Tag Archives: 2020

Ordinary Household Objects: Day 5

Ordinary Household Objects: Computer Mouse

Kathy & I made one of those “essential errands” today with a jaunt to one of our favorite destinations on the other side of the SC border.  Yes, it was a liquor store. 😉

On the way there we took I-485, which circumnavigates the city of Charlotte and is the most efficient way to our destination.  On our return, we made an intentional “wrong turn” and took the rest of the loop which results in about a 65-mile journey.  But what else is there to do? 🙂

Along the way, we were excited to see the green popping in the trees, white and pink Dogwood in their spring splendour, and relatively empty roads.  A reminder that, for Mother Nature, life goes on with or without all the pandemonium that we mere mortals are dealing with.

To top it off, I used “Fuelpoints” from our local grocery store and filled up the gas tank for $.80 a gallon!

Ordinary Household Objects: Day 4

Ordinary Household Objects: Hair Brush

Kathy & I love to eat out but we had already cut back a lot in order to offset all of the “travel eating” we have done lately.  We aren’t big fans of “takeout” food, generally preferring to “dine in” or just cook at home.  About the only things we’ll do takeout with are Chinese and pizza.  Last night we had planned to get Chinese from our local restaurant, but they didn’t answer their phone so we don’t know if they are open or not.  We talked about alternatives, including driving over there to see, but in the end we just decided to eat in.  In “normal” circumstances we would never have hesitated to just go somewhere else, but these times seem to be far from normal.

Ordinary Household Objects: Day 3

Ordinary Household Objects: Hand Soap Dispenser

Our recent “stay-at-home” order states that we should limit travel  “upon public streets, alleys, or roadways or other property except by those in need of medical assistance, food or other commodity or service necessary to sustain the well-being of themselves or their families or some member thereof.”  But in a publication of FAQs, the hypothetical question of “Am I allowed to go out on the lake?” is answered with “Yes, you can take your boat out on the lake, but practice social distancing if you go out with others.” So I can’t get in my car and drive around, but I can go out in my boat?  Seems a little silly, but if I decide to go out driving and someone stops me, can I just say that I’m going to the lake to ride around in my boat?  If that’s not necessary travel I don’t know what is!  Now I just need a boat…. 😉

Ordinary Household Objects: Day 2

Ordinary Household Objects: Bottle Opener

It’s pure coincidence that the first two objects are related to adult beverage consumption.  That just happens to be the drawer I opened first.  Really! 🙂

One of the things that I hope comes out of all this stay-at-home business is a shift away from the gross consumerism of the past several years.  My daily walk takes me past a Walmart and 2 fast food outlets.  None of them seem to have slowed down much.  And work continues on the self-storage monstrosity that is going up nearby.  I understand that the American economy is very consumer-driven.  But when people have more stuff than they can store at home and need to rent space to keep the overflow, that might be a sign that maybe they should stop buying more crap!

Photo Project: Ordinary Household Objects

Ordinary Household Objects: Corkscrew

Mecklenburg County, NC is under a 3-week “stay-at-home” order starting today through April 15.  I’ve need another project, so I’ve decided to start a “Photo a Day” project based on closeup photos of ordinary household objects.  It may take a few days to get my bearings & directions, but I think it will be fun!  Kathy likes it because it will keep me from bothering her (maybe!). 😉

Finding Our Own Truth

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Kathy & I had friends over last night for a visit and dinner, “social distancing” be darned.  We hugged, shook hands, sat in the same room together.  It was nice.  He is an avid cyclist and nutrition geek, she is a respiratory therapist for a local hospital.  Naturally a lot of our conversation revolved around the coronavirus. Four adults having a mature, intelligent and reasoned discussion.  But four distinct points of view and varying levels of concern because of our respective temperament, background and outlook.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I won’t get into details of the conversation because it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this post.  But suffice it to say that it reinforced for me how our own perspective influences our response to events.  This isn’t a news flash, but it seems like the larger the crisis the more it drives and exposes these differences.  In many ways our attitudes are driven by where we get our information, if we choose to get information at all.  Sometimes the ‘head in the sand with an occasional peek out’ is a sound approach.  Sometimes we want to take in everything we can, and then filter out the junk and keep what we want.  Usually it ends up being something in between.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I used to joke that every morning I would get up, turn on CNN, and if they weren’t talking about the end of the world I would get dressed and go to work.  These days, I get up, look at the New York Times and Washington Post websites, and they are (figuratively) talking about the end of the world.  But I get up anyway and go make coffee.  And tea for Kathy.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

I recently compared the media, meant to include all sources of information – internet, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – to walking into a large grocery store.  Everything in that store is something that someone wants or needs.  But not all of us visit the pet food aisle, or greeting cards or (not us!) the wine section.  Most of us visit the dairy section, the frozen food section, the canned goods section, and the meat case.  More of us should visit the produce section, but unfortunately most of us head for the junk food.  We have to choose, and the choice can be hard.  What we buy is influenced by advertising, long held habits and beliefs (like loving or hating spinach or Brussels sprouts), family preferences and diet.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Every section of the store represents a source of nutrition.  The quality of that nutrition varies widely from one department to another, but our individual choices determine what goes into our cart.  And what goes into our cart affects our diet, which in turn determines our quality of life.  The same thing applies to the media.  Everything we put into our “information cart” affects our attitudes and outlook, which in turn determines our mental outlook. It determines our truth.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

It seems weird to equate groceries to information, but I think the parallels are valid and relevant.  Just like we all have our own diets, we also all have our own truth.  The cross section in the room last night was ultimately a very narrow one compared with the rest of society as a whole.  But it illustrated to me how we all need to take responsibility for the flow of information into our lives, try to find the items that best suit us, and decide what to put into our cart based on our needs and priorities.

Biscayne National Park near Homestead, Florida

Kathy & I have adopted the mantra “day-to day, week-to-week and month-to-month.”  Take care of the immediate, think about next week but only worry about next month if you have to.  Today at least I feel like we are still on the outside looking in.  Like sitting on the beach in the sunshine but knowing that there’s a tsunami headed our way.  Our stylist (actually Kathy’s stylist but the person who cuts my hair) called this morning to say that she was closing after Saturday, and would we like to come in today.  And we said yes, because who knows what tomorrow or next week will bring.  We’re stocked up on food but will still go to the store to buy fresh stuff for as long as we can.  I’m cleaning camera gear and stacking up photography books to read.  And when the weather warms up, I’ll pressure wash the porch furniture and get ready for summer.  All of our travel plans are on hold and we’re keeping our heads down as much as we can.  Gas is below $2 a gallon but there’s nowhere to go!  Our retirement accounts have lost thousands, but we’re healthy and far from broke.  That’s my current truth.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Thoughts on Three Cruises In Four Weeks

Brilliance of the Seas docked next to Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

We didn’t set out to book three cruises, honest!  It just sorta…happened. 🙂

Carnival Breeze in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We had previously booked two weeks on Royal Caribbean’s (RCCL) Freedom of the Seas out of San Juan in January.  The ship was scheduled to go to drydock for extended renovations the week after we were due to get off.  But due to lots of reasons irrelevant to my post, Royal Caribbean needed to move the drydock back one week and cancelled the second of the two weeks.  We didn’t want to travel all the way to Puerto Rico for just a week (our preference – lots of people do it), so we decided to cancel the first week, too.  We re-used the plane tickets to go to San Juan this past November instead.

Norwegian Dawn in Roatan, Honduras

Because of the cancellation of the first week, we ended up with a credit that needed to be used by February, so we found a 5-night cruise on Brilliance of the Seas, another RCCL ship sailing out of Tampa.  We had never sailed out of Tampa before, and figured with our credit that this would be an inexpensive way to take a short cruise and check out Tampa.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Meanwhile, friends of ours had booked a Carnival cruise out of Port Canaveral for the following week and “suggested” that we might want to go along.  It doesn’t take much “suggestion” to get us interested in a cruise!  So, we booked a cruise on that ship for the next week.

Aboard Brilliance of the Seas

Our son Kevin likes to cruise also, and he has been sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).  He mentioned that he wanted to take a cruise in February and suggested (there’s that word again!) that it might be fun if we went together.  So we checked around and found a cruise on Norwegian Dawn out of Tampa.  But the catch was that there was a week’s gap between the two cruises, so we would need to find something to do for a week.  In Florida, in February?  Not hard to do.

Schooner Bar aboard Brilliance of the Seas

We have been working on visiting different National Parks, and had never been to The Everglades.  So we decided to find a place to stay in South Florida for a week, where we visited Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and drove through some of the Florida Keys.  More on those later.  Then we drove back to Tampa to meet our son and take the third cruise.  When it was all done we had logged about 3,000 car miles, who knows how many cruise miles, and about 4,000 photos!

Grand Atrium aboard Norwegian Dawn

A few thoughts:

– People ask us about the different cruise lines, and although it sounds like a cop-out, they are all good.  Different lines tend to cater to slightly different demographics, but things like ship size, home port and cruise length tend to make a bigger difference than the name of the cruise line.

– We tend to prefer smaller ships and this was borne out on these cruises.  The RCCL and NCL ships were each about the same size – approximately 2,000 passengers, while the Carnival ship was about 4,000 passengers.

– We’ve always assumed that shorter cruises would attract more of a party crowd, but the 5-night RCCL cruise was one of the most laid-back we’ve done, and seemed to have a very high number of repeat cruisers.  The Diamond Club, a lounge for passengers with a certain level of cruises with the line, had so many people that it overflowed into an adjacent lounge.  The Carnival and Norwegian cruises each had a high number of first-timers – a very interesting contrast.

– Cruise line food is very good regardless of the line.  Dining choices are either fixed, with the same table and waiter at the same time each night, or flexible, where you eat where ever you want each night, but with a different waiter and different table each time.  We have always preferred fixed seating, as we like to establish a relationship with our waiter.  But one of the disadvantages of fixed seating is that a lot of the food has to be prepared at once and can sometimes be overdone.  Flexible seating tends to be more cook-to-order, so the food is often fresher, hotter and usually properly done.  This is especially important with fish!

– We really liked cruising out of Tampa and did it twice.  The city is nice – much like Charlotte in terms of age and size, but on the water.  The port is very easy to get in and out of, and parking is a snap.

Sunrise aboard Brilliance of the Seas enroute to Tampa, Florida

I’m sure that’s more than anyone wants to read about my vacation, so I’ll leave it at that for now!

Big A$$ Yachts

Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St Thomas, USVI

One of the things I enjoy while cruising is checking out the huge yachts that appear in Caribbean ports.  They can be seen year-around, but mostly during the winter when it’s too cold for the French Riviera or Monaco, I guess.  They seem to gravitate toward St. Thomas, St. Martin and San Juan, probably because they have harbors and marinas large enough to handle ships their size, and airports to handle the private jets of the owners.  My understanding is that the owners don’t actually sail on them, they just have crew to take the ship to whatever port they wish to sail from, then the owners hop in on the private jet for a long weekend or a week.

Here are two of the notable spottings from our recent cruise.

Yacht “Eclipse” in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From Wikipedia: M/Y Eclipse is a superyacht built by Blohm+Voss of Hamburg, Germany. Her exterior and interior were designed by Terence Disdale. The yacht was delivered to Russian businessman Roman Abramovich on 9 December 2010. At 162.5 metres (533 ft 2 in) long Eclipse was the world’s largest private yacht until the Azzam was launched in April 2013, which was 17.3 metres (56 ft 9 in) longer. The yacht’s cost has been estimated at €340 million. (Note: the Carnival ship we were on was 306 meters or 1004 feet long, but carried 4000 passengers and 1400 crew!)

Yacht “Excellence” in St Thomas, USVI

From Wikipedia: The 80m Excellence yacht was built in 2019 by Abeking & Rasmussen. She features an exterior design by Winch and an interior by Winch. She cruises at 14 knots and reaches a top speed of 17.0 kn. She can sleep up to 14 guests taken care of by a crew of 20.

Oh, and while not exactly a superyacht, a properly-equipped catamaran is always a pleasant sight. 🙂

St Thomas, USVI