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Feb 06 2013

14 Months.

Published by Mark under Life, Ponder

Roughly the period of time since I last posted anything here - 14 Months. Why, I can’t particularly account for, but I think I’ve really lost the drive to blog, as I mused about in my last entry in December 2011. Amazingly enough I failed to make one single post in 2012.

I really should change this.

My prompt to post something today was due to Askimet (my spam protection system) failing - at about 10AM this morning something went awry with it’s setup and suddenly I was getting hammered with “Comment Notifications” every few minutes, except 100% of it was spam. It was an effective way of getting me to focus my attention here again as I tackled it’s repair tonight.

2012 was an utter blogging failure, so I’ll try harder in 2013.

4 responses so far

Dec 27 2011

Allure of the seas cruise, 2011.

Published by Mark under Cruising, Travel

I realized that my “cribnote” entry from September was never followed up on. I’m not sure why blogging has taken a backseat in the last year, but I find myself unmotivated to write here anymore. It likely has a lot to do with the reality that I’m guessing nobody reads my blog any longer.

Regardless, I’ll follow up for the few family members and friends who may still be following.

In late November/early December we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship afloat. My friends on Facebook would have seen plenty of pictures of the trip during the last few weeks, or you can check out Royal Caribbean’s website for details.

It was our first cruise, and there was only one way to explain it - 7 days of an altered state of reality.

First off, Royal Caribbean has service down to a science - it was simply amazing to watch the ship and it’s staff run like clockwork all day, every day, ensuring that the guests are pampered, catered to, and made to feel like, well…Royalty. Even though we were in one of the lowest stateroom classifications we were treated no differently than guests in other staterooms short of those in the upper echelon suites, for whom the “royalty” status takes on a whole new level, one which I’ll surely never experience.

The ship is impossible to ever explain without physically sailing aboard her. Amazing doesn’t begin to explain it, and despite the fact that there were over 6000 guests on our particular cruise (significantly above the normal amount due to many staterooms having more than 2 occupants) it’s rare that you are ever aware of the fact - the ship is so massive that there was no issues finding a quiet place to sit quietly…or even alone if you wanted to. On the flipside, if you want activity and entertainment you need not look far - everything from 3D movies to zip lining, rock climbing, a real wooden carousel, countless pools and hot tubs (many in the adults-only solarium on the bow), 2 Flow-Rider artificial wave machines, thousands upon thousands of deck-chairs in the sun, bands, the royal promenade, shopping, restaurants, bistros and bars, and one of my favorite areas aboard the ship, the unique Central Park, which is (for lack of a better description) like a real park aboard the ship. Yes - real plants, real trees, and even real birds that live aboard the ship by choice, since the park is open to air. It was my “go-to” place where I would sit, listen to the birds (or the crickets at night) and unwind.

My only two “issues” with the cruise?

1/ Food is so plentiful (and of course, free) that unless you have an iron constitution and can either walk right on by and ignore the reality it’s tempting you every few minutes, you should plan on gaining weight during the cruise. I gained almost 8 pounds, which given how hard I worked last winter to get all the weight off, was a bit of a personal disappointment to me.

2/ Tours of the ships behind-the-scenes areas were hard to come by, expensive, and reserved to the more elite (aforementioned suite) guests. I was first put off when I was told that there was a $150 charge for the “All access pass” tour, which admittedly was 3.5 hours long, covered interesting areas such as the bridge, engine room, galleys, and many staff areas, but having it monetized to that extent was surprising. Secondly, as a non-suite guest I was told that I was effectively out of luck since it was limited to a small number of people, and only on one day. Despite my willingness to pay, and attempts to get on the tour, I was never successful.

In the grand scheme of things, my above issues were but mere annoyances - the whole experience was otherwise simply amazing.

Will we sail aboard Allure (or it’s sister, Oasis) again? Absolutely - we are already in the initial planning stages for the same cruise next November. It’s going to be a long year - perhaps we’ll have another cruise in the meantime. ;)

Yes, we are hooked.

9 responses so far

Sep 23 2011

The last few months, the cribnote version.

Published by Mark under Life

I’ve been seriously lacking in my blog entries. Being on staff at a large online forum, as well as a particularly hectic summer of RV’ing, vacations, and work has made for a lack of time to really sit down and make any detailed entries here.

So, here’s the crib note version of the last few months.

- No flying since my last blog entry on the topic. I still miss it, but saw some powered paragliders in Maine that piqued my interest in perhaps looking into that option. The per-hour cost is surely but a small fraction of certified flight.

- Busy at work. Sometimes too busy. Frustrating at times.

- I came off my diet around May after loosing a grand total of 60 pounds. I’ve since put about 10 back on after a carefree and enjoyable summer, but want to clamp down again soon and take that (plus another 20 or so) off as well. Having a hard time getting motivated again, and working long hours is not helping.

- Our vacation this year took us camping in NJ/New York City, Boston, Bar Harbor Maine, and lots of places in between. We camped through the east coast earthquake (in Manhattan when it hit), and Hurricane Irene which went over top of us in Connecticut.

- My Windfields Farm pet project (see here if you’ve missed my posts on it) got some very big mainstream media attention. Unfortunately all of this happened while we were on vacation so I missed the opportunity to take the best possible advantage of it, and I haven’t had time to leverage it any further since then, but it DID get some very important action taken on the property. More details to come.

- We’ve booked another vacation in November on the worlds largest cruise ship, the Allure Of the Seas. This is the first cruise for all 4 of us and we can’t wait.

I’ll be making a flurry of blog entries in the coming days catching up in a little more detail on all these subjects, so stay tuned.

One response so far

Jun 26 2011

Google kills PowerMeter.

Published by Mark under Mac, Technology

Last Auguest I purchased a hardware device that helps us track our electricity usage. I blogged about it here.

Since that time we have become a much more energy conscious household. The simple reality of being able to see (on a second by second basis) how much electricity the house is consuming has a way of making you think about your consumption, and what can be done to lower it.

Part of the package was the ability to upload the data (every 10 minutes) to the Google Powermeter service which provided a good method of tracking and logging our consumption data. With the site having a mobile version as well we were also able to access the data remotely.

However, a few days ago Google announced Powermeter was being shut down. Apparently it attracted too little interest to justify it’s continued existance. Arguably, Google themselves were at the biggest fault for this - in the furor that has since erupted online after the announcement, a common comment has been “Cool service, I would have used it if I had knew it existed!”.

Regardless, with the impending doom of the service I’m now left with few options. Pachube offers a service which is compatible with my hardware (and most importantly, includes OSX/Mac support software) but the website is neither friendly to the non-geek, nor mobile friendly. The interface software is functional, but also lacking from a feature and reliability standpoint. They were quick to put up a blog post welcoming defecting Google Powermeter users (and even offering up a free Premium account to those who import their GPM data), but they don’t seem interested in following through with their offer of free premium accounts, which ironically you need BEFORE trying to import more than 30 days of GPM data anyways. It’s a vicious circle made worse by a total lack fo response or attention to technical support emails, or posts made in their support forums.

Not good.

PlotWatt looked like it had potential, even noting on their main page “If you’ve come looking for an alternative to Google PowerMeter, you’re in luck”, but after looking further, they don’t even support the CurrentCost ENVI monitor I own. When I tried to signup for their “Notify me when my hardware is supported” alert the website kicks out an error, over and over again.

Not good, either.

I would consider running a standalone local monitoring program with a webserver component, but all the options for OSX are absolutely terrible.

So, it looks like my data will be orphaned very soon, or at least inaccessible remotely, and not logged.

Curse you, Google….

2 responses so far

Mar 20 2011

Not as rusty as I thought!

Published by Mark under Flying

I went flying today. Looking back to my log book, that’s the first time since May of 2007 (!!) that I’ve been up. I can’t believe that amount of time has passed.

I had a voucher for Durham Flight Center at Oshawa airport. It was not the usual facility that I used to rent from (and trained at) but it was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. Upgrading to the 172 added a bit of additional cost, but it was quite reasonable in the end.

I was impressed with the aircraft, and even more so, the rates - I was quite surprised to see that their posted hourly rental rate for the C150/C152 fleet was still only $110 per hour - very surprising given I was paying more than that in 2007 for the Cessna 152’s at Canadian Flight Academy.

For the flight I brought along my 11 year old daughter as well as a long time friend, Mike.

For not having flown left-seat for nearly 4 years I was quite pleased how fast everything came back - the takeoff was smooth (although the crosswind did catch me slightly off guard as we got light on the wheels) and we were soon climbing out. I even maintained Vy within 5MPH, impressing even myself all things considered.

I decided that simply beelining it for CNF4 (Lindsay) to do a touch and go, and then heading back to Oshawa would be a fun flight for all involved. I used to fly into Lindsay quite often and it’s dead easy to find - something I was concerned about given I expected to be rusty.

Approach to Lindsay was uneventful and I actually pulled off a fairly respectable touchdown. Full power, let’s get outa here. Procedure whips through my head - Flaps up, full throttle, carb heat off, confirm mixture rich, confirm positive rate, maintain heading, radio calls.

We shot southbound back towards Oshawa at over 120MPH ground speed and enjoyed some more scenery. The skies were glassy calm to the point where flying the aircraft was almost effortless. Although I figured I’d be rusty, suffering heading and altitude deviations, the calm conditions meant that I virtually nailed everything +/- 100 feet for the entire flight with only two fingers on the yoke. It made me look downright good when in reality I think more challenging conditions would have made my rust show much more.

We were cleared left base for 12 and told to report established. A mile or so later we received our landing clearance before ever reporting established. I became aware of the fact that I was staying far enough ahead of the aircraft to be comfortable, but my situational awareness of traffic was lacking.

As has always been a occasional demon for me, I overshot my turn to final and ended up far past centerline, requiring a large correction. Then I realize I’m high on approach and needed to bleed altitude, only to remember exactly how fast a heavy C172 can sink as the VASI quickly went from 4 white to 3 red. Add power. Airspeed control sloppy. Getting buffeted around a little. Crosswind is yawing us, so I enter a sideslip, albeit a sloppy one, but passable. The rust is showing here now.

I transition to the flare and make another respectable touchdown, although I’m pretty sure I had some side loading on touchdown thanks to my sloppy sideslip control in the flare.

I remind myself I haven’t flown left seat in 4 years. I’ll take it.

We managed to keep the hobbs time at 0.9, which was surprising. A bill that was actually less than I anticipated was a pleasant result of such.

Overall, great fun, and it satisfied the craving to get airborne again. I was very surprised at how little rust I exhibited, although the glassy conditions made for an effortless flight, all things considered.

6 responses so far

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