Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Continuing on

October 9th, 2015 Comments off


As you can see – there aren’t many ports on this trip which means that there are a lot of sea days.


Fri Oct 9 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Sat Oct 10 At Sea
Sun Oct 11 At Sea
Mon Oct 12 Crete (Chania), Greece 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Oct 13 At Sea
Wed Oct 14 Jerusalem / Tel Aviv (Ashdod), Israel 6:00am 5:00pm
Thu Oct 15 Suez Canal, Egypt (Cruising)
Fri Oct 16 Petra (Aqaba), Jordan 8:00am 8:00pm
Sat Oct 17 At Sea
Sun Oct 18 At Sea
Mon Oct 19 At Sea
Tue Oct 20 At Sea
Wed Oct 21 At Sea
Thu Oct 22 At Sea
Fri Oct 23 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 6:00am

That actually is a good thing as I have a lot of knitting….

Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:

Where did it go?

October 7th, 2015 Comments off

Yes, I know that I have been threatening to move websites, blogs and all the rest of it for several months now.

It is happening. I haven’t yet been able to replicate everything from here over to the new site as of yet but I have started to move pages, pix and the blog starting as of 1 Oct (yes, this year – 2015 AD).



admittedly, I decided that I would rather keep it simple and not have a title or name that made it hard to find. The “.net” is easy – “.com” is already tied up till I close down the websites on the German server….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Vigo on a Sunday

October 4th, 2015 Comments off

Proved to be a lovely city for a walk. Without stores open, the streets weren’t crowded with shoppers. Instead, families were out strolling and tourists were able to gawk without appearing complete rubes.

It was up the hill and off to the left this time rather than hiking up and down the twisty streets and alleys of old town. I got to see some of the more modern sculpture, trees, shaped plants and parks.

There were doors:

Sculpture –

And a bit of fun in the greenery department:

And my favorite sign of all:


Do you start at the top and work down with what ails you?

Do you start with the first practitioner and work down with what ails you?


We hadn’t arrived till 1000, on schedule in spite of 50+ knot winds. Our departure was smooth. Passing once again some of the islands off the coast, we were all rapidly enveloped by fog….

a hazy, foggy exit

a hazy, foggy exit

Categories: Travel Tags:

Sleep – beautiful sleep

October 3rd, 2015 Comments off

I hit the wall today considering travel, time zones and disruption of anything even remotely resembling a normal sleep cycle. It is a good thing it was a sea day.

Last night was mostly dozing on and off which means that I was both cranky and groggy this morning. The knitting entertainment with a fellow knitter from the Grandeur (2011? 2012) was followed by a shortened Cruise Critic meeting, lunch and what was going to be a short nap.

About six hours later I surfaced enough to realize that most of the day was gone. I managed to stagger around at glacial speed preparing for dinner. It was formal night and I had promised a friend to join him for dinner. Eating at Chops was a good way to burn out another 2/1 dinner coupon.  Right now the plan is to eat there again on the last night of this cruise. I am not sure that they are going to be happy to see me. Normally I adore the forest mushroom soup. This version was too heavy on the cream and light on the mushrooms.  The salad was terrific but for the goat cheese which was supposed to be baked and turned out to be ice cold in the middle. By the time my entrée appeared I think the waiter was holding his breath.  The tuna and side dishes were excellent I assured him (and the manager) several times.

[aside – I always have mixed emotions on reporting food that doesn’t quite meet the standard. In this case it wasn’t really a complaint since the food wasn’t bad or unsafe – more like an observation that neither the soup nor the salad were as good as the same I had had on the Serenade just a couple of weeks ago. It makes me uncomfortable to say anything, but I don’t want to avoid menu items I would normally order. Does that make any sense?]

It was after 2200 by the time we finished eating. More than time to crash.

But funny thing, I wasn’t sleepy……

Categories: Travel Tags:

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 Comments off

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:

What’s in a name?

September 29th, 2015 Comments off

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 Comments off

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:

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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:

Got Socks

September 9th, 2015 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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:

made it home

August 25th, 2015 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off


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 Comments off

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:

Staff Chat

August 16th, 2015 Comments off

As one of the registration team for Sasquan I am part of the routine “staff chat” mailing list. It makes for interesting reading most days. Few if any flames, which is more than balanced by an exuberant excess of bad, bad puns. For a while it was all about carts.

In any case, reading the dozens of messages coming through was a nice break from packing. Yep – packing as in suitcase. It didn’t take all that long to pack a week’s worth of clothes considering that no matter the weather outside – the convention center will be colder than I like. Took a bit longer to pack up some knitting. Three projects, all WIP. One I should be able to finish in the airplane.

Then there is the “stuff” for various off-spring households in the U.S. I have clothing, books, spices and …. well stuff to pass along. Did I mention nutella, chocolate and gummi bears? Leaving tomorrow for Spokane via Seattle. The first flight will be comfortable Lufthansa. The second is a quick transfer via Alaska Airways. Smaller bag which will be a carryon for the second flight is all “stuff.” 1/2 of my regular suitcase is stuff… In return Noah is bringing me a few things which I don’t think will even fill the larger suitcase.

Wait! I am going to a Con! I am sure that I can find something to buy….

Categories: Cons Tags:

A day with Shutterfly

August 9th, 2015 Comments off

which started to resemble the proverbial fish without a bicycle…

Remember that Carmen and I cruised on the Star Princess this past February. From San Francisco to the Mexican Rivera and back – we enjoyed some sunshine and several days of relaxation. As it turned out, other than the day of whale watching, I wasn’t all that concerned with taking pictures which is now presenting a bit of a challenge.

Unlike a couple of the other photo books which I made (other companies) the book planning methods are not particularly user friendly on this site. The live chat worked wonderfully well – at which point we figured out it was my browser causing the worst of the difficulties.

Why am I going through the effort? Can you spell Free Coupon which expires the end of this month. Prepaid by Princess, it would be a real shame to waste it, now wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile – the heat wave has just broken and the thunder is booming and roaring. George got the last of the laundry in before the skies let loose.

And Stu has volunteered 7950 as a new guess in the “how many books does this insane lady have” while Cat concurs that she might need another bookcase as most don’t realize how many books can be lovingly packed into a small space.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Still clearing out

August 6th, 2015 3 comments

Seriously – take a look at your backup situation. Exactly how many CDs, hard drives, DvDs and Flash Drives do you have lying around with some of your precious data tucked within? For some of those items – do you have multiple copies? So many that you don’t have a clue which is the best one, and which are faded and tattered bare imitations of the data which is so precious? For others, you are going to be lucky if what you want isn’t stored on a 5 1/4″ floppy buried somewhere in the garage/basement/attic/store room.

Never mind that it was probably saved on a medium which you can’t read any longer since you have advanced operating systems since, oh lets say 1984, 1990 or 2002? I am not thinking about all those unaccessible email files on Eudora or those backups of years of professional drivel on Outlook. None of which are readable.

But they are all precious and can’t be discarded? Right?

I am leaving out all those CF, SD, mini-SDs that just might fit in a camera that died several years ago. Or all those battery chargers, cables, cords, keyboard from computers which have long gone to an electronic graveyard helping to grace the landfills.

Obviously, I am still working on consolidating backups fueled by a fair amount of coffee and some really spectacular nectarines.

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