Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Substance Over Image - Krugman

Substance Over Image
Published: February 26, 2007
Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country.

How did that happen? First, he got the Republican nomination by locking up the big money early.

Then, he got within chad-and-butterfly range of the White House because the public, enthusiastically encouraged by many in the news media, treated the presidential election like a high school popularity contest. The successful candidate received kid-gloves treatment — and a free pass on the fuzzy math of his policy proposals — because he seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, while the unsuccessful candidate was subjected to sniggering mockery over his clothing and his mannerisms.

Today, with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead thanks to presidential folly, with Al Qaeda resurgent and Afghanistan on the brink, you’d think we would have learned a lesson. But the early signs aren’t encouraging.

“Presidential elections are high school writ large, of course,” declared Newsweek’s Howard Fineman last month. Oh, my goodness. But in fairness to Mr. Fineman, he was talking about the almost content-free rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — a rivalry that, at this point, is mainly a struggle over who’s the bigger celebrity and gets to lock up the big donors.

Enough already. Let’s make this election about the issues. Let’s demand that presidential candidates explain what they propose doing about the real problems facing the nation, and judge them by how they respond.

I know the counterargument: you can’t tell in advance what challenges a president may face, so you should vote for the person, not the policy details. But how do you judge the person? Public images can be deeply misleading: remember when Dick Cheney had gravitas? The best way to judge politicians is by how they respond to hard policy questions.

So here are some questions for the Democratic hopefuls. (I’ll talk about the Republicans another time.)

First, what do they propose doing about the health care crisis? All the leading Democratic candidates say they’re for universal care, but only John Edwards has come out with a specific proposal. The others have offered only vague generalities — wonderfully uplifting generalities, in Mr. Obama’s case — with no real substance.

Second, what do they propose doing about the budget deficit? There’s a serious debate within the Democratic Party between deficit hawks, who point out how well the economy did in the Clinton years, and those who, having watched Republicans squander Bill Clinton’s hard-won surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy and a feckless war, would give other things — such as universal health care — higher priority than deficit reduction.

Mr. Edwards has come down on the anti-hawk side. But which side are Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on? I have no idea.

Third, what will candidates do about taxes? Many of the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. Should they be extended, in whole or in part? And what do candidates propose doing about the alternative minimum tax, which will hit tens of millions of middle-class Americans unless something is done?

Fourth, how do the candidates propose getting America’s position in the world out of the hole the Bush administration has dug? All the Democrats seem to be more or less in favor of withdrawing from Iraq. But what do they think we should do about Al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Pakistan? And what will they do if the lame-duck administration starts bombing Iran?

The point of these questions isn’t to pose an ideological litmus test. The point is, instead, to gauge candidates’ judgment, seriousness and courage. How they answer is as important as what they answer.

I should also say that although today’s column focuses on the Democrats, Republican candidates shouldn’t be let off the hook. In particular, someone needs to make Rudy Giuliani, who seems to have become the Republican front-runner, stop running exclusively on what he did on 9/11.

Over the last six years we’ve witnessed the damage done by a president nominated because he had the big bucks behind him, and elected (sort of) because he came across well on camera. We need to pick the next president on the basis of substance, not image.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Consumed with the house

Uh, this is a "blog," right? And that can cover just about anything and everything. This post is going to go over some of the things going on with the new house. As much for the family as anyone.

We have been so consumed with house stuff that we've been neglecting just about everything else, including friends and family, etc.

Plus, the recent cruise. Plus, our recent battles with colds. It's been a very hectic year already.

The main thing left for the builder to do is to finish the fourth floor. The TREX decking is still waiting for the pooling to be eliminated from the roof. The tile floor inside is supposed to be done this week.

The rest of the place is basically finished. Now it's up to us to furnish it. It's a shame that a lot of the stuff that you already have just doesn't cut it in a new home. Well, it COULD, of course. But there are so many more photo- or picture-ready walls in this house, we don't have near enough framed pictures to fill them up. As to furniture, we've been steadily eliminating it over the last few years, paring it down. We've given several large pieces to the Houston Area Women's Center, our charity of choice lately. They love us.

As for other furnishings...

We picked up a couple of rugs at "The Dump" the other day. All sales final. They specialize in furniture and rugs/carpets. One is a gorgeous hand-knotted Tabriz Persian for the living room. The salesman at The Dump tells us that we're going to spend HOURS looking closely at this carpet, and it's true. Each time we sit down on it, we see different stuff we hadn't seen before. It's wierd. It's also a great size for Yoga, for two. Of course, we feel like we got a very good deal. I've seen some Persian rugs similar to what we bought for around 10 TIMES what we paid for ours.

The other rug, for the dining room, is machine-made and half the price of the Persian. Now, of course, we're discovering all sorts of other places where a runner or a rug might be nice. Now we're thinking about re-covering the dining chairs again, perhaps in black...perhaps stain the entire table black...the possibilities are endless. We hate to cover up the bamboo floors, but ya gotta have something on them, especially considering my foot situation.

Finally got the ceiling fan in the living room installed. It's one of the very first "extras" we ordered (way back in August of '06), but it was one of the last things the builder put in. It's a Casablanca "Stealth" model. This fan has an elaborate control box with energy-saving settings, and when you change speeds or functions, it sings to you. This is frankly getting out of hand. Our new washing machine and dryer both sing various tunes depending upon the status of the clothes inside, our coffeemaker buzzes at different speeds in its attempt to communicate with us, and now the ceiling fan is chiming and singing. Everything's got a micro-chip in it these days. I'm getting a micro-chip on my shoulder.

David also built a wood fence in the back yard for privacy, which was unexpected. I was looking forward to draping the chain-link fence with a fragrant jasmine, but, hey, I guess I could put a trellis in front of the fence. Still to come will be the gravel/rock for the yard. Not going to grow grass and spend lots of time and energy maintaining it. We'll do rock around the house and put containers on top of it. So that's still to come also...

The threshhold is finally installed on 2! It sat there in the corner for two weeks before the carpenter finally got around to installing it. These guys do what they say they will, it just takes them forEVER.

We picked up several picture frames the other day and are finally getting around to framing some of the pen-and-ink drawings we picked up in Guanajuato, Mexico last summer. We're also going to frame the two prints by Bonno, finally. Wifey has this idea to print out some of our digital portraits and colorize them a la Andy Warhol, and frame those. Should be interesting.

The rooftop deck is still a problem, but it's just about the last problem now. Instead of one pool not draining, after they tried to "fix" that, we now have four pools not draining. Gotta get that fixed before we can bring in the Trex roofing material. Can't have a housewarming party until we get the deck installed. I was hoping to have a party before Christmas, then for New we're shooting for the Spring Equinox, but it's looking more like Memorial Day or the freakin' 4th of July!

Keith Olberman top rants

Rolling Stone has compiled the best commentaries/rants from MSNBC's Keith Olberman. Some real tasty stuff here. Enjoy! If you haven't already ...

And just recently Keith dumped on Condi Rice for (once again) comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. The transcript and video is at this link:

Monday, February 26, 2007

List Change - Philosophy

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Judge people less on their mistakes than on how they handle their mistakes.
Ron Hall.

The first duty of love - is to listen.
Paul Tillich.

The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved.
Victor Hugo.

The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.
W. M. Lewis.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt.

True friends stab you in the front.
Oscar Wilde.

I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.
Albert Einstein.

There is no better soporific and sedative than skepticism.

I love fool experiments, I am always making them.
Charles Darwin.

There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That's perfectly all right; they're the aperture to finding out what's right.
Carl Sagan.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.
Frank Zappa.

A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds.
Mark Twain.

Eric Clapton in concert

Going to San Antonio to meet some friends for the Eric Clapton concert this weekend.

Eric in 1966...

Eric's official website:

You can hear Eric's latest album (with J.J. Cale) at this link:

And Eric in 2006...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth wins Best Documentary!

Very pleasing, but not really unexpected. There's a pretty funny bit with this video, with Leonardo DiCaprio. And I just heard that Melissa Ethridge won Best Song for "I Need to Wake Up" which appeared in An Inconvenient Truth. Now, if Al were to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which is to be announced in October....

QuickTime vid also available here -

Another beautiful spring day in Houston

Sunny skies today. 65 degrees or so. Low humidity. Cool breeze from the north. Man, it doesn't get much better than this. Here's a new shot of our new place. We've been moved in for about two months now and still the roof deck isn't finished, but it's getting there. Nothing to worry about.

About the only thing better than dropping the top and going for a ride on a day like this is going for a long walk instead, so that's what we did. I forgot my walking stick, though. Good thing we didn't have to beat, beat back, any stray mad dogs.

Pretty horrible story recently in Houston about two little girls attacked by pit bulls not on leashes.

Last Thursday, two girls were attacked by a pair of pit bull-type dogs while walking home from school in north Harris County. After attacking the 12-year-old girl, the dogs dragged a 7-year-old girl before neighbors and paramedics came to the child's aid. The dogs ran into some nearby woods but were later shot by sheriff's deputies.

A man died in Montgomery County in October after being attacked by a pit bull owned by a man trying to sell some dogs. The man and a friend were looking to buy a pit bull for security when the dog attacked both of them.

Fortunately, we didn't get attacked. Damn shame that you need to be on such guarded behavior, but there are people out there who just insist on violating the city's leash law, and have large dogs. Not nice people, let's just leave it at that.

But it was a glorious day. Walked over to an antique store just west of here, a junk shop, finally over to a restaurant for an open-air patio lunch. And a huge piece of chocolate cake for dessert. How wonderfully pleasant. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe under an umbrella on a gorgeous spring day. Where am I? Europe? What? This is Houston?

So far, we have counted 25 restaurants in about a 10-minute walk radius. Then there are also two drug stores, a liquor store, three dry cleaners, a grocery store, a modeling studio (hey!), a coffee shop, bookstore, two art galleries, about 10 bars, and on and on and on. All within walking distance.

And we hear about blizzard conditions up north. Six people dead in Wisconsin from the cold. A tornado watch AND a blizzard warning? At the same time? Damn. Days like today remind you why you live in a sweltering hellhole like Houston. Why? Because the spring and fall, and winter for that matter, can be pretty nice. If you can just get through a coupla three months of real heat, humidity and pollution, the rest of the year ain't bad. Sheesh! The trade-offs we all make, eh?

There may be a housing slump in parts of the US today, but not in Houston. And no wonder, with weather like today. There are several hundred new units being constructed within about a 10-block radius of our new place. Some are clusters of three or four townhomes. Some are rather large apartment blocks. Some are single-family homes being put up by people with just too much money. For the longest time, just west of downtown was a pretty old, pretty run-down section of low-rent housing. Within the last five years, the dam has burst and a lot of it has been leveled, and townhouses have been springing up like daisies after a spring rain. We are going to have a lot more neighbors soon.

Here's a pic taken from just down the street from our new house. Nice views of downtown from around here. Yes, the trees are budding. Especially elm and juniper. Ok, now, about the only thing better than all of the above (except the stuff about the pit bulls) is laying back in a recliner in front of an open window with a fan pulling in fresh, cool air ... snoozing in the chair. Shoveling snow? Where? .... zzzzz

Friday, February 23, 2007

Three words from the Texas Democratic Party

No, not those...
The three words are...Republican Hypocrisy Alert!

John Cornyn & Kay Bailey Hutchison Fail to Deliver for Texas Troops, Democrats Pick Up the Slack

Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison dropped the ball last year when they failed to bring home federal dollars for Texas troops and their families. Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a fellow Texan in the White House, Cornyn and Hutchison left unfunded the recommendations of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) that provide for significant upgrades to a number of Texas military facilities. Because Republicans in the Senate shirked their financial responsibility and passed the buck to the new Democratic Congress, key military facilities like Fort Sam Houston were unable to pay for needed improvements that would bring thousands of new jobs to many Texas cities, including San Antonio and El Paso.

Now, Texas' two Senators are attempting to cover up their failure by taking credit for the hard work of Texas Democrats in the House, who have demonstrated real leadership and successfully made the case for $3.1 billion in additional BRAC funding--on top of the $2.5 billion recently approved by Congressional Democrats.

Texas Democrats - including Congressmen Silvestre Reyes (Dist. 16), Chet Edwards (Dist. 17), Charlie Gonzalez (Dist. 20), Ciro Rodriguez (Dist. 23), Solomon Ortiz (Dist. 27) and Henry Cuellar (Dist. 28) - have tirelessly advocated for our troops and are delivering for Texas military facilities.

With their dog-and-pony show press conferences, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who actually served as chair of the subcommittee in charge of BRAC funding, are playing politics with Texas troops and falsely blaming Congressional Democrats for their own mismanagement that has shortchanged our military. Clearly, their hypocrisy knows no bounds! Thankfully, Democrats are standing up for our soldiers. The next time you see a Democratic Member of Congress thank them on behalf of Texas families.

List Change - Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006

The Previous List:

The Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006
From Doctors Without Borders

Somalis Trapped by War and Disaster

Fleeing Violence in the Central African Republic (CAR)

Increasing Human Toll Taken by Tuberculosis

Consequences of Bitter Conflict in Chechnya

Civilians Under Fire in Sri Lanka While Assistance is Limited

Effective Strategies for Treating Malnutrition Not Implemented

Congolese Endure Extreme Deprivation and Violence

Living in Fear in Colombia

Violence Rages in Haiti's Volatile Capital

Clashes in Central India

Read more about these (and you really should) at

You cannot get happy. You can only BE happy.

(commonly attributed to Buddha)

Quotes to live by. A nice compendium of wisdom at this link...

Obama in Houston

Obama makes the rounds in Houston

Clinton dust-up is a hot topic at fundraisers

Houston Chronicle

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Houston on Thursday, raising money, rallying support and steering clear of a feud this week between his camp and that of rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But that dust-up was a hot topic among local Democrats, including those gathered at a union hall late Thursday for an Obama fundraiser and rally.
"If we continue to engage in small and divisive politics and tit-for-tat," Obama said, the nation will remain at a standstill. "Our country is at a crossroads right now. We know what the challenges are, because we have been dealing with them for years," he said, citing an education and health care crisis, an "energy challenge" and an unpopular war.

"It's not as if we don't know what the solutions are. What's missing is the inability of our leadership to develop consensus."

Most of the 300 Democrats who attended the fundraiser showed up hours early at the Communications Workers of America union hall to hear the phenom firsthand.
Giovanni Garibay, the national committeeman for the Young Democrats of America, which represents people younger than 36, has already endorsed Obama. "I feel he's connected to our issues."

In his first visit to Texas since formally announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, Obama also attended a fundraiser earlier Thursday at the Museum District residence of energy executive Robert Cavnar and his wife, Gracie. That event, which was not open to media, raised $264,500. On Wednesday, Clinton challenged Obama to apologize for the remarks of a supporter. Several local Democrats said her challenge was misdirected, and that Obama handled the matter appropriately by refusing to apologize for something someone else said.

The flap began when Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who threw a $1 million fundraiser for Obama this week, criticized Clinton and her husband, the former president. Geffen had supported the Clintons.

In remarks to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Geffen said the Clintons lie "with such ease, it's troubling," called Bill Clinton "a reckless guy."

Clinton aides said Geffen's comments undercut Obama's pledge to run a positive campaign, but a local Clinton supporter was less critical.

"I think Obama's statement that he has no control over what anyone outside his campaign has to say was probably more on the mark," said Arthur Schechter, ambassador to the Bahamas during Clinton's administration. Geffen said some things he shouldn't have in an attempt to show support for Obama, Schechter said.

"The Republican rule of not talking ill about any other Republicans would well serve the Democrats," Schechter said. "The tit-for-tat is destructive."

Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg said Clinton's response may have been directed more at Republicans than Democrats.

"After the '04 campaign, Democrats came to the conclusion that anything that is perceived as being negative has to be promptly responded to," Birnberg said. "This may have been as much directed at Republican opponents as Democratic rivals. The message she is sending is 'turn negative and I'll respond immediately.' "

In the short run, Obama probably benefited from the flap because it called attention to his candidacy, said University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray. Polls show the first-term Illinois senator is not as well known as Clinton, who was first lady for eight years and just started her second term as a senator from New York. "I think it probably helps define him," Murray said.

Republicans were enjoying the Democratic spat, with the Republican National Committee sending out a release highlighting what it called "Tinseltown tension."

In Houston, Obama's late-night event targeted younger voters, with an advertised minimum $100 admission — although no one was turned away at the door, they were just asked to make a donation of their choosing — compared with $2,300 for the 115 who attended the Cavnars' soiree.

The hosts there included lawyer Tony Chase; and investment banker Gerald Smith and his wife, Anita. Obama is scheduled to speak at the University of Texas at Austin today at an afternoon event open to the public. Clinton has a Houston fundraiser scheduled in mid-March.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Life is a beach

This is a .gif. You should see some movement of the water here....should...

Just testing

12 Angry Men

Just picked up a couple of tickets for a performance this weekend. Some friends have told me that it's been somewhat updated and was a fine production. We'll see on Saturday.

Here's a link to a preview in the Houston Chronicle.

and a synopsis

Twelve Angry Men
Feb. 13-25, 2007
Sarofim Hall (Hobby Center)

Twelve Jurors. Twelve walks of life. And only two ways to rule: guilty or not guilty. What seems like an open-and-shut murder case becomes a twisted puzzle of prejudice and intrigue. Twelve Jurors in a murder trial are corralled in a room for the duration of their deliberation. As prejudices are tested and evidence weighed, the entire jury is forced to look past the show of the courtroom to unearth the shocking truth. Faced with playing the hangmen, these dozen men must first face themselves. Starring Richard Thomas and George Wendt and directed by Scott Ellis, the National Tour of TWELVE ANGRY MEN is produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, one of the country’s leading not-for-profit theatres.

Bob Herbert - From Anna to Britney to Zawahiri

From Anna to Britney to Zawahri

By BOB HERBERT in the New York Times
Published: February 22, 2007

Have they buried Anna Nicole Smith yet?

Are you kidding? Ms. Smith may be dead and rapidly decomposing, but there’s too much fun still to be reaped from her story to let it die just yet. This is world-class entertainment: Larry King, “Today,” CNN, The New York Times.

Even the judge in the televised hearing over what to do with Ms. Smith’s remains is milking his 15 minutes, like Judge Ito of O. J. Simpson fame. In a burst of wisdom from the bench, the judge, Larry Seidlin, said, “Like a Muhammad Ali fight, sometimes you have to wait the whole 10 rounds.”

When we were kids we were taught not to laugh at people who were obviously mentally or emotionally disturbed. With Ms. Smith, who was deeply and unmistakably disturbed, we put her on television and laughed and laughed. Would she say something stupid, or spill out of her dress, or pass out in public from booze or drugs? How hysterically funny!

Then her son died. Then she died, leaving an orphaned infant daughter. Instead of turning away chastened, shamed, we homed in like happy vultures. Whatever entertainment value Ms. Smith had when she was alive increased exponentially when she was kind enough to die for us. Now she’s on the tube around the clock.

The story, as they say, has legs.

There are other stories out there, but they aren’t nearly as much fun. The Times reported on Monday, for example, that Al Qaeda is getting its act together in Pakistan and is setting up training camps in an area that, apparently, we don’t dare trespass in.

According to the article, “American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.”

The article went on to say, ominously, “The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.”

I imagine that there are a fair number of television viewers and newspaper readers who have trouble distinguishing the relative importance of celebrity stories, like the death of Anna Nicole Smith, from other matters in the news, like the reconstitution of forces responsible for the devastating Sept. 11 attacks.

If air time is any guide, there’s no contest. It’s been obvious for the longest time that the line between news and entertainment has vanished. News is entertainment. And the death of Anna Nicole Smith is more entertaining — for the time being, at least — than the war in Iraq or the plodding machinations of bin Laden and Zawahri.

Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were on the cover of Newsweek last week with the headline “The Girls Gone Wild Effect.” When you turned to the story, there was a full-page picture of the former best friends, with a glassy-eyed Britney looking for all the world like a younger version of Anna Nicole Smith.

The lead-in to the article said in large type: “Paris, Britney, Lindsay and Nicole — They seem to be everywhere and they may not be wearing underwear.”

The nation may be at war, and Al Qaeda may be gearing up for a rematch. But that’s no fun, not when Britney is shaving off her hair and Jennifer Aniston is reported to have a new nose and the thrill-a-minute watch over Anna Nicole’s remains is still the hottest thing on TV.

It was Neil Postman who warned in 1985 that we were amusing ourselves to death. I’m not sure anyone knew how literally to take him.

More than 20 years later, the masses have nearly succeeded in drawing the curtains on anything that’s not entertaining. No one can figure out what do about Iraq or Al Qaeda. A great American cultural center like New Orleans was all but washed away, and no one knows how to put it back together. The ice caps are melting and Al Gore is traveling the land like the town crier, raising the alarm about global warming.

But none of that has really gotten the public’s attention. None of it is amusing enough. As a nation of spectators, we seem content to sit with a pizza and a brew in front of the high-def flat-screen TV, obsessing over Anna Nicole et al., and giving no thought to the possibility that the calamitous events unfolding in the world may someday reach our doorsteps.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Al Franken to run for MN Senate!

Video Description

From YouTube: Al Franken's video message about his candidacy for US Senate in Minnesota.

Personal Message

Go, Al, go! Al should be able to totally kick Norm Coleman's ass.

Smooth Jazz TV

The show this past weekend featured a great performance by Acoustic Alchemy at the Maui Music Festival, which I never knew existed. Supposedly each May, the Festival would be a GREAT reason to get to Hawaii, and pick up some Plumeria while you're there. And Kona coffee...

The Death of Timothy Souders

From the February 11, 2007 broadcast of 60 Minutes on CBS.

This kind of thing should not be happening in America. It should not be happening ANYWHERE, but especially in "the greatest country the world has ever known."

(CBS) You wouldn't imagine these days that a mental patient could be chained to a concrete slab by prison guards until he died of thirst, but that’s how Timothy Souders died and he is not the only one.

Souders suffered from manic depression. And like a lot of mental patients in this country, he got into trouble and ended up not in a hospital, but in jail. It was a shoplifting case and he paid with his life.

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, no one would have been the wiser, but a medical investigator working for a federal judge caught wind of Souders' death and discovered his torturous end was recorded on videotape. The tapes, which are hard to watch, open a horrifying window on mental illness behind bars.

Six months ago, Tim Souders was in solitary at the Southern Michigan Correctional Center. He was 21, serving three to five years. Though an investigation would show he needed urgent psychiatric care, Souders was chained down, hands, feet and waist, up to 17 hours at a time. By prison rules, all of it was recorded on a 24-hour surveillance camera and by the guards themselves.

The tape records a rapid descent: he started apparently healthy, but in four days Souders could barely walk. In the shower, he fell over. The guards brought him back in a wheelchair, but then chained him down again. On Aug. 6th, he was released from restraints and fell for the last time. Souders had died of dehydration and only the surveillance camera took notice.

Video here:

Growing Things

We just traded two outstandingly healthy dieffenbachias (very hard to kill) for several "sticks" of Plumeria from a friend.

Not sure what type of Plumeria they are exactly. He didn't know either.

There are over 200 varieties of Plumeria, and they grow in these parts quite well.

He also threw in a handful of aloe vera....


and a very odd unknown succulent (not pictured).

Here are just a few Plumerias.

You can find them all over the net.

Don't need to get to Hawaii to buy some, but it's a good reason to go.

Also picked up a Thornless Mexican Lime tree.

Welcome to the jungle....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Day 5 - All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise - Feb 1, 2007

Another good thing about Carnival is their buffet breakfast. They put out about five different kinds of cereals in large bowls, and so I grazed some of this one, some of that one, some of this one, oh, and add some raisins. It was almost like home. About the only thing missing were fresh strawberries and blueberries. I guess you can't have it all, unless you're at home. You should pass on the scrambled eggs. They were very reminiscient of college scrambled eggs: runny and pretty tasteless. But they would also make a fresh omelet for you, much better than the "scrambled eggs."

We were right on time for our 7am arrival at Grand Cayman. Damn, now this is a beautiful island. There must have been 100 excursions available here, and almost half of them involved stingrays. Several excursions had an early trip and a later trip. Every later trip was booked up, leaving only early (7am, 7:30am, etc) trips available, and a 7am excursion is not our idea of a leisurely vacation. So, we decided to simply catch a "tender" ashore and wander around, do some shopping, have some lunch.

Since there is no deepwater pier at Grand Cayman, we anchored about 500 meters offshore. As we pushed away from the Conquest, we noticed that there were three other cruiseliners anchored nearby. Reminded me of mosquitoes, hovering, buzzing, waiting to strike! Tourists by the thousands, ready to come ashore and spend, spend, spend. Or bitch, bitch, bitch.

It was only about a 10-minute tender trip to the dock. No chance to get seasick. Although they told you to take your passport, no one checked it coming to or going from Grand Cayman. Nice. A big difference between the Caymans and Jamaica, there was no one at Cayman waiting to pester you, sell you something, follow you around or try to pick your pocket like many places in Jamaica. It was clear, sunny, and warm. Glorious.

They drop you off at downtown Georgetown, the capital of Grand Cayman. We waded through the thick strands of tourists and visited a couple of shops but didn't buy anything yet. Back in the sun, we found a nice little library and we dropped in for awhile. The quiet is always nice. I love to visit libraries. There were seats for maybe 20 people and it was about half full. Pretty good for a beautiful day, and most of them didn't look like tourists. The librarian directed us to a local drugstore, where we picked up more dramamine, just in case.

Wandering again, we found a second-floor store that had a lot of everything at good prices. I'd been needing a new tropical shirt - bingo. Kitchen magnets! Ka-ching! A T-shirt for the wife and some trinkets, baubles and beads. Water? Could use some. Rum cakes? Forgot them! They even had free broadband internet access for customers and a free VOIP telephone so you can call anyone anywhere in the world, for free. That's a pretty cool marketing idea. Get a VOIP phone and give it away to your customers. Customers only, please. So the wife took the opportunity to call the office (sigh) and everything was fine. No worries. I got on the net to look around.

What? Molly Ivins died last night?! Oh, no! We wondered where Cindy (not her real name) would be. Cindy was a long-time friend of Molly's, and my wife. I think the two of them had a fling back when. Cindy and Molly, that is. You knew Molly was a lesbian, right? But we couldn't reach Cindy. No answering machine either. Hmmm....

They had two computers there for the internet, and they guy sitting at the one next to me couldn't help but overhear us talking about Molly. He said she was a great lady and didn't know how we were going to replace her. There was another man waiting for his turn at the computers. He was about 45 or so and made a comment about how Molly wouldn't get to see Bush put in the stocks. Surrounded by Bush-bashers! Frankly, ever single person we spoke with about politics can't stand Bush. That was pretty awesome. It was like 20-o. This second guy tells us he got back from Iraq a few months ago, and he thought he would know some of the soldiers on that recent helicopter that was shot down in Baghdad. He was in charge of some chopper crews over there, and he was pretty distraught. We all stood around and cursed Bush, the stolen elections, his bankrupting the Treasury, getting all these people killed over lies, raising our voices...I felt like I was in another country. Oh, yeah, I was.

We paid for our stuff and walked out of the shop, rather stunned and depressed about Molly, but happy that we'd found people on the same wavelength. Being a little hungry, we located a Senor Frogs close by and parked it on the upstairs balcony overlooking the street. Breezy, shady, ceiling fans, cold beers, hamburgers, quesadillas ... it's vacation again. We raised our glasses to Molly. A true-blue American. Didn't end up talking any politics there.

A couple of beers at lunch will usually result in one thing: a nap. Got to get back to the boat first, though. While that patch of grass under that shade tree over there looks inviting, I'm not sure how the local police would feel about it. So we made our way back to the pier, to the boat, to our cabin, to dreamland ... ahhhhhh.

We woke in plenty of time to get cleaned up, take a stroll on the upper deck in the sun, and split a sandwich from the deli before the first concert of the evening - Eric Darius. Think of an energetic David Sanborn, without the odd honking. Eric was great. Need to get some of his music. Halfway thru Eric's set, Craig Chaquico shows up. We've loved Craig's guitar work for some time now. Didn't realize he was quite so spacy in person. He did some rather odd things with the lights as stars in the sky and, well, it reminded of my psylly-days. If you get the chance, go see him. And Eric.

We left the concert early enough to see the (one day from being full) moon looming over the eastern ocean horizon. It always gives me chills. Not that I believe in astrology, but I am indeed a Moon Child. I can just sit. And sit. And watch it.

If we were going to get a seat for dinner, we'd learned we needed to be there early, so we gathered at the nightly fire trap and safety hazard just outside the Monet Dining Room. Tonight was the second of two "Formal Nights," and, against my wishes, but still willing, I wore my jacket. A tie? Uh, sorry, I have to draw the line somewhere. We were all sweaty salmon when they opened the doors at 8:30pm and we rushed in, spilling over the chairs, tables and rails, claiming our territory. It's pretty odd. By this evening, we were getting kinda tired of the menu. The same salads every evening. Most of the same entrees. No lobster again. People would tell me, "I had lobster every night on my cruise. Because I could." Well, we didn't. Because we couldn't. Tell ya what, if this chef is world-renowned, our standards are falling. Say no more.

At the next table over, the same table we sat at on Tuesday (after being shut out Monday), we noticed our next-door (stateroom) neighbors. We'd talked a few times briefly during the trip. I went over and sure enough, that was the table THEY had sat at on Monday. We took it Tuesday. They re-claimed it on Wednesday (when we got sidetracked upstairs) and Thursday. And I thought that I was a creature of habit. They'd seen us get it on Tuesday but didn't come over to say anything about it. To their credit. For such a big dining room, it was a small world.

Since we were in our Formal Wear, we decided to take advantage of the multiple photo-shoot opportunities that Carnival offered all over the boat. There must have been 20 or 30 little photo-shoot backgrounds spaced all over the boat, and you just walk up and have the photographer snap several pics. They print them all in 8x10 format and post them on Deck 4 the next day. Hundreds of pics. Thousands. We sat for several shoots. Got some pretty good shots. You know, we've been meaning to take an updated pic of us for "posterity...."

The late show in the Toulouse tonight was an "Industry Panel." Whooo-pee!! Since I wasn't anywhere near breaking into the Smooth Jazz circuit, we decided to skip it and the almost-nightly Jam Session hosted by Nick Colionne. We saw the flambouyant Nick all over the boat. Sucker must have slept till noon every day to stay up every night in a jam session. Oh, yeah, they're musicians. That's what they do. I'm glad I'm not a musician, sometimes.

I guess I'm just not a "cruiser" either. I just feel rather pretentious dressed up and strolling around this behemoth of a ship. Although a jacket with no tie is not exactly all dressed up.

Modesty and a somewhat fractured sense of decorum prevents me from telling you what we did on our balcony in the moonlight...

Tomorrow Cozumel and our Isla Pasion Beach Adventure V.I.P.! According to the TV in our stateroom, ours was one excursion selected to have a videographer along. Could be interesting...