Saturday, January 31, 2009

Of this and that

In response to all the comments re: the latest marine emergency - thanks for thinking of us. I had a nice message from the Executive Director of the fishing association the shore captain is involved with saying "so tremendously glad to hear it turned out ok, I had called the catch monitoring office several times yesterday late and they had not hailed him in, was worried to say the least, I always get a huge knot in my stomach when I hear of boats not reporting in, in my own family, many years ago my then husband went missing from Georges Bank for over 48 hrs., their boat burned to the water's edge and 4 floated in a 3 man raft in thick fog, the second daughter was not a year old at the time" The message really took me back as I was working as Night Supervisor at our community hospital when the Coast Guard brought those boys in to be checked out. This wasn't unusual as we are located at the closest point to major fishing grounds and the rescue ships often dock there. I knew each of them from having gone through school together and they were pretty shaken up, it was an emotional time.

As the baby daughter commented "making quite a habit of it aren't they, that's the second time lately" well, yes, although the previous incident was more weather related. The prodigal son was telling me a few weeks ago that the Captain had commented that time he looked liked Spider Man as he had braced himself into the top bunk and with his long arms and legs was wedged between the beams, when the boat went down into a sea and he was left suspended apparently doing a great impression of the superhero. This second event as his oldest sister noted will give him even more material for yarns to entertain with. I worry a lot less about him on the water than land actually. But I do long for the days when life was simpler and the crisis was his father saying to him as I arrived home from work "show your mother your heyd" as his sister had biffed a rock at him after swimming lessons while waiting for the shore captain to pick them up, to see if he needed sutures. The girls version includes the disclaimer that he had initiated the rock chucking so it was one of those six of one, half a dozen of the other situations of course.

The work week was beyond belief (even by others in my work team) so that wasn't particularly reassuring. It involved amongst other things being booted out of my office before I got a chance to sit down one morning and having a new patient call system installed in my (and all the other offices in the wing I'm located on) so I'm guessing there are plans which I've not been privy to. Said installation also required the two technicians (boys who did not look as old as my son) and one of them wearing a red t-shirt emblazoned with the words MONSTER ATTITUDE, causing me to think 'you have no idea buddy how much I want to rip that off your back for myself' These two were also installing the system in the tub rooms aka storage closets at the end of the hall. This resulted in them rooting about to locate the panel, biffing everything into the hall and then ambling off for other targets. Speaking of tubs, my week also included a tub meeting with a rather persistent salesman and the District Environmental Services Mgr. neither of which I wanted to be in the room with let alone in a tub.

I'm pasting a story describing gender differences in handling the tough economic times we find ourselves in:

Women vs. men: Handling economic stress by Kiri Blakeley,

Last week's suicide of Chicago real estate auctions mogul Steven Good is the latest instance of what could be termed "econocide"—suicide due to the poor economy. While Good, who shot himself, did not leave a note indicating his motivation, his death comes a month after he made comments about the collapse of the real estate industry at a business conference.

Good's suicide follows that of Kirk Stephenson, a financier who jumped in front of a train in England after his private equity firm suffered losses; French financier Rene-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slit his wrists after losing US$1 billion in the Bernard Madoff scheme; and German billionaire Adolf Merckle, who threw himself in front of a train after massive investment losses.

These tragic figures had something in common besides economic hard times: They were all men.

In 2005, the latest statistics offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25,907 men killed themselves, versus 6,730 women. A big part of this discrepancy is that men use much more successful methods of suicide. Each of the four moguls who took their lives did so in a decisive fashion. "Men take far more permanent measures," says Manhattan psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, who counsels many Wall Streeters and their families. "Women might make gestures that are not as strong, that are more a cry for help or attention."

The financial crisis offers serious and perhaps widespread motivations for male suicidal behaviour. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," says Dr. Leslie Seppinni, a Beverly Hills, Calif., clinical psychologist who counsels many millionaires, both male and female.

Seppinni notes this is the first time in her 18-year career that businessmen are calling her with suicidal impulses over their financial state. In the past three months, she has intervened in at least 14 cases of men seriously considering taking their lives. "There's been a rapid increase in the numbers," she says. Especially vulnerable are men over 50: "They've already built their empire one or two times, and they don't necessarily have the emotional energy to rebuild."

High net-worth individuals may be more susceptible to suicide in tough economic times, not only because they have more to lose from a financial standpoint but also because they tend to be haunted by the idea that they had a hand in their financial downfall. "They feel guilt and shame because they think they should have known what was coming with the market or they should have pulled out faster," says Seppinni.

Seppinni says her female clients, many of whom are chief executives, are more likely to "roll up their sleeves and become a cook somewhere or bake cookies and sell them—whatever needs to be done. She's not thinking her life is ruined; she just wants to put food on the table." Seppinni notes that not one female client has called her about feeling suicidal due to the downturn.

"Men traditionally are the breadwinners," says Alpert. "Particularly with big-name people, so much of their image, reputation and ego depend on financial success."

Which is why women, experts say, are more likely to take their lives when they've had long-term depression problems or suffer from mental illness, rather than over their financial condition. In Seppinni's opinion, "women do not kill themselves over finances."

For three million years, men have been the hunters and protectors, explains Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. "Around the world, from the Zulus to Eskimos, women look for men who provide resources. When men lose that profoundly basic role and purpose, they get depressed."

Which isn't to say that women don't get stressed about the economy too. They are just more likely to manifest their stress in different ways.

Women, say experts, are more likely to take "healthy" approaches to dealing with stress. They work out, eat well, get plenty of sleep and look to family and friends for emotional support. Men, especially risk takers in the financial world, have a tendency to isolate themselves, clam up or "escape" through drugs, alcohol and sex.

Lynn Mayabb, senior adviser at Kansas City, Mo.-based BKD Wealth Advisors, which manages US$1.4 billion for wealthy individuals, has had her share of downturn-related stress—some clients have blamed her for their losses.

During times like these, Mayabb takes a deep breath, concentrates on what she can change rather than what she can't, and refocuses her clients on long-term financial goals. When one of her male clients broke down crying in her office, Mayabb chose to deal with his more cool-headed wife. "The men are a little too focused on 'What did I lose this quarter?' Women are more able to see the big picture," she says.

"I cannot picture one of the men I work with being able to handle the issues I've had to deal with," says Amy James, 41, CEO of sixThings, which monitors educational materials for compliance with federal regulations. Since September, James has personally fired 34 employees (70 per cent of her full-time workforce), relocated her company from New York City to Oklahoma City and been sued three times.

She notes that male friends suffering business malaise "disappear" from her social circle or refuse to talk about their travails, while James relies heavily on bonding sessions with her female friends. "They are the biggest stress relief I have."

Well for something a bit cheerier, I'm including a link to an artist profiled in the paper today:

She apparently is in Red Deer so I'm thinking someone in family located there could maybe check it out, hint hint. If the work wasn't too wildly expensive it would be something that the shore captain would enjoy of his fur son. You know, the guy you have to lift with your knees not your back to pick up as he weighs 19.5 lbs now - you guessed it Gary. My personal fav was the one of the Count of Mouseychristo - you gotta check it out.

And although I don't want those of you who fly or fear it to be overly concerned but this story is about the investigation of the flight which landed in the Hudson River, just think of the science of it all:

WASHINGTON — Clues from the wreckage from US Airways Flight 1549, which crashed in the Hudson River, are going to the best investigators in the world: the black boxes to the National Transportation Safety Board, the engines to the manufacturer’s experts and a bird feather to a Smithsonian museum.

The National Museum of Natural History in Washington may not leap to mind when both engines on a high-tech plane quit at 1,000 metres. But around the corner from the stuffed African elephant that greets the visiting hordes of schoolchildren, down a back hall from the employee bike rack, a staff of four in the Feather Identification Lab took in samples from 4,600 bird-plane collisions, or bird strikes, last year. Arriving mostly in sealed plastic bags, these included birds’ feet, whole feathers or tiny bits of down, and pulverized bird guts, known as snarge.

Correctly identifying the species involved in a bird strike can be important, said Carla Dove, the lab’s director. "If people know the cause of a problem, they can do something about it," she said. "If you have cockroaches, you don’t call an ant exterminator."

One key to reducing bird strikes is to move the species causing the problem, she said. That might mean mowing a certain area, or filling in a pond frequented by a species of duck.

The feathers or other bird parts submitted are compared against a library of 620,000 bird samples, some gathered by Darwin and Audubon. Another contributor was Theodore Roosevelt, who collected birds around the family home in Oyster Bay, on Long Island, before he switched to hunting big game. And if the feathers do not make the case, the snarge goes to the DNA section, which has a huge database. Between the two, the success rate of identifying the type of bird involved is 99 per cent.

And for high-profile crashes, identification both by feather structure and by DNA will be performed. A bird strike over the Bronx reported by the pilot minutes after Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia Airport may have caused both engines to fail, forcing the emergency splash into the Hudson, which all 155 people on board survived. The feather was discovered attached to one of the plane’s wings.

Researchers at the Smithsonian would not discuss their role in the US Airways investigation, but did talk about their work in other cases.

On a lab table under colour-balanced lights, Dove opened a zip-top bag with some brown and white feathers from a recent bird strike involving an American military plane in Rota, Spain. In the field, investigators had identified the feathers as being from a long-eared owl, but putting one on the table, Dove saw that was not right. She reached for an eagle owl, a bigger bird of similar colouring. "See how nicely this matches," shesaid.

For forensic ornithologists, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Crash investigation is a relatively recent endeavour for the museum. "This collection started before there were even airplanes," said Marcy Heacker, one of the museum’s investigators, referring to the vast repository of birds. But ever since an October 1960 crash at Logan Airport in Boston, in which an Eastern Airlines Electra hit a flock of starlings, safety investigators have called on the Smithsonian for help.

Most of the bird samples come from the Air Force and the navy; the Pentagon wants every bird strike investigated. Military planes are more vulnerable to such strikes because they often fly at low altitudes and often in single-engine planes.

Often the military’s bird strikes occur in far-removed places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but the lab, which stores about 85 per cent of the world’s bird species, is prepared.

Major airlines also send samples from around the country, from airports large and small, Dove said.

Crashes caused by bird strikes are intermittent in small planes and rare among airliners. Government records show five strikes with scheduled airliners in this decade, not counting Flight 1549, that have produced significant damage.

Feathers that are intact can be matched against a sample. If fluff or down is all that survives, researchers using 100-power magnification will look at the pattern of nodes on the microscopic feather structures to identify them.

Turnaround time is usually very short, but sometimes the lab finds a problem. Faridah Dahlan, a geneticist, tested a sample a year ago that indicated it had come from a deer.

Airplanes do sometimes hit deer, but a phone call to the pilot confirmed that this strike was in the air, so more investigation was required.

Eventually, the lab used a tiny piece of feather to determine that the bird was a black vulture. The bird apparently had deer flesh in its belly.

Dahlan said getting DNA samples from small bits of bird flesh was not a challenge. In a previous job, she said, "I used to do ants."

And I leave you with this great quote: "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
— Mahatma Gandhi:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Marine Mishaps

Well, lots of excitement going on here again but I'm pleased to report that the outcome has been okay. The predictor of a positive outcome in a marine emergency is remaining calm.

The man of the house was waiting for his boat which is winter fishing to come in this morning. The marine weather forecast had changed as soon as they left and he was unsure as to whether they'd stay until Thursday or be in a day early. Of course there's no way to reach them 'back of LaHave Bank' which is where they were fishing so you don't hear from them until they're a few hours from the wharf. Well, let me tell you that we had a real humdinger of a windstorm here yesterday evening and night and the shore captain has been a wreck After fielding calls from his mom, the son's girlfriend, secretary at the plant and his brother he spent the evening pacing and the night hitting redial, sighing, up to look out the window and then attempt to sleep for 10 minutes.

I finally gave it up at 6 a.m. this morning and got up for work as he was taking his third phone call since 5. As I told the gang at work "I talked him down off the ledge but only until he reaches the plant I'm sure" My day at work (thankfully) did not allow me to worry as it didn't even allow me a lunch break. When I came through the door, mister was on the phone in an animated conversation and looking slightly more settled.

It appears that the Captain had called the Coast Guard and a Search & Rescue helicopter out of Greenwood had dropped a pump to the boat this afternoon as they had 'water onboard' and they were slowly making their way in with an ETA of about midnight. Finally at 10 p.m. I heard a yell from the bedroom and appeared at the door saying "you bellowed?" to find the shore captain had reached the boat and received an update. There was not much wind offshore as it only blew about 30 knots and they had continued to haul gear, they had shifted position which put them behind and had about 30,000 pounds of fish onboard so couldn't make much speed. But the reason for the water in the lazaret (storage area in the stern under the deck) remains a mystery. Apparently the autopilot was acting up, then the stern looked lower in the water so the Captain explains that he 'got the boys up' and they go out on to take the deck hatch cover up and....there is a LOT of water sloshing around. In his usual understated style he says "I said oh sh*t" and called for help. The bilge alarm went off while they were awaiting the helicopter as the drain has released water to the bilge and they were able to use the pump which runs off the deck hose to pump most of the water out so didn't have to use the Coast Guard pump when it was lowered. As I type they're jogging in at about 4 knots so will arrive at the wharf 1 a.m. and the Coast Guard calls them every two hours to check in. Just another day at the office is the final assessment, although the shore captain notes this is the most animated he has heard the Captain in the three years he's been taking boats for him as there is a slight note of urgency in his voice.

So, more than enough excitement as is usual for us. As one of the neighbours - a rather burly guy whose bark is much worse than his bite - said as I walked the dog "is the boy on the boat?" referring to the prodigal son who had fished with his own son and when I nodded, he paused and said "but they're all okay aren't they?" I assured him they were, so he concludes with "well that's the only important thing then isn't it?" As usual - we both get it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Personal mastery and more

Well, it has been a busy week (or thereabouts) since I posted last. Nasty drive for part of the way in today to work and a snowy, rainy, icy, freezing rain drive home tomorrow. Something to really look forward to eh? Dreams of Caribbean beaches sustain me, one of the benefits of waiting until the end of March, all winter to anticipate. For anyone even vaguely considering travel, this will be the year with the economy struggling, some of the best deals I've seen in years.

On the weekend I headed out to the first of the two part Personal Mastery course and it was excellent! Lead by a woman who is a great adult educator and an eclectic group of about 20 females of all ages and our male MLA who is sponsoring the program in part and participating. Did some visioning and was somewhat surprised at the results, amazing what will appear if you slow down long enough to consider it. Have some homework before the next session and looking forward to it. It was held in the former elementary school the two oldest daughters attended so that was sure a blast from the past. I learned about croning ceremonies (no - not crowning) just Google it or follow this book review which mentions it:

Croning holds some interest and I'm still researching the topic as well as stretching my brain with the new way of thinking so this has assisted in survival of this work week - is it only Tuesday yet? Speaking of work related new age thinking, I found an article about Dan Schawbel who is a 'personal branding' expert. You can check out his blog here:

I'm reminded of my mother's advice which stated "act and dress the way you want people to think about you" but I guess that wouldn't sell as well as his upcoming book entitled Me 2.0

I had a bit of look around to see if there were any Maritimes/New England cruises on the list for this fall and the pickins were slim. A couple of two week ventures which although a different cruise line are the same itinerary as last fall and the dates will interfere with a wedding I will not be missing and the visit of the first born daughter so... after briefly toying with the idea of a repositioning cruise from NY to Caribbean and return from Miami this thought was rejected in favor of waiting to see what patience will turn up. The repositioning jaunt involved five sea days in November on the eastern seaboard - not a good plan for the trial of a landlubber cruise travel mate and a lot more work for the presenter. Add to this only a reasonably interesting itinerary and two - one way air tickets and it became less exciting. Something much better will come up than trying to talk yourself into something.

Have been in Norway this week in my memories as I've been scrapping the Grand Princess photos. Since I'm heading into the third cruise within nine months, I should get my act together eh? Have about 20 pages completed and am only on the third port of call so this will be an epic record. The cats aren't pleased at having their space invaded as they've taken over the craft space but they'll get over it.

The oldest daughter is writing her mutual funds exam tomorrow evening so we shall all send positive thoughts (not that she'll need them as she's one smart chicky) out to Alberta. Those kind of big exams are always stressful of course. The second daughter is heavily into her BEd course work and the youngest is carrying a heavy course load and excitedly planning for her Sweden clinical. So all my young ladies are academically and stressfully engaged at the moment.

The prodigal son is fishing and it has been REALLY cold this week, plus a bit of wind as the weather forecast changed after they left so they're earning their money for sure. Hard way to make a living. Kind of weather that the dog gets permission to stay in the mud room for the night as the SPCA puts out warnings to bring your pets inside at night. Speaking of that, I made a promise of an early bedtime so I'm outta here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cruises and chickens

I had such a rotten day at work it would really ruin your read if I shared it so trust me when I say that tomorrow I shall be celebrating FF (as the newspaper called it today) Friday Fatigue in grand style. I used the excuse to read a TB test for Public Health on the way home to actually get home before midnight.

Suffice to say that by 10 a.m. I had figured out the day was a write off so decided to cheer myself up. I called up my good buddy from a former life and discussed running away on a cruise this fall. Needless to say there was no hesitation in the acceptance. Had already cleared it with the life partner as he said "you're not going to the same thing this fall are you?" when I attempted to discuss the Maritimes/New England route with him and so the decision was made that he is not the travel partner of choice for the autumn fun. One of these times I shall travel with daughters (as I can hear their groans as they read this) but this time around they are all occupied with work or studies. And the date parameters include a wedding we're really looking foward to with a home visit from the first born daughter so will have to be before then, likely mid-September. So the homework for the weekend is to do some itinerary searching. Yeehaw.

I have registered to do a two part course this Saturday afternoon and the next called Personal Mastery which is being sponsored by a local community group. Since I apparently have no personal mastery at all this should be an interesting activity. It involves drawing forth a personal vision. Hmm. I'll likely be in the slow class but I shall keep you posted as to how it goes.

Well I thought you'd like to see the update from the chicken whisperers which I found in my FaceBook inbox tonight. It reassured me that at least some of them had found their way to a sheltered coop after being so casually discarded and of course now you know how to catch them:

Hi..just an update on the chickens...a couple of nights ago Esnor and his brother went over and Johnny (brother) climbed a tree and caught them...guess you can catch them when it is dark...all that was there was 4...they also found a dead one so dont know if the others died or if someone else got them...hopefully someone got least 4 are now safe and sound... Take care...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Positive thoughts

Well, have spent the day thinking of a loyal blog reader who had surgery today and am pleased to hear that all has gone well and now into the treatment phase. Positive thoughts to be generated by all reading this and sent Stateside.

Today I again headed to the district facility for meetings, and not unexpectedly came home with a major headache. Due only in part to trying to adjust to my new bifocals. I picked them up and spent at least 20 minutes while the debit machine at the optometrists didn't work, finally writing them a cheque. Apparently....the trick to actually seeing with bifocals is figuring out exactly where to look through the lens - this is going to fun! Taking literally the instruction that "the more you wear them the quicker you'll get used to them" from the clerk, I stuck them on my face and headed off in the car. I am pleased to report that I avoided any MVAs but I'm sure there was some sort of psychic intervention responsible as it quickly became apparent that the stipulation on my glasses requiring corrective lenses was one thing, bifocals are quite another. The edges are blurry, I'm slightly off kilter and I have a stiff neck from attempting to look up or down (usually the wrong space at the wrong distance) to focus. This too shall pass apparently.

I stopped at La Senza and managed after much hunting and foraging to locate one black bra that actually fit. Come on people, this is a lingerie store, you would think it wouldn't be too much to ask for a biege colored bra for crying out loud!

I headed over to Superstore to (again) print my photos for scrapbooking and as I said to the clerk after the resulting 'situation' and angst "you know I'm old enough to know better, what was I thinking?" When I got to the photo center the kiosks were full and so I headed to the first one (the scene of my previous problem) and proceeded to browse through my five CDs guessed it. I was putting in the final disc and the message came up to reboot the system. The female teenager said "oh that one's really old, you should just try another one" gesturing at the others which were now empty. Since I had (slightly) more patience today, I started over, printed my receipt and took it to the counter. The clerk started filling out an envelope struck me - I had selected the one hour feature!! So, now the photos await me on my next trip district trip. I am really not meant to scrapbook my next page which awaits these photos. The clerk very kindly rang in my three tops I'd found in the clearance bin as she said "I'm not supposed to but there's no one here" after taking one look at my face. Now that lady knows how to diffuse a situation.

I arrived home to find the man of the house had done two loads of laundry. This is quite a sentinel event as although he knows how to operate the Maytag stackable set, I honestly can't remember the last time he did except to wash his work clothes. However, he had done a student job - meaning he had jammed all the clothes he could find of any color, texture etc. into two tightly packed loads. You know, wash 50 lbs for $1.25. This resulted in fuzzy black dress slacks and questionable cleanliness of some articles so a selective rewash was clandestinely done. No point in complaining and ensuring that it never happens again is there? And there were no major disasters involving the unwanted transfer of color one to another as could have happened. No gift horses mouths looked into here.

I was surprised today to find a contest being sponsored by the phone company asking for a story about the worst Christmas gift received this year in order to win a prize. I'm thrilled to report that I am unable to enter as I (we) had wonderful, thoughtful, necessary presents so are not in the running. Now if the telecommunication companies would just put their energies into getting some high speed internet out into the rural areas I would be happy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Change is good

Just to update you on the message I found in my inbox there has been an itinerary change for Sea Princess and it’s all-good. We’re leaving Barbados at 9 p.m. instead of 11 p.m so more in keeping with the travel partner’s biorhythms and no conflict with the airfare. Instead of visiting Caracas (La Guaira) Venezuela we are visiting Izla de Margarita!!! This is a definite improvement, as I wasn’t looking forward to that destination due to poverty, crime and not much to visit and have always been interested in Margarita Island. The times were tweaked with two less hours in Montego Bay, and four more for Grenada. Things are unfolding the way I like.

There was also a pleading message with the entertainment agency in-house travel agent suggesting he could match the local agent’s airfare. I think not as it appears he has quoted in US funds and without tax, but if he wishes to make work for himself I have asked him to clarify. No need to turn a man down without all the facts. I think I need to take the advice of my very smart first-born daughter as she asked, “what were you doing messing around with the travel agent anyway? Why didn’t you just book your airfare yourself online?” That was a question I asked myself after the additional $40 each drop in price after we booked. There were different opinions on that with a co-worker saying “$40? Get over it” and another saying “that would make me mad too”. But the reason I was ticked was that the travel agent said, “oh, there’s nothing we can do now, you just have to forget about it and go and have a good time”. This is excellent advice of course, and especially as it wasn’t her money she was discussing.

The above emails were found at the culmination of a marathon dialup session where I searched for photos of Newfoundland fishing vessels for the shore captain (who has very limited computer skills) under the direction of his brother (who has high speed access and no concept of dialup at all) until persistence paid off and the group effort located his former vessel built the year the prodigal son was created in 1987 and sold to Newfoundland. So that accounts for not getting anything much else done this evening.

So considering that I dropped my purse on the doorstop on my way out this morning, this resulted in NOT being able to pick up my bifocals (I sense perhaps a subconscious negativity to that purchase) or the groceries or anything else on the list and made for a direct trip home. The list remains so of course will be waiting for after work tomorrow with the addition of a stop at the post office – likely the travel partner’s passport. So…we are gaining.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another snowy Sunday

Well Happy Sunday! As I sit in my comfy (from Frenchy's) pjs with a cup of tea in front of the computer as the snow falls outside - life is cozy! Especially so as I neither battled my way to or fro work in the predicted 'flurries' which have materialized into at least 20 cm of snow!

Last evening a friend and I took in Seven Pounds with Will Smith and I have to say if that man doesn't win a armful of awards for his performance there is something seriously wrong. Excellent (if tough subject) movie and highly recommended by moi. We had begun with a proposed party of four to movie go and our numbers were thinned by mandatory overtime (the ordering in of one of our list) for a long night shift and the travel preparations of the other. Since the drive home was a truly challenging one I crept near the center of the road, except when meeting traffic moving just as slowly, then the navigator (riding shotgun) called out the margins of the 103 as I attempted to stay on the pavement. The visibility was about 3 ft, the highway was a base of ice and staying in the ruts of a previous vehicle was a real game. Quite pleased to wade into my house after providing chauffeur service. Ah yes, winter - got to love it - unless you travel in it! The temperatures are warming up to rain so tomorrow's journey to the district facility will hopefully not be as interesting.

Came home from Thursday's trip there to a man home from his meetings and supper on the table - doesn't get much better than that for this working girl. Friday wasa repeat classy meal and...he had also fixed the monitor power cord of the computer system in the man cave (on which I am communicating) and set it all up again. This has been a to-do project since the fall. He had as well stopped at the hardware store and picked up a new mailbox and stick on numbers (not nearly as nice as the lovely decal the kids had done but Canada Post insists no bare boxes) to install in place of the murdered predecessor. I am happy to report the new one has survived one night of plowing at least. As the shore captain states "those drivers are just being jerks about it now and trying to take out boxes, must have a contest on". I remain thrilled, though cautiously concerned as to what else is going on when I see such cooperation. Nontheless he earned himself chocolate chips cookies and brown bread baked in reward this weekend.

I had dropped into select my glasses while on my district trek and was astounded to find that they will cost $580 for the two pair (regular and sunglasses) and yes you have correctly surmised those are the aforementioned bifocals although without scratch coating and polarization - this due to my loss record did not seem a good investment. With the co-pay from my benefits I'm out $122 so that will sustain me in the dark work days as a positive. They will be ready on Monday and retrieved while on mileage to travel there - again memo to self. I was in Superstore while on my district trek, to print off some photos from the Norway trip and after spending at least 20 minutes selecting prints was just inserting the 5th of 5 CDs into the photo system when an error appeared saying to contact the clerk. When I queried the much pierced, bored with a permanent smirk on his face clerk - he gaily confirmed this meant I must remove my CD, he would restart the system and I would need to start over on what I was working on. As I retrieved the CD and fixed him with a direct gaze, I stated as calmly as I could manage "not today I won't" and exited quickly. Anger Management 101 - remove yourself from the stimulus. The meal awaiting was obviously the reward for my passing the class.

I was amused by the cleaning lady's shopping list of required products saying "we need ..." as if I was involved with their use. Well, I guess the purchase includes me in the process.

Yesterday the dog and I went for a long walk and she checked out all the ditches as they're frozen and clean enough to allow for that. We took a walk over to the summer neighbours to check on their places and discovered her tracks of romps of sheer joy when she had escaped and gone visiting a few days ago. Managed to fall in the crushed stone (not recommended) in front of the house on the return and am feeling the effects of right elbow, knee and hip and left ankle. What is this talk of it being healthy to get out and exercise eh?

I'm consoling myself with my library book Hot, Flat and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman which is a look at environmental/political/economic global issues. He writes well but it's a tough read at times as the future implications are a bit scary.

Well, must sign off as the shore captain has returned from unloading fish and has fired up the 4-wheeler to plow. He will likely be seeking sustenance and warm drinks shortly. Hope all are remaining well and warm in these cold times.

To quote the wealthy Warren Buffet "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently." I'm sure those are words he truly understands with today's volatile markets.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Major and More

Well, it has been an unsettled day – and the weather is only part of that. I’m trying to decide if the net total is negative or positive and I’ve decided to take my usual optimistic outlook on things.

To begin with, I have a cold. The one the family gave me has developed into a bronchial wheeze much like Precious Pup used to produce on the cartoons, think cats in my chest purring and you’re not far off. I have an appointment to have my lungs listened to tomorrow. Mind you, I think this may be one stage of it as I was blocking out the whining from the life partner at the time but I think he said “whine, I think this is settling, whine, on my lungs, whine, oh no, moan” while I was ignoring him as he doesn’t suffer silently. So for accounting purposes this could only be positive in that I’m not any sicker, was able to get an appointment and it makes most people at work if not feel sorry for me at least leave me somewhat alone.

The mailbox got whacked when the snowplow was winging back the roads in the last storm. This has however, meant we’ve not received any bills, as the rural route driver cannot leave mail in a mangled metal opened so that’s a positive. The box will have to wait for the shore captain to make it home to install a new one. I counted a number of mailbox casualties on my way home this evening, some propped up with sticks, some banged into shape but no flags or doors agape – it was not a pretty sight.

There is a local investment counselor who is a retired military person, actually refers to himself as Major, who has the personality of a boiled turnip. We (I) have resisted dealing with him for years as I have enough aggravations in my life and so we have dealt with another counselor 20 minutes away, who is now being retired. Lest I sound like the Rockefellers with all my funds please be assured it is not the amount of money but the angst I am speaking of. I mentioned to the life partner (in the presence of the fresh-faced bank investment counselor) last week while we were planning on moving the meager coins around that “I don’t deal with the Major, he does” as I pointed at the shore captain. “What will this mean, will the Major be involved?” I asked. The shore captain made reassuring noises and the young fellow looked down at his desk so I said, “you will deal with him if so, it is not in my job description”. Last evening while I was online (dialup remember?) I had a phone message from…. you guessed it – the Major, telling me that he was taking over our account as the other counselor was retiring, that he must speak to me urgently about transferring the account and that it was 7:38 p.m. on Monday evening that he urged I return his call at the earliest possible time. I assumed the notification from the bank had made its way through the investment firm. This morning I had a very hoarse conversation with one of his staff advising that I was unable to speak with the Major due to my illness and that the shore captain was out of the province on business and would deal with him upon his return. The cold is looking more positive all the time.

This morning I went to get my eyes checked as the optometrist is just two doors up the hall and I walk past them on the way to the photocopier when they’re in on Wed and Thurs. The news was that I am now a candidate for bifocals – best not loose them down the stage of the Sea Princess and that the pressure in my eye is the upper limit of normal so I have to have my visual fields examined. I’m going to chalk this up to a young, keen, recently graduated optometrist who is being overly cautious. This I’m going to count on the positive side, as I would like to be able to see all the places I’m traveling to.

Oh and last night I had a rather urgent sounding message from my friend to call her and I tried unsuccessfully a number of times before heading off to bed. I couldn’t imagine what was the problem and was concerned that I’d created some difficulty with the chicken catchers – you know, someone ran into her car or there was a neighbour dispute or something. And yes I do make lobster chowder but no I don’t want to make chicken stew – they’re just little ornamental chickens, not much meat and very pitiful looking. But I digress. My friend was not annoyed with me but distracted as she was dealing with a family crisis. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help as dealing with a breakup and concerns for grandchildren is something I’ve not had to, and hope never to face. Certainly negative for her but I guess I’m thankful I’m not in that position.

Had a message from one of the summer neighbours saying they’d had to euthanize their three-legged beloved ‘pound dog’ Buddy as cancer had spread to his other leg and he couldn’t get around. Very tough decisions to have to make about a member of the family. He was a sweet dog. Negative again, but we’re not there yet.

And although I’ve received nice messages of jealousy from family and friends (one of which I’ll include below) about the cruise, the final chapter in the Barbados ticket saga is… I hadn’t heard back from the agent over the weekend with the extra day in Barbados the shore captain wanted checked on and due to email difficulties so the airline didn’t honor the hold on the $550 tickets as it expired at midnight last night and are charging $720. As the Diabetic Clinic nurse in the next office said “oh, boo hoo, it’s going cost you two $350 more to have a free southern Caribbean cruise, that’s cruel” which kind of put it in perspective. And then when I contacted the in-house booking agency to be quoted $1200 each for the same tickets, I declined and grumbling took the offer of the $720 version. I will pay much closer attention to those expiry dates from here on in and of course a few hundred more is better than double.

It will of course all be worth it as my friend’s account promises:

I liked the Harrison Caves-- being claustrophobic I wasn't too enthused about going in. We were on an island tour with friends (who have wintered down there from Sask for many years). There was no discussion beforehand about the caves and I didn't even know they existed. There is a little car on tracks to ride in and lights on all the scenery. The caves are humongous with cathedral ceilings. Not like going into the coal mine in Springhill I understand (not having been or intending to go into the Springhill one).

I would give The Jolly Roger a miss --tourist drunk. I would avoid their local punch (151 proof)

Definite-- I would spend the whole time snorkeling at the underwater park from the beach on the Caribbean side (as opposed to the Atlantic side). Different parts of the island are worlds apart in scenery, weather, and price. We stayed on the South -east shore where the sea was good for swimming but nothing to see snorkeling and lodging cheaper. We went everywhere on local buses. Cheap and a great adventure. Barbadians are quite proud and respectable. Schools are great and they wear uniforms. Bus driver chastised a Brazilian tourist for not being dressed properly to be on the bus "Cover up girl or get off". When we were there, women wore hats and gloves and '40s dresses to go downtown.

I had a nice email from the librarian asking how the cruise ship speaking circuit was going and if I was available to do any Mid-Week Break talks. When I asked what she’d like, she said that folks like to ‘armchair travel’ and the Grand Cayman/Jamaica topic sounded good. How could I refuse the group, which gave me my start on my claim to stardom? So, I’m booked for April 29th and will get to present my topic again at least to a nice group of folks who are interested in what I have to share. Doesn’t get much better than that does it?

Except to have a district meeting rescheduled due to a major storm warning for tonight and tomorrow so only a local drive. Yeehaw!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Barbados bound

Well, we are Barbados bound but it will be the end of March before we escape to Caribbean bliss. I received confirmation of my destination speaker status on Friday so the planning has ramped up a bit. Meaning that the life partner has engaged himself in the decision making, now that it is really going to happen and has suggested that we spend two days in Barbados after the cruise instead of one. His reasoning is that we may not have that opportunity again as usually Barbados is a cruise stop not embarkation port. So I have emailed the travel agent as to whether the great airfare deal relates to the Monday, not just Sunday return and does she know of any budget places to lay our heads. Note to self to contact friend who has journeyed to Barbados for the details. A former co-worker mentioned her son was working in Antigua and they were hoping to go visit but airfare was so expensive so I mentioned I'd take something small to deliver should they wish. Mules r Us - wait till the travel partner hears that - but I'm thinking the son will be a 'somewhat' local to really connect with on the island versus being one of a group of cruise ship passengers just out wandering around.

The itinerary is a whirlwind so research to do on each of the ports of call and of course two presentations to get together for the four islands I’m profiling. At least I have 9 weeks to complete these – this is the most wiggle room I’ve had with only two lectures and over two months. At some point it would be nice to actually use the talks more than once just to get some mileage from the research and fiddling. But....the itinerary I'm pasting here and the math of the price list tells me that we're doing the gig for at least $3000 less for a few minutes of fame. How good is that eh?
Port Arrival Departure below:
Barbados 11:00 PM

St. Lucia 8:00 AM 6:00 PM

Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda 8:00 AM 6:00 PM

St. Kitts, St. Kitts & Nevis 8:00 AM 5:00 PM

Tortola, British Virgin Islands 8:00 AM 5:00 PM

Samana, Dominican Republic 8:00 AM 6:00 PM

At Sea

Montego Bay, Jamaica 7:00 AM 10:00 PM

Grand Cayman, Islands 10:00 AM 5:00 PM

At Sea


Aruba 9:00 AM 6:00 PM

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles 8:00 AM 5:00 PM

Caracas (La Guaira), Venezuela 8:00 AM 5:00 PM

Grenada 12:00 PM 6:00 PM

Barbados 7:00 AM

I’m left with a few moments to myself because….the shore captain is off to St. Andrews by the Sea for some meetings to do with the fishery. These are science/industry sessions for George’s Bank held between Canada and the US where the stock assessments and proposed quotas are presented for the coming year. Usually pretty glum, so I was joking at work about hiding the sharp objects before he got home. But not having domestic responsibilities meant that the dog and I played in the snow and I managed to capture a couple of shots of the summer neighbours’ places. Since I know they’re local blog readers I shall post them here and you can all enjoy the winter wonderland as well with the view from my livingroom. Beautiful but not Barbados.

I had an entertaining email today as I had written to someone I knew as an animal lover to rescue some chickens. When I went to visit my former cruise travel partner (an animal lover herself but more of a cat aficionado if you know what I mean) a group of very cold looking, small ornamental chickens (Rhode Island Reds amongst others was my guess) were huddled under her car in the bitter wind as snowflakes stung them looking very miserable. When she came to the door, I gestured at her car and sputtered “you have chickens under your car!” She rolled her eyes and said, “boy do I ever, come in”. The back-story is that someone next door moved out west leaving chickens, which are supposedly being fed daily and sheltered in a building – both untrue my hostess stated emphatically. Apparently they were so cold when her brother-in-law came to plow her driveway they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) move out of the way of the plow. I told her I knew of a local animal lover who was on Facebook who had been responding to messages of missing kitties etc. and I would contact her. I emailed the animal rescuer and she agreed to do an intervention. Today she emailed to say that she’d found a home for them (older man who kept his chickens inside so obviously a suitable foster parent) and she and her husband had attempted to catch the chickens – unsuccessfully. But a neighbour in attendance told them the chickens knew they were strangers as they usually followed him around. He had to leave shortly but the plan was that he would catch and cage them for transport to their new home. She will keep me posted and of course I will pass that fast breaking news along to you all. The yarn did amuse the prodigal son and his girlfriend when they arrived, as she lives in the chicken catchers community so we both shared the visual image and I had a second chuckle.

To leave you with a smile I will quote the Facebook post of a former co-worker that said "when I grow up I'm not having any children"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Retirement Discussion

As the week draws to a close and I think to update the blog, I’m reminded that the cycle of life much resembles the various ups and downs of the stock market. This because the eager young man at the bank seeking to convert our meager post tuition investments into his sales stats showed us a chart of the various bear markets which reached back to our birth dates. As we reviewed the dates and remembered having made it through the various downturns we were heartened. And we all agreed that we were in better shape hoping to retire in 10 yrs (the life partners words not mine) than having just done so. I firmly asserted to the helpful young man that I had no intention of remaining in the position I filled at present but would likely be slowing down in 3 ½ years myself but the two of them could talk amongst themselves about possible dates. This prompted the shore captain to assert that he likely would never be able to retire from self-employment, which led to my reassertion, that 2012 was my exit from torture date as this would be happening when I was 55. We moved on from there as that was my story and I was sticking to it and… the eager young man was into investment counseling not marital, but I digress.

By mid-week I’d received an email from ‘my agent’ with the message from Princess saying that the date of the Feb 21st cruise was no longer open. So I replied with a wheedling message that I was seeking to escape this rotten winter and were there any other dates open? Today’s reply suggested March 21 – April 4 or April 4 – April 18th same ship, same itinerary as alternatives. A quick message to the travel agent to seek air fare for the first dates (the second being too late for a lobster fisherman) brought a reply of $550 return, taxes in Halifax to Bridgetown – a definite bargain and a savings of $500 from the earlier date! After consultation with the life/travel partner as to whether to pursue the above option or the Royal Caribbean Chile to Argentina run which had surfaced today – no to South America as that would be two separate, expensive air fares and the itinerary didn’t include the Falkland Islands. I mean really, if you’re going to go to that much trouble to sail around Cape Horn you should do it all. The only concern mister expressed was that “it was a bit late in the year” but I assured that this end of March travel eases into spring. So I eagerly await word from the agent as to my proposal’s success.

The possible travel partner has been ‘getting with the program’ and has shaved (second time within a week – that is noteworthy) and had his passport photos taken. So he is gaining in the quest of being my assistant. There are a number of available understudies and he is aware of that so on his very best behavior.

Speaking of travel and packing I’m including some tips I surfed across which include info, links to other sites including check in tips and even a packing list generator:
Expensive fees and heavy bags weighing you down? Lighten up your luggage with these tips for packing smart.

"Will I need this?" It's the question that plagues every traveller when they tackle the chore of packing for a trip. These days there's plenty of incentive to keep your baggage down to one bag: imagine yourself hauling multiple bags onto a train and stowing them in often-crowded compartments (usually without help and while other passengers are doing the same). Lugging suitcases around on a road trip is no fun either.

And then there's air travel ... lost luggage and stolen items are a constant problem, and increasing fees are making people rethink their packing skills. American Airlines' new charge for the first checked bag has many wondering just how much they can fit into their carry-on instead -- especially if other airlines decide to follow suit.

Time for a packing make-over? Whether you want to try the carry-on only route or simply travel with less, here's how to lighten your load:

Know your limitsIf you're looking to avoid extra fees, you need to know about the restrictions on the size, number and weight. If your journey involves more than one airline, or more than one mode of transportation like a bus or train, go with the strictest rules. Remember that the size measurements include handles, side pockets and wheels. This is especially important if you plan to skip the check-in process and carry-on. Go over these measurements and your luggage is bound for the cargo hold.

Take advantage of local resourcesWhy pack it if it's already there? Try to find out what's available where you are staying such as beach towels, a hair dryer or an iron, etc. Check if laundry facilities or services are available. If you're taking an extended journey, consider picking up toiletries and personal items at your destination rather than carrying them with you. The weight of liquids and gels alone, not to mention the hassles of airport security, can be a real burden.

One of the pitfalls of packing is the dreaded "what-if" scenario. Let your imagination take over and suddenly you're packing for every possible contingency. How can you fight the instinct? Packing guru Doug Dyment of has this advice: "Simply ask yourself what the local populace would do if they needed whatever item(s) you're missing!" Chances are you can purchase, rent or borrow items you "might" need.

Make a listWhat you pack or how much you pack depends on the person, the type of travel, climate, itinerary and destination. Regardless of the length of your trip, you'll want at least two pairs of shoes and two pairs of bottoms. How many tops, pyjamas, socks and underwear you need will depend on your preference, activities and whether or not you plan to do laundry.
A list can help you set priorities and make sure you have everything you need. What items are "must-haves" (passport, underwear, medications, etc.) and what are "nice-to-haves" (dress shoes, extra shirts, etc)? Pick out items that can do "double duty" such as a sarong or shirt than can be worn as a day jacket.

You may find it easier to work from a generic list and subtract the items you don't need. Independent Traveler has an interactive packing list tool that will generate a customized list that you can print or e-mail. The Universal Packing List generator also includes accommodations, activities and mode of transportation.

Choose items that play well with othersThe key to variety in your travel wardrobe is coordination, not volume. First, stick to neutral colours for basic pieces like pants and skirts, jackets and sweaters. Choose colours and fabrics that suit your travel needs. Denim is versatile and can be worn multiple times before washing, but lighter weight fabric will launder and dry well on the go. When in doubt, choose a medium shade that won't be too hot in warm climates or show dirt easily.

Second, pick an accent. A brightly coloured shirt or scarf can spruce up an outfit. Many colours such as pink, aqua, rust, blue and teal will work equally well with brown, black and denim.

Third, pack a few key accessories. Nothing dresses up a men's outfit like a well-chosen tie. For women, a pashmina can serve as a scarf or stole, and can be used to cover the head and arms when cultural norms dictate. An inexpensive beaded necklace can be worn with a blouse, t-shirt or dress.

A good rule of thumb: If an item doesn't go with at least two outfits, leave it behind. Limit your shoes.Shoes are bulky, heavy and take up room so try to get your list down to two pairs. One pair of good walking shoes is a must, and your second pair can do double duty as dress shoes if you pick the right ones. Many brands such as Naot and Mephisto offer dressy versions of their styles -- think patent leather or burnished textures combined with arch support and cushiony foot beds. Choose shoes that go with your neutral colour scheme, and make sure they are broken in before you travel.

One possible exception: an inexpensive pair of foam-rubber shoes or "flip-flops" will protect your feet from fungal infections. Not only are they light-weight, you can give them a quick wash and dry before packing them up.

Lay it outIt's tempting to start emptying your drawers into a suitcase, but you'll have a much better idea of what you have and what coordinates if you lay it out on the bed or a table first. Separate items that should always go in a carry-on bag, such as medication, a change of clothes, small amounts of toiletries, electronics (especially those with lithium batteries) and any valuables you must travel with. Start removing items until you've got a manageable amount for your suitcase.

Wear it on boardWhile you're in the process of laying out your clothes, select any bulky items like a sweater and walking shoes to wear on board. Layering lets you adapt to warmer or cooler temperatures on board, and you'll have better protection in case of an emergency.

Pack a clotheslineWhile it seems counter-intuitive to suggest packing something you might not normally carry, a sturdy travel clothesline and clothespins can actually help you to pare down other items. Many daily-use items such as socks and underwear can be quickly rinsed in the sink and hung to dry overnight. The more you wash, the fewer items you have to pack. If you're going to skip the hotel laundry and opt for the sink, pack lightweight fabrics that will dry overnight and look for items that won't wrinkle or that look good wrinkled, like a crinkly shirt or broomstick skirt. Soap and shampoo can be used on many fabrics, but you might also want to pack a packet or two of your favourite detergent as well.

Give and takeYou want to fit everything into one bag, but what about souvenirs? You can make room by shedding some of your unnecessary items as you go. Pack clothes you plan to get rid of anyway and donate them while away. Leave your book or travel guide behind for someone else to enjoy.

If you're still determined not to check luggage, try using a shipping service to send some things home ahead of time. You'll be able to track your parcel and have more recourse if there are any problems.

Want more help? Check these resources:- Even if you plan to check luggage, this site has great tips on what to pack and how to pack it. You might want to give "bundling" a try to prevent wrinkles.

- For advice on packing a carry-on for easy passage through airport security, take a look at the Transportation Security Administration's SimpiFLY web site.

- Look for packing lists with your travel information, or on tourism web sites. These sources can help you narrow down your items and ensure you've got what you need.

In the end, a missing item of clothing or gadget seldom makes or breaks a trip. Chances are when you return home your packing list might even prompt a chuckle or two. If you're looking to improve your skills, do a post-mortem on your old list and keep it for next time.
One final word of advice: Resist the urge to leave this chore to the last minute -- a little time and thought will save a lot of hassle later on.

Why Travel Light?
Simply because it's the most relaxed, stress-free way to travel. There are several reasons for this, the principal ones being ...

Security: With a greatly reduced need to check baggage (or otherwise entrust it to the care of others), you are much less likely to lose your belongings to theft, damage, or misrouting. You likewise foil those who would enlist your unsuspecting aid as a conveyor of contraband goods. Would that peace of mind were always so easily acquired!

Economy: You don't have to pay porters and others to carry and store stuff for you. You eliminate extra baggage charges (and many airlines now charge for all checked baggage). You are more able to take public transportation (even from airports, just like airport personnel and flight crews), rather than taxis and limos. You can even walk. All of which also bring you into more intimate (hence rewarding) contact with the people and places you have come to visit.

Mobility: You needn't arrive at airports as early. You can board trains, trams, and coaches with alacrity. You can more easily deal with delayed transportation and missed connections (because you can choose alternatives without worrying about what will happen to your belongings); you can also take earlier flights when space is available. You can sell your seat (by volunteering to be "bumped") on full flights. You can travel as an air courier. You will be among the first to leave the airport for your destination, while others wait for baggage delivery and long customs inspection queues. And you won't feel compelled to take the first hotel room offered: you can comfortably walk down the street should the reception counter person quote an unreasonably high price.

Serenity: If there is a bottom line, it's that travelling light is simply a better, more hassle-free way to go. You have more time, because packing takes little. You waste less energy hauling stuff. You know what you have, and where everything is (as you pack your bag the same way every time). We've all seen those hapless folks at the airport, with too much baggage and panicked expressions, worried that they have lost track of something, or left something behind. Foreign travel in particular can be challenging because it is unfamiliar and unpredictable, but the one-bag traveller copes by operating from a solid, familiar foundation, with fewer unnecessary things to worry about.

Ecology: All of the above are concerned with short-term benefits to you. But travelling light also yields long-term benefits to the planet. Less stuff to manufacture. Less use of vehicles and other machinery to move things (including you) around. Less fuel needed for the vehicles that do move you. Less greenhouse gas production. Less damage to our celestial home. Greater likelihood of upcoming generations being around to do some travelling of their own.

O sancta simplicitas!
I'm Convinced! How Can This Site Help Me?
He who would travel happily must travel light.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

If there is a "trick" to travelling light, it's the understanding and proper use of a packing list. Apart from that, however, there's no particular magic, no specific secret. Travelling light is a skill comprised of a very large number of very small considerations. Individually, many of them might seem relatively unimportant; collectively, they make it possible to journey for extended periods of time carrying no more than will fit in a surprisingly small bag.

If you're a typical traveller, don't expect the transition to happen overnight (unless you are unusually diligent). The expert one-bag traveller will have learned a great deal about:
what to pack, avoiding the temptation of lugging around too much stuff; what to pack it in, understanding what to look for in efficient & effective luggage; and how to pack it, particularly the management of clothing so that it doesn't get wrinkled. But there's no need to become an instant expert. Feel free to meander through this site, taking inspiration where you find it. Every single topic detailed on these pages can help you become a better (and happier) traveller, but it's unnecessary (and probably counterproductive) to tackle them all at once. Start with those that most appeal to you, and leave the others for when you seek to further hone your skills.

Where To Begin?
The main sections of cover each of the above three topics in considerable detail. Start with Using A Packing List (under the What To Pack menu). After that, continue where your interests lead you; don't feel compelled to assimilate everything immediately. If you came here looking for luggage tips, you'll find much on that topic under the What To Pack It In menu. Appreciate, however, that merely acquiring a bag, no matter how "perfect", will no more turn you into a one-bag traveller than owning a superb violin will turn you into a concert soloist!

You'll also find detailed analyses of all the items on my personal packing list (under the Packing List menu), a checklist of things to take care of prior to leaving on a trip (under the Departures menu), and a variety of supplemental information (under the Resources menu), including:
contact information for suppliers of specialty items mentioned on these pages a (very) few recommended books on related topics a collection of links to a carefully-chosen assortment of sites that One Bag enthusiasts are likely to find interesting my own compilation of travel industry links for airlines, hotels, and rental automobiles, with handy lists of country/airport/airline codes, plus tools for checking real-time flight status, airport delay conditions, and aircraft seating arrangements

And don't miss the TraveLetters page, featuring representative comments from people who have put these ideas into action, thus offering reassurance that this site isn't merely (or at least, entirely!) the ravings of some geek with a packing fixation

Check in tips:

Packing list generators:

And speaking of travel, I have a Page a Day Calendar, which is of (what else?) 1000 Places to see before you Die. My eureka moment of the week was when I discovered that the pages from a page a day calendar fit very nicely into CD jewel cases to make great covers. A good use of the 3 Rs.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Conquering Flickr

As the weekend draws to a close – sigh – I’m reminded that I should update the blog. It does seem like a good activity for a wintry afternoon as I’m enjoying the sunset over the choppy harbour. It’s been a good weekend, which of course always makes the transition of the ‘back to gainful employment’ in the morning more painful.

I started the weekend off in fine style by having to take the shore captain’s half ton in for servicing at the garage on Friday and with the state of the roads I was more than pleased to have a 4-wheel drive to get me to and fro work. I stopped after work at the library and picked up a copy of Fodor’s Caribbean Cruising guide, which I think is the one I used on my ‘research’ cruise of 2007. Then I went to a massage appointment, which I’d forgotten I had until the reminder call came, so that was a real bonus.

By the time I arrived home after 6 p.m. the man of the house had 1) shopped for and put away the groceries on the list 2) shelled the lobsters he’d saved and cooked and put them in the fridge 3) made supper of baked salmon, sweet potatoes and asparagus and most importantly had cleaned everything up – this part is crucial as the cleaning lady had made her magic visit. At New Years my friend (who also shares the cleaner) and I were discussing whether she was as good as our first one who had deserted us to move out west and we were of the opinion that she was VERY close. But as I assured my friend, she’s just showing off because she’s new, no one can be that good!

I spent Friday evening reviewing my research online and the library reference for the Caribbean. I sure hope the latest dream works out. I’ve been proposed to do a 14-day, 12 port of call, only two sea days (only two presentations) cruise out of Barbados from Feb 21 – Mar 7th. Now that will sure be hard to take with the weather we’ve been having eh? I will post the itinerary if the dream comes true so you can drool. It’s the culmination of doing some trolling which went like 1) being told by the Entertainment Mgr for that account I was rejected by Royal Caribbean out of Bayonne, NJ to the southern Caribbean (the shore captain’s first choice 2) not proposed to Celebrity out of Fort Lauderdale to southern Caribbean as my topics were felt by that Entertainment Mgr. to be “more suited to Maritimes/New England” and 3) now contacting the Entertainment Mgr. who interviewed me and placed me on my last two cruises who told me the special interest speakers were placed but…could I do destination speaking? I chose to do Jamaica/Grand Cayman and Aruba/Bonaire as I’d actually visited Grand Cayman. As I said to the life partner “two of them don’t think my topics are suited to the Caribbean and the other one thinks I’m an expert on the destinations go figure”.

Today’s activities included getting my Flickr account profile completed and uploading a couple of photos to prove to the photographer that I requested access of his Caribbean photos that I am who I say I am. With the struggle with the dialup, posting photos through anything other than the blog is not usually an additional challenge I take on but I’m on a roll now and was not slowing down so five photos later I was legit. It turns out he is a destination speaker as well for Princess so was willing to cooperate, small world eh?

I have spent a low-key weekend with sleeping in, baking, dog walking in the bitter cold, and keeping my resolution of scrapbooking once a week by getting six pages (albeit several were started) completed in my Norway cruise album. Life is good, until the alarm goes off eh?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009

Well this feels more like a Sunday evening than Thursday but at any rate it feels good to be able to say tomorrow is TGIF. The extra bonus is that mister has made an appointment to have his truck serviced so I will be taking the 4-wheel drive to work.

We had a nice evening yesterday as we celebrated New Years with supper with friends and we all actually managed to stay awake until midnight too for the bubbly. Spent some time telling cruise stories – what fun is going on vacation if you can’t talk about it afterwards? We watched the celebration on TV but as usual didn’t spy any of our offspring. This year with the blizzard it sure looked cold! We were sure glad of the 4 wheel drive for the jaunt home, the whiteout conditions meant we followed the tire tracks of the vehicle ahead of us and were relieved they only slowed down to find their way, not stop in the middle of the road. We chose the front door as the drifts on the side meant we had to dig out and the sprint from the truck to the house was still through drifts over my boots.

I had announced my resolution to scrapbook at least once a week this year and since that is fun and doesn’t involve giving up or doing anything too physical…I may actually keep it. One of the websites had a list of possible resolutions and some of my favorites are here:

Be more spontaneous
When was the last time you did something spur-of-the-moment? Well, it’s time to embrace a more “why not?” mentality. “Being spontaneous shows that you’re not afraid to genuinely express who you are,” says C. Robert Cloninger, MD, author of Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being. So add a dash of fun to your days. If your sister calls and invites you out at the last minute, go. (Your husband can watch the kids, can’t he?) If an ad for salsa lessons really catches your eye, don’t shrug it off; sign up. The bottom line: This year, whenever the prospect of something fun gives you a twinge of excitement, go for it.

Think like a kid
“When I taught kindergarten the kids would make up holidays, like the 100th day of school, and we’d have cupcakes,” says Kim Kotecki, coauthor of The Escape Plan: A 40-Day Plan to Annihilate the Adultitis in Your Life. Do the same: Cheer because it’s a sunny day. Have a cupcake just because it’s Wednesday.

Find the funny
Look for every opportunity to have a good guffaw. Play “telephone” when you get together with friends. The adult version is bound to be much more raucous than when you were children. Spend five minutes every day checking out funny websites like

Simplify without stress
Vow to purge one thing each month. By year’s end you’ll have cleared out lots of clutter with very little exertion.

Do something that scares you silly
Whatever gives you the willies—riding roller coasters, speaking in public, helping your son look for bugs in the backyard—make a promise to try doing it at least once during the year. “Conquering a fear is empowering,” says psychologist Laurie Nadel, PhD, author of Sixth Sense: Unlocking Your Ultimate Mind Power. “You’ll gain confidence, which carries over into other areas of your life.” Not sure you can do it? Diane Conway, author of What Would You Do If You Had No Fear? offers a few tips. Say it out loud to someone else; telling another person creates accountability. Ask for support from someone who’s done it. Who better to reassure you? Make a move: Get in the car, sign up, and pull on your garden gloves. The first step puts you that much closer to seeing it through.

Play a new kind of hide-and-seek
On separate pieces of paper, write down 15 fun things you’ve always wanted to do. Now put each sheet in a different spot: one between the pages of a book you plan to read. One tucked in the back of a kitchen cabinet. One placed between the towels in your linen closet. One in the pocket of a pair of jeans. During the year, whenever you come across a note, do whatever it says.

If you’d like to get into some deeper planning, here’s a website which will help you with personal mission statement planning:

I’m still working on mine, but I gave up as my head was starting to hurt.

After sleeping in, brunch, and a review of Fawlty Towers videos, the shore captain plowed the driveway. I’ve spent the day catching up on the housework – the cleaning lady would’ve had a spell if she’d come today instead of tomorrow – and undecorating and putting away the holiday stuff. Always a sad chore, not just because it’s work but now the winter stretches ahead. Cooked a stew for supper and now am going to make good on my resolution for this week. Happy New Year.