The overlords of the poor

Decree that poor people should not have access to “fast food” in Los Angeles[*1] .

The vote of the city council was unanimous.



These people want to run your life, too. They want to dictate what light bulbs you use, how much (if at all) you can drive your car, what medical care you receive.  There is no aspect of your life which is beyond their reach.

Many of these people (not all, by any stretch) are Democrats.  One of them, I firmly believe, is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for President.

Think about that when you step into the voting booth this year.


Sprint’s micro-cell (for the home)

Hmm.[*1]   We have Sprint (pity us).  We can see a cell tower from our house, but sometimes our phones can’t get signal.  In our house.  And don’t even get us started on when we go visiting Filbert’s sister up in rural South Dakota, where Sprint service is, to be polite, nonexistent.

Sprint AIRAVE™ is a device that creates a CDMA signal for your mobile phone (like a miniature cell tower). AIRAVE provides enhanced and reliable mobile phone coverage in your house or office even if your existing wireless coverage is poor.

Hmm, again.  Another way for Sprint to extract money out of customers.  Skimp on your nationwide network coverage, then sell folks a do-it-yourself cell tower.  Genius!

Update:  Ars Technica’s[*2] take:

The potential advantages of the service are obvious, but Sprint isn’t exactly giving it away. The Airave unit itself is $99.99 and must be activated when purchased. Customers must also pay a monthly Airave enhanced coverage charge ($4.99), and purchase an Airave plan ($10-20 per month, depending on your plan). The total monthly cost of Airave should run $15-25 before taxes and fees. $15 isn’t much, considering you’re buying cellular service for an area that (presumably) lacked it, but it’s extremely ironic that Sprint is charging users for the dubious privilege of providing their own backhaul.

. . . 

Paying for the right to backhaul over one’s personal Internet connection isn’t a great deal for consumers, but the benefits of femtocells could easily erase the negatives, especially when it comes to providing coverage in hard-to-reach areas. Deployed en masse, these miniature towers could offer truly ubiquitous coverage, and make random dead zones a thing of the past.


We’ve received nearly five inches of rain in the past day.  Hello, Dolly, indeed.

I had to take a couple of inches out of our pool . . . it was getting close to overtopping and possibly flooding the entire neighborhood.  Oh, the humanity!

Over the Water and Back Again-Part 2

Over The Water And Back Again—A Transatlantic Trip
By Snookums, edited by Filbert, photos by Filbert

Part 2– below (or at the “

April 29 (Tuesday, Day 3, Arriving Miami) –

We woke up and immediately went to work out. We found out that everyone else must like to work out at 10:30 AM, too. But we found spots on the floor and did 30 minutes of core work followed by 30 minutes of cardio work (bike for Filbert and elliptical for Snookums). Our trainer would have been proud of us!

Sailing into Miami (with bonus camera blotch)
HMS Richmond at Miami

Our television had no picture so we called maintenance and a guy came within 20 minutes and fixed it.

We ate lunch in the main dining room today and ordered off the menu. We didn’t want to be social and have to join people at large tables in the buffet dining area, so we asked for a table for two. After a short wait we were seated. The lunch was OK, although Filbert’s shrimp and catfish were slightly breaded so he didn’t eat them as he’s (still) trying to watchhis carb intake. He had plenty of salad, though, so he didn’t starve.

The afternoon found us spending quality time looking out at the ocean which was as smooth as glass. So far, so good on this trip, since the ocean has really been calm. The Gulf of Mexico has been good to us and we’re hoping the Atlantic will be, too. While we were looking over the balcony railing we saw a shark. It was very close to the top of the water and was quite green. We were not sure what kind of shark it was, but it was definitely a pretty big shark since we’re high up on deck 10 and we could clearly see it. Other than flying fish, that’s the only sea life we’ve seen so far.

We came back inside and turned on the television and once again it had no picture. We called maintenance again prior to leaving for the concierge lounge. While at the concierge lounge we met a nice couple (Anthony and Deb – just friends) from Australia. During the conversation Anthony said that he would be very happy showing us Sydney when we dock there in November for one night. (He later turned out to be something of a raving leftie, which did put Filbert off somewhat.) The people on this ship have been very nice. We met another couple at lunch the first day who are very interested in taking an around the world cruise so we told them what we’ve learned about them and we had a good discussion with them about cruising and cruise lines.

After dinner we got back to our suite with a TV that still didn’t have sound. That meant Snookums made several phone calls and requested (okay – demanded) that the Guest Services Manager call us in the morning to set up a face-to-face meeting to review the issues we’ve had since boarding the ship. (Really, we don’t go out of our way to find problems . . . they just seem to find us—Ed.)

April 30 (Wednesday, Day 4, Departing Miami) –

Snookums woke up and went to the fitness ball exercise class. It was only 30 minutes long and had twice as many people in it as there were balls so she then did more on her own. When she got back to the suite Filbert was up and they walked around the 12th floor deck for around 25 minutes. Five laps is a mile which is nice since the other ships we usually sail on have either eleven laps to the mile or nine laps to the mile. That gives you an indication of how big this ship really is compared to our usual cruise ships.

The ship had put into port at Miami, so after we showered we took a cab to the nearest Walgreen’s to stock up on diet soda. A $20 cab ride and $9 for diet soda makes a lot more sense than buying it at ship’s prices, believe it or not. We came back and had a nice quiet buffet lunch since most people were still off the ship exploring Miami. We also took advantage of our last hours with cell phone service and talked to several of our family in the US since this will be the last time for “free” telephone service until May 22.

Blue sky, blue sea: Miami
Yachts of the rich and/or famous

We were delayed for one hour from leaving Miami because the the food for the voyage didn’t get loaded onboard the ship in time. It was a good thing the captain delayed our departure since some passengers would get irate without food! The captain also informed us that 3 low pressure systems were forecast for Saturday, so we would sail a more southern course in order to avoid them. But, he warned that there might be “motion in the ocean.” What would an Atlantic crossing be without some rough seas, though?

Regent Seven Seas Mariner, off Miami

About 45 minutes out of the Port of Miami we saw Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner on the high seas. That is the ship that we were on most recently in March of this year, and is overall Filbert’s favorite cruise ship (so far). Our friend Bill is on it. It was departing Ft. Lauderdale on its way through the Panama Canal (and we did that same cruise on that ship last April).

We went to the pre-dinner show. It was 3 guys from Argentina. The first half of the show was a puppet show (Fluorescence) that Snookums liked and Filbert thought was embarrassingly bad. The second part of the show (Los Pampas Gauchos) was the Argentinians dancing with bolo balls (~5 foot string with a hard ball on either end of the string) and drums. Snookums was bored after the first three minutes but Filbert liked it since “guys like drums.”

Sunset over Miami

May 1 (Thursday, Day 5, At sea) –

Sunrise over the Atlantic

We woke up and went to breakfast in the dining room. It had a buffet as well as menu service. Filbert had eggs and turkey sausages from the buffet and Snookums ordered blueberry pancakes and hash from the menu. Each pancake had four fresh blueberries in it. Kind of skimpy on the blueberries, Snookums thought, but the pancakes were very good.

Smooth Atlantic seas

Snookums spent the rest of the day in the suite in her favorite spot which is in a French chaise angled in front of the big picture window. She read and slept and read and slept some more. Snookums figured that she slept for 5 hours doing this – a perfect day at sea.

We returned to the room after dinner to find an invitation for tonight’s past guest party. We left our room at 6:30 PM and when we returned at 10 PM it was on the bed for the 7 PM party. Oops. (Really, we don’t go trying to find service problems like this. Really we don’t – Ed.) Snookums immediately called Guest Services demanding to know why it had been 48 hours since she first asked to have the Guest Services Manager call her and still hadn’t heard anything and to let them know that getting an invitation AFTER the fact was unacceptable. The woman she spoke with promised to get a meeting set up with the Guest Services Manager and called back saying that we would meet at 11 AM on Friday. As a result, we stayed up and typed our list of 15 issues and 2 successes (room service was correct one time and the service in the dining room has been okay).

May 2 (Friday, Day 6, At sea) –

We woke up in time for our 11 AM meeting with the Fleet Guest Services Manager, Carly Ackerman. She was dismayed to hear about our issues and promised to call us around 5 PM with answers.

We went to lunch and then Snookums worked out for an hour and then played for 30 minutes in the 3-on-3 double elimination basketball tournament. Snookums’s team came in third out of five which wasn’t too bad since she was the only girl in the whole thing. It was very windy, too, so no one could attempt any outside shots. Then Snookums attempted to climb the rock wall two times. The first time she used too much upper body and her arms were very shaky when she said “enough”. (She was 2/3 of the way to the top.) After resting for 15 minutes, she tried it again but was just too pooped from the events of the day. She’ll make it to the top, though, before the cruise is done.

Yesterday was Snookums’s day to be pooped and today was Filbert’s. He stayed in the suite most of the day and read his sci-fi book he got from the ship’s library and also wrote some of his own science fiction story he’s working on. By the way, the ship’s library is very lame but for some reason 25% of the hardback fiction is sci-fi so that works for Filbert. Snookums was able to swap paperbacks so that is working, too, but it really is a pathetic library.

Our call from the Guest Services Manager came at 5 PM and she wanted to know if the Deck Supervisor had met with us yet. Filbert told her “no” and she was surprised. She asked if we would enjoy dinner at Portofino which is the $20/per person Italian restaurant. We said “OK” and have dinner reservations for Sunday night. She also asked Filbert what kind of wine we prefer and he answered “red” so we think there will be some wine at some point, too. She said we would get invited to the Diamond Plus past guest event so that is good, too.

The TV guy came and replaced the black box under the cabinet and said that should fix the intermittent problem. The drape guy came and took our drapes away (and we didn’t know anything was wrong with them so we’re thinking there might be another suite that complained about the drapes and they confused them with our suite!) and replaced them with new ones.

Ice show at sea

We had tickets to the ice show before dinner. The tickets are free for everyone but there are limited seats so you have to get a ticket for a particular show. Although the rink is very small, they really did a good job and one of the men even did a triple jump. It seemed like when he got going fast enough he had to jump or else he would have hit the wall. Even Filbert—no particular fan of ice dancing—enjoyed the 45-minute show.

After we got back from dinner there was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a cheese plate in the room. No note, just the two plates. Snookums ate the strawberries and Filbert wrapped up the cheese for later.

My foot hurts

It’s probably tendonitis . . . just on the outside part of my left foot, towards the heel.  I hurt it about ten days ago, and it was getting better.  But I got cocky I guess and re-injured it yesterday.

It doesn’t hurt as much as it originally did before I gave in and went to my podiatrist, but walking is darn uncomfortable.

I just thought I’d share that with everyone.  Because misery does love company.

Over the Water and Back Again-Part 1

Over The Water And Back Again–A Transatlantic Trip

By Snookums, edited by Filbert, photos by Filbert

April 27 (Sunday, Day 1, Leaving Galveston, TX)

Departure day! The SuperShuttle van to take us to the airport arrived at 5:15 AM for our 5:45 AM departure. He patiently waited outside for us until we were ready, but at least we knew that we would make our flight on time–and we did.

Southwest Airlines departing KCI

We flew to Houston via Dallas and landed in Houston on time. Soon thereafter we boarded our bus for Galveston. We pulled up to the ship and had to wait about 45 minutes on the bus until it could get closer. The amazing thing was that we were told that as long as our luggage had our cruise tags on it, we could just get off the bus and go in the cruise terminal to go through the process of boarding the ship. That meant that we didn’t have to tip the porters at all! (Good for us, not so good for the porters. Sorry about that, guys—ed.) We booked the bus trip on our own, not through Royal Caribbean, so we were certainly expecting to tip the porters. We got to go in the “VIP” line for suite guests (not that we’re uppity about things like that—all right, maybe a little—ed.) and it didn’t take more than 10 minutes or so to go through security and to get our room keys and stuff.

The Gibraltar Suite–our transatlantic home

We got to our suite around 2 PM and Filbert took a bunch of pictures of our Owner’s Suite (aka Gibraltar Suite) while Snookums was not-so-patiently waiting to go eat since she was “starving.” We had booked a Grand Suite but got upgraded to an Owner’s Suite because we booked this cruise more than one year ago. The Owner’s Suite (and there are only 10 of them on this ship that holds 3,700 passengers and the only other better cabin is the one penthouse suite) is 618 square feet with a 131 square foot balcony so it’s not too shabby at all. The suite has a 42” flat screen television that swivels completely around so that we can see it from the living area or the bed. This cruise was basically fully booked, having only eight empty cabins.

We noticed right away that the suite did not have any pens in it and only had one sheet of personalized stationery and three sheets of plain stationery. Ship postcards could be purchased for $0.50 each at the Logo store, so Snookums was a bit miffed. There was one complimentary bottle of Evian water but all future ones cost. A fruit basket was delivered but the bananas are already brown. Anyway, this really wasn’t Regent or Holland America or Celebrity and almost seemed down at the level of (shudder) Carnival. We resolved to survive somehow, as tough as it would be. (Famous last words—ed.)

Pictures of our suite:

We went to the buffet for lunch and found more evidence that this wasn’t Regent or Holland America. The food was fine, but nothing to write home about. Then we explored the ship prior to the lifeboat drill at 4:15 PM. The ship has a rock climbing wall, an ice skating rink, an inline skating rink, a mini golf course and a bunch of other stuff, too. Luckily it didn’t appear to have many kids onboard!

Since we were in a suite we were entitled to the concierge lounge and free cocktails from 4:30 – 8:00 PM every day. We showed up at 5:00 and it was a disaster. There were 3 bartenders for what seemed like 150 people standing at the bar. The concierge did confirm that he usually had about 150 eligible people on board but this cruise had about 450 cruisers with concierge lounge privileges. He explained that certain levels of past passengers were eligible to use the lounge, and that this cruise had a lot of them on board. He promised that it would be better the next day. In the meantime, Snookums acquired 5 cans of Diet Coke for the room. (They usually cost $2.01 each and we are NOT going to buy any, harrumph.)

Atrium of Voyager of the Seas
Rain showers on departure day
Entree menu on sailaway night

Our dinner table mates were very nice—Sandy and Anja, two ladies from Denmark who both spoke excellent English, Alain and Carole, a couple from Montreal and therefore French speaking but with passable English, and Len, a divorced man from London. We had a nice dinner with our new friends, then headed straight back to our cabin to bed.

April 28 (Monday, Day 2, At sea)

We slept in. Although our goal was to work out every morning before eating anything, we decided to skip that this morning. We called room service for coffee (for Filbert) and a fruit plate (for Snookums) and lounged around the suite. The room service was delivered after one hour and forty minutes and then the coffeepot was empty! Snookums called them back and read them the riot act. More coffee was delivered in about 20 minutes but by then we decided it was time for lunch since it was 1:30 (after the time change – keep reading).

On this sailing Royal Caribbean was trying something new—at least new for us—changing the ship’s time at NOON. So, for six of our days at sea we would lose an hour at noon. Filbert noticed that a spa seminar was scheduled to start at 11:45 AM and then another one at 1:00 PM so Snookums called to find out where these two spa seminars would be held. After a little bit the man on the phone said that they would be in different parts of the spa. We didn’t see how that was possible since there was only one room and just figured that they forgot about the time change at noon thing. Oh well, we weren’t interested in the seminars anyway, but wanted to point out their error to them.

When we returned to our room there were chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us from the room service manager in apology for the error this morning. We thought that was nice since after talking to the supervisor on the phone, we were convinced that nothing would happen.

Filbert spent a lot of time today on the balcony which is well shaded from the sun and rain and wind while Snookums used the French chaise near the huge picture window to read her book. Filbert isn’t too happy about the sight lines on this ship since there is no observation lounge at the front of the ship that you can sit in and look at the ocean and waves.

Tonight is formal night and around 5PM Snookums asked Filbert if he would mind not going. Of course he was very happy to not have to put on his tuxedo so we ordered room service. Once again room service screwed up—delivering roast duck rather than the sea bass. So, we are two for two in wrong room service orders. Snookums started getting that special gleam in her eye, salivating over the coming meeting with the customer service manager.

A new search engine in town

The rather unaesthetically named[*1] (pronounced “cool,” I guess, but with that peculiar Valley-girl/Surfer-boy twang).  Created by a bunch of former Google employees . . . perhaps they’ll carry on the “don’t be evil” approach that Google seems to have strayed from somewhat.

I can haz gas canister?

From HotAir[*1] :

“The Iraqi government broke their branches and took down their tree,” said Abu Amjad, a civil servant who lives in the northern Baghdad district of Sadr City, once seen as an unbreachable stronghold for the group…

A month after Mr. Maliki’s military operation, strange things started to happen in Shuala, a vast expanse of concrete and sand-colored houses in northern Baghdad that was one of the Mahdi Army’s main strongholds. Militia members suddenly stopped showing up to collect money from the main gas station, a worker there said.

A member of the Shuala district council said: “They used to come and order us to give them 100 gas canisters. Now it’s, ‘Can you please give me a gas canister?’[*2] ”

Posted mainly to slip in a LOLCats[*3] reference.