Archive for February, 2012

Leap Year

February 29th, 2012 1 comment

Is it divisible by four? Then is probably is a Leap Year. Hadn’t really thought about it much prior to earlier this month when I was trying to figure out some future dates. Those particular days happened to be in March and I kept coming one day of the week off.

Go read Murr Brewster’s post. I think she probably has it covered.

This month it looks like I read about 30 books and finished two shawls which have been in the WIP pile for way too long. Add in a new shawl or two, some cuffs, hats and I can see that progress has been made.

And I will not admit that I started two new projects (the Oregon Vest and the Leif)

Categories: home, Knitting Tags:

an open window

February 28th, 2012 2 comments

As I was knitting my way through the first repeat of Chart B (Row 26 in case you are interested) there is a narrator in my ears. On this iPod is a free download courtesy of the UK Guardian and still being able to sort of lay claim to a UK address: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

The narrator is Michael Karner who combines a fabulous voice with a reading style perfect for the book coming across as a person sitting across the table from you just to have  chat.

I remember the original publication of the book and never got around to reading it. Motorcycles, Zen and philosophy were simply not of interest at that point in my life. Discussions of why is there air, the meaning of thought were completely overwhelmed by the reality of medical school clinical rotations. I knew about life and its effects, at least as represented by critically ill children, old men in VA hospitals and two cats complaining about why I wasn’t giving them proper attention.

Over the years I have tried various books in this genre and they drive me up the wall. Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Scotland comes to mind. Yes, it is fiction but the characters spend so much time figuring out what things mean and what is a proper (moral) way of doing something that they never seem to either have a life or get on with theirs.

So imagine my skepticism when I started listening. Leaving out the whole issue of how depression and psychotic breaks were treated in the 1950s (prior to any meds) I hit something that resonated. At one point in a discussion of Rhetoric (the middle R of the three Rs a believed by educators from time immemorial ) he describes the believe that all those rules are developed after the fact. That, in truth, anyone who is trying to communicate through the written word is not looking at grammar and all the fancy principles taught in schools and university by erudite members of English faculties. Rather, they are putting down words in the order that seems to make sense to them. They are not writing with the intention of of using certain forms or themes; rather writing, then coming back later to see if the words in the order they are written do what they want them to do. Are they pleasing and do they convey what is intended.

This makes sense to me. The transmission of ideas from one person to another does not follow the same type of clear and simple structure as knitting a Starmore Fairisle pattern that arrived complete with charts and symbol key.  Much of what is taught in English classes is an effort on the part of someone with a lot invested in the system to understand another’s thoughts complete with rules, regulations and an assumption of inner meaning.

If you want clear, sensible writing that easily transmits her thoughts and ideas – you only have to read Cat’s missives.  If you want snortworthy commentary on subjects as widely varying as political candidates and cow poop (wait a minute, perhaps those are the same thing) you can read Murr.

But Pirsig is right, no matter how we look at it, we do know quality when we see it. All of us know good writing when we read it. At the end of the piece, we have an understanding of what the author meant with their words. Not what others have said the author meant, but what the author actually said.

And sometimes, “the blue curtain fluttered in the breeze of the open window” is not a metaphor for anything in particular. It simply means that the curtain which just happened to be blue was hanging in an open while it was windy outside.




Categories: Prose Tags:

Looking back

February 27th, 2012 5 comments

Since I am once again having problems with the links to older posts on the bottom of the page (and personally going back month by month using the calendar would turn me the rest of the way grey) , I decided to look back the easy way. which also gives you the basic format for finding previous months and years.

The actual date of interest is 11 March 2007. Prior to that, “all” I managed was a static website, several of them as a matter of fact. The kids did almost nothing with theirs originally and have done nothing since as far as I can tell. Just about the time that any of the younger ones might have developed an interest first MySpace, then Facebook came along with LiveJournal as an intermediate journaling option.

As you can probably believe, I have stayed away from all of the above preferring to more directly own and manage my own content. Having had the experience of T-Online completely trashing my email account to included deleting all my archives not once, but twice and the Baltimore based guys at who I had used for over 10 years pulling the plug on their operation you might see where I have a few control issues.

Anyway – I have been at this particular version of insanity for almost five years with the occasional comment here and there. Early on the blog and mailing list were two separate entities only becoming consistently combined Aug 2010 when I started the prep for deploying to Afghanistan. Since then the posts are normally the same, but not always. More on the blog than gets delivered by email: length, photos and more entries.

My focus has also changed somewhat over the last five years. The first few years were mostly about knitting, spinning and the occasional foray into whining about the cold in the UK. Then I started including more on vacations including pictures which meant that I mentioned various family members more often. This in turn meant that more distant relations might be interest.

Then we have Afghanistan (and I am very glad that I am not there right now) followed by the fun and challenges of trying to get retired from the military. After that, a lot of this past year has really turned into a travelogue. Since there are plenty of people writing interesting blogs about various spinning, knitting, sewing, quilting, whatever techniques and projects I am comfortable with the current direction.

As I travel I have also had the chance to meet more and more people who are reading this taking the proportion (compared to 1998 and the Balkans or 2003 and Kuwait) who I actually know in person up to about 80%. It has also turned into a journal of where I have been and perhaps who I am becoming.

As a side effect, who knows? Perhaps it can also serve as an electronic alibi since I am documenting where I am which gives you where I am not by process of elimination? No bad deeds on the horizon but the year is young yet!

Categories: Prose Tags:

Row 12

February 26th, 2012 5 comments
a bit more progress

a bit more progress

Maybe knitting another dozen rows of a 275 stitch fairisle (plus steek) doesn’t seem like much progress but considering there is are 1/2 a dozen color changes just in this short segment, I am pretty pleased with the progress. I can even recognize what might be trees started above the large leaves. At this rate, without much effort I should be at the armhole steeks by next Saturday.

Considering that I also read a couple of books (like three in the quick 225 pages each category) and played the latest for Mac entry in Jewel Quest – my day may not have been all that productive, but I had fun

Once upon a mattress

February 25th, 2012 3 comments

It seems like yesterday that we bought our wonderful bed but I know it is not. Actually, it was in 1983 in my best memory when we bought furniture from Domicile which included a several shranks, our coffee table, and the bed. We were living in Stuttgart and were about 1/2 through our first tour. We moved all of our “stuff” several times between 1983-1993. Originally, we put the bed, along with a number of other items into storage when we moved back to Germany in 1993. The house into which we moved simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of our furniture. Since the Army was willing to pay for storage, we simply didn’t worry about it.

When we moved back to Heidelberg in 2001 (after stops in Wuerzburg and Muenchen and my various deployment detours) it seems most sensible to get everything out of storage. We knew the furniture was there, but frankly had forgotten what else might be awaiting unpacking.

It is now 2012. Anyway you look at it, we have had this bed for a number of years. Close to 30 years if I can count. A bit less if I can’t. Even given that it was in storage for 8+ years, I think the time might just count.

What brought on the review was my return this past week. After sleeping on the ship for 18 days without difficulty, I was in desperate straits from back pain after my first night home. By the third day even I had to admit that perhaps we needed new mattresses.

Ah, now the penny (cent, pfenning, whatever) drops. Not only is the lovely wooden frame with sturdy latten almost 30 years old, so are the mattresses. Foam is just not manufactured to last that long, even if you remember to turn them over and around on a regular basis. Since you know me, you know that is not happening.

The old mattresses are in the garage, awaiting a trip to the recycling center on Monday along with whatever else I can stuff in the car. Meanwhile, the great guy to whom I am married both mopped and vacuumed under the bed prior to placing the new mattresses.

the cleaning job

the cleaning job

It looks amazingly better

new mattresses

new mattresses


I tossed the bedding in the washer and dryer – so tonight we have the opportunity to sleep in comfort.

nice, now to clean up the rest of the mess

nice, now to clean up the rest of the mess


And maybe even sleep-in tomorrow!

Knit Update

Brought Oregon to the Heidelberg Strikk Treff and managed to even knit a few rounds!

Oregon Vest - first 33 rounds finished

Oregon Vest - first 33 rounds finished

Categories: home, Knitting Tags:

there are ways

February 23rd, 2012 3 comments

to get him out of his den.


mostly, they involved threats or chocolate

mostly, they involved threats or chocolate











In this case it was a double whammy – his computer was to stay in the living room till his bedroom passed muster. (Oh, the evil mom) and the chocolate was the last bar from my hoard.

dark goodness in a fancy wrapper

dark goodness in a fancy wrapper














with two bars inside

dark goodness in a fancy wrapper











65% Cacao

65% Cacao











As strange as it might seem, I haven’t really knit all that many stranded projects. Or perhaps I should say that I have avoided the traditional fair-isle. It always seemed way too difficult and too much work. Back, before I left on the last pair of cruises, I ordered a Starmore Kit. Oregon Vest to be specific.

and discovered once again that the stranding is not the issue



after all, it is just going around and around

after all, it is just going around and around










It is all the flipping color changes! I mean really – there is a color change in one or both colors every four rows at the outside and usually every two.


just a few color changes

just a few color changes










if there wasn’t a steek involved I would be totally insane. The good thing is that there will be no ends to weave in.

Categories: family, Knitting Tags:

Do I clean?

February 22nd, 2012 Comments off

It was a thought this morning having picked up my meds yesterday, been in a much better mood and started to take a look around the house.

Not – was my decision.

It was far better to make a library run, dropping off all those books which were due at the end of last week when I was still somewhere off the coast of Spain and picking up new ones.

It was far better to go to the Post Office which meant that I could finish this!

Green all the way around!

Green all the way around!


courtesy of Gwen from Minnesota (I would send you to her blog but I don’t think she is keeping it up). She had purchased a ball of this particular color way and knit a Hitchhiker for a family member. She had a couple of meters left at the end. Taking it out of the envelope, I realized that I would have enough to bind off the entire edge with green. An hour of slow frustrating tinking later, I had 3/4 of the stitches back on the needle and bound them off with the new color.

and now it is only blocking that is needed. Ugh.

Categories: Knitting Tags:

Radical Changes II

February 21st, 2012 Comments off

Same pattern as I adapted for Ms Soprano.

This time – knit out of BFL. Yes, that same cone as contributed 900+meters to that rather large triangluar Hoxbro Shadow shawl. And the Coggette wristlets. Since this particular gem took over 600 meters on size 3.25mm needles I am not sure exactly how much was actually on the cone to start. Maybe next time I will have enough sense to at least weigh the thing before I start.

I like the pattern.

Of course, I still have a couple of ends to nail down and some blocking to accomplish, but still – it only took a few days.

Categories: Knitting Tags:

Its a holiday

February 20th, 2012 Comments off

Once again I was reminded of the reality of US calendars. Or rather, the US federal holidays.

I hadn’t planned on making a post office run today – they are always closed on Mondays, but I had planned on making a refill run over to the Heidelberg Hospital/now clinic. Migraines are so much less a problem with medication on hand. It avoids taking the anti-nausea stuff and the sleepy making tablets so that I can possibly function. But no, it is a federal holiday which I figured out before I went over there from the simple process of checking email.

All of these places are having President’s Day Sales. Oops. If there is a sale for President’s Day, then there must be a ….. and since it is Monday – it has to be today. Did I mention that I also had DH underfoot since it is a German Holiday (Rosenmontag for those who track such things)?

Double whammy on a Monday.

Ignoring the laundry which will still be there tomorrow or the day after, I spent a quiet day reading more than knitting. I have a whole collection of eBooks downloaded from Amazon and B&N on various free deals. Then there is Michelle Sagara’s series which I bought last year and are still in the queue along with the new Robyn D Owens urban fantasy (no vampires) set in Denver (sort of). Light reading all.

Categories: Books & Tapes, home Tags:


February 19th, 2012 Comments off

pain, nausea and a day lost to meds. Blah.

Categories: home Tags:

Ball der Vampire

February 18th, 2012 Comments off

Ship to Barcelona Airport. Packed flight to Frankfurt. The kindness of husband and son who met us at the airport and helped haul suitcases and backpacks not just to the car but all the way into the house once we were home.

Originally the Eldest and I had been planning on our cruise starting this weekend (and we might have been caught in even more school holidays than we were) but realized that




was an event that we didn’t want to miss. Well – I hadn’t been before, the Mole hadn’t been and the DH? well – if it has anything to do with Fantasy, SciFi or costumes you can be assured that he would have given it a wide berth given any choice at all.

So it seemed like just the thing to do.



Some got a bit dressed up

Some got a bit dressed up












while the range of costumes at the ball was amazing.  with large numbers on the dance floor at any one time



Not just vampires, but zombies, wizards, witches....

Not just vampires, but zombies, wizards, witches....


(cheap camera, limited light

(cheap camera, limited light














with five different bands in three halls to entertain. The old man and I left about midnight with the Mole whose hand was starting to bother him (sorry I don’t have a picture of them in their tuxes) and left the Eldest to dance quite late.



ah. to be young

ah. to be young

Categories: home Tags:

Last Day at Sea

February 17th, 2012 1 comment

The sun – a burning ball of orange fire has just risen above the sea outlining clouds in shades of rose, red and yellow. It will be a good day with quiet seas. The last full day of our cruise I think the plan is to get organized, sorted, packed and be ready to leave the ship early in the morning.

Of course, we had not counted on the air controllers strike in Frankfurt which cancelled over 140 flights yesterday with over 200 more on the chopping block today. It is one of those times when it is pretty hard to argue. Oh the one hand we all want to travel and to not have our personal lives interrupted. On the other, we all really want to fly safely. Kind of like with pilots – automated systems can and have landed planes without incident when pilots have been incapacitated. The pilots are there for when circumstances (like having to ditch a plane on a river) need judgement that is just not going to come from an automated system.

A lot of air traffic control can be handled by automated systems. Provided, and this is a large assumption with all the critical caveats – the pilots actually do what they are told and when. One pilot out of lane by a few hundred meters can wreck chaos and potentially cost lives. Take a human overseeing the system to yell, scream, cajole and warn off everyone else – especially in the case of emergency.

Yes, I want to fly cheaply. But if I have to kick in an extra Euro every flight toward that safety it would be a small price to pay for my security.

Categories: Travel Tags:


February 16th, 2012 3 comments

Malaga, according to the tourist spiel is the fifth largest city in Spain. Certainly I am not in the position to judge, but it sprawls up the hills from the port gleaming white in the warm sun. There is little left of the Moorish influence in the architecture. Mostly what we all think of as Spanish style architecture with light colored adobe covered walls (or cement block. Hello? This is modern times after all. I didn’t get a chance to visit the war history of the city which might give me a better handle on the current building styles of the city. Certainly it is a port town, with all the fortifications that implies but in more modern times it is also known for music (classical guitar), art (Picasso) and dance. This is also a region of wine and olives. Did I forget to mention bull fighting?

After wandering around in the heart of the pedestrian zone (nothing opens before 1000 so I am not sure why I wanted to wander off the ship so early), we hiked up to the castle/fort over looking the city. Looking both at the fortifications and at the city, it is easy to see how much is new/reconstructed.

We relaxed the rest of the day. Hard work – that sightseeing…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

Another Sea Day

February 15th, 2012 Comments off

Taking advantage of a down day – the Eldest likes shawls. After trying out a couple of patterns, I settled for Radical Changes. Since I know I have enough natural alpaca left on the cone brought with – I got started with the thought in mind that I can finish it on the cruise (but not get it blocked). It will go with the Cogwheel wristlets which were possible to block… And which I now realize I do not have a picture of blocked.

Found a couple of crocheters – and for fun went to a class on making paper boxes. Can you tell that I had a great day reading with a few detours into handwork?

No Spinning – you will have to settle for this

Since I really like the Lady of the Blue Forest – you get to see it again!

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

Lava and Fire Mountain

February 14th, 2012 3 comments

It is rarely I sign up for tours -about once a cruise, maybe less. But I found not that much interesting to see in Accerif last time – even given the excuse of a Sunday. Lanzarote is a volcanic island with major extensions and eruptions dating from 1730-36. It seemed sensible to see the area, especially since the tour included a camel ride.

No, we did not get a particularly friendly camel. Bernardo, in fact, sat back down on the job twice before being convinced he didn’t have a choice. Considering that the Eldest and I are not exactly the heaviest bit of baggage with which he could have been stuck – I don’t think this demonstrated much intelligence on his part. The camel handlers – on the other hand – had muzzles on them all which prevented both spitting and biting.

From there, it was just a short bus ride to the main building near the largest of the old volcanos. Although everyone keeps saying that there is no current risk of eruption, there is still magnum not that far below the surface. Down about two meters the temperature is high enough to trigger off spontaneous burning of hay tossed in for demonstration purposes.

In an area not very far along the ridge there are a series of pipes stuck vertically in the ground. If you, let us say, pour a bucket of water down one of those holes, it will take less than three second before it is returned to you in the form of boiling water and steam.

The lava flows, once started wiped out more than 25 small villages, fields, live stock and traveled from the center ridge to the ocean, extending the size of the island substantially. Driving through the fields we could see the layers of lava colored by included minerals and the area where, almost 300 years later, lichens are just starting. Lava tubes are clearly visible as are arches and caves cut in by the sea.

The last stop on the tour was a vine yard. Since the soil is dry and poor, the vines are raised on the ground. The semi-circles edged with volcanic rock retain what little moisture is in the air enabling the vines to survive. Since I can’t tell from wine – I have no clue as to whether or not the small bit provided for sampling was worth drinking.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Ships of the Wall

February 13th, 2012 1 comment

I don’t remember this from 2007, but there are few of the ship signs have dates going back that far. We also might have just been docked at a different location. I believe the port renovations at Funchal were completed only in the last couple of years. My previous note on this location introduced you to the doors of Maderia and yesterday some of the views from on top of the mountain. Rather than moving on to Tenerife – I am staying “with” Portugal.

If you are a SciFi fan, a comment about “Ships of the Wall” will likely bring David Weber’s Honor Harrington series to mind. Space Navy, impeller wedges and ships which effectively form a wall of defense.

This is the Funchal version:

(and no – that last photo is of the Santa Maria recreation – not a ship of the wall).

Categories: Travel Tags:

Funchal from on high

February 12th, 2012 Comments off

We arrived early in the morning. Not taking the courtesy bus, we walked along the the harbor.  Carnival is coming soon and costumes were on display at the cable car station. I hadn’t taken it the last time – it seemed like something to do with the Eldest. I had forgotten that she doesn’t really like heights. So she looked ahead while I spoke with the Danish couple sharing our car. They are part of the bridge group. More interesting to me – he is a former Danish paratrooper and spent years on their jump competition team. Between him and his wife, they had close to 2500 jumps. Their next vacation, they were contemplating going somewhere with a lot of sun and the ability to do a number of jumps in one day (it apparently rains a lot in their part of northern Denmark just like it does in the UK and some areas of Germany).

We ran into a couple of English school teachers and Shana shared a sledge with them back down the mountain. I took the cable car back down and had a nice cup of coffee while waiting for her.

Of course, since it was Sunday – going into the needlework store we found was not an option.

Categories: Travel Tags:

The Luggage

February 11th, 2012 Comments off

The Luggage

Ok, I give in. I quit. I now fully understand why people want luggage with four wheels rather than two.

You know what I am talking about it? The two wheel vs four wheel luggage controversy. I have always loved my luggage.  I have good luggage with excellent in-line skate wheels that manage just about any surface and pulls quite smoothly. I have never been impressed with those suitcases with wheels on each of four corners skittering alongside their owner like The Luggage.

You do know The Luggage? If you don’t I suggest you start reading Terry Prachett’s Diskworld series from the beginning. Not completely sure, but The Luggage (which he based on seeing an uncoordinated suitcase driving it’s pusher completely and totally barking mad in an airport) skitters along on multiple feet. We will not even get into the fact that it might just be sentient or has been known to eat things.

Back to luggage. Two wheels move smoothly and cleanly. Four wheels are closer to the challenges of shopping carts and are more difficult on uneven surfaces. What none of this mentions is that two wheel suitcases are towed. Towing puts the weight of the suitcase on the hand, arm, shoulder and back of the victim. Not an issue with a light suitcase, but a serious issue with a 26″ case that is close to the allowable airline limit of 23 kg if the distance to be traveled is more than a block or three. Or kilometer. Or up a fairly long hill after a hike from where you couldn’t find a shuttle bus stop to a cruise terminal.

In comparison, a four wheel suitcase travels next to you, heeling at your side like a well trained dog. You can’t walk all that fast and there are issues with uneven surfaces and paving stones secondary to the wheel size. I suspect that there might be issues related to weight, but they are going to be different. You may still have to push or pull, but it would be an angular force without having to support kilos worth of stuff at the same time.

Since the Eldest has made this journey with four wheels rather than two – I probably should go and get her opinion. But that might just shatter my little bubble on this lovely sea day.

Categories: Travel Tags:

The Eldest

February 10th, 2012 5 comments


She is lovely, my Eldest – bright, beautiful, a talented photographer and scary smart. And has a birthday today. Can it really be that many years since the early Saturday morning when she joined us with a squall and curious look? If I blink too fast, I might wake up and see that more years have gone by.

Since she is at sea with me, I can hardly suggest that you send her an email. On the other hand, she could always read them when she gets home.

I hardly remember whether or not I thought birthdays were all right to celebrate or not when I was in my 30s. In any case, it didn’t make much sense to bring anything heavy with me so that she could turn around and haul it back home (my suitcase to her suitcase, where is the logic in that?)

But still, I did bring a few small things since one can’t really count the cruise as a present completely since I get to participate with her. Hummm, what to do for next year?

Categories: family Tags:

around the bend again

February 9th, 2012 4 comments

If the following looks familiar

Thu Feb 9 Barcelona, Spain 7:00pm
Fri Feb 10 At Sea
Sat Feb 11 At Sea
Sun Feb 12 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 8:00am 5:00pm
Mon Feb 13 Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands 8:00am 6:00pm
Tue Feb 14 Arrecife, Canary Islands 8:00am 6:00pm
Wed Feb 15 At Sea
Thu Feb 16 Malaga, Spain 8:00am 7:00pm
Fri Feb 17 At Sea
Sat Feb 18 Barcelona, Spain 5:00am



Which graphically can be presented like this –

You would be totally and complete right. I am going around the bend. More accurately, making a second loop. The only challenge to this one is coordinating with the Eldest who is joining me. We tried this a couple of years ago – an RCL cruise out of Dubai and managed to miss each other in the airport, at the check-in and back at the airport. Obviously, we finally found each other but it was not an auspicious start.

I want this year to be better. When I started to give her directions she looked at me rather strangely – no, she said, I don’t know where anything is in Barcelona – I haven’t been there before.

Oh – Ms Soprano was there twice on Model UN projects. Barcelona was the departure port in fall of 2009 when I took Maus and her roommate around the Western Med. George and I have been numerous times for business. Come to think of it – I don’t remember the Mole having been here either. But I should not getting the girls confused. I am not that old….

So wish us fair seas and good sailing. Not to worry – the captain on this ship is not Italian.

Categories: Travel Tags:


February 8th, 2012 4 comments

This is a sea day and when such a day falls immediately before docking I mostly do non-exciting things like look at all the yarn I brought along and shake my head. I make myself do the handwork on those knitted items I finished so that the ends are woven in, loose threads clipped.

I organize and pack while avoiding all the hype and push to spend money.

Since NCL has become serious about limiting photography during any of their performances, there is little opportunity to find things of interest in the evening. No one is swimming (at 15C out, that makes sense) and no one was in the hot tubs last night.

However, there was a chocolate buffet so without further comment, I will provide you pictures. (items for display including ice sculpture and carved veggies. These were not for eating. I actually skipped the chocolate and had a crepe with lemon instead).

Categories: Travel Tags:


February 7th, 2012 2 comments

Gibraltar on my own sounded like not so bad an idea. I had always intended to get there while stationed in the UK and just had not managed. The Jewish Military Group had talked about repeating a successful trip from a few years prior but it didn’t happen during my tenure. I should have known that the ticket price was going to include more than the transportation. We were gifted with a very opinionated wizened little Spanish man. Glad to have my iPod and music with which to drown him out, I managed to knit the almost two hours we spent on the road. The photos following are in the order mentioned.

Yes, I already knew that Gibraltar had changed hands a number of times. Most Americans have a familiarity with The Rock which unfortunately comes from a certain insurance company. A “piece of The Rock?” When middle and older men decide to fight about who owns what piece of groups, it is the young men’s blood that makes the soil red. (If you want – insert March of Cambreadth here – the Heather Alexander song seemed very apropos). The tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar is the dividing line between the Med and the Atlantic. Across Straits you can see North Africa on a clear day. (and yes, I know this is the other side of the rock from what is used in the ads. If you want a picture of the other side – go see the night photo from early in the trip).

Anyway – this tour guide decided that we had to know about all the wealthy people who had moved into the area, how the locals can trouble affording decent housing and other tales of ex-Pats. Considering all of this, one of the Germans on the trip finally asked if there was much industry locally besides tourism? Well, as it turns out, tourists, ex-Pats (Brits, Scans, Germans, Dutch) and avocados form the basis of the economy. The Avocados going into various beauty products rather than being for food stuffs.

He got back on his rant and didn’t shut up again the whole away. Not being Spanish – I don’t mind that the UK won’t give the land back.

There are more workers in the surrounding area than there are residents in Gibraltar (30k) so that a large amount of the work force comes in through the border every morning and leaves every evening. It is still a British possession which explains the English in a sea of Spanish.

Escaping the bus at the Coach Terminal with slightly under 4 hours to explore I headed for the Cable car figuring a nice view from the top would be great. Tues is maintenance day. Being already part way down the peninsula, my trusty map and I decided to head toward some more of the military fortifications. Frankly, the whole place is a fort. There have been tunnels, gun emplacements and lookouts for most of the centuries. (Prior to guns – well entrenched fighting positions and look-outs were still a great idea). Most of the fortifications are still there, car parks are critical on such a small bit of land.

Turning down multiple offers of guided tours to the top, I hiked up Engineer Road to the Nature Conservatory. As I was headed up and up and up, I was more than grateful to the last seven days worth of hours spent on the treadmill’s cross country program which made hiking up the mountain at a rapid pace within do-ability.

Just past the entrance on this end at what is know as Jew’s Gate is the Pillars of Hercules Monument essentially proclaiming Gibraltar as the center of the modern world. Jew’s Gate Cemetary is just beyond on the uphill side of the road. Parts are extremely old, others a bit more recent. Similar to what I noted in many places in the UK (unlike Germany and the US) most of it is not in good repair. Of course, limestone is not exactly a sturdy long term material for gravestones, especially when exposed to pollution.

I decided not to spend the rest of my time hiking another couple of miles to St Michaels Cave. the Apes’ Den or the military sites (Siege tunnels, WWII tunes, Military Heritage Center, or various gun battery emplacements) which are all on the Upper Rock. Hiking past the MOD (Ministry of Defence) property, please note the swimming pool winking behind the barbed wire.

Trafalgar Cemetery is beautifully laid out and well tended; the graves date from the late 1700s through the 1800s and is sited just outside the 1883 gate and wall.

There is an active orthodox presence in Gibraltar in what to me sometimes feels like classic modern mode (kippah, cellphone and cigarette) as well as a busy herd of younglings. Windows, doors and signs mark a community which has been present in one form or another for centuries with the Flemish and Great Synagogues.

There are libraries, both military and civilian, there are museums and I will close with the inscription off a Naval Monument. With the length of the post and number of pictures, the fiber and knitting related materials are posted separately.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Knit ‘n Natter

February 7th, 2012 2 comments

Please excuse the fact that you are seeing two posts from me today. Yes, I know that it does not make up for all those days where I didn’t post, or stuck things up quickly, late and a bit on the sloppy side. But once again I think this portion of the day has interest for not everyone on my one-and-all list.

The subject matter, of course, is knitting. Well, fiber.

After wandering (which happened after the post which comes second) around the Main Street area (note, this is not High Street nor Hauptstrasse), stopping at Marks & Spencers for some nosh and checking out the bookstores I came to Casemates Square. The square, named for the Military Barracks on the side was also once the site of public executions. Now it is a bustling sunny place filled with cafes, restaurants, benches, fountains and children playing.

Anyway – there was a sign on entering the square about Arts & Crafts on the second floor of the far, long building. Arts & Crafts? Why not? Coming up the stairs internal to the building before reaching the balcony were three panels of a school children’s quilt project. The past portion and present made sense. The future? open to anyone’s guess.

On the outer walkway in one direction were some shops and the Army Recruiting office for the local Regiment. (I did mention that Gibraltar has had a long and messy military history didn’t I?)

Turning around, in the other direction – there it was. Inside the lovely and open shop was an extensive display of local products ranging from quilting and sewing through jams, jellies and baskets. There might have been some jewelry as well, but my eyes were distracted by a table of women in the far left back.

Tues afternoons, from lunch till 1500 is a gathering of charity knitters (or those working on their own projects as well). There is an extensive collection of books to be borrowed, a wall of donated yarn for charity knitting and eight ladies working on projects ranging from sweaters and caps to afghan squares and shawls.

I spent a lovely hour just relaxing and knitting. The shop is also the local BookCrossing Zone with high shelves and several hundred books which made me, again, wish that I had a book to add to the shelf. I was going to pick up something, just to journal it and add it to the swap shelves in the ship library but suddenly noticed the passage of time.

Heading back to the Coach Terminal I was just on time (but everyone else was late….).

On the route back which again took almost two hours – I finished the Hocus Pocus and cast on the first arm for the Clockwork Cuffs. The photos were taken after I returned to my room which is why you get one of my current Rainbow jacket status.

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:


February 6th, 2012 1 comment

A day at sea is a lovely way to relax, get some knitting accomplished and to people watch. Since the temperatures are not in the 20s – it is only the hardy souls out on deck. Most of them seem to head out, drop off covering garments and head immediately for the hot tubs. The process in reverse is even faster for some including a scoop and dash with the clothes toward the shelter of one enclosed space or another. (No question, IMHO that RCI has it right with their enclosed pools, usable with the sunroof closed in cold/inclement weather).

Well over half the passengers on the ship are from the US/Canada and played the walking zombie for the first couple of days. Didn’t hear a complaint about sea days from them at all. A number of other first time cruisers, not being dragged down by time zone changes had lots to say about the lack of hot weather and sunshine. Honestly, it is February. If you want to assured of hot weather, I might suggest New Zealand, Australia or South Africa. In other words, somewhere that it is summer. Canary Island are definitely not in the grip of a snow storm but still, they are in the Northern Hemisphere.

Given that I am mostly involved with audio books and knitting, it gives the brain a fair amount of time to roam. There are a lot of people here reading. Reading as in books – hard covers out of the library (700+ books) or paperback of their own. If I had known there was a paperback swap shelf I might have brought a few more books on a one way trip. What I have rarely seen is eReaders. Unlike this fall or last summer where Nooks, Kindles and iPads abounded – my count is still in single digits. Perhaps you might think that I am just missing them, but I have been wandering all over the ship, trading off sitting and relaxing places just to try out different locations and chairs. Lots of books, a few magazines and the rare reader.

For that matter, headphones and ear buds are rare outside of the fitness center.

Knitting seems to be a magnet, I have met a lot of women who do various kinds of needle crafts, but not one bought anything along on the trip. Several made the usual comments about not being able to take knitting needles/crochet hooks on airplanes. I did the usual explanation (wood, bamboo, plastic – not size 0000 steel 15″ lace needles and they ought to be fine). All the discussions were fun, it made up for the fact that I am going to have to frog the almost finished left side of my rainbow sweater back to the sleeve. Something about having cast on a few too many stitches and not wanting something will extend to my knees when finished.

I have had diner with couples from Leeds, Yorkshire, and Essex. Today I had a lovely conversation with a couple from Bremerhaven who remember when the US had troops stationed there. In fact, they were part of a network of locals who took in single soldiers for weekends and holidays. It is almost 20 years since the base closed and they are still getting cards and letters (and of course some email in this day and age).

Mostly however, the demographics are what you might expect: significant participation from us “old retired folks.”

Categories: Travel Tags:


February 5th, 2012 Comments off

We could blame it on the day of the week but more than likely it is the fact that this particular location is more capital, and less tourist attraction. When away from a small portion of downtown shore line, the town is not all that exciting. Swirls of trash on the street reflect the flocks of pigeons circling overhead. Buildings are slabs of cement in less than ideal repair. The occasional palm lets you know that the weather here is warm, windy with a moderate amount of rainfall. The fort on the edge of the city reminds everyone that battles were fought across the area centuries ago.

Some things feel familiar – water storage on the top of buildings, a few wooden doors here and there and a real phone booth. The Library is open on Sundays – most of the stores are not.

And progress on the knitting.

Categories: Travel Tags:

La Laguna

February 4th, 2012 Comments off

The Old Tower stands at one end of what is now a pedestrian zone in La Laguna at the Placa de la Conception. Its stones are old, the wood frames of the windows looking only a few decades old and well cared. There are 24 stone steps inside leading to the first main level. From this point, obvious new wooden construction lets you climb another 112 stairs up to the point when you literally hit your head against the glass ceiling at the top of the cupola. The bells are one level down from there and the highest section at which you have access to the outside world without benefit of glass separating you from the weather.

Since I was just here in Nov (as apposed to Nov of 2007) when I had seen some of the museums I decided to take the tram across the northern part of the island from Tenerif. From one end of the line to the other takes close to an hour starting from near the old fort at water’s edge and ending at the Pedestrian Zone at the other.

It is easy to see that we are back in Spain; the fancy patterned stone side walks with their lines, symbols and insets are gone in favor of ordinary cobblestone and pavement. The architectural highlight in this city is the door. Old wooden doors pitted but lovingly tended. Newer doors (well 100 years old is newer, right?) gleam with varnish and sealant. Also of interest are the wooden frames to upper windows.

I hope you can handle doors two days in a row. Oh, and did I mention the tribe of Scouts complete with backpacks, sleeping rolls and a weary looking couple of adults escorting them down the street. From the variety of languages heard I don’t think they are local kids.

Reading –

I am trundling through Monica Ferris’s Needlework Shop Mystery series. Not exactly in order by chronology but by alphabetical order as I picked most of them up over the last year on the various Audible Sales.


It takes much longer to finish a section repeat on the Shadow Jacket now that I have added the body extensions on both ends to to the sleeve sides. ~150 stitches suddenly had 220 added, which does slow me down.

Categories: Books & Tapes, Knitting, Travel Tags:

Maderian Embroidery

February 3rd, 2012 2 comments

Funchal is the city, Maderia the Island, and Portugal the relevant country. Like many locations, unique styles of local clothing and stitchery developed in the last several hundred years, especially with the import of commercial fabrics and threads. It is also obviously Portuguese; sidewalks with patterns.

Traditional embroidery here is a variation of white on white cutwork with blue on which being first seen no earlier than 18xx and brown on ivory only in the second half of the 20th century. There is a small embroidery museum (from which I include a few pictures taken before I saw the sign saying no photos). I stopped at two of the Embroidery Factories, one of which was an actual working location.

The process is as follows – drafting of patterns, punching of patterns, transfer of the pattern to the fabric. What follows then is the hand (mostly) embroidery followed by finishing. Most locations also sell some needlepoint (most of which looked like it was French/DMC with the body of the work completed leaving the background stitching up to the purchaser. You can see that there were cubby upon cubby containing current and historically used patterns. What I also was informed is that the government, in an effort to protect the industry does not allow patterns, materials etc to DIY. Kind of explains the many stores offering embroidered linens and garments and the absence of any remotely resembling needle craft (wonder what they do about the Internet – plain brown wrapper?)

This also seemed to be the correct post in which to place the current knitting update.

The shadow shawl is complete as of today. After completing a couple of rows on the pumpkins in Hocus Pocus I switched over to the shadow jacket. I was at the point where I needed to cast the body onto both sides of the first sleeve. Rather than follow the directions and have one side off 1/2 a row I elected a provisional cast. When I get to the neck split, I will go back and three needle bind off under the arms from the provisional stitches (which shouldn’t show in the black although I may go nuts during the execution). It was at this point I found that everything no longer fit on one needle. I don’t’ think it will be quite as hard to go back and work the second sleeve in, since it is 15 rows short of complete to the shoulder.

Categories: Fiber Tags:

Rua De Santa Maria

February 3rd, 2012 5 comments

The last time I was in Funchal was fall 2007 (the trip with MSC from Genoa to Buenos Aires. The friend I was traveling with and I did a number of the touristy things like take the cable car up the mountain and the sledges down as well as wander around the town looking at this and that before heading back to the ship.

Since then, I have been to/through the Canaries a couple of times but the stops have been on other islands.

This is the first of two posts on Funchal. Too many photos for one post. Two completely disparate things to talk about.

In the last several years there has been a lot of art development which leads me to the street art. Back all those same number of years ago I had a Friday tradition of posting pictures – normally doors or arches. So this is about the doors along Rua de Santa Maria. Not all the doors, mind you – just the ones which I found interesting or could get a decent shot not obscured by all the other tourists with their cameras. I have my older EOS instead of the 7D which was not particularly happy with me. I am feeling the lack of capability (narrower ISO range which decreases the quality of indoor pictures) and the not-quite-as-good lens.

If you are reading the email version of this post with thumbnails – suggest you wander to the blog as the ability to embiggen some of the photos really makes a difference.

Categories: Arches&Doors, Travel Tags:


February 2nd, 2012 4 comments

Since Internet on the ship is not cheap – you will get words first (cut and paste is wonderful!) followed by a picture gallery without labels. In the past, I have always said that I will upload photos later – and it doesn’t always happen. This time, rather than getting around to it – you will have pictures. Guess which is what is not a bad game.

Just so things are clear – we made an unexpected stop in Gibraltar last night. Since I have the older camera with an ISO setting only down to 1600, the shutter speed was longer than I liked and the best that I got was with camera braced on the side rail

The story started earlier in the afternoon when I was sitting, minding my own business in one of the lounges. This couple who had a significant number of years on me dropped in to chairs on the other side of the coffee table. The elderly gentleman, from what I understood (my French is just about gone and they had no other languages) had not been feeling well. He got up and wandered off. A few minutes later as he was headed back, it looked like he got dizzy and hit the carpet with a resounding crash.

Guess what – I even got to fill out an accident report in exchange for promptly responding (head wounds bleed like mad) and the staff rounded up a wheel chair after finding me some clean bar towels for a pressure dressing.

Several hours later, there is a ship wide announcement that we will be making an unplanned stop in Gibraltar to off load an ill/injured passenger. Now, I don’t think the head wound was all that serious but it did need stitches. What I believe is of concern is whatever medical reason was behind his falling in the first place. It wasn’t rough seas and it was not food issues. The five main issues (cardiac, strokes, diabetes, electrolytes and medication imbalance) are much more likely as a source).

The seas were not all that smooth and it was a bit chilly. Watching as they dropped down a side panel to lock up against the medical response tender and said vessel bouncing around like a cork was more than I wanted to see. Rather than take any more pictures, I headed in.

Now – back to the ship followed by a side detour into knitting.

The Norwegian Jade…. built in 2006 has the same physical layout as the Norwegian Star (Alaska cruise last August). In contrast, it has a bit of an interesting decoration scheme. There are paintings, murals, decorations and lighting fixtures that I would expect to see in the Pacific.  Well – goes what ? This turns out to  be the ship that used to be named “Pride of Hawaii” that plied the route around the Hawaiian Islands.

My cabin is comfortable for me and would be fine for a couple. You would have to be insane to try and shoehorn four people into this space.  What I am starting to consider is that, when traveling my oneself – go for the cheapest room possible. There really is not a whole lot of point to views or lots of space when it is by far more interesting to be out and about in the ship. If I want to sit by myself and never see or talk to other people I could have stayed home.

Anyway – there is the ship and there are also the two knitting projects currently in front of me. The Hocus Pocus cowl is portable within the limits of dealing with a color work pattern so it was with me on the plane and the first day on ship prior to luggage. The large triangular shawl has the first wing done, the center section and most of the second side completed leaving me with about six rows plus the front edging. It is a lot of stitches, trust me.

so – Ship pix, the rock and night (not great but the best you will get) and two knitting pictures.


Categories: Travel Tags:

Norwegian Jade

February 1st, 2012 7 comments

I have run away from home again. If you are reading this as an email, it means that I managed to get on-line. If you are on my blog, well – I do occasionally have enough sense to preposition posts. This time it is with the Norwegian Jade. Obviously, the loop is from Barcelona to Barcelona.

From my point of view, this trip meets all criteria

  1. it is warmer there than here
  2. I like Barcelona and can find things there. Still want to spend more time in the Maritime Museum
  3. I am familiar with the three Canary Stops and have places to visit and hikes to take
  4. there are days at sea to knit.
  5. no cooking, cleaning, laundry
  6. good fitness facilities


Tues Jan  31 Barcelona, Spain 7:00pm
Wed Feb 1 At Sea
Thu Feb 2 At Sea
Fri Feb 3 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 8:00am 5:00pm
Sat Feb 4 Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands 8:00am 6:00pm
Sun Feb 5 Arrecife, Canary Islands 8:00am 6:00pm
Mon Feb 6 At Sea
Tue Feb 7 Malaga, Spain 8:00am 7:00pm
Wed Feb 8 At Sea
Thu Feb 9 Barcelona, Spain 5:00am
-Holly at Sea again
Categories: Travel Tags: