Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New County Building to be named for Kwame?

It may be too late, or it may be premature to have buildings named for now indicted Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick.

However, renaming the Wayne County Jail the "Kwame Kilpatrick Correctional Facility" may prove reflective of his legacy to the city, as well as a timely idea.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cruise Report - Day 4 - Cozumel

As I mentioned, on the night of Day 3, the weather started getting rough, the big ship was getting tossed, but thanks to a very competent crew, we certainly weren't lost.

But many a passenger lost their lunch among other things. This made craps especially challenging as not only did you have the randomness of the dice, you also had the randomness of the swaying of the ship and table to contend with.

So in the morning we arrived at Cozumel.

We had all planned to go snorkeling together, but it was not to be. The sea was much to choppy and all offshore excursions were canceled. So instead we out into motion the girl's Plan B - Shopping.

Lots of Shopping.

Cozumel is a bargain hunters dream and full of stores selling silver goods, high end and low end souveniers, T-Shirts buyt the million and Tequila.

Especially Tequila.

Did I mention the free Tequila samples in about every store?

Did you realize that there are not only white and yellow tequilas but also blue, red and brown, and that the different flavors of tequila must all be sampled to ensure a complete and thorough study of Mexico's national beverage?

This was a plot to have the men comfortably tequil-lized while their lady-folk shopped and it worked. We let them shop, they let us drink, everyone was happy. Jerry and I each bought a bottle of the white tequila that we liked the best - 100 Anos - a very smooth Tequila, much nicer than the Tequilas I've tried at home.

We took a break for lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant and I had s Fish Taco - much better than it sounds along with half of a combination plate with Tash. Meanwhile Tash and Cary needed refreshment after all that shopping and each had a huge Margarita.

We ate our fill and then headed to Mr. Sanchez's Beach -a very nice free beach. Unfortunately for the girls sense of survival our taxi driver thought he was the second coming of Speedy Gonzales. he hit 140 km/h on a road rated for 60 with signs saying - This Road not for high speed in Spanish. After that thrilling experience, complete with body sway and the feeling that the taxi would fall apart at any moment, we made it to the breach. On the upside he got us there very fast.

The beach was very pretty and we had a nice dip in the ocean from the shell lined beach.

We then got in another taxi, with a driver who only drove 90 km/h on the same road and headed back to the port and boarded the ship.

After dinner we saw another show and a very funny comedian and then to bed.

It was a great day.

Tis better to give then to receive - Pinkeye!

While Code Pink infests Washington D.C., Pinkeye is infesting my house.

It began with the little one, who began having some oozing mucus-like substance dripping from her eye late Sunday night - after all the urgent care clinics had closed of course. Given that it wasn't stopping and that you don't mess around with your kid's eyes we took her to the emergency room and they diagnosed it as bacterial conjunctivitis.

Sure enough like clockwork by the next day our older daughter came down with it and we took both kids to the Minute Clinic, got them antibiotics and prepared for the inevitable.

The little one being miserable, contented herself to rub her face and hands in our faces so you guessed it, by Monday night I had it and went to the Minute Clinic on Tuesday. It was an easy diagnosis for them, I said I had conjunctivitis, they said no kidding and prescribed an antibiotic for me. Indeed this week we should have earned frequent flier points to Minute Clinic as we all went there in sequence, as Natasha came down with it as well.

Interestingly enough, adult pink eye sucks. My eyes are not very red but they certainly itch like crazy and the right eye is especially irritated, and both eyes have this constant feeling like sandpaper is rubbing them. I highly do not recommend getting pink eye. I can't wear my contacts so I'm stuck with an older and uncomfortable pair of glasses while I keep dosing myself with antibiotics hoping this will clear up.

Basically it sucks. We're being careful not to give the kids any Worcestershire sauce as giving it to someone with Pink Eye may lead to them becoming a zombie (indeed using it as an embalming fluid has the same effect, and it tastes great on steak...a million and one uses!).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cruise Report - Day 3 - Got Stingray?

While the men were off diving, the ladies originally planned to go shopping.

This plan lasted approximately 10 minutes from contact with the enemy - namely, the stores of Grand Cayman near the port are for definite high-enders in terms of jewelry, watches crystal, etc.

So not to be bored, at the dock they signed on with a combination snorkel and stingray experience. Talk about being brave and getting out of your comfort zone, especially as neither of then like to get their heads underwater.

They had a great experience.

The snorkling according to them was great - no problem viewing the reef and fish.

Then on to the stingrays. These were not aquarium rays, but wild - sting in - stingrays, in the ocean, and the stingrays would swim up to them.

The girls proceeded to hold, pet, feed and even give the stingrays a kiss for luck. (Lucky stingrays indeed to get that kind of treatment). They had a great time with those gentle creatures, and they couldn't stop talking excitedly about it.

We then all met back on the ship for lunch and had a great time.

The girls highly recommend the snorkel/tingray encounter, and being such savy shoppers they got it at the dock for much less than what it would have cost through the cruise line.

Jerry and I were both proud of our respective ladies for their daring adventure - now if we can just get them to trade the snorkel for a Scuba regulator....

Cruise Report - Day 3 - Diving!

So in the morning the ship arrived at Grand Cayman.

We had a quick breakfast then went to the gathering spot on the ship for the shore excursions, and Jerry and I along with our gear got on a tender and headed for the port. A tender is a smaller boat that takes you to the dock as the Cruise ship didn't directly dock. The girls, not being divers hadn't booked a shore excursion - more on their experience in the next post.

At the dock we were met by the rep from Don Foster's Dive Cayman, the Scuba company that was running the dive excursion. After a very fun bus ride, complete with the driver talking to the other traffic - "I'm turnin here mon, don't you see me turnin?" , it was a blast. We got to the shop and signed our waivers, showed our C cards and of course bought Don Foster's Dive T-shirts.

We were briefed that the first dive would be to 80 feet and the second to 50, so Jerry and I opted for Nitrox for the first dive - the only two out of the 6 divers to do so. So with our tanks ready, we got on the boat and headed to the reef.

e had an excellent divemaster and she gave a very good briefing on the boat, including the instruction "If you see us putting our life jackets on you may want to do the same". We opted to forgo our wetsuits and went in in t-shorts and shorts. The water was 80 degrees, a far cry from cold Michigan lakes. Indeed, the visibility was stunning. From the surface at 80 feet we could clearly see the reef below.

Here I am hanging out at 80 feet:

Here's Jerry:

We saw a great variety of fish on the two dives:

On both dives Jerry and I kept up excellent team communication and had excellent trim and buoyancy control - That DIR Fundamentals class and subsequent practice really paid off.

Some of the other dives were diving feet down, banging their SPGs off the reef as they swan or running or bumping into us due to lack of good situational awareness.

Jerry and I did ascents without touching the upline and held our safety stops perfectly, so it was a great display of all of the past year's practice really paying off.

The dives were incredible, clear, warm water, and wonderful dive sites. The staff of Don Foster's kept everyone essentially together during the dives and ran the dive profile, even though Jerry and I had our computers and full gear. This made sense given there were 6 divers in the water with very different skill levels, and the divemaster pointed out some neat fish and coral formations as we went.

So if you're in the Caymans, you'll definitely want to consider diving with Don Foster's Dive Grand Cayman - a very nicely run dive operation indeed.

The excellent dive experience was enough for me to seriously consider moving to the Carribean.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cruise Report Day 2

February 26th began as an auspicious day at sea.

We awoke around 7:30 am to sunlight streaming in through the portholes.

Inspired by the sun and waves I actually got up, convinced Natasha to get up and we headed to the Lido deck (The deck with the cafeteria style restaurant, pizza shop, ice cream shop, and great ocean views)for a glass of juice. I then went to the top of the ship to the running track, and Natasha went into the spa for a yoga class.

After a beautiful 2 mile run around the track (22 laps), weaving past people that couldn't figure out that slow traffic should keep right and constantly maneuvering around the same 4 people walking abreast covering the entire track was darned impolite. The run was great - the wind would be at your back half the time and you had a beautiful view of the ocean and clear blue sky...with a track like that I could really get fit.

After the track I went into the fitness area and worked out with some weights and then met Tash after her Yoga class.

Then we went off to meet Jerry and Carey for breakfast.

After breakfast we hung out on deck chairs just above the pool and got a little sun and took it easy, reading, relaxing and just watching the waves.

The Natasha and I went for a swim in the main pool, the one they fill with seawater from the ocean while the boat is underway. It was great, until we got out and found that someone had taken one of our towels. Given that you only get one towel per person and you get charged megabucks if you don't turn it in at the end of the cruise, this sucked. Probably it was taken by someone that was already seriously drinking before the sun was over the yardarm, but it was a pretty blatant move that was very annoying.

It took until Day 4 in the late afternoon before the purser and towel staff figured it out and reissued us a towel...that was the only major annoyance for the trip, as it took multiple discussions with them to finally get it straightened out.

Then we went to lunch, which was very nice and we ate on the open deck and then Natasha and I returned to our room for a nap.

Here's a view of the stateroom with everything unpacked, as you can see it was quite spacious, heck, it was practically as big as the apartment we first lived in when we got married, which tells you about starter apartments for starving students...and that Carnival offers pretty decent sized staterooms.

After the nap, Jerry and I again went to the craps table and won some more money and then we all met for dinner again, and once again the food was quite wonderful. The chocolate melting cake is not to be missed, and it wasn't.

We then went to a show, which was quite enjoyable, sort of a 50s and 60s rock n' roll cabaret style song and dance extravaganza.

After that we turned in and got ready for Day 3 and our first of two shore excursions...the Cayman Islands.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cruise Report - Day 1

As promised here's the recounting of our 5 day western Carribean cruise, starting with day one.

On February 25 at 6 am we (myself, my wife, my dive buddy Jerry and his girlfriend) got on a Spirit Airlines flight to Tampa to meet the ship.

We had signed on for a 5 day cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines.

The start was not exactly auspicious. It was good we had booked a very early flight as there was a 30 minute delay on the taxi way while some maintenance issues with the plane were dealt with. The issues sounded and felt like a flat tire, complete with NASCAR-like pit service and air torque wrenches on the fix. After that the flight was uneventful. Impressively enough the pilot made up the half hour delay in the air and put the plane down smooth as silk on the runway at Tampa (he was either real good or worried about that new tire, either way it was a nice landing). We arrived in Tampa early enough to wander around for a bit and we made our way to the Port.

The Carnival ship for this Cruise was the Inspiration. While not the newest ship in the fleet it had been recently renovated and was very nice indeed. Its also a very large ship:

Boarding was delayed as fog had prevented the ship from docking and unloading its passengers from the previous cruise.

So after a short break in which we chatted with on of the recently disembarked passengers and got lots of tips for Cozumel, we began the boarding process.

Now loading 2000 passengers on a ship takes some time, but it was done pretty efficiently and in a short while we were on board and had a snack while waiting for our rooms to be available. The luggage was loaded separately.

We then hung out on the Lido deck and had a snack and then watched as the ship departed the port. It barely felt like the ship was moving but we were leaving at a decent clip.

Then after a while of exploring the ship with Jerry acting as tour guide (he had been on the inspiration a few years before and knew it well). We went to out cabins and found the luggage had arrived and we changed for dinner.

We had been courteously upgraded by Carnival from an interior cabin on the lower deck to a lower deck cabin with portholes. The Cabin was surprisingly spacious and the portholes gave a decent view of the outside.

Dinner was everything Carnival had built it up to be - simply wonderful food, nicely presented with excellent wait staff service.

After dinner Jerry and I went to the casino and saddled up to a hot craps table and both won some money. The ladies went to the introductory show, which we missed due to our craps game.

After the show and the game we went for a stroll on the deck and then to bed.

And that was the first day, a great beginning.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cruise Vacation and Dive Report Pending

Just got back from a long put-off vacation, a 5 day cruise that was spectacular.

There were boats and diving involved and a report along with pictures will soon follow.

No, I did not see any sharks, but yes I did have my bar card along just in case.

The Mistake of the Diving Attorney

As you've by now read and can read at Scuba Blog, an Attorney was fatally bitten by a shark while diving in the Bahamas on a cage-less shark dive excursion.

He made one fatal mistake.

He forgot to bring his bar card with him on the dive.