turned and closed the trunk a little voice in my head was screaming OH Sh!!!!

Keys, backpack and wallet were safely in the trunk.

What seemed like a lifetime later after talking to Emergency Road Services I noticed this little red light flashing up on the front on the dashboard. You mean a blue button? Asks the patient guy at the other end. Nope little red blinking light. He goes away for a while. Your car may have On Star.

I am back on hold.

He comes back. Wait a minute he says. Click! In front of my eyes the door locks pop up. Instead of paying hugely to have someone come out and open the car, there is a small service fee.

While I am grateful for the speed and service, I have this remaining residual of discomfort. I think I would have been much happier had I not know than the rental car company can track me. That by remote my car can be locked or unlocked. It is why I will never, ever own a car that can be remotely piloted.

I am willing to be responsible for the consequences of my actions, even when they leave me in the uncomfortable position of having to recover from a bit of incredibly stupid behaviour. But Big Brother (or Little Brother either – go read Cory Doctorov), is not my idea of a good world.

Categories: Travel Tags: