We’re going to Sea World – after punching someone in the nose.

I went to a class today and among some of the topics discussed was school violence. The instructor has a real dislike for “zero tolerance” policies, with good reason. It eliminates a lot of effort and responsibility on the school administration, and subjects kids who were simply defending themselves or others.

So he told us this story about his own child:

He was called to the school one day around noon on a Wednesday, and his nine year old was sitting in the Principal’s office. The principal tells him that his son was in a fight and was getting suspended.

“What happened?” he asked. It turns out a bully was picking on a smaller child with learning disabilities, and his son tried to stop the bully. There was a shove or two and his son, also smaller than the bully, punched the bully in the nose, ending the fight and causing a nosebleed.

“I understand that you have to do what you have to do. How long is he suspended?” Dad asks.

“Three days,” the principal says, “but we’ll send his homework and assignments home so he can keep up with his classwork while he is at home.”

And that’s when dad turns it completely around and shuts down the principal with, “Thank you for your help, sir, but my kid won’t have time for that. My kid protected some poor child, put himself in harms way, and stood up for himself and others. We won’t have time for any homework, because we’re going to Sea World over this long weekend you’ve given us.”

And that’s what they did.

And he explained further:

People get taught that violence is bad. Violence is not always bad. Uncontrolled violence is terrible. Violence for violence sake is awful. But controlled violence, violence with a goal, that’s good. Without violence in 1945 those of us on the East Coast would be speaking German. Londoners and Parisians would be speaking German. People on the West Coast would maybe be speaking Japanese: maybe, because after all, Yamamoto said, “I would never fight a land war in America, there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

 

Cruisin around

Cruisin’ with JamieDeeCD
I finally hit Gold level on Carnival, which means I have stayed a total of 25 nights on their ships. Gold level entitles you to a host of special awards, including a “welcome back” pin and a free liter bottle of water.
Other than that you are kind of on your own. We also got a coupon for an onboard drink on the last day. Why does it matter when you use it. You’re on a boat. It’s not like you’re going to use the drink coupon and then leave. They’ve got you for 7 or 8 days or whatever. Just give you the coupon…

With that, I have to mention some really funny stuff. While we were on the boat, we happened to watch CNN one day. Carnival used to let you bring on soda and bottled water. Apparently, people learned how to open bottles of water without breaking the seal, and were using the bottles to smuggle in Alcohol. So now you have to bring stuff in, only in sealed cans. They may also take stuff like mouthwash from your bags (because after all, you could have replaced the Listerine with some vodka and food coloring, which will still taste terribly minty). People even put booze in contact lens solution bottles. My idea was really simple: They let you bring in some wine, so empty a wine bottle, add some liquor, re-cork and seal it up with a shrink wrap sleeve. Apparently thats a big thing on the youtube videos, so they might cancel the wine thing before long, too.

Why do people do this? Because cruise ships charge you exorbitant amounts for drinks. The cheap drinks are around $8 each. Sure you can buy your Alcohol card, which gives you a limited numbers of drinks for $50 a day. But on a 10 day cruise you’re going to spend $500. No one can drink $50 worth of alcohol a day (not at real alcohol prices, on a cruise ship thats only like 6 drinks). So buying a $10 bottle of wine, a hand corker, and a shrink wrap sleeve is still only setting you back $40 or so, WAY cheaper than what they charge. And you can re-use everything.
I generally like cruises. They are a lot of fun, exotic, and once you’re on the ship you don’t have a lot of responsibility. They really take care of everything for you. Of course, there’s a lot of stuff that could be improved on.

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We booked our cruise early this time, while we were still on our last one. Then we had to move it because my child won a competition at school and had to attend a national competition the same week. So, we got stuck on a “wait list” for early dinner. They gave us something called “Your Time” which means you have to check in and get assigned a table for dinner. It sucked, you wait in line like a busy night at the Outback and you don’t know where or when you might wind up. The thing is, we wouldn’t have had to get wait listed if they didn’t reserve half the restaurant for “your time” seating.
Thankfully Yousef the Maitre’ D came through, and we got our early dinner for the second night, and we even got a small table for the three of us. Now I feel like giving him an extra tip instead of dropping it completely.
Formal night was the second night, so our first assigned dinner service was formal. I really thought that the dress code would be enforced a bit on Formal Night. Instead there were people in shorts and t shirts in the dining room along with those of us in suits. Look, I hate getting dressed up as much as anyone. I wear a suit once or twice a year, for maybe a total of three hours. If I can suck it up and do it, then anyone can. They need to enforce the dress code. No suit? Go eat on the Lido deck. At least Try. Long pants and a shirt with a collar.
Strollers. I’m sorry, the boat is 900 feet long. On a “fun day at sea” there’s no reason to put your kid in a stroller. Stop being a twatwaffle and blocking the corridors, hogging the elevators, and taking up space in the restaurant aisles. If you’re getting off the boat to go on a tour, I get it. But otherwise pick the kid up once in a while, they’ll appreciate it later.

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Thong bikinis. They were popular a few years back but I have been sorely disappointed in the distinct lack of them on recent cruises. Instead what you see are faux thongs instead. Bikini bottoms a few sizes too small or ones that have purposefully been snugged up into the crack of someone’s butt. Look, if you want to show it off and you have the right body for it, knock yourself out. Be brave and flaunt it. But either go big or go home. And, while they are great by the pool, please cover up when you’re in line inside for a shake or something.

The Cancer Club. Ugh. Look, I get that people like to smoke. That’s a personal choice, like drinking or eating too much fatty foods. But why do ships have to build the Cancer Club Casinos in such a way where you have to walk through them every time you want to cross the middle of a one of the decks? On our ship it happened that the casino was in the middle of deck five. So to get from one end to the other you HAD to go through the middle of the Cancer Club. It was pretty bad. The worst part was there were games on both sides of the hall. On other ships I had been on, the pass-through walkway was on one side, so by staying out of the gaming area you could avoid most of the smoke. Smoking seems such a fire hazard on ships any way. I’m really surprised it’s even allowed.

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Photos: One thing cruise ships excel at is selling you stuff. They are constantly taking your picture, from the time you get through security at the port until your last night, they are hawking pictures at every turn. Here’s what irks me a little: they take a ton of photos, a lot of which go straight into the trash. They might be marginal or bad, but a lot of them get tossed because the photos are just too expensive. They are all 8×10 and cost $20 each. Even if you like them and want ten photos, that’s a lot of wall space. They constantly talk about saving trees at trivia and trying to improve the environment. Here’s an idea: sell a photo package at a single price, say $20/day of your cruise, and give you a code to download all your photos at home. I’d gladly pay $140 for every picture of my 7 day cruise. They save a ton of paper and printing, and I get to print what I want in the size I want.

Be on time. The cruise people used to tell you before you docked in the first port, “be on time. The ship WILL leave you.” Evidently that’s no longer the case. I’m looking down on the pier right now, they told everyone to be on board by 4:30. It’s 4:45 and people are still meandering back on to the pier like its no big deal. They scan your card when you come on. It would be really easy to tack on a $50 late fee for everyone more than 5 minutes late. I wish they would enforce some sort of “be on time rule”. Evidently some people didn’t listen in Puerto Rico, because one of the comedians said something about the people who got left behind. People always seem to get left behind in Puerto Rico.

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Cell Phones. Look, the point of going on vacation is really to disconnect from the world. If you wanted to waste your life away on Facebook (and for the real narcissists; Instagram and Twitter) why don’t you stay home? Its easier and cheaper. I told the people at work I was leaving the country, and for 8 days, don’t even TRY to call me. Well evidently the cruise ships have figured out another way to make money off of people. They now off $5 a day internet access to Facebook (and twatter and instagram), and “cellular at sea” – a sort of satellite cell phone service. Your electronic leash, formerly a thing of the past once you got about ten miles from land, will now work in the middle of freaking nowhere in the middle of the damn ocean. Seriously? I paid you guys $3000 to take me away from real life. Don’t go charging me $5 a day to hook me back up. Turn that shit off.

The worst part of any cruise is, of course, getting off the boat. Not only because you’re having to leave that magical floating world of constant entertainment, but because its such a pain to go home. First of all, you have to leave your luggage outside your cabin the night before. I told my wife, “This is a bunch of crap, anyone could grab your bag, drag it in their cabin, and go through it, then put it back.” She called me paranoid. I think her actual words were. “No one has ever thought of that. You are literally the only person on the ship who has EVER thought something like that.” She may be right, and besides, if someone wants to paw through my dirty socks and underwear, they can  have at it. I carry off my expensive stuff and paperwork. But still, I’m paranoid. What if someone wants to try and smuggle drugs off? It would be really easy to hide them in someone’s bag, then find that bag and grab it in port. If the drugs get found, guess who gets busted for it? The poor sap whose bag was left in the corridor. Again, paranoia.

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So, we wound up in “zone 27”. I don’t know how they pick zones. Last time we were zone 18, and that was before we were card-carrying GOLD LEVEL members. I think the gold level people deserve a little boost over the first-timers. Just saying. We always wind up off the boat over halfway through the process. I thought about checking flights leaving the area and saying we had an early flight, but I didn’t want our luggage stuck on a bus to the airport or something.

 

Well, Sling my whoopie

My Dutch Gear Whoopie Hooks came in the mail today. I was amazed at the small size and weight. 3.5 grams each. In comparison, a nickel weighs 5 grams, so 2 Whoopie Hooks weighs just slightly more than a US nickel.

I’m either getting good at the Amsteel stuff, or I got lucky, because it took me less than half an hour to put the hooks on the rope ad thread them into whoopie slings.

IMG_5979The blue line is the whoopie sling part, and the grey line is the hammock chair side. It’s blurry because no matter what I did the iPhone would NOT focus on the hook! To put this thing up, I put the strap around the tree, pass the blue line through the opening in the strap, and then clip the hook to the chair.

IMG_5980Once that’s done, I can vary the length of the blue rope to make everything hang right. Although I prefer trees a bit closer together than I do for normal sleeping hammocking, maybe closer to 8-10 feet instead of around 15 feet, the ropes are long enough for that. The tree straps ended up being just a hair over 5 feet, making them perfect for medium size trees. Some of the trees I’ve hung on in the woods are much bigger around, and some really thinner, but this is a good compromise.

IMG_5982Over all, I’m pleased with my modifications to my Trippy Gear hammock chair. It comes in at .7 pounds or thereabouts. Not a bad addition to the pack for what it does. It could do double duty as a gear holder: in wet conditions I could string it up under the hammock, and put my pack into it, keeping it off the ground. But it’s just good for lounging around, eating lunch from, or relaxing in camp without getting all the way in the tent.