On Star

May 30th, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

Keys, backpack and wallet were safely in the trunk.

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

I am back on hold.

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

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

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

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Second verse, same as the first

May 29th, 2014 No comments

Only it wasn’t.

There were no issues with the taxi on the way to the train station. The train went exactly where it was supposed to and dropped me at the Frankfurt airport without delays or detours. Checking was a breeze and security wasn’t even much of a hassle even allowing for the woman in front of me who spoke perfectly clear German but still couldn’t manage to follow directions. I mean really! Who would have thought that security actually expected her to take out all her cosmetics and put them in a bag where just anyone could see them?

I had plenty of time and didn’t even care that the line had come to a standstill. Me with electronics, leather zippered jacket and sandals was probably a welcome relief. All they warned to see was my knitting needles.

Flight was fine made even better by the fact that I had no one sitting next to me. Immigration at SFO was the worst that I have seen there. Took a couple of hours by the time I had collected my luggage. Checking in with Southwest Airlines, I spent the rest of my waiting time in the USO.

By the time I got to Phoenix is was so wiped that falling into the hotel bed was a welcome relief. No free wifi or breakfast. Blah.

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Just what I needed

May 27th, 2014 No comments

For whatever reason, my most recent software update of WordPress did not go as planned. It looks like I can reach the site from a mobile device but not from my more normal web interface. And it is not that I just don’t love using a virtual keyboard ….

Today was simply organizing, packing once again and laundry. Nothing terribly exciting, I didn’t even leave the house!

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Memorial Day

May 26th, 2014 No comments

It is a good day in to be home; to stay home. Not that it makes a difference in Germany bit still. I don’t many service members who appreciate hearing “thanks for your service.” Maybe it means something to those who served in Viet Nam and were reviled for their wearing of the uniform , willing or not.

But for most of those who have served since the advent of the volunteer force, it was something we chose to do for a variety of reasons. Those reasons are our own and frankly being thanked for them is uncomfortable to embarrassing.

I find that it acknowledges a separation between those of us who have served in the various armed forces and those who have not. That thanks is an acknowledgement on their part that they have not done their share as a citizen of their country, a fact that I don’t really want to know.

It is not keeping the world safe for democracy, a phrase that fortunately lost both meaning and worth with the end of the Cold War. The US is not the arbiter of what is right/good in the world. Instead it is one of a number of constructional democracies that appeals to immigrants as offering a better way of life than what they are leaving at home. But 911 save the world it is not the role should it be taking.

Much better for those walking and working in the US to thank those in their communities contributing to their local quality of life on a daily basis: the police, firefighters, teachers, first responders. Thank those who do for others on a daily basis.

It is not that I regret my 30+ years in uniform; taking care for those putting themselves in harms’ sway or occasionally finding myself joining them at one of those fun and special locations. It is rather that I neither want nor expect thanks from those who have not been there. And those that were? We acknowledged each other at the time.

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Its been more than 40 years

May 25th, 2014 No comments

Reflections happen every once in a while. Sometimes deliberately and other times triggered off by a simple event, object or gesture. So it was for me this morning while sitting in the Star Alliance Lounge at Heathrow T1. I have been here before.  In fact, I distinctly remember being here for hours while waiting for a flight. Plugged into power and catching up for hours. I can’t find a post about it (searched Heathrow, Lufthansa and Riesling for the lovely wine that captured my attention six hours into the wait – after 1700 as well) but I can even remember where I was sitting.

However, it wasn’t any of that which caught my attention. Rather it was hunting down the women’s restroom.  There are two restrooms clearly marked in the Lounge; one men’s and one women’s. But I can remember when this simply wasn’t the case. This is allegedly a business class lounge which used to mean business travelers since no one who didn’t have a company paying the high tariff for the seat would travel in business. Especially not if you are from Minnesota – it wouldn’t seem like a sensible use of funds. Except for one time during my college/professional school/residency years on the rare times I flew – it was cattle car. Once, for whatever reason having to do with exhaustion, a kind check-in agent and a strike of fate, I wound up with a free upgrade. It also might have had to do with being well dressed and traveling alone. In any case, I was directed toward the lounge. There were no women’s restrooms; business travelers are men, right?

Seemed to be just the way of the world in the early 1970s. I can remember being on a surgical rotation at one of the U of MN affiliated hospitals. The surgeon I was with sent me off to change so I could scrub in on his cases that day. There were three changing rooms: Doctors, Nurses, Orderlies. Female med students, who it turned out were a rarity at this hospital for excellent reasons, don’t fall into any of those categories. When I failed to show up in the expected five minutes, one of the orderlies came to find me. Why wasn’t I changed? Where? The nurses had already told me that their changing room was for nurses (note the lack of male nurses in that time frame. And the fact that nurses are assumed to be female. It is 2014, and most of the time we still caveat nurse with “male” for the 20-35% of the professional who aren’t female. The assumption is not quite so obvious that doctors are male only due to the overwhelming numbers of young women entering med school in the last 10 years).  Said orderly thought the whole thing was funny, explained that the place had a reputation which is why they almost never had women rotating through there on surgical clerkships and found me “the closet.”

That is right – a closet. Not the nurses changing room with lockers, not the orderlies with one of the guys standing guard at the door. And certainly not the doctor’s changing room where the male med students were more than welcome to change. Today? I would have just let the chips fall where they may and used the doctor’s lounge but I was not at all willing to rock the boat back then.

When asked why I was late I explained about the changing rooms. The surgeon was astonished. Obviously this was not something that had occurred to him as an issue. I suggested that if he could not get this resolved that I could change preceptorships so as to go to other hospitals. How would I do that? Talk to Mamma Pearl (Assistant Dean of Students) about this hospital not being “ready” to have female med students……

Fast forward to 2014. There are men’s and women’s changing rooms, restrooms, locker rooms (unless of course you are a Dutch military deployed camp. Then it is uni-sex with locks on all doors, stalls and showers. Everyone is an adult, everyone gets privacy).

In most shopping centers there are family restrooms. There are set-ups to change diapers which didn’t exist when mine were young. Some of the airport lounges even have a “child room” which I think is de facto recognition that whether or not you want small children in the executive lounges adults are going to keep brining them. The goal then is to keep them separate enough from the rest of the travelers that no one gets hurt…

Drifting around from topic to topic I guess. But I have managed to get caught up on all of my audiobook downloads, two novels I hadn’t gotten around to finishing and some nice munchies courtesy of Star Alliance.  Their timetable download turns out to be a PC app but booking a round the world flight is easy and relatively cheap compared to a couple of round trip FRA-SFO round trips.

Who knew?

Wonder if finding clean bathrooms and changing rooms is going to continue to improve?


Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

Lights on the coast

May 24th, 2014 No comments

It is the last day of the cruise and we are heading from Stavanger back to Southampton. It is not hard to identify that we are still in the North Sea as there are the occasional oil rig sprouting like weird mushrooms scattered along our route.

It was obvious shortly after dark which occurred quite bit earlier than the first few landfalls that we were off the coast of some place civilised if you count clusters of lights as representative. Nowhere near international waters and freighters all around us as a matter of fact.

I am packed with bags set out. Departing the ship early, a group of us have booked transport to Heathrow. I even managed to check in on line having saved my free internet minutes till the end. I will be home tomorrow. Imagine that!

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More rain -Stavanger

May 23rd, 2014 1 comment

It feels like the low lying grey clouds have been following me south at least during the day when I contemplate hiking on land. So today is our last port – Stavanger – and the rain had already started to leak from the skies by the time we docked.

The good thing is that I had not gotten motivated enough to put together a climbing group for Pulpit Rock. The downside is that once again I haven’t had the opportunity to risk my neck in pursuit of really cool photos.

Ah well. Instead I walked around with jacket zipped and umbrella in hand feeling not at all fools to be staying dry in the light rain.

I found the Husfliden and a full copy of my missing knitting mag. The price was extremely reasonable especially for Norway. Postcards are sent and the main shopping mall has high speed free wifi so all my apps are now updated. I am pulling Coursera lectures on my iPad while I hunt and peck this note from my phone.

Tomorrow is packing and sleeping. I arrive back I’m Germany on Sunday this time with clear entries stamped from the UK.


Oh – did I mention that there seems to be plenty of rainless light about 2230 streaming in through the balcony?


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May 22nd, 2014 No comments

Wrong, I will be the first to admit it. Not the 400 steps that I remembered to Fjellstua but 418. The steps are safe and handrails sturdy at the key points. The scenery is breathtaking and the tourists amazing. To a man the guys are dressed sensibly with functional shoes. Not so the women; flip-flops and six inches heels?

Coming back down the hill I made a detour to the Husfliden, found I had left my wallet back on ship. Since the return trip looked to be worthwhile I also swapped my vest for a warmer jacket. If I had bothered to think, an umbrella would also have been smart.

(See! foreshadowing!)

I found postcards, the museum and the Salvation army charity shop but no fridge magnets. And yes to the Gudbrandsdalsost.

Then it started to rain with me hiking around in my good leather jacket. Unfortunately it seemed like most of the other passengers had the same idea. I just really wish some of them would be a bit more careful with their umbrellas or consider that the rule about taking cameras/phones out if their pockets includes them. A fact that would be much appreciated by the queue standing shivering in the rain.

But the photos are from before the rain. The city features a lot of wonderful Art Deco plus a fair bit of quirkiness.







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May 21st, 2014 1 comment

We sailed up mor beautiful fjords early this morning on our way to Olden. The main reason for this stop; jumping off point for various glacier tours. Having both done a few of these before as well as flown over more than my share to and from Bødo back when I was fortunate enough to do winter NATO exercises… Yes seriously, as visiting military they were a lot of fun and the Nords have absolutely great winter field gear.

Where was I ? Oh yes, not mucking about on the bus or glaciers (Kjenndalen. Briksdalen) in the rain. Unfortunately, it also means that I missed out on the chance to ride in the Troll Cars. If anyone in the group comes up with good pictures I will share.

Meanwhile, the ship appears huge. The river is ice cold which is not a surprise considering it is glacier run off. And hiking is at ones own risk.





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May 20th, 2014 No comments

After cruising extremely slowly back up Sognefjord and down the Aurlands Fjord early this morning we arrived before most of the herd was interested in stampeding off the ship.

Since I was here last year off the Eclipse and had a wonderful time on the railway I had decided to keep this year lower key. ( read cheap ) Nestled into the end of the fjord, sunrise might be at ~0430 but in reality it doesn’t get above the mountain range till after 1030.

In between is obviously the time to hike along the eastern side on the thoughtfully provided pedestrian/bike way. Smart move that considering that trucks on the main road were blasting along before being swallowed by tunnels clearly marked as off limits for those not motorized.

I hiked as far as the paved section lasted. At this point I was about 1/2 way to Aurland. It was obvious the: follow the graveled switchback road up the mountain past several ewes and their young ( twins, triplets and what looked to be the guilty ram based on the offspring’s coloration ) private houses. Near the top was a hiking sign to Vikland. 2 km. easy peasy.

Similar to last night, I went a reasonable way up the mountain on a goat trail befor common sense kicked in. I am hiking by myself. If I fall, there is a serious challenge. Just not willing to be in the situation where I have to text or email someone in another country for rescue.

So I strolled back at a reasonable pace dodging the day walkers now out in full force. The souvenir shops are packed with a variety of goods : sweaters to junk. I sent off postcards and will send this off.

Adding the photos here






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Fjords to Skjolden

May 19th, 2014 No comments

We headed into the Fjords at a reasonable time this morning. Actually, I think we were in range if Bergen ~0300 since my phone cheerfully announced that I was back in range of communications that didn’t involve a high cost low speed ship moderated system. Our pilot came on board around 0930 just as the winds came up. Not being completely without common sense, I retreated to my cabin where I could enjoy the scenery without either being cold or a victim of the fresh breeze.

I could wait to post this until after our port call of the day. But I am not doing any tours, we arrive about 1600 and to a town of ~500 on a market day. I am thinking the stop is for the trip up this particular fjord with all day scenery and to avoid overnight charges in either Åleslund or Olden.




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And to the Fjords

May 17th, 2014 1 comment

Unlike about 700 of my closest friends, I didn’t stay on the Legend to do Norway for 8 nights. It would have been the smart thing to do, except for the fact that I really wanted to do another TA. So figuring out where and what, I went ahead and extended the TA for another 8 days. Not in as fancy a cabin by any means, altho I was able to get better after final payment when the price dropped.

Anyway – it is still the Indie.

The route is this




Sat May 17 London (Southampton), England 4:30pm
Sun May 18 At Sea
Mon May 19 Skjolden, Norway 4:00pm 11:59pm
Tue May 20 Flam, Norway 7:00am 5:00pm
Wed May 21 Olden, Norway 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu May 22 Alesund, Norway 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri May 23 Stavanger, Norway 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat May 24 At Sea
Sun May 25 London (Southampton), England 5:30am

There is something about Troll Cars in Olden and I really want to climb Pulpit Rock this time in Stavanger….

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May 16th, 2014 No comments


Not that I don’t have anything to do. No, I can edit documents, complete another on-line course, pack (switching cabins) or knit. Since none of those options seemed anymore interesting than another I chose to first attend the back-to-back cruisers meeting (there are ~140 of us staying on for the next 8 nights of Norway. Well, boarding day, two sea days and five ports). The information was about what I expected. We can get off the ship, if changing cabins, pack up most of your stuff and your cabin attendant will move it. And, oh by the way, the tours we offered? They are cancelled since enough people didn’t want them. We will offer you lunch instead…..


Back to the cabin, since Knit, Needle & Hook was preempted first by the B2B meeting and secondly by the Kid’s Talent Show.


After seeing a friend on the last cruise drag out the same piece of paper on which she tracks her cruises as she had last fall complete now with notations layered on notations and covered with stickies, I decided that since I had paid for Numbers, I might as well use it. It took no time to set up a simple sheet with a few useful columns and enter upcoming cruises.


Then I decided that a bit more information might be useful so that it would all be in one place. You know, little items like cabin numbers, payment due dates and cost. Then I decided that it might be good to have the complete dates of the cruise, not just the start date. Just so I could avoid booking several things at the same time. Not that I would do anything so foolish. No, no way would I have the Rhapsody booked from Singapore to Istanbul via Dubai at the same time as the Legend making its way through the Panama Canal as the Star going from Los Angeles to Copenhagen. No, wouldn’t do anything like that at all. I just have cruises on hold to transfer to other cruises at first opportunity. My story and I am sticking to it.


By the third round of opening PDFs, I think I had all the information included and a few formulas set up so that I know how much I am spending (answer, not as much as I thought) and how many points I will have with various loyalty programs (a few more than I thought).


Now if I could just get excited about leaving my lovely and cheaper posh cabin for one nowhere near as nice and just as expensive…….

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Sweets (aka Deserts)

May 15th, 2014 No comments


have a totally different meaning on this ship vs most of the rest. Perhaps the Brilliance which I think is currently ported out of Harwich has the same definition but I have avoided her since my only sailing on her in 2009. But if you are a Royal Caribbean ship ported in the UK, there is a kettle in the cabin so that you can make your own tea in the morning. Or open up your jar of instant coffee which a large number of English natives insist in bringing along so that they can have the proper translucent shade of liquid with the essence of coffee fragrance.


Ok, next to all of that being on a ship that can serve a decent fruit crumble or bread pudding might seem minor, but those are skills which don’t seem to be exercised on the other ships. I have had better for vanilla sauce but really, I don’t need all of that sugar. Not when I can enjoy a bit of complex carbohydrate complete with the right amount of sogginess and eggy taste to it.


It might even make up for having to walk by some of the most unappetizing dishes that also magically appear in the “British Corner.” I can ignore fish & chips. But there is Shepard’s Pie, Steak and Kidney Pie, Surprise Pie (no, I made that one up, but it reflects the idea of you can take what ever you have for leftovers and stuff them in a pie crust and call it food. Somewhat like the Chicken Pot Pie that was all too frequently a star on the school lunch menus where I grew up) and then this really vile looking stuff called mushy peas. Now really, what is really that green? And are they mushy so that they stick to the back of the fork better to speed up the process of stuffing them into one’s face. Not this person’s face. I leave mushed food for babies.


Now, you have to find the real British food over on the Asia table – Chicken Tikka!


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Captain’s Table

May 14th, 2014 No comments


with the Chief Engineer.  It is formal night which means I happily dragged out the same dress I have been wearing for formal night this cruise, the last cruise, and several cruises before that. It is knit, it is long, and it is black. It packs by folding, wading or stuffing and shakes out wrinkle free. What more could I want? And since I normally seem to be in possession of a knit shawl or two, finding a coordinating wrap doesn’t seem to be a problem.


I might want to think about glitz though -  I seem to be almost the only woman in the dining room who is glitter and sequin free. Is there some kind of rule that says that you have to sparkle? And shed? There seems to be an even dozen of us invited. The couples on either side of me had also been rescheduled from Monday. The Chief Engineer (Norwegian) was friendly, cheerful and seems to be quite young as such jobs go. He also had no clue as to why most of us seem to have been rescheduled (but since the table had invitees on Monday we decided that it might just have been too many invites issued). We did have one lady in red – to balance the rest of the group in mandatory black.


So I had a pleasant meal (with the same waiter as I had in Jan) with good conversationalists, excellent food and my souvenirs (menu, group photo, name tag) to be added to the collection that might just some day become entries in a scrapbook!


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North American vs the British Empire (Round 2)

May 13th, 2014 No comments


Once again I am facing the challenge of deciding on which side of the stairs to ascend and descend. It seems like something all together simple but as it turns out, there are challenges.


On the Radiance going around Australia it was easy – a huge proportion of the cruising population was Australian. Didn’t matter where the staff was from or the few of us North Americans or Europeans on board – it was English right of way rules and we all learned to cope or get repeated run down on the stairs.


Since then, I have been on the Legend (Royal) and the Infinity (Celebrity). In both cases, the overwhelming numbers on the ship were of the right side of the road/left hand drive persuasion. In fact, there were instructions on the Infinity about keeping to the right on stairways in order to avoid confusion.


And now I am on the Independence. She is headed to the UK where she will be based until fall of this year. What is more important, well over half the passengers are British. Kind of like the Solstice last fall filling up with Aussies in Hawaii where they spent 19 days recovering from their Honolulu shopping experience it seems like a lot of the English headed to the US for cruising, shopping and Disney followed by the recovery cruise home. One on which they don’t have to be conceded about either the weight or the cube of their luggage. Yes, there is a seasoning of Irish and Scottish but the overwhelming feel is English.


It is enough so that the menus have already reverted to British format which means both language and the inclusion of menu items. I have absolutely no interest in Ham & Onion Pie as a “classic choice” on the evening menu or Bangers & Mash or mushy peas but I am more than pleased to see a good variety of Indian choices back in the dining room. If I was going to the dining room which I am not, but I could get them there if I chose rather than being restricted to the Windjammer.


Where was I? Oh yes, getting trampled on the stairs.  I think it has to do with 1079 North Americans vs 2368 UK. The 179 Germans and the random French, Spanish and Portuguese pretty much stay out of the fight. And there are children on this ship. They don’t care – they just charge up and down the middle knocking adults out of the way in a version of human bowling pins.


Me? I am just glad the little monsters are getting their exercise rather than filling up the lifts. But then, there would be less issues about “right” vs “left” if the rest of the able bodied left the stairs to me.


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Red & White

May 12th, 2014 No comments


And it was a Canada Day Party. I am still clueless as to whether or not there is something special about 12 May but I am all for helping anyone celebrate, especially on a sea day. Especially when I am totally irritated at a lecture. There is not hidden meaning in everything. All actions are not a euphemism for sex. Sometimes a blue curtain waving in the breeze simply means that the window is open and the author likes the color blue.


Any way – since I had cancelled out of the Indian Lunch because of being invited to the Captain’s Table tonight heading to the Dog & Badger seemed like the right thing to do. Organized by several of the Canadians among the passengers, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland seemed to be the most heavily represented. One of the guys, in fact had packed almost a full suitcase of various trinkets, decorations and prizes to give away. Plus Red & White clothing and his guitar.


With everyone pitching in, it took almost no time to get the place decorated and the party started. Raffles, laughs and songs  of the rude and rude if you can understand it variety. After all, if you are in a pub and there is no one under age… Since I didn’t have anything in plain red & white I had to settle for the German football jersey which features a bit of red and white along with a very sensible basic black so as to not show the grass stains. I saw a very nice long sleeve red jersey on one of the guys -turns out to be the official Canadian Olympic Curling Team Jersey. Still not sure about the sport of curling (his wife says that curling doesn’t do anything to improve skills in sweeping inside the house) but the jersey is almost as cool as the Calgary Flames Hockey Jersey.


Ok, back to the party. From songs to Trivia – FYI – the official Canadian sport? Wait for it – …. Lacrosse.  Yes. Really. Just be grateful it isn’t Cricket!


We finished late afternoon and I drifted back to my cabin with the thought of actually putting on adult dress up clothes for dinner. Got to the cabin. Found both a message on the phone and an invite on the bed. No dinner tonight, changed to Wednesday. Sorry for the inconvenience. Ok, whatever. But then I noted that Wednesday night is formal night. Phooey. I hadn’t planned on getting that dressed up.


Lets see – basic black, or basic black. Good thing I had had an afternoon of fun, bright colors and a lot of noise. Skipping dinner was no hardship at all, especially since no one else seemed to be eating the chocolate covered strawberries at the evening happy hour.


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Concert vs Performance Art

May 11th, 2014 No comments

Perhaps a small bit of knowledge, microscopic as a matter of fact, can be completely dangerous. Prior I am sure that I mentioned that one of the lecture series I am completing is on Art History. The course, taught by Jeannene Przyblyski (CalArts), is actually my first exposure to an analysis of Art. She is mostly directing this course toward artists, animators and gamers so it is a bit more eclectic and not regimented in a forward march through time and development of different “isms.”


Much of the content has been related to painting with photography, mixed media, film, animation clips and performance pieces tossed in. I am a science person. Where I know that various science discipline build on the discoveries which preceded, I didn’t think of these principles as relating to art. So, ok I will acknowledge being fairly narrowly focused which takes me back to why I am attempting to educate myself a bit. But thinking might just be  a dangerous thing. You can start employing it situations where the person who is the artist/musician/performer may have absolutely no intension of making any kind of statement at all.


Which, at the end left me extremely conflicted. Joanne Marie is an excellent young Polish violinist who plays the musician’s part in the ice show “Strings.” She gave a matinee performance today with the ship’s orchestra. There  she stood on the stage, young, blond, and shining silver evening gown. She started her performance with a medley from Fiddler on the Roof.

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new and old friends

May 10th, 2014 No comments

Did I mention that my British friends Dave and Sheila are on this cruise? Along with Siegfried and Illsa (ex-Germany now in San Jose).  After having breakfast the last two mornings in the CL, I decided to follow the light and climb those four flights of stairs to the Diamond Lounge. And there is Dave along with others who I had met briefly during one of the evening cocktail hours. This is the early morning coffee get together. Coffee machine with decent cappuccinos  (not the watered down version found on Deck 10), nice companions and floor to ceiling windows letting in tons of light. 


It completely lets you ignore the rain outside…..


Then of course there is the evening cocktail hour at which I can watch people drink way too much. And wear enough perfume to flatten half the lounge. I have been on at least one cruise prior with that particular guilty party. I think she also fancies herself as the epitome of style. Personally, I am not so much for feathers stuck in hair, shells glued on evening bags before being sprayed with silver paint and boas. But remember, my sense of style is basically Jack Wolfskin, Columbia, and Keen Sandals.



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Ill health and delayed ships

May 9th, 2014 No comments

Yesterday afternoon, for the third day in a row (they just managed it prior to final departure in San Juan) there was a passenger making a visit to the local hospital via ambulance. At the last minute means delays for the ship, the cabin attendant rapidly packing up all the belongings (hello, we are leaving for Southampton, no way are you going to rejoin the ship. Your luggage needs to be with you…  All of this may go a short ways toward explaining why a sister ship – Freedom of the Sees (the oldest of the triplets) arrived after we did and left earlier in an earsplitting blast of noise. Not just the ship’s horn but the music at the pool, their CD staff and all the vacationers who are headed back to Port Canaveral after two days at sea. 


Should I mention that the two missing passengers who got a ride out to the ship in one of the electric carts managed to get back on board only because the ambulance patient hadn’t cleared the ship?


This doesn’t count the fact that at 2130 we turned around, went back to port and dropped off yet another passenger.


Otherwise, a small group of us knitters met this morning. After getting sideswiped by the time zone change (noon becomes 1300, I have done this before) I missed the 1500 Ice Show. Since both the DL and CL had left piles of tickets out, I picked up one for the 1700 show.


So there I was, me and my new camera body/lens (having bitten the bullet and replaced that which was stolen in Arica. Having seen this particular ice show (Strings!) several times before I was able to anticipate a number of the action shots that I wanted. Photos, of course, to be posted either nearer the end of the cruise if I have Internet time to burn or in Southampton.


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May 8th, 2014 No comments

There is the faint bit of misty rain around the edges. Just enough tiny drops on your head and face to give a hint moisture. Certainly nowhere near enough to require rain gear or make you feel anything but silly about an umbrella.

My stops today were simple: postcards , favorite camera store, perhaps a fort or two. Or at least that was the plan slightly interrupted by deciding that rain plus computers in the pack made my shoulders hurt. Am thinking about a lunch detour back to the ship before venturing out again

Meanwhile you need at least a couple of photos taken with the phone. Go mobile WordPress!

With my camera shop, the courthouse and the clock has had the same time for my last five visits.




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Why the Sand

May 7th, 2014 1 comment
above the town on Krystal Gadde

above the town on Krystal Gadde


Here the foot prints are clear and defined in the sand covering the Synagogue’s floor. The floor here has always been covered by sand. The Sephardic Jews who originally established the congregation originating from Portugal. Starting with the Inquisition, as Rabbi Starr puts it, you had three choices: convert, leave, or die. If you were a Converso and continued to practice in secret, it was in the basement of your house, in the dark with sand on the floor to muffle footsteps and voices.

covering the marble floor since the beginning

covering the marble floor since the beginning

When leaving, many Jews went from Portugal to South America (especially Brazil). When Portugal took the country firmly in hand, the Inquisition followed and they moved on. Many went to St Eustacious in the Caribbean where they were successful for many years including running supplies past the British blockages to help support the new colonists during the US Revolutionary War.  Many came to St Thomas in 1796 after their island was burned to the ground (thank you King George).

The Bima on this side

The Bima on this side

the Ark on this

the Ark on this

Walking between the pews of the sanctuary, I visit the exhibit in the backroom of the Hebrew Congregation of St Tomas. Located on the side of what is now known as Synagogue Hill, it was last rebuilt in 1832/33 after a major fire destroyed the building and a large amount of the town. There is little left of the original Ladino tradition and the local Minhag seems to best described as ReconstrucaReformaDox with a bit of Conservative thrown in for leavening.  (Local Joke – what do you call a Jew here who keeps Kosher? A Vegetarian….)

11th Century Moroccan Menorah from the establishment of the Congregation

11th Century Moroccan Menorah from the establishment of the Congregation

Established on the Historical Register

Established on the Historical Register



Ft Christian

is the other Historical Register site on St Thomas. Currently, as you can see it is under renovation.


Veteran’s Memorial Park

Army – from Korea through to the present…

One Pillar per Service Branch

One Pillar per Service Branch

Other Ships in Port

But at the other harbor from us. There are a couple of more ships tucked behind, but I don’t care enough to hike the mile down to their pier….

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Not a day late

May 6th, 2014 No comments

or a dollar short, but  certainly an hour or so arriving at San Juan. You would think we had been on the seas for months the way that most of the passengers have been acting. Whining, bitching, moaning about that hour.

everyone hanging out the balconies on the way in

everyone hanging out the balconies on the way in

There was a turbine issue last night, so one of the engines was taken off line. The end result was that the ship went a bit slower than initially planned and we didn’t make the 1600 arrival time. Big deal. Not. It is not like anyone wanted this to happen, or that people couldn’t find enough to do or find things to eat. Hello? The Independence is a huge ship (at least from my point of view) with ability to feed 1/2 a division practically at one sitting.

So anyway. Old San Juan is lovely when seen from the water with the fort holding the place of honor above the hill. Even better is old San Juan viewed from up close.

lovely area from where I watched the ship

lovely area from where I watched the ship

the fort

the fort

What I did discover to my dismay is that my favorite coffee shop, complete with high speed WiFi is open only until 1800. In fact they are normally only open til 1700. In spite of the short time, I managed to upload files, download my email, pull about a third of the next round of lectures and get you cabin pictures.



along the sea wall

along the sea wall

Then, while waiting for sunset I went for a hike along the road next to the fort. It is lovely, well maintained and possessed of not a few cars doing the high speed drive to somewhere.

front of gov building

front of gov building



After passing government buildings and monuments I decided to cut back to the other shore of this tiny outputting of land. Deciding I was safe as long as there were either women or children in the street I managed to avoid the drunk, angry and disposed. It seems that once you are out of the historic part of the city there is that area between there and the modern downtown which is probably best not walked by tourists on their own.


the other neighborhood

the other neighborhood

Looping around, I sat in a park area watching the sun go down behind trees, buildings and ship taking the occasional photo till the camera battery died before heading back to my cabin.

and the lights come on

and the lights come on

sea horse

sea horse

ok - that is my cabin

ok – that is my cabin

the ship as it starts to get dark

the ship as it starts to get dark

There was also a slight matter of bugs. I haven’t been here after sundown in the evening. The local population may not come out but the insects certainly do. Rather than provide a tasty tourist snack, it was time to beat a strategic retreat.

other side of the gov building. I just don't know what all those men are doing in the windows

other side of the gov building. I just don’t know what all those men are doing in the windows

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On the Indie

May 5th, 2014 No comments

What counts to me this time is that I have a balcony on which I can sit, knit and relax. Not lie in the sun, unfortunately I wan’t thinking and am below an overhang but still I am on starboard which means warmer side.
the couch and sitting area will be enjoyed by inviting in friends. I am contemplating just a small group of knitters on this cruise.

Then there is the kettle. I have my own. The coffee pot is not much, but then the coffee in the lounge down the hall is so weak that you can clearly see the cup walls through the expresso…








start of a sleeve

start of a sleeve

On my way out the door Sat morning I was desperately seeking a Rauma stranded project which I didn’t find. This shawl popped up, finished all but the bind off. Now all I have left are all the loose ends and blocking. The yarn is that infinite cone of alpaca. The pattern is one of those mystery shawls which I started intensely disliking after the first three clues and changed the pattern to suit me.

I still don’t like it. I think it needs to find a new home.

that shawl

that shawl

Remember that I mentioned nice cabin? Well here are the pictures…..


Besides attending the various travel med meetings which are a total blast ..

Hi – my name is Holly and I am a travel junkie…..

I have been completing a series of on-line courses (free) through Coursera. I can download the videos and readings to work at my own speed. Remember I said that I wasn’t taking any more exams? This applies here as well. I am skipping the forums and writing assignments because the ship schedules don’t complement the learning time lines. The other major purveyor of courses is EdX. Their courses don’t work for me simply because of the web layout. Rather than have a clear landing page, you have to forward through each module and attempt to make sure that you have all the videos.

I just completed a Clinical Neurology Review and a Challenges of Diabetes. Partway through both an Art History Course (I know nothing, this is fun) and a Fantasy and Science Fiction (for which I had previously read all the recommendations). On the hard science side – there is Volcanoes, Dynamic Earth and Healthcare Innovations & Entrepreneurship (this last also falls into the professional ed category).

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

Across the Atlantic – again

May 4th, 2014 No comments
Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas



Now, imagine the arrows are going from Fort Lauderdale TO Southampton. Then ignore CoCo Cay.

Sun May 4 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:00pm
Mon May 5 At Sea
Tue May 6 San Juan, Puerto Rico 4:00pm 11:00pm
Wed May 7 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 8:00am 6:00pm
Thu May 8 St. Maarten 7:00am 5:00pm
Fri May 9 At Sea
Sat May 10 At Sea
Sun May 11 At Sea
Mon May 12 At Sea
Tue May 13 At Sea
Wed May 14 At Sea
Thu May 15 At Sea
Fri May 16 At Sea
Sat May 17 London (Southampton), England 5:30am

(and as I preposition this post – running under 500 per inside cabin. Or per person, but why would you share when it costs the same not to?)

This time I will post cabin pictures. It was inexpensive, I booked nice!


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Wasn’t that our station?

May 3rd, 2014 No comments

I know that you are not going to believe me, but I am really not a magnet for anything and everything that could go wrong on a trip. Really! In spite of some rather definite challenges in the last couple of months, I remain completely and totally optimistic. I plan (usually), I pack (mostly) and I always leave early for the airport.

So imagine my surprise when our train is blasting along after clearing Mannheim through an area that isn’t all that familiar. Then the train comes to a halt. There is a four minute pause before this young voice comes on the tranny. Same young woman who apologized earlier for the seat reservation lights not working – we hope you are understanding and not too inconvenienced. This time she says “we were switched to the wrong track and are bypassing the Airport. The engineer is requesting we back up and get back on the correct route.”

Another wait. No, we have missed the Flughafen and will not be stopping there today. As before we are not stopping at Frankfurt Main Station. For those needing the Flughafen, get off at Frankfurt-Sued and change to the S-Bahn to Frankfurt Main (Tief) then cross the platform to 103 where you can get the S-Bahn to the Airport.

Ok – I check my BahnApp. It says something different. I first go to the wrong platform then figure out that I want to put in Flughafen – not the long distance station as my destination. Yes – better but I now have one minute to get to the correct plan form and collapse against the wall as the door slides shut behind me. I wind up talking to another woman who had been on the same train. She is working in Stuttgart and is on her way to Helsinki to board a Costa Ship (I think the Pacifica) for four days before flying home from Riga. I get the impression that this is a special for Travel Agents as normally there is not any boarding in Helsinki…. It is short notice for her, but “someone had to do it!”

We get off the S-Bahn at the Main (Underground) Station. Sure enough, we are on Platform 104 and just a few steps away from 103. Much easier than going up to the main station and taking a regional train back. From then on it was easy, check in, go to lounge. Drink lots of coffee.

One of the interesting things I noted yesterday is that the SAS Lounge has a kids room. If parents/kids are anywhere else and disturbing others – they are asked to remove themselves to this area. With Lufthansa had the same. I honestly don’t know why they sell children’s fares in business class, but it kind of defeats the purpose.

There was this family with a small screaming girl. You know the type of parent “please honey be quiet…” Yes, in business class and a couple of rows behind me. Worse, the child screamed, howled and had temper tantrums all the way across the Atlantic. Even worse, older (late 40s) German dad and early 30s (maybe) French mom. I was wrong about one major thing. It wasn’t a child making all that noise, it was twins of age about 18 months complete with a 4-5 year old sister who would poke, pride and tease when either of them finally shut up for five minutes.

Glad I arrived without killing anyone but it was close. In reality, I think I would have had to take a number. The cabin attendants were fielding continuous complaints. I know the airline wants to make money, but this is not the way to do it.

This just might be the way

The new comfort pack

The new comfort pack

I did get some progress made on the sweater….

the front - the sun

the front – the sun

the back - the moon

the back – the moon


Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

In Copenhagen

May 2nd, 2014 No comments

As it turns out, getting to the airport from the ship today wasn’t difficult. A pain and complicated, but not all that difficult once we were on the road. The challenges were in getting off the ship (everyone leaving at once), a brand new terminal which meant all the luggage was outside. Along the fence sort of by numbers but right next to where the buses were loading meaning you see your luggage but not get there due to people standing in the way. And then there were the people tossing their luggage under the bus.

No wait, I mean into the bus storage compartments willy-nilly leaving the poor driver with disorganized full compartments well prior to filling all the seats on his bus. I looked at him after standing patiently in line. He looked at me. I picked  up my suitcase. He asked “heavy?” I said no. Both of my went into the compartment which he then shut and told everyone to go on to the next bus.

We drove through industrial areas, the city center, then open areas, run down areas and along the shore till arriving at the freeway interchange and the airport. If I had to do it again? I would still book the cruise line shuttle service. It leaves me comfortably sitting in the SAS lounge drinking excellent coffee.  With time on my hands, and free WiFi….

The American Battle Monument Commissions as it turns out has a complete listing off all those for whom it has a name. I was able to look up the particular service member of whose marker I had photoed. Additionally, 83rd ID has a web presence as do the glider pilots which gave me a cross reference for several of the names. Then there are the sites that list those lost on ships sunk by UBoats many of whom’s names are on the wall at that same American Cemetery.

Getting back to the present – it turns out that this is my last access to “real” internet till I hit Miami again. Or Frankfurt Airport which will come first. It seems like the idiots who did the road construction in front of the house managed to take out our DSLCable connection. Again. It won’t be fixed till Tues. By then I plan on being back on the high seas….

Today Denmark tomorrow Miami Sunday the World.

Oh wait. I am already on the planet! Perhaps I need a vacation?

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

It all fits

May 1st, 2014 2 comments

There must be something wrong – it all fits in my luggage. Remember that I have been on the road since 11 Feb and I have picked up a few things.

And then the memory comes back. George went home with a few things from Buenos Aires. I tossed a couple of things. I gave a bag full of “stuff” to Miriam when I was in New York. Gifted yarn along the way. Sent a couple of jackets home with Shana when I saw her in San Francisco. Picked up a couple more items while in SF. Mailed my wool pants, two winter sweaters, heavy shoes and my parka to Noah.

Now, if we can just ignore the yarn I bought in Chile & Peru and all of those fridge magnets (suckers are heavy when you add them up) and and the gift Royal towels. I take a deep breath before acknowledging that the stolen camera seriously affected my backpack….. items out > items in. All together it explains why after another almost 90 days I am can manage to get home with everything secure in one container or another.  

Oh! It is a sea day and the last day of this cruise!



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Amsterdam – Bikes, Canals

April 30th, 2014 No comments

We were a bit late arriving in Amsterdam this morning – there was just a bit of fog.

the river on the way in

the river on the way in

For a while, it was so thick that you could not even see the banks. But it started to clear at 0900 and was decent with significant absence of rain (which makes sense since I am hauling along the weight of my umbrella in my backpack.

the city as seen from the ship

the city as seen from the ship

Amsterdam is all about bikes. Not the fancy mountain bikes or commuter bikes seen in the US but your standards one speed bike with a basket, or two. Or a container on the front and saddle bags on the back. All dependent on what you need. It makes a lot of sense. This is not the world of “steal the other guys bike” = this is the land of flatness and bike sections along all the major city roads. All those extra gears would not be a help and might just get in the way especially on your way home from grocery shopping.

A group of us bailed off as early as we could manage and took a tour on one of the dozens of canal boats. Being driven along in comfort, we heard a version of the history of the city and saw canal after canal lined with houses some of which have been standing since the 1400s or early. Of note – the guide slid over the foreign trading, did not mention the premier role of the Dutch in the slave trade nor the settlement of South Afrika (except to mention that there were a lot of diamond merchants). He did cover the various changes in time/religion to his credit.

We exited the boat at the Anne Frank Huis/Museum where everyone sort of wandered off in their own direction. I headed to some shops (not yarn) and toward the Scheepvaart Museum since I didn’t get a chance to see it the last time I was here.

Now, there were a few of the group who had an interest in the Red Light District. Not for the sex, I suspect but for the cafes. If they had been worried about how difficult to find they were – believe me, they were obvious. There were some streets where it was safer to walk over a few blocks than to take a chance on getting high just breathing the air outside. Too many years in the military. I forget that we are the babyboom generation reaching adulthood in the late 1960s….

Anyway – there were signs for the “Good for You – Vitamins, weed, seeds…..” and dozens of hemp/MJ cafes. I was passing a bit early for the lights to be on and the women to be out, but there were an abundance of erotic shops, toy displays in the window and stores specializing in various fetish wears.

Instead of perusing those, I found the magnets, the sports shops and ended at lunch back at Noah’s Arq after visiting the museum. It is a good museum for adults and a fantastic one for children. Fabulous exhibits, models and a restored ship in harbor over which everyone seemed to be crawling. And then there was the wonderful 3-d surround video which started with a helicopter out to one of the container ships and then the point of view followed what turned out to be the contents of one container all the way through to the store.

So now I am finishing up and heading back to the ship. Tomorrow is at sea. Friday is Copenhagen and home. Yes, my home.

Pictures to follow when I can upload them. Seems like I need a cord to them from the camera…..

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Duh, it is Belgium

April 29th, 2014 1 comment

Does anyone remember the movie ” Today is Tuesday, it must be Belgium?”

And before you ask, no I haven’t seen it. But from what everyone has told me, it details one of those 7 countries in 10 day whirl wind bus tours of Europe. Back in the day. Before cruise ships, before the wall came down and long before massive electronics or the EU.

Well, today we are in Brugge and it just happens to be on a Tuesday. This adventure is well more than half over. In fact, we dock in Copenhagen on Friday.

Meanwhile, there is chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate. And embroidery, lace and waffles. What is more, the rain has stopped. Having lunch with friends.

What is not to like?


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Lest we forget

April 28th, 2014 1 comment


Normandy holds a key position in the English speaking history of Western Europe. It was here that Vikings settled to become Normans. It was from here that William, born of a Norman mother launched his attack on England in 1066 establishing essentially a French speaking control of England whose influence lasted for centuries and can still be found today at the root of spellings and over 25000 words in the vocabulary.


It is also home to the Normandy beaches most familiar to Americans as the location of the allied offensive of D-Day, 6 June 1944. Seventy years and n one has forgotten. Not those who live here, not the rapidly depleting pool of veterans who return every year. And not the the consciousness which supports 35 museums, sites and memorials. And not in the military cemeteries dotted across the landscape.


At Point du Hoc rangers climbed the cliffs straight at the enemy guns overhead; 9/35 left to capture the that place long ago named by the Vikings. At Omaha, Utah the US came ashore in waves with the tide coming in, the Brits at Gold, Canadians at Juno, Brits/Free French/Allies at Sword.


I leave little trace on the beach at Omaha as I cross the sand. Not like the soldiers who landed, assaulted, bleed and died here seventy years ago. The sea wall finished in the 1920s for the pleasure of Parisians on a weekend to the beach formed the first goal on clearing landed and the obstacles waiting to pierce, blow, destroy landing craft and men racing bullets and tide.


Started not that long after, the American Cemetery is here on the cliffs, a testimony to the cost of Operation Overlord. American Soldiers, some Allies, captured Germans; their bones interred forever distant from home. In winning they have been left to stand sentinel to guard the freedom so desperately won on this coast.  It matters not whether they died in the first few minutes of D-Day or weeks later in hospital from wounds received, there they remain in France’s soil overlooking the beach that saw the blood of so many soaking the sand. It was the last war in which we left our dead behind. Unlike the Brits who were used to wars in remote areas of the global as they fought to expand, develop, maintain and hold their far flung colonial empire. Normal for their military to serve the majority of their careers on foreign soil and to see family buried at that duty station and themselves expect to be buried there.


And so 149 interspersed with the crosses of yours; bullets and mines caring nor for religion or country. The stars disrupting the symmetry of the rows, interrupting the visual lines of infinity

The ropes cordon us off from seeing names, leaving pebbles. I am left wondering how many bones buried between symbols not their own but once again in formation, now for as long as the land stands. Name, rank, unit, and date of death are the details recoded in letters plain carved into white. The personalization of headstones is absent; date of birth, commentary on life and relationships. Just the facts of service which does, in fact, say it all.


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