Wednesday, April 14, 2010

clearing my plate

Things have been pretty busy in Wasterland over the past few months. As a result, I've been slacking pretty bad on getting this thing posted on any sort of a regular schedule. I'm sorry for sucking.

I realized today, that writing is more difficult when I do it less often. When I do a weekly post, there's generally been one main activity to write about. It's pretty easy to select the subject matter when the choice is limited to one. Plus, it's totally fresh in my mind so I don't have to fictionalize my memories.

Last time I scribbled anything was right after the cruise, which was a full month ago. I've got a skull full of a month's worth of topics trying to get out, but no gentle and orderly way to release the jam.

So I'll just ramble on, in no particular order.

All the young'uns skipped school and spent the day with me on Take Your Kid and Make Them Work Day. Sam, Ethan, and Megan, plus Sam's bf helped me around the office for a few hours. They really did earn their lunch, too. They cleaned my whiteboards (and drew new pics), hung some corkboards, did some software installs, and helped with a bunch of inventory tasks. Then we took a walk up to Moe's for lunch.

btw - Moe's in Herndon has $2 beers all day every day. Welcome to Moe's!

I scraped all the Christopher Newport University stickers off the truck last weekend. When Joe first dropped out, I held on to the hope that he'd have a revelation. He'd get his act together and go back to school. My "CNU Dad" stickers would be legit again. Now he's been out for nearly a year, got married, and moved out of state, so I've accepted the fact that it'll probably be a long while before he focuses on education again.

A good friend of mine just recently started working with University of Phoenix (not in AZ, right here in NoVA) He's the guy that can help you get back on track with your own derailed education. They cater to working adults who have to balance jobs and schoolwork, so they really do understand your situation. Touch base w/ Brandon here:

Sam applied early-admission to both Radford and Longwood. She got accepted to both, so the admissions process ended rather quickly. She decided on Radford, did the dorm paperwork, and already had me sign the first check. I've got a lot of space on the truck windows to put up new stickers.

My school has been a struggle this semester. I've been putting off my final ENG class, "Writing for the Business Professional" for a long time, and finally had to hunker down and do it. It's kicking my tail. I can take a full load of senior tech classes without any troubles, but this stupid sophomore-level writing class just isn't what I'm cut out for. Midterms were this week, so I'll be done with ENG in 6 more weeks.

Work sucks. Way too busy, being pulled in way too many directions. It's still better than not working, but some of these sunshiney spring days makes me wonder how true that is.

I've already registered for two triathlons this year, and I'm looking into a third. Plus there's an open-water swim coming up at the end of the month that I might go after, too. My workouts have started to extend recently, and I'm just feeling good. It's pretty rewarding being 40 years old and feeling better now than I have in a long long time.

Besides, biking makes me smile.

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I seriously have dozens of submissions for the Waster sitting in my inbox. I've only got a few items here. Keep sending stuff, I promise it's not going into a black hole.

Geek out with this space/gravity/orbiting java app. Play with the presets for a bit before trying to monkey with the custom settings.

Bill had a slow week a while back. He must have sent 1/2 dozen games. The first to share: Starmaggedon!

Graphics suck. Music awful. Gameplay meh. But tossing a fat kid with a catapult overrides all the fails of this game.

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VA State Attorney Ken Cuccinelli is a moron and a prude.

Drunk-ass Jerry Jones talking smack about Bill Parcells and Tim Tebow.

Dan Snyder, defending his Redskins and yammering about the other sports teams he wants to buy.

I'm the other one. Plus, I can ride my bike with no handlebars.

Congrats from the Simpsons -> SouthPark.

Some old Sublime (like there's any legitimate new?) I love the double-hedgehog-cameo by Ron Jeremy.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

oooooh wheeee oooooh wheeee baby

Cliff's Notes version: our first cruise excellent! It exceeded all expectations, and we already put a deposit down on the next one. Seriously.

Full story, so you can pass the exam: We were sailing from Miami, but flying into Ft. Lauderdale. We were a day ahead of schedule, so we took the roundabout way. Flew from Dulles into Ft. Lauderdale airport. Hopped a shuttle bus to the TriRail, which we rode to the Miami station. Another shuttle bus took us to the Miami airport, where we caught yet another shuttle bus to the hotel. One final shuttle took us to the port the following morning.

Our travel agent hooked us up with "VIP boarding". At first, we didn't realize we had anything different from anybody else. Then we bypassed the lines at the security checkpoint. We had access to the VIP lounge while they handled all of our boarding docs, then were ushered up a super-secret side elevator and wound up on a catwalk over the hundreds of NVIPs who were now waiting in a second line to get their boarding passes.

I don't know what portion of our costs covered VIP boarding, but it was worth every single penny.

The Carnival Liberty is freaking amazing. At one point, it was the largest in the world, but has been surpassed since. It carries 3,000 passengers + 1,200 crew. 950' is longer than 3 football fields. It's got 3 swimming pools, a handful of jacuzzis, a water slide, mini-golf, basketball & volleyball courts, and a jogging track. Buffets, bars, and full-service restaurants all over the place, too.

Full-service doesn't come close to describing the quality they delivered. We had a dedicated room steward, drink service guy, and 3-person waitstaff team. They all knew our names BEFORE any introductions were made, and were totally on top of their game. Raoul, the room steward, earned bonus points for keeping my leftover bucket of beers freshly iced, day or night. I think they were all Philippino, and they all greeted us "Hello, Mr. Patrick! Hello Mee-lissa!"

The first couple of days we spent sailing from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, taking full advantage of all those bars. I found a foolproof way of not getting lost trying to make my way back to the cabin. 100x better than breadcrumbs any day of the week:

Once in Cozumel, we hopped a ferry to the mainland, then went on a tour of the Mayan ruins in Tulum. Excellent trip, great experience, and it was actually rather educational. It's really cool to walk around the buildings that were constructed hundreds of years ago, and still see the detail in the construction. After the tour, we had lunch at a total dive Mexican restaurant, serving real tacos (without the bell and that stupid Chihuahua).

We got back to Cozumel with plenty of time for some shopping and a drink or 10. The Tequilaria is a liquor store, specializing in (guess!) all sorts of tasty tequilas. But the kicker is that they have free samples; game on! I spent a bit of the afternoon there, before heading to dinner at Pancho's Backyard. We hung out the rest of the evening at some other port-side bar, then made it back to the ship just in time to collapse from the day.

Next on the itinerary was Grand Cayman. This is a tiny little piece of nothing island just south of Cuba. We were lucky that it was so small. There wasn't any pier, so we were taking ferries to get on land. The waves were rolling a bit, so the ferries weren't able to hook up to the ship. Our captain packed it in, steamed to the other side of the island in about 30 minutes, and found much calmer water. The ferries were able to do their thing.

Once on the island, we took another boat 2mi out to sea, to a big sandbar in the middle of the ocean. The water was only about 4' deep, beautiful blue, and full of stingrays! We jumped from the ship and got to play with the rays in the water, just like the Crocodile Hunter (minus the barb-in-the-heart thing).

Afterwards, we headed to a private park at Rum Point for lunch and drinks on the beach. I went out for a swim and found a deep rocky area 1/4 mile off-shore that was full of literally thousands of fish. It was like somebody had hijacked a PetSmart and hid the fish department in this hole. I went back and got the camera, but found there's a lot more work involved in underwater photography when the currents are swirling. Only a few of the pics do any justice to the number of fish and the rainbow of colors that I saw.

The following day, we were docked at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The entire ship seemed to be going to Dunn's River Falls, which we'd visited on our honeymoon. Our Jamaica excursion was going to be horseback riding on the beach. This had the potential of either being really cool or really cheesey. The guides from Chukka Cove were top-notch, and made the trip a total blast.

Halfway thru the day, we hitched our horses and jumped on different ones that weren't saddled. We rode these straight out into the effing ocean. We were 100yds from shore, on the backs of horses that were swimming in the waves. No kidding. I wouldn't have even guessed that horses could swim, much less with my clumsy a$$ clinging on the back.

We left Jamaica, sailed between Cuba and Haiti on our way back to Miami. The days at sea were just as much fun as the days in port. There was something scheduled for all age groups and interests thru the entire day. Old folks, partiers, teens, and little kids each had different activities planned. The option to kick back and relax in the sun was always there, too. The bars were maybe a little too convenient, and the food was maybe a bit too tasty, bc we overindulged at every chance. ("Can we order three desserts after dinner?" "Of course you can, Mr. Patrick!")

The ship got into Miami early on Saturday morning. Disembarking (that's cruise-talk for jumping ship) sounded like it was going to be a clusterfck. I'm certain that our VIP passes saved the day again. Our departure was labeled 'Zone 1' and we were directed to be downstairs at way-too-early in the morning. We were walking off the ship while the announcements were telling passengers NOT to come down yet bc they didn't have harbor permission to go ashore yet. We had our luggage and had zipped thru customs before the rest of the 3,000 had a chance to create a bottleneck.

After another pair of shuttle buses, we arrived at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. We spent the remainder of the day putzing around town, riding the water-taxi tour through the hyper-ritzy Lauderdale Harbours and Las Olas Isles. After asking the boat crew for advice, we wound up on Las Olas Blvd, which was a neat thoroughfare of shopping and sidewalk dining. It took a while to decide on dinner, but when we settled on the Greek place it worked out perfectly. Again, excellent food, but this time we were able to watch the parade of cars passing our table. I'm not sure if the owners of Rolls, Maybachs, Lambos, and Ferraris call it "cruising the strip" but that's exactly what they were doing.

Verdict: absolutely wonderful. I can't wait for the next one.

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Dom is saving my tail with a few games this week. Usually I don't post until I've played at least for a minute, but I'm doing these blind...

First-Person Tetris
Record Tripping
Tuper Tario Tros.

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Old school Atari; twisted by Matt.

Todd sent this a while back, and I'm just now getting around to posting it. I wanted to make sure none of my immediate family was involved. He pointed out the key phrase: makeshift helmet. That's enough of an intro right there.

I haven't put together much of a collection this week, so I'm calling on an old favorite that always makes me smile. Calvin & Hobbes, forever young.

What do I do right?


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