Monday, April 30, 2012

Desert Museum docents are the best!

Some of you know that my absolute most favoritest volunteer activity is being a Sunday docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. And Sunday docents—They're the best and this is what they did for me yesterday.

It was a normal lunchtime, except it was my last day for four and a half months, an eternity, I think. Julia, my co-captain, was making her normal announcements but added that I was leaving for this really great cruise around the world. Suddenly there appeared a bag filled with colored tissue paper and presumably some other things, since it was pretty heavy and I had to open all of them and have a show-and-tell. Like Christmas in April!
The whole kit and kaboodle!

They gave me:
  • A box of tissues (in case I cried, I think)
  • Ear plugs (they don't think I snore, do they? No, must be Randy that snores)
  • Hand sanitizer (they had all heard of outbreaks of norovirus and I guess they sort of want me to come back to ASDM)
  • A blanket to keep warm in the colder climates ( the “blanket” is about 3” x 3”)
  •  A battery-operated fan (for hot flashes? Or maybe because I had been complaining that it was going to be 45C [113F] in Dubai?)
  •  Several energy drinks (I had been lolling about in the office all day)
  • Two ASDM pins to trade
  •  Did I mention I got earplugs?
  • TWO sleep masks (to go with the earplugs, I think)
  • An “extremely loud” whistle (to ward off the pirates off the Somali coast?)
  • Glow sticks (to “add an extra glow to parties”)
  • Tube shot glasses (to add even more of a glow to those parties—I wonder why they didn’t include the booze?)
  • The most aptly named “Nauzene” motion sickness pill (for Randy of course as I NEVER get seasick)
  • A sewing kit (probably for me to stitch up Randy when he trips over the tube shot glasses at the party)
  • Hand warmers (did I mention it was going to be 113F in Dubai?)
  • Specialized playing cards for Hearts, Rummy, and Go Fish (for the times when Randy & I cannot think of a single other thing to do)
  • Two harmonicas ( in case we want to enter the passenger talent show, or in case Randy & I want to clear the room of every other person)
  • More earplugs
  •  A first aid kit with yet more energy drink, breath fresheners (are they trying to tell me something?), Dramamine (for Randy, of course), Advil PM & aspirin (did Randy put those in there?), anti-diarrheal AND laxative pills (no comment), a mini-flask (again, why didn’t they include the booze?), and last but most useful, hand sanitizer on a belt carrier.
  • 3-D bookmarks (especially useful when trying to read and the ship is rocking and rolling)
  • Specialized maps, some published some time in 1602 and written in Swedish, given to me so we don’t get lost down under and forget which way is up
  • A journal so I’ll never forget what a great time we’ll have
  • A monocular to use to help the captain find his way home by following the shorebirds
  • The funniest and possibly most useful gift, a “Go Girl” that is "hygienic, portable, discreet, and reusable." None of the guys had any idea what that is. All the women knew exactly what it is.
  • A guide to the stars from 1985But the stars haven't changed in what? 4 billion years?
  • And a (faux) leopard bag—Or maybe it’s faux cheetah or jaguar?—to carry it all in.
  • And when all else fails, a certificate for a “Cheap divorce for cruisers” from the Law Firm of Lure’em, Fleece, and Screw’em whose legal advice is worth what I paid for it. Good at any of their offices, but of course they have no offices (thank you to Bill, lawyer/judge/co-captain).

The 1985 star chart

I especially like the logo!

Thanks so much, Sunday Docents, you made my day! But then you do that every Sunday!

Only 1 day and 16 hours to go!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ANZAC day, travel blogs, and one week from TODAY!

One week from today we actually leave our house and start heading west. First to San Diego to see my aunt Margie and cousin Daniel, although I think of them more as friends than relatives. Then we’ll go on to Aptos (go find THAT on a map!) to visit Marian & Alex, old friends of ours from when we lived in San Mateo. Then to San Francisco to be tourists and visit my sister and brother, Victoria and Lance. I am the oldest and they are next to youngest of the 9 children my mother had.

I am starting to panic. Especially when I discovered I had misplaced my immunization record. I don’t think I’ll need it, but it’s nice to have documented that my yellow fever immunization is still current.

Randy did a practice pack of one large suitcase but I’m going to have to have him unpack it. I am not happy unless I know exactly what is in my suitcase. And I don’t. Of course we still have stuff to pack and even to get. I have put off until today ordering an international phone from Go-Sim, as suggested by some Cruise Critic members. What would I do without CC?

Naturally I still have a few clothes to purchase. And I’m getting my haircut by my daughter’s hairdresser. You know, it’s really boring getting ready for even the most exotic trip! But all this stuff (mostly) has to be done.

I’m getting the three tours I’ve organized, organized. I’m in the process of sending out emails to make sure everybody still wants to go on the Mumbai Tour, the Papeete tour, and the Le Havre tour.

Meanwhile, Randy and I are up at our cabin on Mt. Lemmon (yes, it has two “m”s, named for the first woman to climb it) getting it ready for our friends who have rented it for the summer. We’re packing up all OUR clothes so our friends will have space for THEIR clothes. And cleaning the place. THAT is an exercise in futility as the windows are so leaky that dust is a constant presence. I can dust in the morning and by lunchtime there is a fine layer of grit on everything. Grrrrrrrrrr.

There is still fun stuff to do, such as still thinking about organizing a few tours. We only have tours organized for about 15–20 of the cities we will be docking at. And what souvenirs we are interested in. We have so much STUFF in our lives that I don’t want to get much, but it’s such fun to look at the souvenirs we have brought home that we’ll surely get more than we are planning right now.

And finally, I so enjoy reading others’ blogs about their travels. Whether it is by RV in (by another Pam & Randy) or by ship in (the HAL Amsterdam’s world cruise), or quite possibly one of my favorite blogs,, which is not really a travel blog, but as he says, “Articles and information from a Torontonian living in Ra'anana, Israel.” And my daughter would not forgive me if I didn’t mention her blog about her fun, frivolity, and travails of owning a horse. Hers isn’t a travel blog, either, but an eclectic mix of stuff happening in her, her husband’s, and her dogs’ and horse’s life.

Still haven’t gotten around to doing anything with my video of the airshow. Bummer.

Lastly, today (in the US) is ANZAC day, an extremely important day for Australians. We remember our men and women who served in the military on Memorial Day. They remember theirs on ANZAC day, April 25. Lest we forget.

As soon as we start traveling I will do my best to post at least every other day, if not daily. Hasta la vista, baby!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A valuable lesson learned!

Today is Tax Day but the lesson learned had absolutely nothing to do with taxes!

Randy and I went to the air show at Davis Monthan AFB on Sunday, courtesy of our friend Laura. She’s a member of the DM50 (doesn’t matter exactly what that is, suffice it to say the members take very good care of our servicemen and their families) so we had front row seats for the show which this year featured the USAF Thunderbirds. And the weather was fantastically great: clear blue sky, about 70F (22C), and a slight breeze blowing. (Saturday’s show was cold and rainy!) Good chance to practice using my video camera! And I got some awesome shots.

You know there is a “But…” coming up.

But, after I imported all the MTS files into Windows Live Movie Maker and saved the project, I thought I had done everything I needed to, so I broke my cardinal rule of digital photography—you KNOW where this is going!—and didn’t back up the MTS files before I formatted the SD card. Well, WLMM doesn’t save the MTS files when it makes a “project,” (a .wlmp file).  Who knew? I certainly thought WLMM would have backed up everything it needed to make the .wlmp project file. It didn’t.

About five hours later and $39 poorer, I was able to resurrect most of the files (I used Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery, by the way and no, I have no ties to them). The resurrected video clips aren’t as good as the originals because many of the original 30-40 second clips were broken up into 6-7 second clips by the recovery process, but at least much was salvaged, so now I can do what I was planning on doing, practicing making a video.

That’s for tomorrow, however! Meanwhile, here are a few of the stills of the Thunderbirds that Randy got with my Nikon as well as a few others that I took when I wasn’t trying to use the camcorder.

Sky Divers
Known colloquially as the Pregnant Guppy. Doesn't look like it could get off the ground, does it?!
Notice the one larger canopy? That's the one that can carry two! Would I love that? You betcha!!

Thunderbird formation take-off

So beautiful!

Heading over the top upside down

Arrowhead formation

What a beautiful airplane!

Don't hiccup!

Very difficult five-ship formation

Four-ship diamond formation

All six Thunderbirds in close (!) formation

The Thunderbird finale, the Starburst

Helicopter refueling
Helicopter rescue in spite of mucho swirling dust!

Randy and our generous host, Laura

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Three weeks from today!

Three weeks from today we leave home.

Although I am excited about our trip, I’m also a little bored with it. I have been spending so much time planning my wardrobe, planning the tours, reading books, thinking about what I might want to buy and for whom that I think I need a break. But it’s getting closer and closer so I don’t really have time for a break!

So what have I accomplished, for example, TODAY? I pruned our Adenium. That was really major as I always worry that I will kill the poor plant if I do it wrong. I was a bit bolstered by our poor Rock Fig as it got freezer (yes, Tucson does get cold enough that we have to bring plants inside) burn that Randy was sure killed it (we left it out ONE night too long) because shortly after we brought it in the house it dropped all its leaves and just looked SO forlorn. But I kept giving it a bit of water every couple of weeks and the branches were kind of bendy, not brittle, so I thought it was OK and—ta da! It is! A couple of weeks ago I saw a few lonely little leaves so I decided to trim it back a bit. After its brush with death, how much could I hurt it? So I went a little crazy and it has the Rock Fig equivalent of a brush cut. Those of you not in the military may not have any idea what that is. Ask your father. Lots of little leaves are poking out and we’ve put it back outside and given the poor thing a bit of fertilizer.

So now the Adenium is desperately trying so hard to bloom that I think it must be time to water it. It has had no water since October when we brought it in the house because the nighttime temperatures were dropping into the 40s (5-10C). It hibernates in the winter and needs NO water. In fact water might damage it if it gets too much (or even any) while it’s hibernating. I know, I know, plants don’t hibernate!

Anyway, it’s putting out a bloom here and a bloom there and tomorrow we’ll move it outside and I’m betting that when I give it water and some fertilizer it will explode with blossoms. I’ve a before picture and I’ll try to post another before we leave in three weeks.

Monday, April 2, 2012

This is why we live in Tucson!

A Trichocereus (I think) cactus that has just bloomed in my yard.

Closeup of the bloom

Remember the snow of two weeks ago? This is what it looks like today; the blooming cactus is in the front center of the photo.

Pre-cruise obsession

I’ve been thinking about obsession, specifically my fixation—and that of my fellow CruiseCritic members—on our upcoming world cruise. The dictionary defines obsession as (this worries me just a tiny bit) “a persistent disturbing [!] preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.” Another dictionary defines it thus: “the act of an evil spirit [!] in possessing or ruling a person or such a persistent idea, desire, emotion that cannot be gotten rid of by reasoning.”

Hmmhhh. So maybe I’d rather use a different word to describe my fixation, fascination, passion, fancy, craze, delusion, mania, infatuation, fixed idea, compulsion, fetish, bee in one's bonnet, hang-up, or—neurosis. I’ll have to think about that.

I was reading on a blog that there might be a martini demonstration. Randy & I will have to be front and center for THAT!

We are now down to 30 days until we leave our house, about (I don’t have a countdown for this which means I actually have to subtract!) eight days before we fly to Oz. I think it’s eight days, we lose a day so that makes the subtraction more difficult. Anyway we leave the US on May 8th, 2012 and arrive in SYD on May 10th.

I am shamelessly cribbing from Joanne’s blog:
"Just a reminder if you are reading this blog please click on the follow button at the top of the page or the subscribe to button at the bottom of the page.... the more the merrier ....this will be my incentive to be very diligent to keep the blogs going on a regular basis... I work better under pressure....

"I have added a flag counter on the blog site too... thought it would be exciting to see where everyone who reads this comes from...

"For those who want to be alerted every time a new post is made , click in follow by email 
at the right side of the page & add your email address....this sends you and email when and only when I post."

I get SO many great ideas from others’ blogs, like this one about how to handle a looooong cruise:
  1. To be successful, it requires effort and commitment. If you are traveling with a partner or spouse, make sure you both have the same level of commitment. Compromise might work for a 7-day cruise, but not for over 3 months.
  2. Do breakfasts in the dining room. The omelets are to die for.
  3. Avoid the laundry. It’s a hotbed of unfounded rumour and discontent!
  4. Talk to the crew as equals, and get to know them. They are lovely people, and over time you will hear some amazing stories.
  5. Try to make friends with people who are different to your friends back home. This will enrich your experience.
  6. Take some tours from the ship where they are the best option, but do your own thing sometimes too. Do your homework before you leave so you know what you want to see and do.
  7. Chill. You’re on a cruise ship, and at sea. Shit will happen, as it would in the same period of time at home. And once you start moaning, it’s a downhill spiral…
  8. And if you do need to complain about something, do it with a smile and you may well find you get a better result.