Friday, December 23, 2011

Thanks Be to You NBA Network

Happy Friday All! This is my first day of Christmas vacation. I walked the dog, got some breakfast and decided to sit down and relax. NBA network was showing  the Detroit Pistons Vs the Chicago Bulls from Christmas day 1990. The game was good. It really reminded me of just how good Michael Jordan was, and how annoying Bill Laimbeer was. Chuck Daly on Detroits bench, a young Phil Jackson wearing a bow tie, and Marv Alberts doing play by play.

The game was good, then they went to commercial. I tuned them out and read some email until some guy named Vince came on and started selling the Slap Chop. I think the line that really puts this over the top for me is at around the 35 second mark. "Stop having a boring tuna, stop having a boring life." Oh lord, please give me the strength to not strangle Vince if I ever see him in person.

During another break NBA network put on an ad for a product called Insta Slim. This is a tank top made out of an elastic, spandex type material that sucks in your gut for you. As a middle aged guy with a couple of extra pounds around my middle, and a desire for a fix that doesn't involve exercise or eating responsibly I was interested. I waited for it through the entire commercial and they didn't say it once. Not one time did they call this product what it was. A girdle. (I would also have accepted corset, though that would have been less accurate.) If they're not going to call it what it is, I'm not going to buy it.

As with so many other things, bad ad's on NBA network come in three's. The third one during this game was for a product called Max Tall Shoe Inserts. I was just sitting there minding my own business and I hear this from my TV, "Guys Pay Attention. How would you like to have an extra two inches?" (Go ahead and click the link it's right at the beginning of the video.) Yeah, that's all it took to drag me in. I thought the email spam I used to get in the 90's had migrated to the NBA Network. Turns out this product is for an insert you can put into your shoes to make yourself taller. According to the commercial this makes you more attractive to women, and men will listen to you more in business meetings.

Thanks NBA Network! It's been a long time since I've had my insecurities played on so obviously. For the record, I will not be buying any of these products...though that Slap Chop does look tempting.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Much Ado About Tebow

It's time for me to confess; I have been going out of my way to watch the Denver Broncos play since Tim Tebow was named the starter. Full disclosure, I am a Seattle Seahawks fan, and I've been watching the NFL since 1985. I referred to John Elway as Horse Face from then until his second Super Bowl win, and even passed that. It came out again today when I saw him watching his new star in action from a luxury box at Mile High Stadium. Long story short, I truly hate the Denver Broncos. So when I say that I'm going out of my way to watch the Denver Broncos I want you to understand how extraordinary that is.

Since being named the starter Tim Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record including 4th quarter comebacks over Miami, New York Jets, San Diego, Minnesota, and the latest victim Chicago. My personal favorite was the win over Kansas City where Tebow completed 2 of his 8 passes and still managed to win the game. A truly awful performance, but still must see TV.

The part that I'm enjoying the most is watching former players and coaches on the pre and post game shows. They seem to be about evenly split between Tebow haters and Tebow believers. Tom Jackson on ESPN has been waxing on about Tebow since his win over the Jets, and it's eating Keyshawn Johnson and Chris Carter alive. Over on NFL Network Warren Sapp is left shaking his head in disbelief. "Assignment football, that's all it is." Meaning that if everyone on the defense stays home and does their job Tebow's style of offense won't work. Less vocal, but almost as upset, is Marshall Faulk. He has been rendered almost silent.

 I'm guessing New England is going to go in to Denver next week and beat the snot out of the Broncos. Once that happens who knows what the next step is. The Broncos may collapse and miss the playoffs, but I hope they don't. I mean can you imagine if Denver wins out, gets a good seed going into the playoffs and makes it to the super big game? I'd watch every game, and when they met the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLVI, I'll be rooting for Green Bay... and Tim Tebow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Lady Can't Be Trusted

Found out today that before we were married my wife was a pretty fair hand driving a trailer. Now? "I've got you to do it for me" she says. After 18 years together, there's still more to learn. Lucky me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stuffed Spaghetti Sandwich

Here is my take on the Spaghetti Sandwich. I don't understand people who put spaghetti on conventional sliced bread. Don't they know that spaghetti is wriggly? It will escape the confines like sand between your fingers. Hollowed out French bread is the way to go!
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Coonhound in a Recliner

Let Sleeping Dork Butts Lie

We recently got a brand new (to us) recliner and it's been a bit of a battle around the house to see who the new chair belongs to. I thought it belonged to me as I was carrying the base up the stairs, but when I went back out to grab the back our cat Sammy claimed it. That's alright. It's good for the cat to have somewhere to call her own. Our other cat Milo found that he could jump up on the back of the chair and make it rock back and forth. This was fantastic for Milo, not so good for Sammy. The best though was when the dog decided that he wanted his share of the chair.

Jaxonn may not look like it in the picture but he weighs in at just shy of 100 pounds. I'm not sure how he curls up that frame into a ball small enough to fit in the chair. I don't know for sure when he started to climb up into it, but now he'll walk over to the chair, paw it and look at me. The same as he does when he wants to get on the couch. (That's right, I make him ask up. I don't want him to take that privilege for granted, and I'm also a big meanie pants.)

The Peoples' Sandwich

What's not to love about a communist sandwich shop? I'm not someone to get nostalgic about the glory days of the cold war, but this place serves up 'dictater chips' with every order (kettle style potato chips made in house no less). That's got to be worth something. The Peoples' Sandwich located on the corner of 1st and Couch in NW Portland is just what it says, a sandwich shop. I've heard about it for a while now but never made the 3 block walk over to check it out. I had it in my head that it was a lot farther away.

Very cool place. The menu was limited, but everything on it looked fantastic. I had the Hammer & Pickle, a cuban sandwich with pork loin, mustard and a dill pickle. My favorite sandwich name ever is now The Peoples' Sandwich. Here's the description: Soylent Green [Pan-Fried Ota Tofu Covered in Pesto], Sweet and Spicy Peppadew Peppers and Filberts on a French Roll. Vegan. I don't think it's OK to claim a sandwich made with Soylent Green is Vegan though...hmm.


David Giuntolo is 3rd from the left in the jeans and Grey jacket
There's been some excitement outside of the office the last few days. The new NBC show Grimm has been setting up an exterior shoot on NW 2nd Ave between Couch and Davis in Portland, OR. They've had parking marked off for 'Film Crew' for the last few days while they got the storefronts made over. Yesterday the crew was there shooting. We had a confirmed David Giuntoli sighting (He's playing Nick Burckhardt). He was performing a scene where he walks out of a storefront then down the sidewalk talking on a cell phone. We did hear the word "dispatch" so take that for what it's worth.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Will This Do?

Just a test to find out if this posting from email thing is working. I think it is.This makes me happy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge

From the flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds. This weeks challenge was to use 3 of the following 5 words in a story of 100 words. Enzyme, Ivy, Bishop, Blister, and Lollipop.

And here we go....

Bishop leaned on his desk, unwrapped the lollipop he'd taken from his son's Halloween candy. Rolling the candy around his mouth he picked up his pencil and went back to the statements he was working on. From the page to the monitor and back he worked, looking for a place to make $50,000 disappear. He felt a sore rising on his cheek. blisters forming on his fingers where they had touched the candy. His lips, hot and swollen. His throat closing. He got up, stumbled to the mirror. His last thought; wonderment at how Bernard had found out.

Thanks Chuck, that was fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Congratulations Darnell

I wanted to give a quick shout out to my cousin-in-law Darnell on getting his Handling Screwdrivers post picked up by the Lee Valley Tools website. You can check out his article here. For more from Darnell, check out his blog Really fantastic stuff.

Once again, Congratulations Darnell!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Promotional Banner For My Next Band

Thanks to Lisa and Tim for the inspiration for this. I'm gonna print up a bunch of these and paper the neighborhood with them.Which one do you like better?

Remember, two wrongs make a Wronger.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Four Seasons #2: Hockey (and to a lesser extent Basketball)

This begins with the Winter Classic. A recent phoenomon that takes a regular season NHL hockey game and moves it outside. This is an attempt to make the rest of us feel nostalgic for those good old days when we all went out and played shinny on the pond. I never played on a frozen pond, or frozen water for that matter, but I do get a little teary eyed seeing the sun gleam off the outdoor surface with the nostalgic background music.

Youth hockey kicks off in August with evaluations, and practices. The actual season begins in October, but with the Thanksgiving break and then Christmas and New Years the youth hockey season seems to really get into gear in January. The run up to the playoffs begin in February and by the end of February it's time for the end of year tournament. Busy weekends, running from rink to rink for team practices, skills clinics and games. Loads of opportunities to avoid house work. Can't work around the house if you're taking your kid to the ice rink.

Youth hockey ends and the NHL playoffs begin in March. With 8 best of 7 game series going on at the same time it really is March madness. The Divisional rounds lead to the Conference Finals and then the Stanley Cup Finals in June. It's still kind of strange to see hockey being played in June, but I love it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Four Seasons: #1 Football

I've lived in the Portland Metro area for the last 30+ years and this has been the wettest winter in memory. Now that summer is starting to poke it's head around the corner I'd like to use the next few posts to take you through my four seasons. My year starts in the fall and if you think that's because of the beginning of the school year I'd bet you'd be right.

Football Season

This starts with the NFL's Hall Of Fame Game which is usually held the last weekend in July. The new class is inducted into the hall on Saturday and the game is played on Sunday. Football season takes me through the turning of the leaves and the shortening of the days. 

Watching NFL pre-season games through August, then the start of high school and college seasons in September. I even got to spend the last three years watching Cam play youth football, complete with 2 hour practices every weekday in August. 

The season can be marked by discrete events. 

Monday night football celebrates Halloween is a favorite. It's nice to see someone besides Raider fan in costume at the game. 

The Civil War game between Oregon State University and The University of Oregon establishes bragging rights for the rest of the year. 

High School playoffs start in November and gives parents across the state a chance to take a child's game too seriously. I'm not looking down at them any more. It turns out I'm one of them. 

Thanksgiving in the USA provides us with an opportunity to watch the Detroit Lions play. I'm convinced that this is a public service provided by the NFL to keep us safe while in a turkey induced coma. 

Bowl Season in college football begins in the middle of December. The best of the rest play in bowls like the New Orleans Bowl, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl, and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to name but a few. It used to be that the big boys played their bowl games on New Years day, but that date keeps getting pushed off into the new year. The 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game will be played on January 9th.

In the NFL the playoffs get into gear in January with Wildcard weekend, the Divisional playoffs, and the Conference finals all leading up to The Super Bowl.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Old Pickup - Final Update

Hopefully this will be the final update in the My Old Pickup series. I got it back last week and it's been driving well. It still shifts hard. I'm still trying to get over the amount of money it cost me to get the transmission fixed. I guess it still comes back to the same question - Did you save money by not buying a new car, or did you throw good money after bad by trying to resuscitate the old girl.

So far so good

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Old Pickup - Update

I went to pick up the old beast this evening from Landmark Ford in Tigard. I paid the bill and they brought my old pickup out to the front of the building. The paperwork they gave me told me that I had two bulbs that were burned out. I asked Chris, the assistant service manager, why they hadn't replaced them, or at the very least asked me if I wanted them replaced. Apparently those were out of stock. They needed to be replaced urgently, but not here, at the garage, where you take trucks and cars to be fixed. Sweet.

My wife drove my truck, and I drove the Scion that I had borrowed from my folks (Thanks Mom and Dad! You're the best!). Things looked good until we got about half way home. I'm following Heather and she makes an unscheduled left hand turn. I followed her as she turned into a cul-de-sac and rolled her window down. The check engine light had come on again.

Joy. Back to Landmark Ford. We'll find out what's going on just give us a couple of hours and I'll give you a call.

Now the upside to this fiasco is that I know more then I did when I started. For instance, did you know that there is a left heated exhaust gas oxygen sensor as well as a right heated exhaust gas oxygen sensor? I didn't know that. It turns out that one of the sensors that got replaced last night was the right heated exhaust gas oxygen sensor. Today the left heated gas oxygen sensor went out. Chris, the assistant service manager, tells me that when I had my transmission worked on these parts weren't removed, but were allowed to hang down. They weren't put back in after the transmission work was finished, but instead were zip tied up out of the way. In fact the left heated exhaust gas oxygen sensor was so kinked up from this that it became a minor headache for the service tech to get it out.

OK, so now I've got questions. What in the world were they doing at Tualatin Transmission. Now I get to go back there and talk to John Floyd Sr. about their practices. Is this common practice for them? Do they always leave these parts off? Are the HEGO sensors optional? The other question I have is why would the service techs at Landmark not look at the right HEGO sensor. The left HEGO sensor was off, and they found that. They told me that it looked like it happened during the transmission repair. Did it not occur to anybody to take a look at the other sensor? Are mechanics not allowed to show initiative anymore? "Sorry, but the diagnostic machine didn't tell us anything else was wrong."

Now it's going to cost another $270 and the part won't be there until tomorrow. Great. Hey MGM Grand, what are the odds that this is going to stay fixed after I get it back this time?

My Old Pickup

The transmission on my poor old pickup finally gave up the ghost. I guess I shouldn't say finally, because it's only got 156,000 miles. That's not a ton of miles to have on a vehicle made in 1994. Never-the-less the transmission went kaput.

Fortunately I wasn't left stranded. I've been limping along for about a month now in a state of denial. The pickup would start off well, but then it wouldn't shift up. I'd have to get to about 35 miles an hour in first gear before I could let off the gas and let it shift into what turned out to be third gear. I finally summoned up the courage to call the mechanic. I told him what was going on and he told me to bring her into the shop. So I made arrangements to borrow a car from my folks (Thanks Mom and Dad! You're the best!) and took her in.

I got a call the next day. "It's a transmission problem." Not a big surprise, but I was still holding out hope it was something else. "We're not going to be able to fix it here. I'm gonna recommend that you take it down to Lafayette." Really? For those of you wondering I live in Tigard, OR which is south of Portland, OR. Lafayette is about 25 miles farther south. It takes anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour and a half to get down there depending on traffic. "You can't recommend anyone closer? I don't ever get down that way." "Nope, he's our transmission guy, sorry."

OK, well I'm not going to drive down to Lafayette to get this thing fixed. So I start to search around. Nobody I asked had a transmission guy. Makes sense to me. Up until my mechanic told me to go to a transmission shop it didn't occur to me that those things were different. Live and learn. I wouldn't go to an optometrist for a  knee problem. So I'm searching online and there are more conflicting reviews then I've seen in a long time. People seem to either love the shop they went to or hate it.

I settled on a guy in Tualatin, much closer, who had some pretty intelligible, and positive reviews. I made the appointment and took my old pickup in. I got there at 4:30pm and they close at 5pm. There was nobody to meet me in the office. That's fine. It's a small, independent shop. They don't want to spend money on a receptionist. I stick my head out into the bay's and I still don't see anybody. I hate it when this happens. I don't want to wander around out there looking for somebody. There's some really expensive equipment out there. I might look at it wrong and have it fall over. Then somebody will come out.

I rattled some paper, coughed, waited, coughed, called out, coughed again, and rattled paper. Finally someone pokes his head out. Aha. Turns out the owner had knocked off early that day, even after I told him I was coming in that evening, and this poor guy didn't know what needed to be done for me to drop my old pickup off. Dandy. We went back into the office and he rummaged around until he found some forms that looked vaguely appropriate. We filled them out and I made sure to get a copy of the form just in case. I left my key and left with a prayer on my lips.

I like supporting locally owned, and independent businesses, but there is a sort of minimal level of professionalism I expect. This was not meeting those expectations. If there was another shop in the area that had similar reviews I would have bolted. There was not, and I was to the point where I was getting worried about getting stranded on the side of the road. That was back on the 9th of June.

I expected to hear from him on Friday. I did not hear from him on Friday. It would be too much to expect them to work over the weekend. Monday, I didn't hear from him so I called at 3:30pm to find out what was going on.

"Oh yeah, you have a tranny problem. It's not shifting into second gear." Headdesk, Headdesk.
"You don't say." I said.
"Oh yeah, I just test drove it."

Great, you've had it for almost two full business days and you've driven it. That bodes well for the future. He tells me that he can get it fixed and it should be ready to go on Wednesday. I was ready for the problem to be gone and I had already decided that a 1200 dollar bill on a vehicle that is running well is better than spending $16,000-$18,000 on a new vehicle. OK John, get it done.

Wednesday I'm waiting for a call. No call. Finally at 3:30pm I call them. Oh, they're a little backed up, but they'll be done by tomorrow. Thursday I call again to make sure my old pickup is ready to go.

"It's ready, but it's really shifting hard now. The check engine light came on. We hooked it up to our computer and it gave us some strange code we hadn't seen before. Something about a vacuum leak. That's probably been going on for a while now huh?" No, no that has not been happening for a while now. The check engine light has gone on once before, 10 years ago. Great.

So I pick my old pickup up from Tualatin Transmission. Sure enough, it's shifting hard and after about five minutes the check engine light comes on. I drove it to work on Friday and the same thing happened. I fumed over the weekend and then made arrangements on Monday to take it in to my "regular" mechanic. Turns out there are a couple of sensors that need to be replaced, one of which will require a retro kit. Did I mention that my old pickup was built in 1994? Oh yeah, and the hard shifting? "It looks like they put a shift kit on when they rebuilt the transmission." Wait, what?

A shift kit is something that you put on higher performance cars to get a more positive shift. Automatic transmission cars will sometimes drive in two gears simultaneously depending on speed and load on the engine. If you're racing, or going off-road you might not want that, so you put on a shift kit. This makes the transmission engage in only one gear at a time. The trade off? The transmission shifts hard. It saves wear and tear on the transmission, but the drive train takes the brunt of all that extra force when the vehicle shifts gears.

Sweet. "Can you tell me why they would do that?"
"Well a lot of the transmission shops will put a shift kit on so they can preserve the transmission. Did they give you a warranty?"
"Yeah, 2 year, 24,000 miles."
"They're hedging they're bets that you'll get there by installing the shift kit."

So the pain moves from the rebuilt transmission to the original drive train. I believe I hate them.

I'll be getting my old pickup back today and I'm hoping that everything will be in working condition.
Wish me Luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 8: Disembarkation

Whew! Thank goodness today is over. Cruises are funny beasts. They treat you like royalty for the entire trip, right up until the time you leave, then they practically throw you off the ship.

Woke up at 6:00am today in order to get through the shower and dressed before breakfast. Breakfast was served at 7:30am in Parrot Cay. That was good, Parrot Cay is my favorite dining room on board. We had a chance to see all of our table mates for the last time. It was nice to be able to say goodbye.

Then it was back to the room to grab the last of our stuff because the room stewards need to prepare the rooms for the next guests. We grabbed our bags and headed up to deck 9 to wait for our Disney character to be called. The ship disembarks kind of like airplanes get boarded. Instead of calling your row, there is an announcement calling your Disney character. Our character was Goofy, and that turned out to be a bad call for us. We were the last people called to disembark, and so the queue's began.

First a line to get off the ship. Shuffle, shuffle, step...shuffle, shuffle, step. Finally off the ship onto the gangway, shuffle, shuffle, step...shuffle, shuffle, step. Cam did fantastic through this whole thing. I was super happy with him. Off the gangway into the terminal, shuffle, shuffle, step...shuffle, shuffle, step. Oh, be careful now, things open up into four lines as we prepare to go through customs. Shuffle, shuffle, step, ironic because we're going through Canadian customs in order to drive south through U.S. customs later today.

Canadian customs was polite and thorough as always. They seem to be more consistently nice then you'll find in the States. Through to baggage claim, grab the baggage cart! Don't want to carry those bags all the way to the car. Now to find the luggage. Funny, it was all together when we put it outside the door last night. How did it get so spread out here?

OK, we've got the bags now it's off to the elevator, you know they have 2 of them here at Canada place. Yes there was a line for the elevator. When people are getting on the elevator with a weeks worth of luggage you know the it's going to take some time. Shuffle, shuffle, step. Finally we're downstairs in the parking garage. Hey look, the car's in one piece. Thank goodness. Load the bags and we are off.

On the road to the US border. Clear sailing all the way to the crossing. Once we get there though, trouble strikes. 75 minute wait to cross the border. That can't be right. it's pushing 12:30pm now. Maybe that's a hold over from the morning rush hour? Now Cam needs to use the restroom. Goodness gracious.

So here's the coolest thing that happened all day. The line to cross the border is creeeeeeeping along, and we're coming up to the duty free shop. The line is moving slow enough that we probably have just enough time. "Come on Cam." We jump out of the car and buzz into the shop. Quick, run to find the restroom. "Might want to hurry, that line could start moving any time now." Cam headed in and I start pacing. Fortunately there is a window looking out at the line so I can see Heather. The line doesn't move for a bit, but then it starts creeping. Uh Oh. I don't want to go in and tell him to hurry, because that might freeze him up. Come on buds, the car is about even with us. Here comes Cam, drying his hands. He throws the paper towel away and steps out. "Come on Cam, we've got to go. The car is moving." Out the door, across the bushes and about a 20 yard dash down the road and we are back in the Escape. WooHoo!

Two pictures to share.

I'm not going to talk about the trip south through Washington. It was uneventful.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 7: At Sea

Semi-Formal night at Parrot Cay.

Last day on board! The Cruise Director makes sure that these days at sea are packed with things to do. Our first step was to say goodbye to Cameron. He was sleeping in to prepare for a day of kid debauchery. Today we got to go to a cooking demo for strawberry crepes. The best part of the cooking demo is the sample that we get, served with a wine selected by our sommelier's (or as our chef Corey called them, the cork dorks). Really delicious. I felt bad for Heather because she's allergic to strawberries, but not bad enough to not eat her crepe.

After the cooking demo was over we headed up to the Buena Vista Theater to catch Aladdin on the big screen. I was excited because I've never seen it in a theater. We did miss the opening sequence which is a bummer because that's really cool, but we came in just before the Street Rats number. I think it's my second favorite Disney animated movie next to The Jungle Book.

Then it was back to the cabin to begin packing. I haven't mentioned our cabin number have I?

Totally sweet right? I'm digging it.

There's not much to talk about with the packing except to say that Heather is truly exceptional when it comes to these things. Our bags needed to be outside our cabins by 10:00pm so they can be picked up and moved to shore when the ship docks.

We did stand in line and register for a trip on board the Disney Dream for a 5 night Caribbean cruise with two stops at Castaway Cay. The Disney Dream is the newest ship in the fleet. Our trip is scheduled for June 2012, so that's something for us to look forward to. I'm glad we booked on the Wonder because we got 10% off the overall price.

Dinner tonight was at Parrot Cay, which is my favorite dining room on board. We also had a table right next to a window which gave us great views while we were eating. Here are some pictures from the evening.
This is our Server Aaron. You have the same serving staff for the entire trip.

Desert? Baked Alaska of course!

Our Assistant Server Ceci on the left, and our Server Aaron on the right.

Aaron on the right and Ceci on the left.
Lazy evening tonight because we have a ridiculous wake up time tomorrow. Breakfast is at 7:30 at Parrot Cay, and we need to be out of the room by 9:15am. Hopefully we'll be able to head ashore shortly after that.

Whirlwind of a trip! Home tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 6: Ketchikan

Welcome to Ketchikan. The ship didn't arrive in port until10am so I took the opportunity to catch a movie. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was playing in 2D in the Buena Vista theater at 8am. There have been lots of showings of the 3D version, but I was holding out for the 2D. The 3D antics give me a headache.

I really enjoyed the movie, and I'll recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Pirates franchise. Ian McShane does a fantastic job as Blackbeard, and I'm a sucker for Penelope Cruz. It's a sickness.

After the movie, we picked up the kid and had some lunch. Our tour was scheduled to meet in the Walt Disney theater at 12:45pm. Once gathered we were led down the gangway and to our waiting coach. Our tour took us to Totem Bight Park and then to Potlatch park. That's where they keep the totem poles in Ketchikan. I feel so jaded, but I'm just not that interested in Totem Poles. So I guess if I'm not interested in them I don't have to talk about them. This is my blog isn't it?

After the parks we were lucky enough to be able to go to the Lumberjack show. This was a strictly for tourist affair, super campy, and I loved it. The performers were actual professional lumberjacks who compete in lumberjack competitions all over the states. They did axe throwing, underhand chop, hot saw, tree climbing, and other events that I hadn't heard of. The thing that surprised me most is that these gentlemen were very large. These were not your average sized guys. The four of them must have run 6'2" 250 plus. I guess size helps when you're bucking trees in the woods.

Dinner was at Palo's which is the adult exclusive restaurant on deck 10 aft. Our waiter, Petar, was fantastic. He was very smooth, good suggestions, and intuitive service. So that makes good service, and excellent food. A pleasant way to spend an evening. I've even been inspired to take a look at eating out at better places when we get home. It's not like we don't eat out anyways. I think it would be fun to do it at a better class of place.

After dinner we checked in with Cam, still at The Edge, and then called it a night. I'm going to try and convince Cam to put together a post telling us what he did on the cruise. I think it would be a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is a day at sea. I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 5: Juneau

Big plans for Juneau. The highlight of our trip was a helicopter ride to Mendenhall glacier and a dog mushing excursion. I've never been on a helicopter before, much less mushed a dog, and you know what? I still haven't. Our good weather finally came to an end today. I've been saying for most of the trip that the scenery looked a lot like what we see back home in Portland. Today I was saying that the weather looked a lot like what we see back in Portland. Our helicopter/dog sledding trip was called off because the helicopters weren't flying due to poor visibility.

This is the state capital of Alaska. I'm guessing that from here Sarah Palin used to gaze off to the west and keep an eye on Russia for us. Although not on days like today, what with the fog and all.

Heather and I got the opportunity to walk around the town a bit. I'm thinking that the jewelers gauntlet is going to be a familiar sight by the time we finish with this cruise. I guess Alaska is where they keep the worlds tanzanite supply. Juneau seems like a nice place, and I did get to support a local book seller and that always makes me feel good. Thanks Hearthside Books and Toys. It was good to find a bookstore to wander through on a grey and foggy day.

We got back to the ship and were able to schedule another excursion. A rafting trip from Mendenhall lake to see Mendenhall glacier and then a float down the Mendenhall river. This trip was a lot of fun. Cameron has never been on a rafting trip before, and by happy coincidence one of his friends from the boat was also on the trip with his family. The two boys sat together and had a great 11 year old time. I know this because I was sitting next to them, rolling my eyes, for most of the trip. Good kids.

We didn't bring our camera because we were told over and over again that we were going on a rafting trip down rapids and there would be water. Rain gear was being provided and we should plan on getting wet. I've been rafting on the Deschutes river and I remember how wet we got then, so I gladly left the camera in the stateroom.

The highlight of the trip was a bald eagle that we ended up following down river for about half a mile. We disturbed him while he was bathing near shore and we got to within 30 feet before he took off and landed on a large rock just at the head of the Mendenhall river. This was the same rock that we were headed for to set us up for the first leg of our river float. The eagle stayed on that rock as we approached, and then bumped against the rock. That put the eagle about 10-12 feet away from us before he lifted off and glided down river. He landed close to shore, again where we were headed. Quick, grab a camera! ARGH!! No Camera! Stupid at your own risk tours! Our tour guide told us that we were rafting through "early class 3" rapids. I've been through worse in the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland.

Oh well, it was still a good time. Seeing a bald eagle up that close was really cool.

We finished up with the tour without anyone being tossed overboard, thank goodness. Then we made it back to the boat without incident. dinner that night was at Triton's which is on deck 3 midship. They had a cocktail that was blue. You can tell that I'm an experienced drinker by the way I describe my drinks. This one was blue, strong, and I had two of them. Very tasty.

After dinner Cameron disappeared to The Edge and Heather and I took the opportunity to go see ventriloquist Ronn Lucas at an adult only show on deck 3 forward. Very much funny. It was a fantastic show. I would recommend his show if you get a chance to see it. Some adult content, but, well come on, it's a Disney cruise.

Tonights towel animal, in honor of Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides (which is playing onboard),

Captain Jack Towel Animal. Kudos to Rellano our steward.

Tomorrows destination?

Day 4: Skagway

What's the line about a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem? That is not Skagway. Sorry, if that's what you were hoping for you'll have to wait until Juneau tomorrow. Skagway was a lot of fun. Heather and I left Cam to his own devices in the morning, and ventured out to Skagway's main drag. Unfortunately we did not bring a camera because there is a gigantic Mickey on the bow of the ship and it looked like it had a black eye. When we got back to the boat there were crew men on a lift repairing the paint job. Too bad.

Skagway was the jumping off point to the Yukon gold fields during the gold rush. Folks would come up by ferry from Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, etc, and get off in Skagway. Then they would make there way up White Pass to the Yukon territory and the gold fields there. I could go on and on about Skagways history, or you could just go here. Our tour guide told us that Skagway has 1 supermarket, 1 bank, 1 health clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner, and 26 jewelery stores. The population of Skagway is listed at 862, and they have more than 900,000 tourists pass through every year. It's a huge port of call for cruise ships sailing through Alaska.

We headed back to pick Cam up and have lunch. Our city bus tour in the afternoon took us to Liarsville which was just outside of Skagway. It's on the spot of a giant tent city that was there at the beginning of the 20th century. At it's peak there were 20,000 people living in tents in Liarsville. The story behind the name is supposed to be that newspapers from big cities in the United States and Canada would send reporters to report on the gold fields in the Yukon. Well the reporters would make it as far as Skagway, take one look at the slope leading up to White Pass and decide maybe staying put would be the better choice. These reporters needed to file stories about the Yukon and gold and so they wrote about how easy it was to get to the gold fields, and how easy it was to pull the gold out of those claims. These stories would be published back in 'civilization' and inspire hundreds and thousands of people to rush up to Alaska to claim their stake. They would get to Skagway, take one look at the slope leading up to White Pass and say "where are the liars who said this would be easy?" People would point them to the tent city where the reporters could still be found.

While we were at Liarsville we did some gold panning. They promised gold in every pan. They should know, because they put gold in every pan. They travel to Canada to buy the gold and bring it back to Skagway to satisfy us poor tourists. It's the most gold Skagway has ever seen (outside of the 26 jewelry stores) since gold was never found in Skagway.

Is there a trick to panning for gold? Why yes there is, and I don't know it. I did come across a couple of flakes that I got to put in a completely authentic, antique, made in 1900, ziploc baggie. Very classy! I think the haul was worth all of  a penny and a half.

We did take a couple of more pictures on the way back to the ship that I'd like to share:

After a pleasant dinner at Parrot Cay we came back to our room to find the beds turned down, and origami characters. I'm going to try and remember to talk more about the towel animals. Those room stewards do a fantastic job.

Tonight we sail, and tomorrow we make landfall in Juneau AK.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 3: Tracy Arm

Well here we are at day 3 of the cruise. Today we made it into Tracy Arm, which is a glacial fjord, and we traveled far enough in to see Sawyer glacier. Pretty cool!

We had breakfast at the Beach Blanket Buffet on deck 9 aft. The food hasn't been great but there sure has been a lot of it. After that we went up and staked out our claim to a piece of the rail on deck 10. It was very windy on our way into Tracy Arm, but most of that slacked off as we slowed down.

Tracy Arm was a really spectacular place, but I had a hard time working up a lot of excitement for it. Southeast Alaska looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest.  A lot of what we looked at looked like a combination of the Columbia River Gorge, the Cascade mountain range, the Coast mountain range and the Oregon Coast. Don't get me wrong, it was really cool to see it laid out before us all at once, but at the same time I couldn't get over the feeling that I was looking at Cannon Beach, or Hood River, or Multnomah Falls.

That feeling changed when we started to see ice in the water. That's not something we see at home. Tracy Arm fjord is pretty incredible. I'd show off pictures if I had any that did it justice. It was very hard to get a picture that showed the steepness, and height of the slope. We did see arctic tern, whales, seals, and mountain goats. Amazing what you can see from 10 stories up on a cruise ship.

Somewhere along the line Heather left for her pedicure. I couldn't leave because I'd lose our spot along the rail. Those Disney cruisers with their pushing and shoving are a bunch of brutes. I think that's when I managed to get my sunburn. More irony, I managed to come home from the Bahamas the year before last with no sunburn. I go to Alaska and fry my forehead. More of an issue now because of my receding hair line. Then there was our final destination; Sawyer's glacier. Now to be fair, there is a north Sawyer's glacier, and a south Sawyer's glacier. I don't know which one we saw, but it was impressive.

So that's Tracy Arm. Dinner was at Animator's Palate on deck 4 aft. Fun place to eat. The restaurant, and wait staff starts off in black and white. Over the course of the evening the restaurant adds more and more color. Finally the wait staff runs out for a quick change and when they come back they're all decked out in colorful clothes. It is a lot of fun, but really loud.

Entertainment for the evening is Tangled, being shown in 3-D in the Buena Vista Theater on deck 5 aft. Anything with Zachary Levi couldn't be all bad.

Tomorrow, Skagway!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 2: At Sea

That's me after formal night. I'm getting ready to burst into song.
Travel days on a cruise ship are a blessing and a curse. Heather had a spa day planned. Swedish massage for her. She had a great time and complained happily afterwards about how sore she was. I still don't understand massages. Cameron took off and we didn't see him again until it was time for dinner. I didn't have anything planned and got caught up on some reading.

The Disney Wonder has the coolest things for kids who are old enough to be given a little more freedom. Each cabin comes with two portable phones in addition to the stateroom phone. The phones are tied to the staterooms and the network runs all over the ship. So we gave Cam a handset and turned him loose.

There's a ton of stuff available for him on the ship. The 11-13 year old's have their own club called The Edge that's located on Deck 2 Forward. It's got several computers, two big screen televisions (one for video games Xbox, and Wii, and the other for movies/TV shows and more video games) a whole slew of bean bag chairs, and a ton of board games. I saw an over sized chess set in there that I think he's going to have fun with. All that and Disney crew trained specifically for the care and feeding of Tween's.

This could be the kind of trip where we don't see him at all, he does no sight seeing, and comes home begging to go back. Different sights are impressive to an 11year old. I'll always remember the Forest Service Ranger talking at the Grand Canyon. He was talking about kids and said that parents shouldn't be too worried if their children aren't impressed by the natural beauty of the area. He said that by the time the child could spell aesthetics they'd be able to appreciate aesthetics.

Dinner tonight at Triton's, and we got to meet the rest of our table mates. We met Monique and Emily last night at dinner, but Chuck and Ruth had reservations for Palo's (that's the classy joint up on deck 10 aft). So tonight we met Chuck, Ruth, and their daughter Patricia. They're from Beaverton, OR. Small World.

The Scopolamine patches are working great so far. I haven't been queasy at all. Looking forward to seeing real live icebergs at Tracy arm tomorrow.

Until Tomorrow then!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 1: Embarkation

Canada Place from Deck 10 aboard the Disney Wonder

Embarkation day. The day you board the cruise ship. In our case it's the Disney Wonder. We made it to Canada Place after a quick stop at a local Mall to pick up some binoculars. It's a mortal lock that you will forget something "vitally" important when you go on vacation. In our case it turned out to be binoculars. If that's the worst thing that happens on this trip I think we'll be doing fine.

At Canada Place we dropped off our checked luggage and then parked the car in long term parking. We got our long term parking pass and then headed up the elevators to start the 'waiting in line' portion of Embarkation day. We showed our boarding passes and passports to the Canadian TSA equivalent and then wound our way through the security line.

At the front of the line there is an x-ray machine and a metal detector just like you'd see in airports. Remembering my 5-P's (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance) I tucked all of my metal and electronic devices into my backpack. My turn came up and I put the backpack on the x-ray machines conveyor belt and headed through the metal detector. It went off. I had forgotten that I was wearing my steel toe boots. Well done Me!Before you ask, my steel toe boots are more like light weight hiking boots. They are the most comfortable shoes I own. That's why I was wearing them.

Out came the wand. After a quick wand down, and some dirty looks from TSA Canada. I got to run and catch up with Heather and Cam. I do love my wife. We had six bags between us and she had found a way to hang all six bags around her body. She looked like an animated luggage rack. Talk about Disney magic. There's got to be an animated luggage rack scene added to Fantasia. It was truly awesome.

After the security check we checked in at the gate and were given a card with a number. We waited for that number to be called and then queued up again for boarding. We had our picture taken and then were herded out to the gangway. Down a ramp, around a corner, down a second ramp, then we step on the boat. A crew member asks us for our family name, and then they announce our arrival over the Public Address system. Very cheesy, and a lot of fun.

Welcome Aboard MacBeerchill Family!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vancouver BC, Go Canucks Go

There I was being held for crimes against the blogosphere. Held inside a tiny dome and forced to read opinions of people I didn't know and did not agree with. Without even a Kindle to keep me company. 

Great picture no? This was taken at the Vancouver Aquarium. The family and I toured around the aquarium and Stanley Park yesterday. The horse drawn carriage was a suprising treat. I swear to you we had the bitterest tour guide in the whole world. She even scolded her passengers for asking questions about things she had already covered. No such thing as a stupid question? HA! Don't get on that carriage my friend.

We ended up at the Prospect Point Cafe for dinner.

This plate of Golden Brown, and Deliciousness (thanks Alton Brown for putting that into my lexicon) was dinner for Heather and Cameron. Good looking stuff. Cam is going through a phase where he doesn't finish his food. Heather remembered this and took full advantage. Well done!

My dinner. I've been going through a hotdog phase. I love being in Canada because vinegar is provided everywhere. These were some darn tasty fries.

Big thanks to our house sitter Curt for looking out for the homestead while we're gone. Let me know what kind of swag we can bring home for you. I'm going to try and post from the cruise but I've got no guarantees. We'll have to see what kind of mood the internet gods are in. We are scheduled to board the Disney Wonder today, in just a couple of hours as a matter of fact. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dinner from the Aloha Grill

My favorite diner in town is the Aloha Grill in Tualatin.We got some carry out for dinner tonight. The picture above is the Maui Girl. That's Kalua Pork on the left and Teriyaki Chicken on the right. The macaroni salad is in a separate container. Comfort Food!

For a full menu you can check out