Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Today's Award For Loathsome Criminal Idiot Goes To ...

Kurtis Thorsted, 55, of Salinas, California!

Step up to claim your prize, fifty-one swift kicks in the nads.

The Detroit News: Search for missing family on boat ends, raising questions of a hoax in California

In discussing the latest search and rescue off of California, that is now suspected to be a hoax costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in rescuer's time and fuel, we hear about the illegal antics of good ol' Mr. Thorsted:

Kurtis Thorsted, 55, of Salinas, Calif., was released from federal prison last summer after being convicted, for the second time, of making false calls to the Coast Guard. Court records show he made 51 distress calls over a five-month period, claiming in one case to be in trouble in a kayak off the coast of Santa Cruz.

That's more than two false distress calls made by him per week over that time period.

When you think of all the time taken up by this jerk's fraudulent calls, not to mention the risk to the potential rescuers searching for these hoax emergencies, that's pretty bad. Even worse, real people in distress might lose out when resources that could have been used to save them are diverted by idiots like Thorsted on wild goose chases.

If this latest missing boat claim turns out to be a hoax and they find the perpetrator(s), I suggest they take him or them up on a Coast Guard helicopter to about 12 miles offshore, don life-jackets, and drop him (them)in the ocean and let him (them) swim for it.

That should considerably cut down on recidivism and deter the next hoaxer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Borepatch, Gun Banners, And The Great White Fleet

Borepatch has an excellently written post on progressives, their gun control agenda, their ignorance of history, and the likely outcome of their misbegotten schemes.

Gun Control's Great White Fleet

Well written, and well worth reading.

Tennessee Police Apparently Are Not Ohio State Fans

Either that or they can't tell the difference between Buckeye leaves and Marijuana leaves.

The Detroit Free Press: Woman pulled over after Ohio St. sticker confused for drug symbol

A 65-year-old woman was pulled over by police officers while driving through Tennessee after the officers mistook her car's Buckeye stickers - those commonly seen on the helmets of Ohio State football players - for a marijuana symbol.

"It's just amazing they would be that dumb," said Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni, which pretty much sums up this entire story.

Jonas-Boggioni and her husband, Giorgio Boggioni, 66, of Plano, Texas, were driving home through Tennessee from Columbus, Ohio, where they had attended a funeral for Jonas-Boggioni's mother.

The two were pulled over a few miles east of Memphis, along I-40, and were greeted by a pair of black SUVs containing officers wearing "body armor and guns," Jonas-Boggioni told Joe Blundo of The Columbus Dispatch.

"What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?" one of the officers asked.

That led Jonas-Boggioni and her husband to explain the meaning of the Ohio State sticker, which is given as a reward to OSU players. To help the puzzled officers connect the dots, Boggioni stepped out of the car to show his 2002 national-championship sweatshirt, one "complete with a Buckeye leaf," Blundo wrote.

Chagrined, the officers excused the unwarranted stop by explaining that an officer in another jurisdiction had called in a report of the Boggionis' sticker - believing the older couple to be at the forefront of some sort of massive marijuana ring, it seems.

What's sadder? That the Tennessee Cops can't tell the difference between a buckeye leaf and a marijuana leaf, or the even lamer pretext for the stop that massive drug smuggling rings would advertise their presence by putting marijuana stickers on their cars?

Even those with the poor taste to be Buckeye fans have some constitutional rights.

Monday, February 25, 2013

US Government To Take $12 Billion Plus Loss On GM Stock Sale

As Obama frets about sequestration cuts that are poised to cut all of $85 billion dollars from government spending, his administration is poised to lose over $12 billion in its quixotic GM stock sale/loan forgiveness program.

The Detroit News: U.S. selling GM shares on open market

The Treasury has said it "intends to sell its shares into the market in an orderly fashion and fully exit its remaining GM investment within the next 12-15 months, subject to market conditions."

The government needs to get $72 per share for its remaining shares to break even on its $49.5 billion GM bailout. It initially held a 61 percent stake before selling about half of its shares in GM's November 2010 IPO at $33 a share.

At current prices, the Treasury would lose more than $12 billion on its GM bailout.

Last week, the Treasury Department said its estimate of losses on the $85 billion auto bailout fell by 16 percent, or $4 billion, in large part because of a rebound in General Motors Co.'s stock price.

The Obama administration said in a report to Congress that its projected auto losses fell to $20.3 billion, from its prior quarterly estimate of $24.3 billion.

The government isn't selling the shares itself, apparently an organization as large and sophisticated as the Treasury can't handle such things, instead it is paying a commission to have them sold:

Last month, the Treasury named Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to manage the sale.

The banks will get a 1 cent per share commission — or $3 million — for the sale of the entire stake.

It's just a funny coincidence how Treasury is using Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase for the sale......

Government investing at a loss, while rewarding its friends - with your tax money.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dive 232 And A Day Of Three Leaks

This was to be just a post about Dive number 232.

For Dive 232, there was no open water on Union Lake available so we had to make some:

After the hole was cut the ice slab was secured with an ice screw and tied down under the ice so it could be moved back later to close it up so the hole didn't stay open and some ice fisherman fall in. The parking lot was chock full of ice fisherman so we had to park across the street.

So we geared up and jumped into the hole.

A quick pic just beneath the ice:

A few feet down I immediately felt this wet and cold feeling on my left arm, which quickly spread all the way through the suit down to my boots. I wasn't just leaking, I was absolutely flooded with 37 degree water. Leak #1.

It's times like these I really want to be back in the Cayman Islands.

So I signaled to the group that I was flooded and headed back up the up-line to the surface. A short 5 minute dive.

Then the fun of getting out of the hole while wearing 120 plus pounds of gear onto slippery ice. Fun, and a good workout. I then headed to the car, and started wringing water out of the suit and undergarments, changed into my spare clothes.

Which brings me to Leak #2. The kitchen sink.

You see, the idiots didn't restrict themselves to just screwing up the electrical system in the house, the decided to try their hand at plumbing screw-ups too. The sink in the kitchen had started leaking below it into the cabinet area. Why was readily apparent - the paper and rubber washers and metal lock ring had fallen off the base of the trap and were hanging on the pipe. It turns out they didn't use the properly sized lock ring and had just jammed the whole thing into place with plumber's putty, which eventually failed hence the leak. The amazing thing is the lock rings come with the traps, so why the hell did they take the time to install a trap and then add the wrong sized lock ring below?

I mean how incompetent can you be to put the wrong sized lock ring on that will not thread onto the trap?

So I went to the hardware store, bought some plumber's putty and a trap. The trap, miracle of miracles, came with a proper sized lock ring and washers. I then installed it and voila, no more leaks. It's a sad day when the lawyer does a better job at plumbing than the plumber.

And of course, leaks come in threes, so I give you Leak #3.

While heading home from the hardware store, the tire pressure light came on in the RAV4. It felt ok at first and I figured it was an erroneous warning, but then it quickly became not so, with some serious bumping noises. Yep, I had a flat as hell tire. Luckily home was a short distance away when I first felt it so we made it ok. The tire was so flat that on getting home and hooking up the portable air compressor, the air was coming out of the tire as fast as the compressor was putting it in. Apparently I ran over something big with it.

Thankfully Costco stands behind their warranty and a new snow tire is on its way.

It's been that kind of day.

Thankfully, leaks seem to only come in threes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Obama Ammunition Economy: In Stock And Out In Less Than An Hour

One of the online vendors form whom I regularly buy my 9mm match and practice shooting ammo sent a notification email while I was out that they had just got some 124gr 9mm in stock.

As soon as I saw the email I went to order. Before I even got to order, in less than 45 minutes, they were once again out of stock.

Forget About Snooze You Lose, How about gone before you know of it?

Its certainly a high demand item these days, and match season is coming up.

With this level of activity, we can thank the firearms and ammunition sector for preventing our economy from sliding from a recession into a depression.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Detroit Heading For Detoilet

Neh State's financial report revealed, to no one's surprise, that Detroit is in a financial emergency situation with $14 billion in debt.

It also revealed that more than half of Detroiters don't pay property taxes and there's been little to no attempt by the city to remedy this loss of around $246 million per year in revenue.

The Detroit News: Half of Detroit property owners don't pay taxes

early half of the owners of Detroit's 305,000 properties failed to pay their tax bills last year, exacerbating a punishing cycle of declining revenues and diminished services for a city in a financial crisis, according to a Detroit News analysis of government records.

The News reviewed more than 200,000 pages of tax documents and found that 47 percent of the city's taxable parcels are delinquent on their 2011 bills. Some $246.5 million in taxes and fees went uncollected, about half of which was due Detroit and the rest to other entities, including Wayne County, Detroit Public Schools and the library.

Delinquency is so pervasive that 77 blocks had only one owner who paid taxes last year, The News found. Many of those who don't pay question why they should in a city that struggles to light its streets or keep police on them.

But not to worry, Detroit's finance director Cheryl Johnson says with a straight face that that Detroit's "property tax system is not broken."

Denial isn't just a river in Africa, but a part of life in Detroit.

This insanity is furthered by the fact that:

Detroit has the highest property taxes among big cities nationwide and relies on assessments that are seriously inflated. Many houses are assessed at more than 10 times their market price, according to new research from two Michigan professors.

Detroit relies on a shrinking sliver of businesses and neighborhoods to pay the bulk of the bills. The three casinos, General Motors Corp., DTE Energy, Chrysler Group LLC and Marathon Petroleum Corp. paid 19 percent of collected property taxes. Five city neighborhoods, most of them downtown and along the river, paid 15 percent of the city's taxes and represent only 2 percent of the city's total parcels. In all, only 41 percent of the city's parcels produced tax revenues last year because of delinquencies and a large number of tax-exempt land.

Detroit's delinquencies are so pervasive that some owners have been allowed to keep their property even if they don't pay taxes. Wayne County treasury officials are so overwhelmed by foreclosures that they ignored about 40,000 delinquent Detroit properties that should have been seized last year and said they will look the other way on about 36,000 this year.

In short the City is beyond a mess. The review team concluded that just about everything that's possible to break and be dysfunctional in Detroit is indeed broken and dysfunctional. It is so bad the governor may be delaying appointing an EFM because the rot is so pervasive there's no way an EFM, who will be contested in every way possible by Detroiters, will be able to get the situation to a semblance of normalcy in time.

We're watching the end result of over 50 years of Democrat rule and a vivid demonstration of what happens when Democrats run out of other people's money.

Here's hoping Snyder doesn't try to bail the City of Detroit out. Let an EFM be appointed or have it go the city enter Bankruptcy court, but no bailout that permits the idiots and the culture of corruption and incompetence that ran it into the ground in place.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Democrat Cognitive Dissonance On Women And Guns

In actuality it is probably not cognitive dissonance as they are too ignorant and stupid to realize thier views conflict.

Democrat Thought 1: Women can't handle AR-15s.

According to Democrats, AR-15s are just too hard for women, the poor dears, to operate.

Democrat Rep Carolyn McCarthy: A Rifle Better for Women’s Self Defense Than AR-15s.
Let's take a moment to celebrate Rep McCarthy's (she of the shoulder-thing-that-goes-up) ignorance here - an AR15 IS a rifle. Indeed, it is easier to use with lower recoil and easier operating procedures than traditional hunting rifles.

Democrat Vice President Biden: You don't need an AR-15, it's harder to aim, it's harder to use.

According to Biden an AR-15 is harder to use than a double barreled shotgun. Not true. The AR15 not only has significantly less recoil than a double-barreled shotgun, but is more accurate, handier, and holds more shots than the two shells of a double-barreled shotgun.

Democrat Thought 2: Women should be able to serve in combat in the military and can handle M-4s.

Both VP Biden and Rep Carolyn McCarthy are strong proponents of letting women serve in combat positions.

The M-4, the fully automatic version of the AR-15, has the same weight and the same operating mechanism of the AR-15, but with the added complexity of a selector switch that moves to (oh how difficult!)a third position for burst or fully automatic fire rather than the (simpler!) two position switch on the AR-15.

How in the world will the poor females in the military handle such a complex firearm?

I know, they'll get a man to help!

According to these Democrats, women are both strong, independent persons able to serve in combat and stand on their own, yet at the same time they are too helpless, dumb and weak to operate what is really a very simple device in their own defense - the same device they would be issued with in the military to serve in combat.

Yes, these Democrat idiots are busy making laws to infringe our rights while being completely ignorant of the subject matter, not to mention being both insulting to, and dismissive of American women at the same time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brussels Sprouts A Gigantic Hole In Airport Security

European Airport Security at its finest - as gang masked and armed men cut a hole in a security fence, drive two vehicles onto the tarmac and proceed to enter the cargo hold of a plane and make a clean getaway with $50 million in diamonds.

Imagine what would have happened if they had had terrorist rather than criminal financial motivations.

Apparently that European sophistication doesn't quite extend to securing the airfield or having a rapid and effective reaction plan in place for an incursion.

Detroit Free Press: Swiss airline targeted in "gigantic" diamond heist

Monday, February 18, 2013

License to Drive - Michigan To Give Illegal Immigrants DLs

Isn't it interesting how some laws can be violated with absolute impunity, and indeed you can even be rewarded for violating them?

The Detroit Free Press: Michigan to issue driver's licenses to immigrants

Illegal immigrants brought to the country as children can start applying for Michigan driver's licenses and state IDs this week.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office will begin accepting applications Tuesday.

President Barack Obama last year announced a policy letting illegal immigrants apply for temporary work permits if they were brought to the U.S. as children. But a small number of states including Michigan resisted allowing those immigrants to have driver's licenses.

Johnson, a Republican, changed her mind recently ago after the Obama administration clarified the younger immigrants' legal status.

To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school, have graduated or served in the military.

Drivers Licenses and State ID cards are acceptable forms of identification for voting in Michigan.

What could possibly go wrong?

After all, since they violated the law by illegally immigrating and then illegally staying in the country, I'm sure they wouldn't dream about driving without insurance or voting with their new IDs, right?

Congressman Peters Replies

Just received a response to my letter sent to Congressman Peters.

The content, given that Rep. Peters is a Democrat's Democrat, is not unexpected.

Dear Aaron

Thank you for contacting me regarding newly proposed safety legislation to reduce gun violence. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to express your views on this very important matter. Your input is, and always will be, welcomed and appreciated.

As a father, the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school was deeply unsettling to me and reaffirms my belief we must do more to protect our children and our communities from senseless acts of violence. Gun violence is all too common; firearms claimed the lives of 450 victims in Michigan in 2011 alone.

The shooting in Newtown has brought us together to start a national conversation on what we can do to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. As a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and trained marksmen, I understand the unique place firearms hold in American heritage and history. Our government will not, and should not, take guns away from responsible gun owners, but we must do more to reduce gun related violence and protect our children.

I believe that to make progress on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, we are going to have to come together to implement common sense solutions. For example, I have consistently supported fully funding and implementing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the filter put into place by Congress to stop criminals and the mentally ill from getting their hands on a gun. But this system can only be effective if it is fully put to use. Currently many gun sales are not subject to background checks, including those at gun shows and between private sellers. This is why I believe expanding universal background checks will be a necessary step in ensuring we do not place guns in the hands of dangerous individuals.

I also support a limit on high capacity ammunition magazines, which have been used in mass shootings in Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Tucson. These measures will preserve the rights of responsible gun owners while limiting the ability of vicious criminals to commit mass acts of violence.

In addition to these sensible gun safety measures, I believe we must improve school safety, gain a better understanding of the relationship between media violence and gun violence, and increase access to mental health services. I support the newly proposed Comprehensive School Safety program which will allow schools to hire additional psychologists, social workers, and resource officers. I also support the President's request for Congress to fund Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research on the relationship between video games, media images, and violence. Finally, I am proud that I supported health care reform, necessary legislation that is expanding access to mental health services to millions of Americans, adults and children alike.

While we will never be able to stop every single act of violence, these measures will save lives. I will do everything possible to pass sensible legislation that will reduce gun violence, further expand access to mental health services, and research the link between media portrayals of violence and real world violent behavior.

I would like to thank you again for contacting me. I always enjoy hearing from constituents and hope that you take the time to contact me again soon. For more information, please feel free to visit my website,

Gary C. Peters
Member of Congress

It is interesting that unlike Sen Mikulski's response to New Jovian Thunderbolt, he doesn't mention the "assault weapons" ban part of the bill and whether he supports or opposes such a taking away of such guns from responsible owners. He only states he's in favor of universal background checks (including the outright lie that you don't need a check if you purchase a firearm at a gun show - try to buy from a dealer at a gun show and you'll see the lie for what it is), and a "limit on high capacity magazines".

In the spirit of compromise, I'll gladly accept a limit on "high cap" magazines of owning 100 such magazines per each and every gun that I have or may buy - that sounds reasonable as more than that and I may run out of storage space. However, I doubt that is what he means.


Keep sending the politicians respectful yet informative letters. If enough people do it they may figure out there is a political price to pay for supporting this unconstitutional dreck.

Sadly, Rep Peters is in a gerrymandered Democrat super-safe district, so any challenge would have to be at during the primary.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vacation - Disney Cruise Day 8 - Heading Home

So we got up and found ourselves in Port Canaveral, Florida.

We dressed, did a final look around the cabin for any items and then said goodbye to the cabin and headed to breakfast with our carry-on luggage.

Breakfast was a little different this last day, it was formally served by the waiters we had for the previous dinners, was really excellent and very quick.

We said goodbye to the waiters and the kids, who had become quite fond of them gave both Amanda and Marijan hugs. We also gave them their tips, which we had bumped up above the Disney suggested standard due to their really excellent service, friendliness and how they went out of their way to make the cruise that much more enjoyable.

Then we stood in line on the ship for quite awhile, and then finally disembarked and waited in another line to clear customs. No problems, just a very long wait and line due to everyone getting off the ship at once.

We then took the bus to the airport and were over three hours early for our 4 pm flight.

The Orlando airport is awesome.

Obviously the surroundings help:

But it's not just that it is in Florida. Instead of a worn-down, unwelcoming environment like Detroit Metro Airport, Orlando Airport is laid out more like a shopping mall. The place is well organized, staff are friendly, not surly, and there's lots of shopping and decent restaurants both in front of and beyond security in the terminals. We explored around, did a bit of shopping, had lunch at the Chili's in the terminal and then went through security.

Then we went to our gate and it was again an overbooked flight. While they offered a free return ticket if you gave up a seat, they only needed one spot so they wouldn't give us four if we all switched, so we didn't. We were seated apart, I was with Abby in row 14 and Leah and Tash were way back in row 34. Unfortunately, Tash had my book in her carry on. No big deal, i chatted with Abby and we talked with the very nice lady from Ohio who was seated beside us. She had just got off a double Carnival cruise with her husband, who was in the seat ahead of us and they had had a great time. A double cruise in that first they did a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise, got off the ship for 10 minutes in Port Canaveral and immediately re-boarded their ship for a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise. Very cool.

The flight was nice and smooth and we waved goodbye to Florida below.

We arrived back at Detroit, retrieved our luggage and took a shuttle to where our car was parked. I scraped the snow and ice off and packed it and we headed out. We knew we were back in Detroit when instead of even a hello, the surly lady at the gate just said the amount that we owed for parking, took our payment and without another word opened the gate. We were home.

The cruise was fantastic. If you've got kids, Disney is definitely the way to go for a cruise. They've got it down to an art and we were very impressed with how smooth everything went and how organized they were.

The level of cleanliness on the ship was fantastic, attention to detail superb, and everyone went out of their way to make sure we had a great experience. I can't say enough good things about Disney and recommend cruising with them very highly. Simply an awesome experience the kids will always remember and Disney had plenty on the ship for adults, including no-kid areas so you could get away for some private time. I'd do it again.

Vacation 2013 - Disney Cruise Day Seven - Castaway Cay

We arrived nice and early to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.

By about 9 am the ship had cleared Bahamanian customs and we were cleared to leave the ship.

It was a windy and wavy day, which made it pleasant onshore but difficult for aquatic activities.

We had signed up to do a package of snorkling, bicycling and tubing, but after briefly trying snorkeling, the waves were a bit much for the kids even in the lagoon. In addition, the wave action had really messed up the visibility in the lagoon, leaving not a lot to see.

Then a BBQ picnic lunch was served on the island and it was most excellent.

So we relaxed on the beach, and then went bicycling.

It turned out that Abby had morphed into an excellent bicyclist, and she and I did the 5km trail twice, including the part that went on the island's runway. First time I've bicycled on a runway, that's for sure. Leah unfortunately had some issues with her bike and bicycling in general so she and Tash decided to forgo the biking experience and went off tubing.

After more relaxing by the beach, it was time to go.

We then boarded the ship and cleaned up from a day at the beach.

The we had something special. Disney actually had an opportunity for those interested to celebrate Shabbat on the ship. We went to the very top deck and on the way found a family heading there. They were from Israel, had lived in Chicago and now were working in China - sop they and their kids spoke Hebrew, English and Chinese. Very nice and impressive people. We found the location and a Disney crew member was there to usher us in and reserved the room just for the service, and they had a challah specially baked for the occasion and a bottle of very good kosher wine waiting. We were then found by a few other Jewish families that were on the cruise there. We sang some Shabbat songs, said the Shabbat prayers and had a very unique experience. It was great of Disney to offer this opportunity and they really did it with class and thoughtfulness. I was impressed and touched to say the least.

Then we put the kids in the Oceaneeer's Club so they could have some fun and we started packing and preparing to go home.

We did the Disney baggage option where, if you have all your checked bags tagged and outside your stateroom by a set time, not only will they be taken off the ship for you, but they will be taken and checked on your flight so we would not see them until we arrived in Detroit. Very convenient and a great service option. This led to some frenzied packing and planning for the next day. As part of the packing there was lots of planning involved in dividing the stuff into the baggage and guesstimating so that none of the bags weighed over 50 pounds to avoid any excess baggage fees, and keeping out an outfit for that night and the next day's travels.

We had our final dinner, did a few more on-board activities and went to bed.

The ship would be docking early, breakfast would be served on-board then we would need to disembark, clear customs and get to the airport.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vacation 2013 - Disney Cruise Day Six - Another Fun Day At Sea.

No Port today. We had left Cozumel in the night, crossed a time zone and were on our way to Castawy Cay.

In lieu of port activities, there was plenty to do on the ship.

After breakfast, the kids demanded to see the incredible diaper dash - a little race starring the babies on board.

Some babies took off and crawled that track toward the toy Jack-Jacks at the end like little Olympians. Others did the "You want me to do what?" or the "Hey look, squirrel" technique and didn't quite follow the lines, or indeed do anything except sit there and look adorable.

Then it was off to the magic workshop for kids, put on by Magic Dave Williamson.

First, as each kids came in, the received a piece of paper, two paper clips and a long piece of string.

The place kept filling up and soon it was standing room only, but as soon as enough kids were there even before the official start time he started enthralling them by calling kids up to do some tricks.

Then with the patience of a saint, he taught them how to do many different magic tricks and put on a mini-show and taught the kids how to do them.

He's got some amazing talent and is a truly gracious gentleman - a world class magician who is truly a class act.

Then we put the kids in the Oceaneer's Lab and headed to some adult fun - a Martini tasting.

Five different martinis awaited tasting:

First the bartender gave us the history of the Martini, and then we tried them in order - a classic Martini (Gin and Vermouth), A Dirty Martini (Vodka), A Tequila Martini, A Rum/Midori Martini, and for dessert, a chocolate Espresso Martini.

It was to be a five course meal.

The classic and Dirty Martini arrived in front of us first and were soon joined by others.

Before drinking we learned how each was made, and the difference between a shaken or stirred Martini. The bartender's secret in the case of the dirty Martini was that he didn't add olive juice, instead he muddled olives which really enhanced the flavor.

A very educational event with very good taste.

After more fun activities on the ship, including running a complete circuit of the ship with the kids on the fourth deck promenade, we went to dinner.

It was a special meal at the Animators Palate - special because everyone drew a character on a special form, the forms were collected and the characters were then animated and added to a Disney animation show. Very cool.

After the animation show ended, the kids also amazed their waiters with the tricks they had learned from Magic Dave - after the magic show, they had diligently practiced the tricks he taught them and did a good job as budding illusionists.

Dessert was, as always, awesome.

At night, Magic Dave did a late night adults-only show, and it was worth watching.

Here's an example of one of the tricks he did at the adult show:

A great time, then it was off to get ready for the next day at Castaway Cay and to get some sleep.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vacation 2013 - Disney Cruise Day Five - Cozumel And The Dolphin Encounter

Day 5 saw us pulling into port on the Mexican island of Cozumel at 8:00 am.

Renowned for its beautiful reefs for scuba diving, I wasn't going to be partaking of its beautiful reefs as it was a family outing day. Some other time.

Some Mexican Navy patrol boats were tied up at the pier across from the cruise ships.

Instead of me taking off and going scuba diving, we had something special planned for the kids.

Yep, we had booked them a dolphin encounter.

Leah was too little to do the swim with the dolphin activity so we did just the encounter - so the kids, along with Tash to supervise got to stand on a submerged platform and interact with some dolphins.

I was stuck far away on the observation deck taking pictures.

The dolphins are quite well trained. Eaxch one has their own individual trainer, and they know 250 separate commands based on hand and body language.

Like this hand signal:

The dolphins each eat about 40 pounds of fish per day, much of it hand fed by the adoring kids during the encounter. Every kid fed them at least two fish each, plus the trainer was pretty generous as well:

They demonstrated how they could leap out of the water and the whole encounter ended with a spalsh.

The Dolphins then waved goodbye to end the show.

After the Dolphin encounter we did some shopping as we had plenty of time before the ship left port. Of course I had to scientifically sample the various types of tequila at the tequilleria (it got smother the more samples you had -- funny that). We bought a gift-box sampler as a gift for my dad and a bottle of Licor Limon (Lime flavored Tequila) for Tash as she liked the sample of it quite a lot -- it's practically a Margarita all on its own.

Just before sunset the ship left port, guided out to see by a pilot boat.

After arriving back on the ship it was time for a quick rest and then to participate in pirate games and prepare for the pirate deck party. Argh!

Disney made sure that awaiting in our cabin were the required "Pirates In The Caribbean" bandanas.

Even Stitch dressed up as a pirate and posed with the kids for pictures.

The deck party was a lot of fun with a fun show put on by Mickey and the gang.

In the midst of the party Captain Hook boarded and tried to take over the ship, but Mickey and the crew prevailed, with the helkp of the kids all answering the pirate quiz correctly.

At dinner, the waitstaff were also dressed in their swashbuckling best.

After that, the kids were beat and that was the end of Day 5.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Know You're Getting Legally Old When....

I'm teaching a class on computer law and the night's lecture is on cyberspace and copyrights.

I begin with a general overview of copyrights and then start talking about the Sony safe-harbor decision.

The Sony Safe Harbor rule, which sprang out of the case of Sony v Universal Studios, essentially summarized, is that if a technological device is capable of mainly non-copyright-infringing uses, then it is not banned as a technology just because it might have infringing uses as well. This decision has had a profound effect on computer and home entertainment technology. In fact, the decision, so bitterly opposed by the MPAA, has resulted in their making massive revenues off the sale first of movies on Betamax and VHS tapes, and then on laser disc and DVDs.

Sadly, None of the law students in the class knew what the namesake of the safe harbor rule, the Sony Betamax even was.

None of them currently own a VCR.

At least all of them knew what Napster was, so we could analyze how the courts ruled that it didn't fit the Sony safe harbor.

Ah, a bunch of kids and Baby Sharks, the lot of them.

Vacation 2013 - Disney Cruise Day 4 - An Educational Costa Maya Excursion

On Day 4 we would arrive at the Mexican port of Costa Maya at 13:00.

The kids were up at the crack of dawn, so I took them up to Goofy's Sports deck at the top of the ship so Tash could sleep in. We played foosball, table tennis, and mini-golf and built up an appetite on a beautiful sunny morning.

Even after playing around for a bit we still were left with plenty of time to burn. So we not only went o the cabin, got Tash and had a delicious breakfast on the ship, but caught the morning showing of Wreck it Ralph in 3D in the Buena Vista theater. Yep, we were in a full-size, stereo sound and 3D capable theater watching a movie in the Caribbean Sea.

We then arrived at Costa Maya and began our tour. Originally we were going to tour the Chacchoben ruins, but we felt it would pose too much on the kids to walk around all of them under the hot sun. The day proved us correct. So instead we changed our plans and booked a May Tour that gave a history of the Maya, let us visit a single classical Mayan temple and have a Mayan lunch.

Our guide was a friendly and very personable person named Gerardo. Quite an accent but very knowledgeable and lots of impressive detail on Mayan history life, culture and the modern descendants of the Maya in the region. Tons of info delivered in a warm and engaging style. He showed us the chicle trees from which chewing gum originated, a block of unrefined chicle, and the many other interesting trees in the region that are or were important to its development and economy.

On the way to the ruin we passed a Mexican Army checkpoint. Notice the G3 rifle. The soldiers at the checkpoint had G3s, while the soldiers at the port were carrying M-16s (I didn't get a chance to take their picture).

We were headed to the ruins of the Mayan Temple of Ixhel in the small town of Limones

Clearing the checkpoint, we then entered the town of Limones.

To say we had entered the Third World was an understatement. This wasn't some dressed up tourist town. The nearest high school is in a town 45 minutes away and any serious medical treatment including a lady giving birth is typically done in the city rather than in Limones.

The town medical clinic:

A shop where tortillas are made from corn. That machine takes the soaked corn and mashes it down into flour for tortillas with the end result a block of corn flour.

Some other scenes of the town, including the field where kids were playing:

People were quite friendly. Poor but proud you might say. Indeed most welfare recipients in the US would flip if they had to live in conditions these people considered normal. It was also Abby and Leah's introduction to such an environment and it left an impression regarding appreciation and gratitude for what you have, and the importance of charity and helping out the less fortunate.

We then left the visited the Maya Temple in the village that was dedicated to Ixhel, the Mayan fertility goddess.

The ruin is quite large and the steps are about twice the size of a typical step you might encounter today. When discovered and excavated, three teenage female skeletons were found buried under it. The three were most likely virgins sacrificed to Ixhel to promote fertility.

Interestingly enough, sites considered holy by one religion are often re-purposed by the next religion on the scene. Right beside the ruin of the Mayan Temple is Limones' Catholic church.

We then went to a Mexican ranch for lunch. We met the Don and Dona who ran the ranch. The lunch was indeed special. We went to an area that appeared to just be a circle of dirt.

But the Don cleared the dirt away, and a cover of green banana leaves appeared, which were pulled away to reveal a hole with a clay pot inside and coals beneath.

Chicken Pibil is a Mayan traditional dish of chicken mixed with spices then slow-cooked underground for hours. Removed and shredded and served with avocado salsa and in my case some habanero salsa, the meal was pure awesomeness on a plate.

We then had a tour of the ranch, most of the buildings have palapa roofs. A palapa roof can be quickly made and lasts for up to 25 years.

We saw the kitchen, it had a cobblestone and dirt floor. Remember, this was a comparative well-to-do ranch for the region:

The basin where washing is done:

And the well:

Then we had a demonstration of how rope is made from sisal.

The sisal is placed on a board and rubbed until the outer part of the leaf is stripped off and the interior splits into separate fibers

The fibers are then twisted around and around until a very strong rope is formed.

The sisal rope industry is in decline due to the prevalence of polypropylene and nylon ropes that are both cheaper and quicker to make.

Then we took the bus back to port, falling asleep on the way, to mark the end of a very educational day.

After some rest we went to the evening's entertainment, a family magic show put on by Magical Dave Williamson, who put on a great show. Like most entertainers on the ship during a family show, he was able to run it at two levels: one that the kids would enjoy, and the second full of innuendo and humor that went right over their heads but the parents all understood and appreciated. Magical Dave is seriously talented with impressive sleight of hand illusions that left the audience both awed and amazed. A great show.

We then had dinner at the Animator's palate restaurant. The walls are covered in changing animated pictures and for this dinner Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo appeared on the wall and interacted with the diners. Very cool how if could chat with the kids.

After that, we passed out and looked forward to the nest day's adventure.