The “Waste” part of “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse”

New Yorkers outraged as bureaucrats order city to change lettering on every single street sign[*1]

Of course, knowing how Democrats work, Fraud could be at work here too. Somebody’s nephew probably has a sign-making company and needs some business.

The additional cost to the city, if any, will be “marginal” because it receives a steady stream of state funding for routine sign repairs and replacement, DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said.

Oh, that’s OK then. It won’t be the New York City taxpayers who pay for the signs. It will be everybody else in New York State paying for them. And, of course, through the generosity of the Federal Government, every taxpayer in the United States gets to contribute to this, too.

Hey, that’s more than fair, isn’t it?

Moron, The Clown Congress

Isn’t it nice to know that the current, 111th Congress, has earned a name? Not many Congresses have aspired to a label. Most of them have been content with a number. Of course, we had the original ones, the Continental Congresses, which formed the United States of America in the first place. Few others, even the momentous post-Civil War Reconstruction Congresses, the Progressive Congresses before the First World War, the New Deal Congresses of the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights/Vietnam War Congresses of the 1960’s did not really coalesce around a single identity which could be described with a single name.

But the Congress elected with Obama in 2008?

The Clown Congress.

Unable to govern, the Democrats turn to Stephen Colbert[*1]

A Congress Of, By, and For Clowns.

Let’s throw the Clowns out this November, what do you say?

The 2010 – 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, Main Page

This is the front page for our journal of our Alaska cruise on Holland America’s ms Amsterdam from August 22 through September 6, 2010.

Here are the individual posts, collected all in one handy location for your reading pleasure. As we travel, we’ll be adding posts so you can follow our journeys.

(Click the Read More to see all the post links . . .) Part 1, Seattle, WA and at sea
Part 2, Ketchikan, AK
Part 3, Sitka, AK
Part 4, Skagway and Glacier Bay, AK
Part 5, Anchorage and Homer, AK
Part 6, Kodiak, AK
Part 7, Hubbard Glacier, AK
Part 8, Juneau, AK
Part 9, Victoria, BC, Canada

The 2010 – 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, Part 9

The 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, August 22-September 6, 2010, Holland America Amsterdam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Nine

September 3 (Friday, Day 13, Juneau, Alaska, continued) –

Baked Alaska

Snookums, Filbert, Charlotte and Gary ate in the dining room in order to enjoy the Master Chef’s Dinner. It started 15 minutes earlier than our normal dining time and the waiters sang, danced and juggled. Everyone received the same first two courses and we had to choose our appetizer, soup and entrée. Everyone got baked Alaska for dessert and that was paraded around the dining room. It was a fun time and even Filbert, who hates the parade of waiters that occur on some cruises, enjoyed the dinner.

More after the jump . . .

The baked Alaska parade passes behind Charlotte

After dinner the four of us went to the Future Cruise Consultant since Snookums and Filbert had convinced Gary and Charlotte to go on a Transatlantic cruise that they had already signed up for. While there, Gary and Charlotte signed up for another Baltic/Transatlantic cruise, too, and then convinced Snookums and Filbert to go on it. So, both couples signed up for future cruises while on this cruise! Snookums and Filbert signed up for one and Gary and Charlotte signed up for two. (Well, Snookums and Filbert actually signed up for two since they signed up for an Amazon one on the first day of the cruise that they had been planning on signing up for anyway. You get extra perks from Holland America if you sign up for a cruise while ON a cruise and since you can still shop around for the best price from any travel agent, it’s a good deal.) All in all, it was a great day and a fun evening.

September 4 (Saturday, Day 14, At Sea) –

We slept in and enjoyed a room service breakfast on the balcony. It was sunny and nice. There was a special lunch at 11 AM for past cruisers that we all signed up for. Snookums, Filbert, Charlotte and Gary were going to meet Mom, Dad and Judy so that we could all sit together but Mom, Dad and Judy wanted to attend Lorna Luft’s morning interview so we were going to attend lunch in two smaller groups. However, while Snookums, Filbert, Gary and Charlotte were waiting in the crowd of people for the dining room to open, they spotted Mom so the five of us ate at the same table. We later saw Judy and Dad eating at another table. We had three other women at our table and they were part of the bridge group. A company sponsored a bridge cruise for serious bridge players so there were a bunch of people on the ship that played in bridge tournaments most days and attended lectures. We got our Holland America tiles at lunch. Other than that, it was a non-event. But, we had to go in order to get our gift of the tile. HAL gives a tile on every cruise and usually they somehow represent the type of cruise or the ship. This tile, though, was HAL’s normal blue “Delft” style and had two ships on it. It wasn’t too memorable.

After lunch Snookums spent time on the balcony reading her book and Filbert took a nap. After a bit, Snookums put on shorts and a t-shirt since it was so warm on the balcony! She wasn’t expecting to sweat on an Alaskan cruise, but she did. After 3 hours on the balcony it was time for dinner. Tonight was formal night and Filbert and Snookums decided to not dress up so they went to Lido for dinner with Gary and Charlotte. It was a pretty low energy day, but a good one. And the weather couldn’t be beat!

September 5 (Sunday, Day 15, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) –

Victoria

Today was our last full day on the ship. We docked in Victoria at 4 PM. We were all packed by then, but first we met with Dee and Shelby. They are the ones that won the $100 at the Skagway Alaska Shirt Company store. They are bridge players on the cruise. They wanted to buy us drinks as “thanks”. Snookums was glad to hear that they spent a total of $102 which meant they only spent $2 out of pocket for their free loot. We found out that Dee used to teach at Metro State in Denver and loves sports and already knows that the Women’s Final Four will be played in Denver in 2012. Snookums told her that she would keep her informed of the volunteer opportunities. Shelby bought a jacket that she’ll wear skiing (they both live near Denver). Shelby’s 59-year old husband doesn’t cruise but trains for ironman triathlons and plays baseball on a traveling team. We had a nice visit and they were very appreciative of us telling them that they were the winning cabin.Packing didn’t take too long. It’s always easier to pack to go home than it is to pack for the cruise since you just have to pack everything that’s in the cabin. We accumulated more things on this cruise than any other. Among other things, our “haul” included 3 t-shirts (two free Alaska ones and a Sarah Pale Ale one), a “Time Bandit” hoodie and book, a $15 ¼ zip fleece that Snookums bought on the ship, two free Ketchikan coffee mugs, two free Ketchikan baseball hats, our sea otter piece of art, a bar of glacier silt soap, a jar of kelp marmalade, free Alaska tote bags, free “trinkets” from the Alaska State Fair, and an empty bottle of Rogue Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale. We definitely had more items to take home than we came with which was very unusual for us. However, it all got packed and we left the ship at 4:15 to see Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Since this was our last night on the ship, we decided to be back in time for our 5:45 dinner time. We took the 2-mile waterfront walk to the Inner Harbour and saw the ivy-covered 1908 Empress Hotel and the Legislative Buildings. There was a classic boat show in the harbor and lots of old, fancy wooden boats were on display. There were street artists and vendors, too. It was a very lively place and very beautiful with lots of flower baskets and pretty flora. We walked back to the ship and saw Mom waving at us from their balcony. We made it to dinner with one minute to spare.

BC Legislature
Empress Hotel
Flower bed at the hotel

Charlotte, Mom and Dad were at the table when Filbert and Snookums walked in. Mom said that Judy went on a walk, too, but said she would be back for dinner. Judy arrived around 5:55. We all knew that Gary wasn’t going to be joining us since he had been talking about eating in Victoria’s Chinatown practically the entire cruise. He wanted wonton soup! We had a nice dinner and everyone went back to their cabins.

Gary came by Snookums and Filbert’s cabin around 9:30 to say goodbye and to tell us about Chinatown. He was disappointed in it since he remembered it being more than two blocks long and now it is around one block long. But, his soup was good. We said goodbye and looked forward traveling together on the Transatlantic cruise we signed up for.

September 6 (Monday, Day 16, Seattle, Washington) –

We woke up to a cloudy, wet day, which means it was a typical day for Seattle. After a leisurely breakfast we went to Mom, Dad and Judy’s suite at 8:30 to leave the ship. Holland America lets you stay in your room until it’s time for you to leave which is nice. Some cruise lines make you wait in public areas until it is your turn to leave. We exited the ship for the last time, got a porter to haul our luggage and went to find a cab to take us to the airport. The cab company didn’t have any full-size vans in its line so the dispatcher ordered one but didn’t know how long it would take. In the meantime, Snookums went to the private vehicles to find out how much they charged to go to the airport. All the drivers wanted $65 but Snookums found an SUV-driver that would take $50. Sold! We piled in the SUV and got to the Midwest gate by 10 for our noon flight home.

The ride home

Our flight left on time and Jean, Snookums’s sister, was at the Kansas City airport to pick us up. Milly, Jean’s daughter and therefore Snookums’s niece, was visiting home over Labor Day and was catching a Midwest Airlines flight back to New York City. Her flight left one hour after our flight landed so we knew we would get to see her for a few minutes. Mom and Dad talked to Milly (their granddaughter) while Filbert and Snookums loaded the minivan. We drove Jean to her home and dropped her off and then went to Mom and Dad’s and dropped everyone else off. Then Snookums and Filbert took Dad’s minivan to their house. They got home by 6:30 PM.

After some basic unpacking, mail sorting, eating and showering, they were in bed by 10 PM. It was a completely no-hassle day to end a super-duper fantastic trip. Snookums has been on 30+ cruises and this was her second best one ever, after the 67-day Asia/Australia cruise in 2008. The Alaska weather was great, the wildlife and sealife were awesome, the views were stunning and we had calm cruising while traveling 3,930 nautical miles averaging 17.4 knots. In all, it was stupendous!

The 2010 – 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, Part 8

The 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, August 22-September 6, 2010, Holland America Amsterdam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Eight

September 3 (Friday, Day 13, Juneau, Alaska) –

Morning in Juneau

Judy, Snookums and Filbert met at 8:15 in order to go on the Whale Quest and Mendenhall Glacier tour. We took a 20-minute bus ride to Auke Bay and drove by Wal-Mart and also had an excellent sneak peak of Mendenhall Glacier which was stunning. 40,000 people live in Juneau and most of them are government employees since it is the state capitol of Alaska. Juneau is accessible only by airplanes or boats. No roads lead to Juneau.

More after the jump . . . We drove by the governor’s mansion on the hillside and the capitol. We got to Auke Bay and boarded a catamaran in order to search for humpback whales. Snookums had her tights on under her pants and several layers on top and was ready to stand outside to search for whales. We saw a helicopter in the air with a huge basket underneath it. It looked like it was carrying cargo but no one could tell what.

Within a few minutes the captain found some humpbacks and most people walked up to the open-air third deck. The humpbacks were pretty much just on top of the water so we saw their humped backs but they rarely did any dives so we didn’t see any flukes. The humpbacks weren’t very active and after about 15 minutes we continued our search. The naturalist said they were feeding while near the top of the water. They have to eat for about 22 hours each day.

Whale number 2175
Whale 2175’s identification book picture

We continued our cruise and saw a few more humpbacks here and there, but the captain decided to take us on a sea lion quest. We found a bunch of them, at least 100, on a small island. These were Steller sea lions and they are smaller than California sea lions. They stink the same, though! We also saw bald eagles on rocks and in trees and flying overhead. We watched the sea lions for awhile and then started heading back all the while looking for humpbacks.

Sea lions

Soon we found more humpbacks and these were VERY close to us. Even the boat’s captain had his camera out in order to get pictures. You know it’s a good excursion when the crew is taking pictures! There were four or five of them that would feed and dive and everyone got to the see the flukes many times and they were close to the boat. The weather was mostly sunny and nice.

Three whales (trust me)
Wet tail
Very close
One almost gone, the other going

Snookums bought kelp pickles from the boat’s cantina and gave them to Mom. She said that she is going to serve them at Thanksgiving. They were actually made in Sitka from the bull kelp that Sitka is known for, but since Snookums didn’t see any for sale in Sitka, she bought the pickles here. She got to taste them and they were sweet pickles and had a nice taste. They looked like pepper rings, or very large jalapeno slices/rings.

After the whale quest it was time for our 20-minute bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier. When we got there, we were given 1 hour and 10 minutes of free time. We should have only gotten 50 minutes, but we were ahead of schedule so our driver gave us an extra 20 minutes. When we got off the bus, Snookums asked the driver what three active people should do and he told us to hike to the waterfall. After following everyone to the Mendenhall Glacier viewing area, we decided to do our hike. It was drizzling now, but that didn’t stop us. We decided to bypass the visitor’s center since we wanted to see the glacier up close and personal. We started our hike and only ran into a few hearty people coming back. They all said it was worth it so we continued on the hardpacked trail. (We later realized that the trail was made out of packed glacier silt so it was almost like concrete and wasn’t muddy at all.)

When we got to the huge waterfall, Snookums and Judy had to taste the water to make sure it was fresh. It was! (Note – They did not experience any gastrointestinal issues later on, either!) None of us could believe how close we were to Mendenhall Glacier, which is a 12 miles longs and 1 ½ miles wide and is the most visited glacier in the world. We only had a few minutes to look around before hiking back to the bus. It was definitely a power hike, but well worth it. It was raining pretty hard by the time we returned to the bus, but we didn’t mind. We heard grumbling from some other passengers because of the weather, but we thought the sights were amazing and definitely would return, even in the rain. More time was needed at Mendenhall, that’s for sure.

A chunk of glacial ice
Glaciated bedrock
Glacier and waterfall
The waterfall expedition party

The tour bus returned to the ship and we got off a few blocks early in order to turn in our “free poncho” coupons at the Red Dog Saloon. After we got our free ponchos, we continued walking to the ship. Judy had to stop at one of the jewelry stores to get her free helicopter charm and was happy that she actually saw a helicopter today to make it the charm that much more memorable. We also had to stop at the Alaska Shirt Company to find out the winning cabin of the $100 in merchandise. It wasn’t us so when we got back on the ship we left a note for the cabin but never heard from them and our note was still on the door several hours later. They either got on the ship too late to go back out and claim their free stuff or else the cabin was unoccupied. Oh well.

We ate a late lunch of taco salads and then Judy and Snookums ventured out again to mail Judy’s postcards and to buy a Juneau paper. We managed to “win” $.75 in the first newspaper box we tried. We didn’t get a paper, but we came out $.75 ahead. We found another vending machine and bought a Juneau paper and a US Today. Then we went to the Glacier Silt Soap store and Snookums bought a $7 bar of decorative soap made out of smooth glacier silt. This will be used in the dragonfly bathroom at home. Snookums rarely, if ever, buys things while on trips so this must have been pretty special.

Mom, Dad and Judy ate a fast dinner in Lido since they wanted to go to both the 7 PM and 9 PM performances of Lorna Luft’s show. She is the daughter of Judy Garland and Sid Luft and the half-sister of Liza Minnelli.

Next: Baked Alaska!

The 2010 – 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, Part 7

The 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, August 22-September 6, 2010, Holland America Amsterdam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Seven

September 2 (Thursday, Day 12, Cruising Hubbard Glacier) –

Approaching Disenchantment Bay

Snookums and Filbert ordered room service breakfast of a bowl of mixed berries, a bowl of mixed fruit and two raisin buns for Snookums and hot water and coffee for Filbert. Then it was time to go out on deck and watch our approach to Hubbard Glacier. At its widest point, it is six miles wide and towers 500 feet about Disenchantment Bay. It is 75 miles long! We bundled up and headed for the bow of the ship.

More after the jump . . . This was the second time during the cruise that access to the bow was allowed. (The other time was when we were cruising in Glacier Bay.) We immediately realized it was raining so we didn’t stay on the bow for long. We were still a couple of hours from the glacier anyway. We decided to go up to the Crow’s Nest to watch for whales and to watch the glacier get closer and closer. Soon it was time for the seafood chowder to be passed around. Snookums ate two bowls of it while sitting in the Crow’s Nest! Filbert had one. Filbert liked the split pea soup served while cruising in Glacier Bay while Snookums liked the seafood chowder better. Don’t let anyone tell you that 10:30 AM is too early for seafood chowder!

Blue ice

We finally got bored in Crow’s Nest and wandered around the ship and went outside on the bow and the Promenade Deck. From the Park Rangers on board the ship spoke over the PA system and we learned that icebergs are generally taller than 15 feet. Shorter pieces of ice are called growlers or bergy bits. These smaller chunks of ice floating in Disenchantment Bay were bigger than the ones we saw in Glacier Bay. There were also a lot of seals lying on the chunks of ice, too. They didn’t move at all until the ship got a little closer than they liked and then they would get in the water and disappear. Otherwise, they were black lumps.

Seals on the ice floes

In general there was much more ice floating in the water here than in Glacier Bay the other day. The weather wasn’t as nice as in Glacier Bay on August 28, but the blue color of the Hubbard Glacier was spectacular. It was an awesome sight.

Blue glacier
Splash

After dinner Mom, Dad, Judy, Snookums and Filbert attended their invitation-only cocktail party. We determined that it was for suite guests and since the ship knew that Snookums and Filbert were traveling with suite guests, they were invited, too. Captain Olav van der Waard, Hotel Manager Henk Mensink and Cruise Director Jayme McDaniel were there to greet us. Everyone enjoyed the free alcohol and Snookums managed to get three cans of Diet Coke to take back to the cabin. She also took the little bottle of mixed nuts for snacks on our next shore excursion. That was Judy’s idea.

The first fall color

Next: Juneau!

The 2010 – 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, Part 6

The 14-Day Alaskan Adventurer Cruise, August 22-September 6, 2010, Holland America Amsterdam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Six

September 1 (Wednesday, Day 11, Kodiak, Alaska) –

Fishing boat in Kodiak Harbor

Filbert, Snookums and Judy left the ship around 9 AM to explore Kodiak, population 6,000. The day started kind of overcast and probably in the mid-50s. Alaskans layer their clothes and so did we. We walked about a mile into town. Kodiak is known as the “Fishing Capital of Alaska”. On the way to town we saw the Kodiak Island Brewing Company but it was closed until noon. We had to be back on the ship by 12:30 so Filbert and Judy weren’t sure they were going to be able to get any of Kodiak’s beer.

More after the jump . . . Then we saw a tourist store that had an ad for salmon leather wallets. We hadn’t heard of these before at any of the other ports and were curious what they were. That store was closed but we went into the one next to it and the cashier said that her husband has owned one for the last ten years and it’s as good as new. She also told us to go to the tribal community center next door for the flea market and the man that makes them would be there. Sure enough, a man buys salmon skins and 72 steps later has a wallet or moneyclip or checkbook cover. He said that the salmon processors just throw the skins out, but he has to buy them from them. He is certainly a craftsman and if he had had the styles of wallets that any of us used, we would have bought one. Judy did buy a pin in the shape of a salmon made from salmon skin. And, it was in the bin with items with slight imperfections so she got it for $3 rather than $11. We don’t know what the imperfection is. Snookums bought a jar of salmonberry jelly for Mom at the next table. The woman canned it two days ago. She said that whenever she sees berries growing along the road, she stops and picks them. Salmonberries look like raspberries but are more of a salmon color. They only last for about an hour after picking them and she said that as soon as she picks them she juices them and then freezes the juice and when she has enough for a batch of jelly then she’ll make some.

Our next stop in our wanderings was the free Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. This was a new two-story building that housed exhibits. We watched a 15-minute film and then oohed and aahed over the skeleton of the grey whale that was suspended from the ceiling. In 2000 a local biology teacher found a dead grey whale on shore and decided that the skeleton would be great for tourists. They buried the carcass for four years to let it decompose. Then they spent a year cleaning all of the bones. Finally, seven years after she found it, it was suspended from the ceiling of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. The biology teacher had no idea how much work would be involved with her find!

Whale bones

After the nice visit learning about nature, we went to the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church. It was built in 1945 but different churches have stood on this same site since 1794. When we left the church we decided to walk up to the Fred Zharoff Bridge in order to get photos of Kodiak. Next on our list of things was to get our picture taken under the “Welcome to Kodiak” sign at the harbor.

Russian Orthodox Church
Welcome to Kodiak

While there Snookums talked to three guys cleaning out a fishing boat and found out that they had just been out for the 3-month salmon season. They were college kids working a summer job and had been off the boat three times in the past three months for less than 24 hours each time. They actually came back yesterday and were spending today cleaning the boat thoroughly (with Dawn and Formula 409) to get it ready for dry-dock where it would stay for the next nine months until the next salmon season. They said that it hadn’t rained for six days during their fishing season and they were sick and tired of wearing the rain gear! (By the way, the day was now warm and sunny in Kodiak.) They said that the salmon run this year wasn’t too good but that the price of salmon was $1.40/pound rather than the normal $.50/pound. They were hoping to make $40,000 each but might have to settle for $25,000. They hadn’t been paid at all in three months.

Snookums and Judy (left) meet fishermen

Our next stop was the Safeway Liquor Store for various craft beers (including “Rogue Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale” with Sig Hansen on the label from “Deadliest Catch”) and salmonberry wine made in Kodiak. On the way back to the ship we were surprised to see the Kodiak Island Brewing Company open since it was 11:45 AM. We stopped in and found out that it was a microbrewery and only sold beer from the tap (no cans and bottles). You could buy a growler of beer, but not a container with any “staying” power. However, they did have a tasting deal for $5 in order to taste all seven of their brews. Of course Judy and Filbert had to take advantage of that deal! Filbert also bought an empty glass and Snookums bought him a t-shirt that has one of the beer labels on the back. The label is for the company’s “Sarah Pale Ale” brew and is a parody of the St. Pauli girl in that it is a painting of Sarah Palin in a German bar maid outfit offering steins of beer. The employee said that they didn’t ask Sarah Palin if they could use her image and hadn’t heard anything from her, but figured she knew about it by now. Filbert likes the t-shirt since he says people won’t be able to tell if he likes Sarah Palin or not. We made it to the ship with three minutes to spare!

Beer sign

After a quick stop in the cabin we went to Lido for the salmon bake. Mom found me and Filbert and we later saw Dad and Judy enjoying the fresh salmon pan-fried poolside along with the clams and mussels. Everyone on the ship was saying it was the best salmon they had ever eaten. Even Snookums, who isn’t that fond of seafood, figured she should get in the spirit, enjoyed it.

Tonight was formal night and we had one of the free bottles of champagne in the suite prior to dinner. Roland and Bernice came, too, and then joined us for dinner since Gary and Charlotte don’t do formal dinners. Snookums ordered the deboned stuffed quail and was surprised when it showed up with its legs still on. However, she pulled off a leg and started eating the meat off the bone. She somehow swallowed a sliver of the bone and started choking (and crying due to the sensation) but she was okay. She quit on the legs after that and cut into the stuffed breast. Much to her chagrin, when she started chewing she found a huge bone in her mouth. At that point she was not going to eat the deboned stuffed quail and ordered the lasagna. So much for no bones! The rest of the meal went without incident.

We had the wine steward serve the salmonberry wine after dinner and everyone thought it was kind of different, but in a good way. Filbert and Mom thought it was tart and Judy thought it was sweet. All of the glasses were emptied so it must have been okay.

Salmonberry wine bottle

The dessert extravaganza was at 10:30 PM but Snookums and Filbert have seen enough of them and didn’t even go. Instead Snookums ate the birch syrup caramel corn that was purchased at the Alaska State Fair.

Coast Guard C-130 doing touch-and-go landings at the Kodiak Coast Guard station

Next: Hubbard Glacier!