Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I think two of the defining moments of the next two elections happened during the past two days.

Those Democrats who decided NOT to back a filibuster against the Alito nomination and those four Democratic Senators who voted in favor of his nomination should all have to answer for what they did. All of them should have to explain their actions come re-election time and candidates should now be found who will make them answer. If only by forcing all into primaries, where real Democrats can question their votes.

Even should those primaries weaken the Democratic candidate, maybe it will be worth it if it forces the DNC to face a growing reality. Perhaps it is time to admit that the Democratic Party does not represent liberal principles and should join the Whigs and "No Nothings" in the dustbin of history.

Monday, January 30, 2006

On most cruises you’ll find yourself with at least one or two days heading to and from your destinations or between ports of call. On Carnival these are called “Fun Days at Sea”, since they have designated their ships as ‘Fun Ships’. These also tend to be the first and last days of the cruise so newbie cruisers are learning their way around or passengers are packing up their luggage for departure the next day.

On this cruise it was Monday 1/16 and Cruise Director Steve had plenty of events to keep us occupied. These included bingo, trivia contests, special receptions for past guests, veterans and other things which would keep us busy when we weren’t going from one feeding to another. On this particular day we decided to take in one of the trivia contests in a lounge. If I had known then what it would lead to I might have decided that watching the ‘Hairiest Chest Contest’ was the better alternative.

CD Steve would announce the prize and then ask a movie trivia question. Since the game was simulcast to staterooms (something I’d never seen a cruiseline do before, but thought was a pretty clever use of the technology), one question would be asked of the live audience and the next of those in the staterooms who would call down with their answers. It was a lot of fun, with Steve only allowing a player to have one correct answer. If you won a prize you weren’t allowed to answer any more questions. This was a good idea, since I’ve been in games like this where you’ll have one person getting all the answers without allowing anybody else a chance. The particular prize announced for this question was a spa treatment in something called the “Alpha Capsule”, which involved massage and aroma therapy. As I have little tolerance for stuff like that I announced to the rest of the table that I wasn’t going to try for something like that. *sigh*

The question was “What actor replaced Michael Keaton as Batman?” The fanboy’s hand automatically shot up and the Val Kilmer came out before I could stop myself. I had just won myself a 25-minute introductory session in the Alpha Capsule. More on that special event later in this report.

I’ve already posted a photo of our dinner group at the Captain’s Gala that night (which you’ll see by scrolling down the page), so I don’t have much to add. The food was good and the wait staff performed a song and dance routine, as they did on five of the seven nights we ate there. Everybody was looking forward to Grand Cayman the next day so it was another early evening, especially since Fran & TLC were signed up for an early tour.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It has been and continues to be a crazy week here at the library, so I apologize for not finishing off my cruise report. I'll probably summarize as much as I can and it will be a bit shorter than planned.

Today and possibly tomorrow I'm at the library, as we attempt to shift the entire Children's Room collection downstairs to the new area. We will then try over the next week to shift sections of the Adult/YA collection along with non-English material into what was the Juvenile section of the main floor. Wish us luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just in case any questions come up later here's the group at dinner on the Captain's Night gala. Starting from the left we have Donna, Christina (TLC), Fran and some old guy who shows up a lot in the photos.

I lose track on what we were drinking at this point, we'd probably polished off the first bottle of wine, and had ordered drinks. Who remembers these things? This would have been on Monday night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Carnival Cruising: Sunday 1/15

After breakfast, where we shared the restaurant with players & coaches of the St. John basketball team (in to play for the weekend), we caught our shuttle to the piers. At Fort Lauderdale, where we’d sailed from before, there were normally four or five cruise ships preparing to sail out on most weekends. Here in Tampa we were the only ship preparing for embarkation, so the terminal was almost empty and it took us only a short time to get registered, cleared by customs and receive our ‘sign & sail’ cards.

After 9/11 cruise ships became much more security conscious so now when you initially board a ship your photo is taken for comparison & scanning each time you leave or return from that point. The card is not only your ID, but is also what you use instead of cash while aboard. Generally folks will attach the card to a credit card, but you can also leave a cash deposit and either get a refund or pay the remaining fees

Since we got on around noon and our rooms wouldn’t be available until at least 1:30 we took advantage of the buffet on the Lido Desk. On many ships this is were you’ll find the 24 hour eats ranging from pizza and burgers to regional and international cuisines during the lunch and dinner. We had a light lunch and drinks, until we could head back down to the Main Deck where our rooms were located.

If you go over to the Carnival Cruise Lines site and check out the ‘balcony’ rooms you’ll see exactly what we found when Donna and I got to 4-171. We have been spoiled, or at least I have, as we’ve booked balcony cabins for the five cruises we’ve taken together. Depending on the cruise lines they are generally not much more than what they call ‘ocean view’ staterooms, which only have a porthole or window. Just remember that even if you book an indoor cabin you get everything else the folks in the balcony suites are entitled to, so be sure to keep that final bill in mind when booking.

We had signed up for late seating so dinner wasn’t until 8:15pm that night. This left us plenty of time to check out the bars, shops and other things available. It didn’t take me long to figure out where the cigar bar was, for future reference and we’d already discovered ice cream bar and pizzeria were located. When we finally did go to the dining room we met our waiter & busboy for the week, Jeffrey and Deo. As is very common on many cruise lines the crew members involved in cleaning, cooking and wait staff is mostly Pacific Islanders. I always find it interesting that when I was in the Navy most the Steward’s Mates, who worked cleaning and caring for the officers were also from the Philippines.

It was a pretty busy day all around so we called it quits early that night, going back to our rooms by around 11:00pm after a final drink at one of the bars.

This is Babie, who allows Donna and me to live with her at Chez Chaput. Unlike Marvin & Skeeter, whom were posted yesterday in Santa caps, Babie would never permit such indignities. She is the little princess around here after all.

I'm finally getting a handle on posting pictures here so you can expect more as time goes by, both here and over on Shot's Shack.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Carnival Miracle Cruise pt. 1 (Saturday 1/14)

The four of us, Donna, Fran, her daughter Christina & I, flew down to Tampa on Saturday afternoon on Delta’s Song airline. The party was supposed to number five, but unfortunately Fran’s sister injured her back only three days before and had to cancel out. The former Delta Express fleet was reconfigured to compete with Jet Blue’s very comfortable planes. Apparently their not doing as well as hoped and may sadly fold their wings. This would be a shame, as I’ve found Song to be very enjoyable, with the individual TV monitors & menu available for prepackaged sandwiches, salads and munchies. Jet Blue only offers snacks along with the usual beverage service at no cost, even on longer flights. (Pardon the commercial plug!)

We have learned that when you cruise it pays to get to your port of departure early, as you can never tell what the weather may have in store for you. As you folks know Sunday, the day we sailed, New York and much of the East Coast was having very bad weather. Better to spend a bit more for a hotel for a night’s stay than to take a chance to miss you cruise, and therefore forfeit your entire payment. That’s also why we have taken a couple of cruises which depart from New York, and may do so again next time.

I have had some real headaches at JFK, but found that this time around it was smooth sailing from the moment we handed our luggage over to the guy at the Song counter outside. As usual, being polite and slipping the guy a few dollars never hurt.

Our stay at the Embassy Suites in Tampa was pretty good. Donna and I try to book at these hotels, since they offer not only a complete breakfast buffet with omelet stations, but also what they call a ‘Manager’s Reception’ in the evenings. The first time I discovered this was while attending a convention with my ex Elayne. I think it may have been at Chicago, but those cons do tend to blend together after a while. The reception is basically an open bar, though often with limited selections, and some kind of snacks (popcorn, pretzels, etc.) This lasts from around 5:30-7:30 generally, so it puts you in the mood to grab dinner at either the hotel or some nearby restaurant.

That night I was to discover that Christina, from henceforth known as The Lovely Christina (TLC), favored Apple-tinis as her drink of choice. Personally, I’d never heard of them before but apparently they are quite popular. I’m a rum & coke man myself, while Donna likes frozen drinks and Fran’s a wine drinker. Our bar tab, at least for Donna and I, made up over a third of our final onboard bill, I’m proud to say.

We had a nice dinner at the Embassy restaurant and were all in our rooms by around 10:00pm. Not an exciting day, but then we were trying to relax a bit before Sunday when our real vacation would begin.

I'll try to post more tomorrow and cover the entire cruise in the next few days.

Neither of these are our cat Babie, nor is is Christmas or Cat Blogging Day. This is a test to see if I could begin adding pictures to my blog. The long sufferering cats belong to our friends Fran & Christina.

If this works be prepared for too many pictures of me in a hot tub. :-)

Monday, January 23, 2006

I woke up this morning it was raining outside and it seemed an omen that my vacation was indeed over. I'd be lying if I said I was happy to be back!

Over the next few days, as I have a chance what with things being pretty hectic at work, I'll try to fill you all in on what we did during our cruise. A hint: our bar tab was close to $500 dollars, and that was with ordering a lot of the Daily Specials and hitting Happy Hour. The four of us are all heading for detox, along with about half of our fellow passengers form what I heard on Sunday morning. "Back to reality," appeared to be the most overheard comment that day at breakfast.

To my fellow bloggers, I apologize for not reading your stuff in over a week. I may skim a lot, because I have hundreds of e-mails to check (not counting my work e-mail).

Friday, January 13, 2006

In two and a half hours I'll be leaving work and probably out of touch with the 'net for the next week. If I do go online from the Miracle it will be to quickly check e-mail and maybe write Kristina to let her know we're safe.

One of these days somebody much more clever with computers (probably any 12 yr old) will teach me how to post pictures here so I could put up a can of Campbell's Mushroom soup.

Take care and stay off the phone to known subversives while I'm gone!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In 48 hours I'm hoping to be climbing off a Delta jet at Tampa airport and making my way to the hotel shuttle. Of course, they are now predicting a snow storm for Saturday so all bets are off.

Frankly, this is one of the reasons that Donna and I tend to fly to our departure ports a day early when taking a cruise. This is also why two of our cruises have left from New York. You never know what the weather is going to be like so why take a chance.

I'm enjoying DREAMING WAR: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta by Gore Vidal. Been a while since I've read a totally political book and I've long been an admirer of Vidal. Author, playwright, essayist and (back when intelligent two way debate was allowed on network television) a sometime commentator on American politics.

I don't know if I agree with everything that Vidal puts out, even though I'm as much of a conspiracy nut as the next Lone Gunmen. The great thing is that Vidal knew so many of the characters created the National Security State in which we live. He's not blinded by Received Opinion (RO, as he calls it) but actually has spent years doing historical research while writing his series of novels on American history. Part of the book consists of reprints of responses to criticism of several of his novels.

Highly recommend, whether or not you believe the current administration didn't do all they could have to stop the events of 9/11.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I called it! I knew that the week prior to going on vacation would be a b****, but I had no idea.

Problems with alarms, phones and the public printers, among other things. Then a meeting of the Library's Friends group to top things off. Ended up working more than two hours over and there's the possibility there may be a repeat of the alarm problem again this week.

I had intended on writing something political today, but one of the Librarians called in sick so it's way too busy for any down time. Perhaps tomorrow.

Four days and counting, with only three work days until I can start relaxing.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Less than a week to go until our cruise, but it looks like it's going to be a hell of a one here at the Library.

We're finishing up the major renovations of our new Children's room and visits from various admin types are almost daily. Today I'm expecting my Regional supervisor, plus somebody from "government affairs" (I think the division is called) who wants to interview & take my picture for an upcoming newsletter on the local Friends of the Library. I keep reminding myself that a week from today I'm going to be in the Cayman Islands slamming back rum drinks and trying not to get a second degree burn.

On a political note, I don't think anybody will be surprised when Alito walks away from the Senate hearings a bit roughed up. On the other hand, it shouldn't surprise anybody when he is easily voted in to sit on the Supreme Court and hands over complete dictatorial power to His Smugness. Don't count on elections in 2008!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Not going to get into the Sharon thing too much since the gentleman may have passed away before this gets posted. Let's just hope that in the media coverage and solemn statements made by politicians of every stripe the man's early exploits as enforcer of some brutal policies are not forgotten.

I don't know if they'll be dancing in the streets of Gaza, but I don't think that you'll see a lot of genuine tears amongst the Palestinians who recall the massacres and oppression.

That said, we can only hope that a settlement amongst all sides can one day allow everyone in that area of the world to live in peace (if not in brotherhood).

Why do I know I should stay out of this and can't?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

If the Oscar's weren't already a 'must see' here at Chez Chaput the announcement earlier today that Jon Stewart had been selected as host makes it even more so.

It will be interesting see how political Stewart will be and if he reigns himself in. I can't see him going out of his way to offend, but the Academy knows what they are going to get. Stewart is probably one of the sharpest interviewers currently on television and I'm sure he'll be taking along some of the Daily Show's writers to pitch in.
Finally discovering what happened to my ex ( Ex #1, if you're keeping count) inspired me to contact a couple of other folks I haven't been in touch with for way too long.

Caught up with some folks I used to work with back when I started as a Librarian Trainee in the mid-1980s. We are planning on getting together after I return from our up-coming cruise. It will be interesting to see how they've changed in the last seven plus years since I last saw them. If nothing else we can bad mouth the library systems and people we used to work with.

I don't know about folks in other fields but it seems that Librarians like nothing better than talking shop when they get together outside of work.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It will be interesting to see what the New Year has in store for me. Just before the end of 2005 I discovered the answer to a question I've been wondering about for almost twenty years. I wonder if I should see it as some kind of closure to a part of my life best left behind. It wasn't all bad, of course.

Donna and I had a pretty quiet New Year's Eve, after I got home from work. We'd been invited to her brother's house but we both decided to spend the night watching TV and getting phone calls from folks. The most excitement we had was listening to neighborhood kids screaming and setting off fireworks at midnight.

Hope all of you other folks enjoyed the ringing in of the New Year, no matter how you did so.