Rhapsody of the Seas – 1/4

The start of my fall cruising entertainment schedule.

Venice - Venice

Venice – Venice

The Rhapsody is the last of the Vision Class ships on Royal Caribbean for me to sail. Never mind it has taken almost two years to manage to be in the right place at the right time (she had a few schedule changes….). So, since I don’t live in Europe any more, I figured I would make the most of my flight and be here a while –

ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Mon Sep 26 Venice, Italy 5:00pm
Tue Sep 27 At Sea
Wed Sep 28 Olympia (Katakolon), Greece 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Sep 29 Crete (Chania), Greece 8:00am 5:00pm
Fri Sep 30 Athens (Piraeus), Greece 6:00am 5:00pm
Sat Oct 1 Thessaloniki, Greece 9:00am 5:00pm
Sun Oct 2 Ephesus / Kusadasi, Turkey 10:00am 8:00pm
Mon Oct 3 Rhodes, Greece 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Oct 4 At Sea
Wed Oct 5 Dubrovnik, Croatia 9:00am 6:00pm
Thu Oct 6 Venice, Italy 3:00pm
Fri Oct 7 Venice, Italy Disembark

So far we haven’t seen a schedule change inspite of the challenges in Turkey/Greece with the current refuge crisis. With the overnight in Venice, I am hoping to get to something musical on the 6th…

 

Approaching Venice

The fastest way to get to the city from the airport is certainly not the Vaporatto’s. The bus to Mestre (main train station area) is closer, faster and cheaper. There are also private taxis and rental cars. Of note – the last two only work if you can handle your luggage on arrival to the parking lots as driving all the way to the most popular hotels is simply not going to happen.

Islands connected by tiny pedestrian bridges, cobblestones. Not roads.

The rest of us take the Vaporattos. My stop is off the Orange line. The price is certainly right and the view, if you have enough sense to turn around and look out the windows is lovely. But iti is not fast. The operators are smart – they load by destination with the furtherst getting on first so that their luggage is in the back. Those of us getting off first are the last on. They don’t take more passengers that they have seats. I have a strong feeling that the luggage in many cases is the limiting factor. OTOH, if you have a lot of luggage, you aren’t going to easily haul it all yourself from the airport all the walkways to the piers.

Guglie is the nearest bus stop to my hotel. On the way I had the most interesting conversation with a woman from Toronto. I had pegged the couple as North American or OZ by appearance. Accent put them in Canada. This is her trip of a life time. After raising three children to adulthood and enjoying six grandchildren, the pair is spending a month in Europe. They started in London, train to Paris, then on to Cairns, Nice and EasyJet to Venice. Their last week will be spent in Rome.

My hotel is a couple of blocks from the stop and is not difficult to find, considering that I have stayed here before. My plan is simple. Sleep for the night followed by a leisurely walk to the ship in the morning. I ate my chocolate bar.

Meanwhile, according to messages from home – the water main in front of the house broke. The street got flooded. and a good time was had by no one. Didn’t mind missing that mess…..

-Holly
of note – the one hour delay leaving Toronto due to late arrival of critical cargo was not a positive development for those connecting in Frankfurt to a number of flights. I was delighted to find that my caution on allowing 2 hours between flights paid off handsomely.

 

On the road again

It has been a pretty insane couple three weeks capped by needed to be at the airport (SFO) this morning. It was obviously dark out when my multiple alarms went off. I wasn’t taking any chances given the time frame and BARTs nasty tendency to toss in repairs and delays when they most effective on disrupting the most desperate passengers. Back to the critical point –

With my usual brilliance and nonchalance I had written down the time of my flight as 1038. This means on a Saturday morning catching the earliest BART from the local station figuring 60-90 minutes for BART depending on timing, whims, train changes and the gods of iron & steel. Not to mention enough drivers reporting for work. That first BART is also effectively an hour prior to any ability to take a bus to the Berkeley BART station.

Did I mention that Alex and I arrived home from the A’s Game (yes, they managed to lose this one as well) & fireworks close to 2300? He did a nice of job of driving us home (it is not like you have any particular need for car &/or driving in Chicago.). The plan was for him to drive with me to the BART this morning and then take the car home. Poor guy is also the only logical choice since he has a real, valid driver’s license. I still had some packing to do resulting in crashing about 0030.

Panic in the morning when I realized that the dent in my suitcase was now a hole. Repack everything into George’s. Drop off, BART, self-check in noting that Air Canada now wants $898 for a business class upgrade to Toronto (note – it was $119 on their website a few days ago) or $1089 the whole way through. I’m trying the Premium Economy since there wasn’t a way to book this as a round trip. The extra several thousand will more than pay for my photography trip to Lapland this winter.

Back to check-in. It was at the point where I was loading my boarding passes into Apple Wallet that the boarding time for AC 738 sunk through. 1055. Huh? Ok – double check everything. Yep – flight leaves at 1138 not 1038. Check again. Problem it turns out is my calendar app which is currently entering everything as if it is Mountain Time regardless of what I tell it. So 1138 on Mountain comes out 1038 Pacific Time.

The guilt settles in. I deprived all three of us of at least an hour of sleep. In fact, with the correct flight time which is an hour later – I could have caught the 0630 bus to the Berkeley BART and spared Alex and Dani from getting up at all. I am hoping they forgive me when they read this. In any case, the only thing I can do now is set alarms and drink a lot of coffee so I don’t miss my flight!

(FYI – SFO-Toronto-FRA-Venice….)

Superhero Fireworks

It's SuperHero Night

It’s SuperHero Night

According to Ballpark (the MLB’s app) tonight was my 33rd game of the season. There are only two remaining home games, but since I am on a plane tomorrow attending Saturday’s and Sunday’s games is obviously out of the question.

Game starts at 1835 - and the sun goes down after 19--

Game starts at 1835 – and the sun goes down after 19–

First – the game.

Graveman did well through five innings, then appeared tired. Does the coach swap out pitchers? Nah, let the pitcher get exhausted and give up a home run with two on. Then pull the pitcher leaving the As at that point with ~ 5 hits and no runs and the Rangers with three hits and three runs….. the final score was 4:0. We (Section 149 – RF Bleachers) were not amused. Alex and I headed for upstairs Section 204 so we wouldn’t have to deal with as long a distance to the BART afterwards. Most headed to the playing field

26,000 tonight (not the 21xx of Monday evening.

26,000 tonight (not the 21xx of Monday evening.

The fireworks were excellent. Unlike StarWars night earlier in the year – there weren’t any CosPlays parading the field. The fun came from the Fan Cam catching all the small one’s dressed up with their masks and capes totally thrilled to see themselves on the big screen.

img_3799

img_3803

It was late by the time we arrived home.

If I didn’t already have grey hair

this morning could have easily finished off the job.

To review – Monday I had an appointment at the VA. I ran out of time to wait for my scripts as I needed to get Dani somewhere else by 1545. I said I would be back in the morning to pick everything up. Yesterday I came over and spent several hours finding out that 1) my scripts had been mailed.

(Hello? I am leaving on Saturday. I am out of meds. Do you seriously expect the mail is going to arrive in time? I do a lot of stupid things in my life, but skipping life required meds isn’t in the plan. I enjoy being alive to be a PITA to everyone in my life.)

So I get here as early as reasonably possible having decided that exercise class would be good to decrease my general level of hostility. I even paid for parking at North Berkeley scoring the third to the last parking place in the overflow lot.

The game starts at 1235…

I stop at the pharmacy. They hand my script. It isn’t my med. (Foreshadowing – if I had known the insanity the next couple of hours were going to involve, I would have kept my mouth shut and left). This is “D2” – I’m on “D3.” Oh – I will check with the doc. I thought I had a previous script in the system. The notes just say Vit D replacement. Different half-lives for the two. After 90 minutes, I prove what I am on by Dani taking photos of my script bottle at home and emailing. Yep – D3, but from LRMC. Why don’t I just ask them to refill the script?

You are kidding, aren’t you? Landstuhl Hospital is in Germany, they are 9 hours ahead of us. I can’t exactly stop by and the mail would take a long time. Repeat – flying on Saturday.

She contacts the doc. The staff goes for a meeting. They come back. I make a couple more trips to the window – they don’t usually page and the electric pharmacy “scripts ready” sign is still out of order.

I finally get handed a bottle about five minutes before I am going to lose it completely. The bottle contains barely enough capsules to see me through the trip. At this point, I really don’t care any more.

The A’s lose again. Instead of three of us in the Flag&Drum RF149, there are eight so the sunshine feels good and there is plenty of time to socialize. Jane was returning from Singapore today to SFO. The third of our early 1980’s female officer triumvirate who also lives here in the Bay Area picked her up at MacArthur Station for the afternoon. We met up at Gaumenkitzel early evening for supper and a reminisce of life as it was then. Balancing jobs, families and superiors who did not appreciate female subordinates and used their discriminatory powers with glee.

Somethings have changed for the better in the last 35 years. Not completely fixed mind you – but definitely better. It was fun being able to reminisce with those who had been there, done that, survived. Not living in the past, but pulling the memories out of storage, brushing them off and looking back with eyes significantly older. One would hope wiser as well. Not needed on a daily basis, but it was an interesting and defining time in our lives.

VA Pharmacy – Day 2

Our story with our not so brave but totally irritated heroine left off yesterday from the VA Pharmacy with the promise to return for med pick up. This is effectively my only day this week to run errands. I arrive at the pharmacy and ask for my meds.

We mailed them yesterday afternoon.

What?

Our policy is to mail them.

But I specifically told the guy at the window that I was leaving on Sat.

Well, they are mailed.

I need my meds. Do you have them in stock?

Yes, we would have to clear it with the doc – but we don’t usually hand out VitD – that is mail order….

Hour later they finally manage to hand me a bottle. It has four capsules in it. I am gone for 9 weeks. It is not the right med to top it off.

Back to the window. Hello? I am leaving country for a couple of months, this isn’t going to do it.

But you should be getting the rest in the mail.

Repeat – US Mail service is not time guaranteed. I am the one with the potential for serious issues.

Well, you shouldn’t have run out.

What!?!?!?! I talked to my doc a month ago. I had a bridge script which STILL hasn’t arrived from mail order to get me to the appointment since she wanted to see me before renewal. The first appointment available Mon. If you hadn’t mailed my meds yesterday, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

That is our policy.

I stop by the patient advocate. It is NOT the clinic policy to automatically mail, especially in the face of a specific request not to mail. It is just easier for the pharmacy. Rather than fill the script – they just send a message to the Central Pharmacy (Indiana?) which fills and mails. Transfer of workload. Easy, Peasy.

I go back to the pharmacy. They can’t process more than one request on a med per day. If I want more than four tabs, I am going to have to come back tomorrow.

What do people do who have a life? A job that requires them to physically be somewhere? To punch a time clock?

I do a lot of yelling at the As game. It helps. They lose 2:1 anyway; allowing the tying run in the 8th and the game in extra innings.

The VA saga to be continued….

Let me talk about the critters

rather than the challenges of getting a script out of the VA. Or managing to balance all the comings and goings of the household today.

Bar Class at 0715. Drop off friends at BART (~1000). Head to appointment (1415) at VA leaving in time to allow George to catch BART from 19th Street en route to SFO (~1330) . As much as I would have loved to leave for Europe with him to visit Heidelberg & Ingolstadt before traveling to Venice, I just had too many commitments this week. Much less game tickets….. Then Dani had an appointment (1545) which ending about the time that I needed to leave for tonight’s As Game.

The As were ahead for 7 innings and didn’t managed to lose till the last inning. The good and the bad – I had a good time anyway and there weren’t that many fans at the stadium.

Critters

with photos provided by the relevant daughter –

Onyx after bath

Onyx after bath

Retriever saying "who me? - I'm a good dog"

Retriever saying “who me? – I’m a good dog”

while the idiot pointer is sure that there is something out there...

while the idiot pointer is sure that there is something out there…

Back to Berkeley

It has been an interesting few days in Chicago. The kids have packed up that which they will need in California and the shipment went out yesterday. The dogs will be run for a few hours today before they head to the airport.

Dani found an apartment sitter, so the place will not remain empty while we decide what we want to do with the place.

I’m ready to be home. Of course, it will be a bit complicated. Isn’t my travel always so? Getting to Midway wasn’t hard and would have been much easier had I double checked everything prior to leaving the condo. Never the less, I managed to take the CTA to Midway with minimal amount of pain and got checked in.

What will be a challenge? Well …. I arrive a couple of hours before the A’s game. I was planning on just picking up my luggage from Southwest after the game given that the Coliseum and the airport are the same BART stop. However, if the security people at the game check point decide to be strict, I wouldn’t be able to take my backpack with electronics into the stadium. Laptops are on the prohibited list. For that matter, so are telephoto lenses, video cameras and artificial noise makers.

I don’t know what that says about horns, gongs, cow bells and snare drums which are routinely part of Section 149 right along with the banners and flags.

Anyway – I am more likely to grab the luggage, meet George at the local BART station. I can swap luggage and backpack for my hat and game jersey….

Grandeur @ Sea

No photos today, so this post should load rather quickly.

I appreciate having a sea day just prior to return to port. It lets me get organized and packed without too much of a rush. That is, of course, if my laundry gets returned prior to 1800 that evening.

I sorted files and read most of the day – again alternating between two of Anne Perry’s historical mystery series with an occasional detour into a couple of computer games.

We ate in the main dining room. I skipped the evening show (well, to tell you the truth, I skipped all of the shows) in favor of taking to people and consuming the last of my lattes…

Tomorrow it is dock, port/luggage/customs followed by BWI and a flight to Midway in Chicago.

it has really been that long

It used to be that I never, ever went to bed without finishing up my post for the day. Of course, when you are deployed to Bosnia (1998) it isn’t like there is a whole lot of competing evening entertainment. Admittedly, I could go down to movie night and watch “Groundhog’s Day” or get on the server and play quake as alternatives to jotting down the day. But I found that analyzing the day was one way of making sense of both the important and trivial.

Fast forward 18 years (yes, 18 years….) The Internet has exploded in depth and breath. What we were doing before with ASCII characters and hand coded graphics can frankly now be done by an 8 year old, a trained monkey or someone over 60 (with a bit of effort). Cell phones are common place as is email so that most of you who are reading this usually have an account in addition to AOL. I don’t bounce the mailing list off a military server (worked till 2001).

My daily challenges are different. I certainly don’t mind that they no longer include people shooting at me/my troops. But there is a certain potential for sameness in days at sea that the Army on the ground never quite shared with the Navy at sea. I’m not in charge; I have to remember to not act like I am (grin).

A morning in Bermuda where there is sunshine, humidity and a chance to take a ferry over to Hamilton didn’t appeal to me as much as reading another Anne Perry Mystery. I am reading her Thomas& Charlotte Pitt series concurrently with the William Monk series as books become available through the on-line public libraries. So that is where my state of mind was yesterday when I went through the fort – thinking about societies, structure, roles and poverty. Unlike many of the other islands, Bermuda seems to have recovered well from the Colonial Era, but I found myself just not in the mood.

So no pretty pictures of tropical plants, lovely water, or sweaty people.  Carmen and I ate dinner in MyTime Dining. It was lobster night which explains why I sweetly looked at our waiter and asked him to find me vegetarian curry…..

Royal Naval Dockyard

The Grandeur as seen from the fortifications

The Grandeur as seen from the fortifications

It was almost 1400 when we were cleared to disembark in Bermuda. It may surprise you to learn that I have never been here before. It has not be a stop on Royal’s routine TransAtlantic repositioning cruises but a good place to transfer patients needing hospitalizations.

Like many other locations in this area of the Atlantic & Caribbean, it was used by the Portuguese and Spanish. Neither country were into colonization in the area; more like looting and locations for slave trading after the 1500s. Bermuda, or rather the British has a worse reputation than many other locations. When you colonize, as the English (and occasionally the Scotts) were wont to do – you need labor. Until 1834, that meant slaves. When the impact of Dr Livingston became clear, the English moved to the next best thing – convicts. Why send those with shorter sentences all the way to Australia, tying up men, ship and resources when you can drop them at Bermuda to build your Naval facilities and provide labor for plantations, mining or what-have you. And if you finished your sentence? You could then be still sent to Australia!

with critical exhibits located in the Hight Caves (not accessible)

Which then leads us to the Boer Wars. It wasn’t sufficient to decide that one’s country had the obligation, much less the right to colonize huge swaths of Africa. No, one had to bring one’s own colonials, religion and control. Which means battles, pitting tribal chiefs against each other and use of some rather more modern weapons than in the possession of the locals. (Go read up on the Zulu Wars….). So how do you handle the displaced Africans and Boer families? Why you set up concentration camps where more than 14000 Africans and 27000 Boer Women and Children perished through crowding, lack of health care and malnutrition.

IMG_3619

IMG_3621

And, if you now need more labor in Bermuda – you set up POW camps where no one has a chance of escape and going back to the fight.

We docked at the Royal Naval Dockyards and could see the fortifications from our balcony. The Fort and associated Colonial Buildings have been turned into a museum which has some excellent and very blunt exhibits which I highly recommend.

As I walked the embankments and looked out at the ship – I started thinking how “we” have romanticized the Victorian Era. Clothing, manners, steampunk take offs, Sherlock Holmes, multiple other mysteries and authors. Few of these seriously look at the underpinnings of that society with hundreds of thousands of starving poor in London, famine and unrest in Ireland, or the amount of tragedy in other areas of the British Empire which served as the under pinnings. It is not a time or place in which I would have cared to live.

Too much on offer

It was a day on which I drank several lattes, worked on releasing all of the posts that have been hung up for sometimes months pending a photo or three. And went to a reception at lunch and the “Captain’s Table” for dinner. Said table actually being run by the hotel director.

It was a lovely meal – they ate lamb and steak – I received wonderfully flavored Indian and we all were happy. Glad I hit the gym this morning because there were more than a few calories involved (sucker for chocolate covered cherries – what can I say. Dinner started late for me and finished even later. And add to this the hour time loss since we are going to Hamilton Bermuda. I need sleep as 0600 for the fitness center is going to feel very early tomorrow.

Back at Sea

Yes – you read that right. After getting off the Explorer on the 16th of May and walking on land for 90 days (+) I’m back on a nice cruise ship. In case you are wondering, I am completely and totally not counting that disaster of a ship I was on in June. I enjoyed the time with George, loved Scotland, met nice people and struggled to find anything worth eating for 7 days. Not my idea of a good time.

So here is the route –

Baltimore  Bermuda

Baltimore <-> Bermuda

and the actual itinerary

ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Aug 27 Baltimore, MD 4:00pm
Sun Aug 28 At Sea
Mon Aug 29 King’s Wharf, Bermuda 1:00pm
Tue Aug 30 King’s Wharf, Bermuda 2:30pm
Wed Aug 31 At Sea
Thu Sep 1 Baltimore, MD 7:00am

which really means that it is going to be warm, humid and a chance of rain. I’m planning on a really nice relaxing time…

Who won anyway?

Saturday is the traditional evening for the Hugo award ceremony. As part of the reg crew with set up at 0800 in the morning I am sort of feeling a bit ragged about 2000 when the ceremony is supposed to start. This was compounded by a brilliant person thinking that there would be attendees showing up late just to go to the Hugo’s. At $70? I don’t think so. More like someone was either immersed in fantasy land or just avoiding dealing with hall passes.

Those of you from the US – I am sure that you remember Hall Passes from school. They came from your teacher if you were running an errand or needed to be somewhere other than your class room during the hour. Or from the office if you were there for any reason; giving you permission to be somewhere other than normally appointed location by your regular schedule. Some schools even used them to allow quick restroom tricks.

The catch, of course, is that someone has to screen the person/request, decided if it is valid, and then issue the pass. Might take a few minutes, right?

So there we were, stuck and bored till 2100. I had made a couple of trips up to the Con Suite on the main exhibition floor for beverages and munchies as well as pitching in on table clearing. Am I going to hang around with everyone eating, drinking, partying and watching the big screen? Nah -I am going back downstairs to my quiet group of fellow sufferers before heading back to the hotel.

It wasn’t raining! What more could I ask?

Oh – the Hugos?

Best Novel: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Best Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
Best Novelette: “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, translated Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
Best Short Story: “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)

The John W. Campbell Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award): Andy Weir

All the votes didn’t match mine, but I wasn’t displeased.

Didn’t think of this

It was a reasonable morning @ 0800. Even discounting the announcement that we couldn’t take the shuttle to the convention center like we had yesterday. Apparently we weren’t special enough, not being relocated at the last minute from the Phillips Hotel. Never mind the drive who was enforcing his list wound up with no passengers. The rules must be followed.

The tram is new, free, clean and lovely even if this area of Kansas City is not exactly thrilling or appearing to be thriving (parking for $5/day?).  I didn’t give the weather or outside temperature a thought since I was trapped occupied inside the convention center for the day.

Observed around the Con

Finally finishing up ~2100, I forgo the Masquerade in favor of getting some sleep. Ditto for the parties. It was about this time when I became aware that the outside rumbling was not trucks driving under the building but thunder relating to the ongoing storm.

Hello? California resident here – specifically East Bay. We get fog or low lying clouds in the summer with an occasional covering of morning dew. We don’t get rain. In fact this past winter (note, north of the Equator August is most definitely not winter…) was the first in four years to get rain, ending the long standing drought. So color me not prepared for a good, rousing Mid-West thunder storm complete with this wet liquid stuff descending from the sky.

Contrary to public opinion, I’m not a witch and don’t melt with water. I was by far more concerned about keeping my camera and books dry. I dashed the three blocks to the tram and boarded the one that was about to leave, staying on to Union Station.

Cool what ? (taken from dry inside)

Cool what ? (taken from dry inside)

There is an overhead walkway enclosed system (Skyways or +11s as is know by some) which connects Union Station with the hotel complex.

which feels like going down an umbilical

which feels like going down an umbilical

and leads to an

inside water hazard.

inside water hazard.

 

Nuggets

Just for fun, go read Wiki on Dr Robert C Baker.

The reason I learned about him today, much less of his existence was courtesy of

Paul & Storm

Paul & Storm

 

Food science is important. And McDonalds is not the originator of the chicken nugget…

The duo is known for their spoofs in the SciFi fan world, skewering George RR has lead to a couple hilarious songs (one on on YouTube and the other here which is a take off on American Pie. Hey, all of you are old enough to remember singing Don Mclean’s

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Of course, if you have absolutely no clue about Game of Thrones, you probably won’t get most of the references..

Other than picking up and wearing my new hat (picture tomorrow) I was able to get to a panel, a literary beer and otherwise wander around since it turned out that most people had picked up their badges yesterday (or more likely are waiting for the weekend).

I didn’t spend much time with the camera but saw this

More displayed costumes

More displayed costumes

and went to give

and the wandering Tardis

and the wandering Tardis

a bit of a hand calling the elevator since it doesn’t exactly have a free hand, now does it?

Opening Salvo

Unlike most of the previous WorldCons, we were so good (cough, cough) at our jobs in registration that we essentially never had a line. Seriously, after dealing with lines varying anywhere from 2 to hundreds of dedicated fans.

By the end of today, we had logged in almost three thousand without really straining ourselves. Lots of individuals who were preregistered and the rest who seemed to be competent in filling out forms. One of the changes with this Con is the complete switch to Square Register for processing payments (rather than the old credit card machines which were bulky at best and cranky at worst.

 

I had fully intended to see something, anything today but it proved pretty much to be a plan not able to come to fruition.

 

Instead, I headed up to the main floor after 1900 when we closed to capture a bit of the flavor and exhibits….

 

Not counting, of course – the ever popular
019A1885

019A1886

Going to Kansas City

and that means Missouri, not Kansas for all us who never knew/have completely forgotten US Geography.

It was a morning that started obscenely early. BART get to Oakland in time for me to make an 0620 flight so our eldest kindly (and she is so NOT a morning person) gave me a ride to the airport sparing me the 69$ Supershuttle fee. The Taxi folks wouldn’t even give me an estimate.

It was a direct flight to Kansas City, location of this year’s WorldCon. Catching the shuttle wasn’t a problem except that I had completely forgotten about the two hours time change which means that I had not exactly given the correct arrival time. It was too early to get to my room but dropping off luggage and heading to work reg for the rest of the day was just fine.

This will be the only comment I will provide on the Westin. They don’t provide desk staff who can think ahead. It didn’t occur to them that someone standing at the Bell Captain’s desk might need help. Or that perhaps it would have made sense to mention their shuttle service rather than leave me a phone message necessitating yet a third trip to the front desk. No free wifi… argh.

The new tram – free – runs up and down Main Street which really helps in the humidity. Union Station is amazing. I’m going after photos tomorrow….

The Boys are back

which is not great for the garden but certainly better than talking about the lack of Oakland’s pitching performance for the last three games. Shall I just leave that bit with “Cub’s have pitchers” and the A’s just couldn’t manage to get on base?

I’d like to think they have a chance against the Orioles, but I am not holding my breath. Going to the game tonight, yes. But not expecting anything for the performance….

Back to the boys who have been hanging out for day after day after day. Totally destroyed my lime tree along with beating down a patch through the landscaping on the hill. “We are not amused” even though they look quite at home.

and now there are three

and now there are three

taking a break

taking a break

doesn't he look comfortable?

doesn’t he look comfortable?

George went through his entire pile of small stones next to the door, managing to hit one of them a couple of times. Means that they left for oh, let us say about 15 minutes before they came back and settled in again. We don’t feed them. These three boys do look fairly healthy which doesn’t mean a thing as far as ticks or Lyme disease. The only thing I have noticed so far is that they don’t seem to like the laundry rack. So out it went with a couple of large RCCL towels flapping in the breeze…

(and before you ask – yes, we have tried just about every imaginable spray to no avail. They like munching on my plants….

Puzzle Factory

I’m not sure what I expected when I walked into Liberty Puzzles in Boulder. I have been buying puzzles from them for years. Lovely, real wood puzzles cut by laser with each piece unique + dozens of whimsy pieces in each puzzle. No, they are not cheap, but I believe the value for the money is there.

I left Colorado Springs this morning after spending an enjoyable week with Kathy, seeing some of the local sites but mostly relaxing and getting caught up on a number of projects. With a flight tonight I needed to fill the day. Why not Boulder? The drive just isn’t that far. Jane & Don’s whose car I will be returning in a couple of hours live near the airport and certainly on the right side of the city to go to Boulder.

Where was I?

Oh, walking into Liberty Puzzles after finding it on 49th very close to C 157.  This is not a paid advertisement, but a report of a place with a great product and even better customer service.

see those old puzzles on the wall?

see those old puzzles on the wall?

There is part of the owner’s collection of hand cut wooden puzzles passed down in his family.  There are displays of the current puzzle lines –

As well as a table with several set out just to temp me into spending more time.

The kind Collette gave me a tour of the manufacturing process which takes about 3 days total per puzzle.

The picture for each puzzle is printed on archival quality acid free paper

The picture for each puzzle is printed on archival quality acid free paper

Then applied to the wooden piece so that it seals and drys (which starts the explanation of the amount of time involved. From here – the puzzles are individually cut in the production room. Think more than a dozen individual closed machines each computer controlled and capable of burning a puzzle in about 45 minutes. (and no pictures in this room).  This is followed by cooling….

From there –

each puzzle is then taken apart piece by piece

each puzzle is then taken apart piece by piece

with each being checked and rough edges sanded or filed as needed. Then comes hand packing in boxes. Followed by my gleeful shopping in the inventory racks!

I stuck with the adult puzzles

I stuck with the adult puzzles

and stayed away from both the small round and the kids puzzles. It really helped me to look at the boxes to give me a much better idea if I really needed that puzzle. I did find a couple by one artist and then there is the Dr Seuss line. Shipping, as it turns out is much, much cheaper than Boulder sales tax (9%).

I also found enough puzzles to extend my puzzle membership for another year which makes me a happy camper but not sure how it is going to affect our bookshelves… It is probably extremely good for my pocket book that I won’t be back this way anytime soon. My flight is rather late this evening from Denver direct back to Oakland.

Now, I was going to ask if I really wanted to get up for an 0715 exercise class in the morning before realizing that I at least exhibited enough common sense to sign up for the 0945 session instead. Followed by an A’s game. Then I need to pack up my current puzzle in anticipation of some new ones arriving in the mail!