Author Archive

Another year

October 2nd, 2015 1 comment

is now in the past. This birthday is different only in that it marks a turning point in those basic interactions with the government which most of us want to avoid. Part A & B of Medicare come to mind.  In the same way, I’m hoping to avoid a fuss and absolutely detest public recognition or embarrassment. Specifically singing waiters and other assorted displays.  Obviously, I am speaking to dinner possibilities this evening.

I don’t have any particularly brilliant thoughts to share. It has been a good year, an interesting year in which I have been fortunate enough to travel to areas of the world new to me as well as revisit places I enjoy. I have made new friends as well as maintained contact with those I have known for years.

There have been other milestones – probably the most significant (besides that pesky Medicare Part A & B) is renewing my medical license for the 40th time.  I guess that balances managing to lose both a jacket and a phone on the same trip.  Photo courtesy of one of my fellow traveler’s and probably the location of the escaped phone.

Godafoss - Iceland

Godafoss – Iceland

Thank you all for the well wishes on this, my 65th birthday. This coming year should be interesting complete with family, travel and a number of professional meetings. We will be closing out the house in Heidelberg, seeing the Eldest move into her own home later this fall, the College Guy transfer, Ms Chicago return to school and Ms Maus take on NYC.  I’ll be on land a bit more, on ships a bit less and following the example of my good friend Carmen – start to make serious decisions on all that “stuff” I have been hauling around for years.

OTOH – I can finally set up my Playmobile trains, the weather in Berkeley is pretty decent…..  Garden Gauge thank you very much……



Categories: family, Friends Tags:

Explorer of the Seas

October 1st, 2015 No comments

Is the ship I am boarding starting tomorrow from Southampton. Between now and then – I have my plane to LHR, the NationalExpress Bus to Southampton and three rounds to go with Barclay’s bank. I also have to figure out what I might possibly have planned since I am sure that I made arrangements to join a group at least in Gibraltar.

So –   2-9 Oct 2015

The route –




Fri Oct 2 London (Southampton), England 4:30pm
Sat Oct 3 At Sea
Sun Oct 4 Vigo, Spain 10:00am 5:00pm
Mon Oct 5 Lisbon, Portugal 9:00am 5:00pm
Tue Oct 6 Cadiz, Spain 10:00am 8:00pm
Wed Oct 7 Gibraltar, UK Territory 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Oct 8 At Sea
Fri Oct 9 Barcelona, Spain 6:00am


(Exhausted and still time zone whacked – it is now 1930 in the evening. I have been to Barclays. I am checked into the hotel. I found something for supper. The Wifi is free……



Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:

It didn’t happen

September 30th, 2015 No comments

Any of the errands I had planned – in fact – none of the errands on the schedule.

In fact, none of them happened. I didn’t go to ADAC to get my driver’s license replaced. I didn’t drive to Kleber Caserne to do the same with my ID card (after all – it doesn’t expire for another couple of days…..).

Instead, I concentrated on tossing out a few more things that really needed to be in the trash rather than in the house. Packing for tomorrow’s departure took a bit of time mostly to maximize choices with a minimum number of shoes. I’ll drop off more books (30) at the USO, drink coffee in the Lufthansa Lounge and be in the UK by 1000.

Categories: home Tags:

What’s in a name?

September 29th, 2015 No comments

We had barely taken off yesterday when the line of men headed for the toilets started. Unlike on a weekend, business class was over 60% obvious middle aged men on their way to/from important meetings. The rest of the seats re filled with an assortment of elderly women, super cool looking dudes, well fed couples + me. Notice that I did not mention children? Child free is always good when heading east and wishing to sleep.

This plane is name “Beijing”. Why? Asking, I received a lovely informative spiel from the cabin steward. It seems that when the Airbus 380’s went into service they started naming them for the distant cities they connected with Frankfurt and München. Tokyo, Beijing, Johannesburg etc.

Sleep, wake, catch a train. It happened to be the Basel train running late so that I didn’t have to wait another 35 minutes for the one I had booked. Changing in Mannheim, I was home in reasonable order in time to empty the mailbox and get some serious sleep.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Just like Fenton –

September 28th, 2015 No comments

I’m baaaaaccckk*.

No surprise – I am sitting in the United Lounge at SFO since Lufthansa doesn’t have their own lounge. United being the bragging but cheaper member of Star Alliance they grace their lounge with a couple of vegetarian lunch options (same hummus, olives, peppers, tabouli and garden vegetable soup as the last time) along with sugar loaded sweets. Not that I tried the different colors of Skittles to see if they were actually all the same or anything…

My flight boards for Frankfurt about 1430 and we arrive after 1000 tomorrow morning. Instead of traveling a lot lighter going home the extra bag is yarn for various people, souvenir pins for the next set of cruises, costumes for the cruise after that and the list goes on. When all is said and done – it feels like I am not making all that much progress in moving stuff out of Germany.

* Fenton – starring character in one of Tom Smith’s Filk Songs (Sheep Marketing Ploy (The Ballad of Fenton) (from Sounds Familiar)). If you have a sense of humor and enjoy filk – follow the link. If you have no clue as to what I am talking about – never mind.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Vintage Cruise Poster

September 23rd, 2015 No comments
The Puzzle

The Puzzle

This is the puzzle that has been hanging out in the puzzle keeper since I was here in June. A vintage poster from the days when sailing across the ocean was either necessity or luxury and unlikely anything in the middle.

Like all of Liberty’s puzzles, they are wooden, laser cut and well seasoned with whimsy pieces.

interesting pieces

interesting pieces

and the finished puzzle.



Categories: puzzles Tags:

41 Million. Why?

September 17th, 2015 1 comment

This at is the figure that the shuttle driver provided during the extremely short ride from where I was staying over to the Mall. Which Mall – that of America of course. After all, I flew into the MPLS-St Paul Airport.


That many people visit Mall of America every year? Why? Even if I subtract out the numbers for those who work there, it still makes the 5 Million a year who used to walk by our doors in Heidelberg seem paltry.

I took the shuttle over. I walked around. There are a lot of stores, most of which either strongly resemble national and international chains. Except for several which feature “Minnesota” souvenirs, books, t-shirts, magnets, slippers and recipe books. Otherwise? Mostly there are just a lot of stores, almost matched by the number of places where you can consume calories. The amusement park in the center runs year round, but by far the most popular is the water park on the lower level. Outdoor water sports aren’t possible most of the year – in winter it is cold, in summer there are mosquitos….

I was bored a lot more quickly than I expected and returned on the early shuttle. Hotel lobby with Wifi was much more peaceful.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Sailing into New York

September 15th, 2015 3 comments

Except for the Teardrop, before 0600


019A0746 019A0749 019A0759 019A0773 019A0785 019A0787 019A0790 019A0824

After watching from my balcony a short while, I made the hike up to Deck 12 and an unobstructed view. Having been to NYC a few times, I could actually recognize landmarks from Brooklyn’s bridge to Staten Island to the ferries, Manhattan Skyline, the Lady.

The bridges in San Francisco are light with golden light, more visible in the fog. Not New York, light bright and white, they shine silver in the early morning.

Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:

Let them eat cake

September 14th, 2015 2 comments
Bringing out the Cake

Bringing out the Cake

Carefully lowering it into place

Carefully lowering it into place

Huh - looks a lot like the souvenir cruise pin

Huh – looks a lot like the souvenir cruise pin

Map – land and water – check. Route? – check…. I tried turning it “right side up” so that you could read the “Transatlantic Crossing” better but it looked really weird due to the edging on the sides.

This is our last sea day, our last day on the ship and packing day (oh, what fun….. not). What I managed to pass off on the way here has been replaced by Faroes & Icelandic Yarn requested by various individuals. Plus a couple of towels. Of course, I underestimated the amount of space taken up by two bath sheet size towels even when not overly thick and bearing a Crown/Anchor logo.

Off the plane at a reasonable time in the morning, transfer to the airport then a long wait before my flights.

I finished the shawl (minus some ends and the blocking….

all garter, all the time

all garter, all the time

and measures 180cm by 90 cm unblocked….

Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:


September 13th, 2015 No comments

Walk up the hill away from the harbour next to the Atlantic Superstore. Not far, just a parallel street or two and you are out of the tourist area and into the real city. There are painted ladies reminiscent of San Fransisco, locally painted signs, lost cats heart wringing posters on the telephone poles.

The English influence is everywhere: the public gardens, hotel names and brick architecture and construction details. The Irish fill the Catholic cemetery while the Scots have both the Province name and much of the music.

Halifax is also a a university city with more than its share of medium and high rise ugly cement slab dorms and signs for apartments and sublets in many windows. Then there are the discounts on offer, perhaps Tuesday or Thursday but never on the weekend when more money is to had from he tourists.

I walked up and past the old fort looking down on the harbour. The first time I was here, 2010 off the Costa Atlantica, Noah and I explored it. Our timing was right for both canon firing and a change of the guards in what I sincerely hoped was period uniforms.

I had wondered about the horses before spotting the sign for the Junior Lancers opposite the Citadel High School.


On the flats above the museum and boardwalk is an area of wooden houses. For Americans, it is like the oldest buildings in Bar Harbor or Portland. Homes under historic preservation stand next to tries of obviously the same era but owned by those who don’t want that burden. A Well tended house may share a wall with one which probably saw more care and live in previous centuries. A kaleidoscope of colors brighten your eyes. No rows of demure white here, but a riot of combination that would case massive heart attacks and strokes in the stuffier homeowners associations.

Which doesn’t mean that historic markers aren’t present.

The next time you are here, after strolling the boardwalk, seeing the maritime Musuem and contemplating the citadel, take a few minutes to explore a neighbourhood or two. See the hidden gems adding cheer to what could be the grey of an Atlantic costal town winter. The graffiti that is art.

near the harbor

near the harbor

back of a bookstore

back of a bookstore



Oh, and get your coffee from one of the many local and comfortable coffee ships. Or Tim Hortons. Better flavour, avoid the 30 min wifi limit of Starbucks and enjoy being in Canada.

Categories: Travel Tags:

White, white

September 12th, 2015 No comments

As far as the eye can see.

We have been inured in fog for several days now. At a time when there is massive magnetic storm activity and the solar winds are blowing and dancing, elsewhere in Northern Latitudes there have been incredible Auras in the night sky.

Us? Physically located on the globe where the possibilities are great – no chance.

To see the Northern Lights you need just a few things: clear skies, cold, dark, and appropriate solar winds.  We have had overcast skies at night (when it is dark) since leaving Oslo. Except, of course, when it was raining. Which has been just about every night since we have been at sea.

Now I understand variable temperatures related to the ocean. There is a lot of water. We are sailing on it. That means that there is water in the air. It is fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of the time we get clouds and rain.  I look out every night into white capped seas and sheets of fine rain and mist blowing past my balcony. The sky is a mass of clouds overhead.

I can’t give you pictures – that wonderful light show has been taking place, but well above the clouds which block my view. So if you want to see pictures – follow the Aurora Gallery Link @ where those who have been fortunate with clear skies have been posting some incredible photos.

Instead, you can know that it was our last of five days at sea. The morning knit group again managed to take over a significant portion of Cafe Lattitudes. The passenger choir performed four songs in the Atrium in the early afternoon. And there was, again, way too much available food.

Shawl Progress

solid yarn and contrasting Zauberball
solid yarn and contrasting Zauberball
all but the final border

all but the final border

yes, short rows

yes, short rows


Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:

11 September – fourteen years on

September 11th, 2015 1 comment
You can't make anyone see reason.  All you can do is throw a big party around reason and see who shows up.

Its been fourteen years since the world as the US knew it literally exploded in its face in one of the most painful ways possible. The attacks on the New York World Trade Center and Pentagon were not the impulsive work of an unhappy loner. It wasn’t domestic terrorism. This was not the Oklahoma bombing or the Unibomber. The attack on one of the financial centers of the world and a major communications hub in New York City was a long planned, carefully thought out and executed act by a well funded and determined group.

The repercussions are still being felt. Multiple countries and thousands of families around the world were personally affected. All of us who were on active duty at the time knew at least one of those in the Pentagon. Most in the financial markets had a connection. But for thousands it was personal, caused a loss and impact that drastically changed the course of their lives.

The events of that day became fodder for countless news stories, journal articles, novels, memories and not a few criminal investigations.

It is difficult to say, but what became apparent over the next days, months and years was the depth of the hate some of the non-government organizations had for groups not like themselves coupled with the need to exterminate all those not agreeing. Violence, once again became an acceptable way to make your point. Not as a single individual or splinter group but as a major player on the world stage.

In certain mind sets the response was easy: military strike. Wipe them out, hunt them down. In doing so, it is easily possible to further the case you are trying to defeat. Demonstrating on CNN that you are the “evil western infidels” who are trying to destroy your particular way of life. Having started the fight has nothing to do with your reaction.

Poke the tiger with a stick, the tiger responds.

See! I told you the tiger is dangerous!

If it had only been that particular day and that particular set of government and military responses against essentially non-government allied groups we might have been able to settle down in a different world with a bit more fear but stability. Its not a pretty picture. Instead we are now mired in a conflict that looks to replace the Cold War for the next decades and beyond. This time there are not parties to sit down at a table and negotiate a peace. In truth I don’t think those on either side particularly want to the other to survive.

Militaries don’t just attack enemies in their plan to win a war. They fund research, search for tactical, technical and industrial advances to better be able to find and conquer their enemies. Parallel tanks rolling with cyber warfare. In this case it worked both ways. Monitoring found “enemies.” Cellphones let small groups and individuals better wreak havoc and kill. Drones can be piloted from half a world a way. Kill what is hopefully your enemy (if the intelligence is correct and it is not a school or clinic) and go home to your family in the evening.

Is it Ender’s Game, creating reality out of fiction?

We have stopped looking outward. The universe beyond our planet has been returned to those who write and read speculative fiction and isn’t a frontier of science and discovery. We look, but we don’t plan on seeing, traveling, exploring. As a global society, we seriously aren’t taking care of our planet. We continue to pump oil, destroy land, deliberately destroy forests while insisting that large parts of the “Third World” remain pristine so that we all can enjoy them. Those same parts of the world are riddled with disease and poverty. Unlike in earlier centuries communications have enabled the farmer whose crops were just elephant destroyed to know and see how others live their lives. To be told that he can’t kill the elephant, to be inundated with foreign images. One can hardly blame a parent for wanting better for their children which might just mean enough food to survive to the next growing season or a bed net to prevent mosquito bites.

Our world has become smaller, interconnected. Many aren’t adapting and are seeking to return to that time of history where Religion was reality and authority had all the answers. No thinking, no choices, just follow the prescribed path in this world. I am reminded of the Bug-Blatter Beast: just put the towel over your head and they won’t bother you.

Needing to wipe out your enemies is nothing new. Homo Sapiens is not a tolerant species which is why it has survived. Now – will we continue to survive?

Categories: Prose Tags:

37 years

September 10th, 2015 2 comments
10 Sept 1978

10 Sept 1978

since I walked to the front of our local synagogue chapel with this shaggy haired bearded guy with us both looking probably like refugees from an early decade. I did forgo flowers for my hair and I wasn’t carrying any either. But long hair and large glasses were definitely in attendance.

We were embarking on a new stage of our lives; more or less in our own fashion. If anyone noticed, that Sunday certainly foreshadowed what our lives were going to be. Our path to that point hadn’t been traditional, why would we expect our future to be?

A couple of years ago I counted up moves, children, houses and countries lived in, cars and other challenges which we have survived over time. For almost ten consecutive years somewhere there in the middle we managed to be separated on both of our birthdays in addition to our anniversary.  This year is no different with me being the member strayed off in a foreign location (this year – Tanzania, mid-Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay. Next year will be at least a little bit better since right now we are actually both scheduled to be on the same trip in July (his birthday). Anniversary? Probably not, and I’m not one to make a lot of noise about mine.

I’m hoping we are improved models on what we were then – and a bit more mature. Certainly the hair has changed –


still with the glasses. + grey hair and laugh lines

still with the glasses. + grey hair and laugh lines

but looking from then to now – I see who we were and I can see where life has taken us. I’d like another 37 years, but am afraid I am going to have to settle for a lot less than that.

Check this date next year for the update.

Categories: family, Prose Tags:

Got Socks

September 9th, 2015 No comments

Yes, I do know how to knit socks. And have over the years. In fact, in 2007 there was the 52 pr sock challenge right about the time that most of us moved from the Knitlist to Ravelry. Then it was years before I got around to even thinking of knittings sock.

For a while it was the easy seduction of scarves and shawls which could be knit out of the same yarn with fancy and fun patterns. Things that someone else could see and admire. The sad reality of socks was that I had dozens of wonderful patterns, all of which disappear into the body of my shoe or sandal while the lovely top was covered by my trousers. No one ever saw my socks. I knew they were on my feet. It was my secret. The sad fact too was that the 12-16 hours put into a pair of socks had much more tangible, or at least visible, results.

I drifted back off into spinning, knitting of sweaters and vest. At the point where I moved back to Germany from the UK in Sept 2010 right before I was deploying to Afghanistan I thought again about socks. I even packed a few skeins of yarn to take along should I get the urge for handknit socks inside my boots. That winter was nasty, boot socks are boring to knit and dirt was a fact of life. I put a halt on knitting in favor of audio and paperback books.

Then I moved on to the next series of life’s adventures – mostly to do with sailing the seven seas – one cruise at a time. In port shops all over the world I discovered the fun of tourist socks. In spite of the fact that most are made in china – one can find totally fun, wild, strange socks very inexpensively. They are reminders of the places I have been. Did I mention that they are cheap? If one gets worn, lost or has a hole I have absolutely no guilt in tossing the pair. Not so with handknit socks which I tend to coddle like baby kittens.

So I can bring with socks like these on the trip –

from previous trips

from previous trips

purchase lovely angora socks in Iceland

angora and wool  and some stretch

angora and wool and some stretch

or tourist socks like these



or sales socks on the ship.

75% off and they fit right in

75% off and they fit right in

This time I brought along sockyarn, dps and a pattern I have been wanting to try. But with all these socks tempting me, I probably will stick to knitting shawls.

Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:


September 8th, 2015 No comments

You have met Jelly before. Last Spring Cheré and I found him on the New Orleans to Boston leg of Serenade’s repositioning. He survived hooked to the balcony for that and the following cruise.

This time, partly because of the position of my balcony –

top row, last balcony on the left.

top row, last balcony on the left.

partly hidden behind the ladder – and tape not sticking to the door. Jelly gained a more comfortable location.

Jelly hooked to the Cabin Number and the holly to the door handle

Jelly hooked to the Cabin Number and the holly to the door handle

If you look closely –

with his cruises noted in laundry marker

with his cruises noted in laundry marker

His next cruise is already scheduled. It just won’t be with me….

Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:


September 1st, 2015 No comments

Where the Elk stood squarely on four feet next to the ship. Same beast as last time. Same platform with rollers underneath.

on the pier, waiting for more photos

on the pier, waiting for more photos

My head was clear – the skies were not. We walked into town past some of the normal sights –

Like Fishmarkets

Like Fishmarkets

or churches built like Arks

or churches built like Arks

Besides stopping at the main information point in City Hall where it looked like some kind of polling/election was taking place and visiting various stores where one could, if one wanted to, procure yarn – went for a walk through the older portion of town. There are still several streets of the white houses of various sizes all from prior to 1900s. The architecture varies, but mostly features wood, wood, some windows and more wood. There are pine forests – quarrying for stone or making bricks would have been much more expensive. The best quality lumber went into the ships. Port? Fishing? The original color of all the houses was not white; those that aren’t white today are those few buildings which managed to make it thorough to the present day with their original color.

By early afternoon I was cold and damp. A hike back to the ship to be followed by tea and scones was sounding really good to me about then.

Categories: Travel Tags:


August 31st, 2015 No comments

Didn’t plan much of anything today. Instead the thought was walking around town with one or more of the people whom I know from past cruises.



and the wall -

and the wall –

Plan didn’t go well. Where am I? Oh yes, taking pictures from my balcony. Oslo with a migraine. Serious enough that I took one or two of everything and went back to bed. Lost day. ‘Nough said.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Heading across the Atlantic

August 30th, 2015 2 comments

Well, here I am – back on the Serenade of the Seas.

the route

the route

and the schedule


Sun Aug 30 Copenhagen, Denmark 4:30pm
Mon Aug 31 Oslo, Norway 10:00am 7:00pm
Tue Sep 1 Kristiansand, Norway 10:00am 6:00pm
Wed Sep 2 At Sea
Thu Sep 3 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands, Denmark 8:00am 5:00pm
Fri Sep 4 At Sea
Sat Sep 5 Reykjavik, Iceland 8:00am
Sun Sep 6 Reykjavik, Iceland 1:00pm
Mon Sep 7 Akureyri, Iceland 10:00am 8:00pm
Tue Sep 8 At Sea
Wed Sep 9 At Sea
Thu Sep 10 At Sea
Fri Sep 11 At Sea
Sat Sep 12 At Sea
Sun Sep 13 Halifax, NS, Canada 8:00am 5:00pm
Mon Sep 14 At Sea
Tue Sep 15 Bayonne, NJ 6:00am

Other than Iceland – I don’t have a lot planned. I want to head back to the waterfalls but other than that – I am going to relax and otherwise read, study, knit and deal with files if I can get Internet access on the ship with out it bankrupting me.

Probably the only really bad stop is the end in NJ. My plan there is simply to go to the airport – hang out and send Miriam a post card since she says she has never received a post card from NJ. Go figure.


Categories: Travel Tags:


August 29th, 2015 No comments

Which is not a food, article of clothing or disease but the name of the Copenhagen Airport.It was where I arrived late morning after running through the following:

  • taking out the garbage
  • hauling suitcases down to the garage
  • hiking to the train station (forgot till this morning that I didn’t have any Euros which meant neither cab nor street car). I went via the overpass rather than heading under the bridge and past where various homeless sleep. Not before 0515 in the morning when it is still a bit dark
  • taking the train (which of course had swapped the 1st and 2nd class ends of the train such that everyone was running along the platform bound for the other end, Did I mention small kids towing suitcases which they were bouncing off everyone’s ankles
  • dropping off another FORTY (40) books at the USO. Now they need thrillers and SciFi – I have those too.
  • catching my plane.
  • I’m boarding the Serenade of the Seas tomorrow for a 16 night Northern Route TransAtlantic Crossing. Details will post here tomorrow.



1525+40= 1565. There are a number of out dated school books in the garage which will be gone by the time I get back. I didn’t count them (and won’t) since they didn’t start out in the Studio Box pile….

Categories: Travel Tags:

It will be Sept

August 28th, 2015 No comments

Did I mention that George and I are looking to relocate sometime in the not so distant future (next year? Year after?)? I realized as part of the move a requirement to shift from my German web host which I have been using since 2006/7. Using the same system and software for that entire length of time; including Smart-FTP which works so well that I have forgotten how to set it up.

Seriously. My FTP software is running on an old netbook. Old enough that it runs Win98. No hassles, no problems, not supported for a long time. I had a major brain cramp in getting it all organized in the first place. Ran over my limits a couple of times and had to regroup. The help guys are great – or at least they were at last pass in 2007. Under the adage of “if it ain’t broke – don’t screw with it” I have left the system alone.

Webpages are easy. I can cut, paste and reload pix without a problem. But eight years of blog posts just aren’t going to happen without some help. Then I had the brilliant idea of using a WordPress plug in to automate the process. OK – that part sort of seemed to work – except that you first scan and build the backup. My sites + build is higher than my allowable server space.

It is 1900 in the evening. I am packed. And tired. And leaving early tomorrow for the train station. I’ll be home for a couple of days end of Sept. I will deal with it then.


20 Books to Rohrbach this morning and 121 to the Heidelberg Altstadt Shelf.
Basic numbers here 1261 + 123 yesterday = 1384 + 20 + 121 = 1525. I have 40 more children’s books to be dropped tomorrow at the USO.

Categories: Books & Tapes, computers Tags:

To the ends of the earth – or my garage

August 27th, 2015 No comments

Driving to Wallhausen is fun, especially when I do it with someone else. We had a good time there and back. A stop at my house involved Nana and the kids books. And some old shirts for wearing, painting, crafting with kids.

I have the yarn I need which I promised people for later in the year. I have knitting projects for the next month (well, I had those anyway but….).


123 books to the good…. I mean to someone else. Nana, bless her heart, went through both the English and German children’s books and was easily talked into taking boxes home for nieces and nephews.

Categories: Books & Tapes, Knitting, yarn Tags:

insanity or what?

August 26th, 2015 No comments

It isn’t that there aren’t other things to do…. laundry (four loads), cleaning and that every so fun and necessary scrubbing out of the fridge. But I decided to go ahead and start setting up my blog et all on a US based server.


Not. I started out with menus which have since disappeared. This is, I think, going to be more than balanced by the fact that I don’t have to maintain WordPress myself. And at less money per month than I am know paying.  Oh. Did I mention about 10x the amount of storage as well??

we shall see – that is when I am back from dealing with yet another load of laundry.

Categories: computers, home Tags:

made it home

August 25th, 2015 No comments

It took actually less than 36 hours in real time but it seems like a whole lot longer. Maybe it is because I left Spokane on Sunday and it is now Tues. And I really can’t ignore the 9 hours of time zone change that is trying to wipe me out.

The flight wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a seat up stairs while there were still some which meant being within a few rows of the unhappy toddler. Her parents actively tried to keep her occupied; the little one was just bored. And, of course, fast asleep about 90 minutes before the plane landed….

After coffee in the arrivals lounge I made the 0953 train without problems followed by the connection in Mannheim.

I even had enough money for a cab (I don’t mind walking to the train station – it is downhill followed by flat) since uphill with luggage when I am tired is just not going to happen.

Nap. Yes, a nap sounds really good right about now….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Journey home – day 2 – not the United Lounge

August 24th, 2015 No comments

Picking up where we left off (somewhere around sound asleep) I woke to the nasty surprise that the particular Doubletree doesn’t have free coffee in the lobby early in the morning. Yes, they have the stupid little coffee makes in the rooms, but no coffee in the lobby. I understand completely that the container should vanish the minutes they have a shop open which can take cash. But this hotel is the contract hotel for American Airlines and I suspect Delta as well. How do they expect aircrews headed out when it is dark to manage without coffee?

I trundled back upstairs after explaining to the desk clerk that other Doubletrees do have coffee. Then my keycard refused to open the room in retribution for me having a negative opinion of the management. Back downstairs. New keycard, across the lobby through the ballroom area and back to the Tower elevators. This time I was able to gain sulky access to my room and make dispenser coffee.

Shuttle, check-in, Lounge. Not the United Lounge!  Several of the non-US carriers have banded together and have a lounge in the S terminal. Some are Star Alliance, some are not. But the important thing is that United doesn’t run the lounge. Instead of cheese, crackers and carrots there is good soup, a full line of beverages without costs and a rotating supply of munchies ranging from jelly beans through wasabi peas and good trail mix to a variety of cookies and crisps.

Here I sit with incredibly fast Wifi (good enough to download Dr Who Season 8 which I haven’t seen in less than 30 minutes) and a full view of one of the jet ways. I now know that SEATAC paints cross bars perpendicular to the pull-in line clearly labeled for each make of aircraft. Makes positioning properly for fast hook ups that much easier.

My flight is at 1340 if everything is on time. I arrive in the morning which means technically it takes 3 days to get home…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

heading home – day 1

August 23rd, 2015 No comments

Which should give you the basic idea that it is not as simple as it sounds. Today is the last day of WorldCon. Noah and I helped set up Registration this morning. It was quickly obvious that we had more people than we needed. There wasn’t anything on the program that really caught my attention so we headed back to the Staff Den and pitched in.

Several dozen scrubbed pans later, Noah moved his hands from the dish water and pitched in on packing. I turned in my towel (hand, bath, whatever was available for the moment) and helped first with the breakfast, then lunch set up.  With a flight earlier than his – I headed to the airport about noon, willing to be bored there rather than at the hotel given that there was a “business center” where I could sit out of traffic, relax and use the free wifi.

The smoke from the forest fires has played havoc on air transportation in the region. Added to the runway maintenance under way in Seattle it meant that flights were a bit delayed. Once again I was impressed by Alaska. They are organized, rapid loading of plane and we actually made up time on the way to Seattle. Even more amazing was the fact that passengers actually let those who had short connections off first. Seriously – the average plane has everyone pushing and shoving to get off. Here – people who had longer connections or were local waited till those who were panicked looking were off the plane and on their way.

Picked up my bag, headed to the van area, handed the driver the luggage and got on the van. 20 minutes later I was in bed and heading for slumber.

Categories: Cons, Travel Tags:

Interesting Hugos

August 22nd, 2015 2 comments

I have mentioned before that the Hugo’s were going to be interesting this year. (the final list is here)A controversy exploded fueled by a couple of groups who felt that the Hugo’s were being nominated and rammed through the system by “persons with agendas.”

From my point of view, I can respect the opinions of anyone who wants to write/read a certain kind of science fiction/fantasy. What I can’t respect is an unwillingness to allow others the same choice.

In reality, science fiction/fantasy is no longer the bastion of the geeky guy with “no one with cooties allowed.” The first changes literally to the face of SciFi weren’t recognized by many. They started in 1975 with the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” which deliberately dealt with the issues of gender identification and conflict of cultures.

Since then, women have become increasingly both fans and authors. It isn’t just vampires and it is not romance. Both fantasy and hard science fiction have expanded beyond being the bastion of white males. Personally, I like having a variety of authors and perspectives from which to chose. Not everyone feels the same way and let us just leave it at that. The end result this year is that there were categories in which the nominations had been “stuffed” but when it came to the final vote, many of those entries just weren’t high enough quality to win.

Back to Discworld

Death today –


One of the Wee Free Men got loose


Nanny Ogg made an appearance

and finally – the sign in front of some of the most fantastic hats I have seen in a long time….


Categories: Cons Tags:


August 21st, 2015 No comments

For those of you who don’t know anything about science fiction – Sir Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series, died in March of this year. Not old at all he was 66. Pratchett had early onset Alzheimers. He was very open about it, made a lot of appearances and campaigned for research. The Wiki is quite good, accurate and avoids being overly fawning. I had the privilege of meeting Sir Terry at Glasgow in 2005. Unlike a certain number of authors, he was an incredibly nice human being.

One of our community (John Kentner) is in the process of producing a film which he has funded through Kickstarter to document the effect that Pratchett and Discworld have had on people’s lives.

The Discworld Exhibit is in the main hall:

where you can be greeted by Venari

where you can be greeted by Venari

learn the basics of washing things

learn the basics of washing things

Think about wearing an apron  sponsored by "Cut me own throat" Dibbler

Think about wearing an apron sponsored by “Cut me own throat” Dibbler

Death going to a party

Death going to a party

Making Money

Making Money

For the Librarians (Yes, Pat, Ann, Linda – I do mean you….)



The Luggage

Teeth, and feet

Teeth, and feet

the Luggage

the Luggage

Sgt Cherry

Sgt Cherry

Outside of the Exhibit – I found

Noah hanging with a dragon

Noah hanging with a dragon

And posted at all outside doors…

and reality of the outside air quality

and reality of the outside air quality

Our evening ended with the Masquerade and a concert by Tom Smith. I didn’t last till the award presentations. 2300+ is way past my bedtime on any continent.

Categories: Cons Tags:


August 20th, 2015 No comments

This morning wasn’t as insane as yesterday. We had the line cleared out by about 1100 which meant breaks were possible. I did some wandering around. No shopping and and a lot of people watching.

It was also the main day for big campaigns. Voting for the 2017 location closes 1800 tomorrow. DC in 2107 is pushing hard and had a BBQ lunch on offer. Not only did they have drinks and munchies, but they also had burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs and items for the gluten free crowd. It was also nice to get out of the building for a short time if not to breath the smoky air.

Tomorrow I am going to bring a camera. That way I can share both costumes and the Discworld Exhibit.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Smoke gets in your eyes

August 19th, 2015 No comments


We are not all that far from the wildfires. I think most of us could give up the spectacular sunrises and sunsets in favor of thousands less burning acres of land and forest.

As this is the opening day of the Con, we expected a large number of people to show up at reg to claim their badges.

And we got hammered. The line was there at the 0900 start and it took until about 1500 before the insanity stopped. Over 2400 picked up their badges, including new registrants. With mostly six but sometimes eight computers up, it was a lot of people standing in front of me. Someone who is pre-registered takes almost no time unless they want to update everything we have on them. But a new registration requires data entry and money collection. And that takes more than a minutes or two.

But I have to admit, this is the way I get to see Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, P.C. Hodgell, Larry Niven, Michelle Sagara, Brandon Sanderson and a host of other authors.  Yes, everyone stands in line to pick up their badges. Famous authors, not so famous scribblers, artists, normal fans, lots of kids-in-tow and the occasional stuffed toy.


Categories: Cons Tags:

Move – in

August 18th, 2015 No comments

There are two intensive work periods associated with conventions that are labor intensive but rarely seen by attendees. Affectionately or not so affectionately known by the moniker MI-MO the front half is MoveIn which means the ending half is MoveOut. World Con is entirely volunteer organized and run. That means that in the run up to a convention there is a core group of people putting in a lot of time and effort. Once the doors open at the location where the Con is to be held, the need for people drastically increases as the physical tasks start to mount up.

This morning I spent a significant time early (before the sun came up and sunrise) trying to figure out the nearest US Post Office Location. According to Google – there was one at 421 W Riverside as well as one down somewhere in the 500-600 block.

Wrong. 421 Riverside is a tattoo and piercing parlor so I think that whomever submitted those addresses really needs a new pair of glasses. Finally, I decided to believe the map I had rather than the Internet and found the main post office at – you guessed it – between 500 and 600 – on Riverside. Better yet? Even side of the street. It opened at 0800. By 0730 I was checked out of the Red Lion, luggage dropped off at the Double Tree and on my way down the sidewalk again to mail packages. New York City, Chicago and Georgia this time.

From then on, it was somewhere around madness and chaos. I put time into Registration, loading dock, and exhibits. When Noah arrived from the airport, he dropped off his luggage and came over; being put to directly to work. By about 1830 I was the walking stupid. We had opened up reg at 1500 being swamped for the next 90 minutes. Whomever thought that we wouldn’t be busy prior to the convention opening is just nuts. Why not come early, standing in line for 15 minutes or less then go on your merry way rather than take a chance of getting stuck in a line with all those poor souls who didn’t pay up front and at a lower rate?

We checked into the DoubleTree, swapped goodies (books, yarn and costuming coming my way – pantry supplies, nutella, chocolate and gummis going his), grabbed snacks from the Con Suite and I hit the bed.

After all – I had only been up since 0130. Not bad – internal time clock already starting to adjust…

Categories: Cons Tags:


August 17th, 2015 1 comment

Actually, it was a two USO day. After taking the train to Frankfurt early this morning and checking in at Lufthansa Rail-Fly I wandered to the USO. The hours changed several years ago as the number of service members stationed in Germany underwent a dramatic increase. Now open M-F 0700-1500, the hours pretty much cover the official arrival/departure times for service members and their families in transit. Imagine my surprise and delight to find it open at 0645. I was stopping to drop off 40 children’s books. (An aside – 35 more were added to the Heidelberg City Shelf on Saturday).

The flight from Frankfurt to Seattle was lovely. I was upstairs in a 474. We didn’t have small screaming/crying children or obnoxious adults. My seat-mate turned out to be an IT Systems manager for Lufthansa Systems with an area of expertise in GPS who lives and works in the Zurich area. So much for small worlds.

Arriving at Seattle – they have the Kiosks which means that my total transit time for immigration was 10 minutes which included the hike from the plane leaving plenty of opportunity to hang out at the baggage carousel for an extensive time period.

This was followed by a stop at the Seattle USO. I think the last time I came through Seattle was either 2011 or 2012 for a cruise and I don’t remember spending any significant time at the airport. This time I had over four hours between flights. The USO is amazing. For one thing – it is open 24 hours a day. There are great volunteers, food, lounge chairs in which one can sleep, a computer area, several other seating areas and a baggage holding area. The rest rooms have showers and real towels…..I managed to keep myself aware for several hours by drinking coffee and munching before heading through security to the Alaska airline gate.

Switching to Alaska Airlines for the short hop to Spokane, I was impressed. For a small airline, the service was great and friendly. Most of the local flights are prop planes with 22 rows or less of interior passenger seating which means essentially no overhead storage bins. They do plane side check of carry-ons.

I got to the hotel via shuttle after a kind fellow passenger made the call for me. There are draw backs to not having a stateside phone.

Book Count

1186+35=40= 1261 if my brain is working correctly.

Categories: Cons, Travel Tags: