Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Disney Cruise - Alaska 2016

I must have been out of my mind to agree to be confined in the same space for a week with about 2,000 kids running around out of control, screaming at the top of their lungs, while their loving parents patiently and unwaveringly succumb to their every demand.

Of course I wanted to be a good granddad. I so I invited my daughter and her family – including husband and 3 girls – my GD’s aged 9, almost 8 and 6 1/2 to join me on a child friendly cruise.  There were many to chose from but she insisted that the only cruise that would make her and my GD’s happy is the Disney cruise.  And so after two years of research and setting on a good age for the girls to attend, we are on the Disney Wonder in Alaska half way into our cruise. (Actually it is now one day post cruise)

I have labeled the QM2 a Ballroom Dancer’s paradise.  I think everyone would label the Disney cruise a Children’s paradise.  I might also add to my list the notion that high-end cruises like the Crystal cruise is more like a Senior’s paradise.

The good, the bad, and the ugly………….

First the best.  The entertainment is world class.  Some of the best shows that I have ever seen anywhere including upscale cruise ships. The rumors were right on; the entertainment is outstanding including the use of actors and dancers, videos, special effects, Disney characters and the use of the entire theatre with unexpected appearances and movements of cast members.  The entertainment included a truly amazing magic show by Kyle Knight and Mistie. You can see some of pictures below that I took before being scolded by a staff member who sternly whispered that it is forbidden to take any pictures of the stage shows. Nevertheless, this aspect of the cruise was astonishingly well done and thoroughly entertaining.  And the entertainment far surpassed anything experienced on any other cruise ship that I have been on.

Score card:
Food:                                        Disney – B, Cunard – C, Crystal – A
Service:                                    Disney – B, Cunard – C, Crystal – A
Customer Service:                 Disney – A, Cunard – D, Crystal – A
Gym:                                         Disney – B, Cunard –  B, Crystal – B
Dancing & Music:                  Disney – D, Cunard – A, Crystal – B+
Entertainment:                       Disney – A, Cunard –  B, Crystal – B
Extra Charges:                        Disney – D, Cunard –  D, Crystal – A
Cabin:                                       Disney – B, Cunard –  B, Crystal – A

But I’m not Donald Trump. This wasn’t about me or my perceptions.  This cruise was for my granddaughters.  And from their eyes, this was a great week.  One of them confessed it was the best week of her nearly eight years of life.  Another one was so spell bound and focused by her surroundings; it was like having to wake her up from a deep sleep every time her parents wanted her attention.  And the third one who was also the oldest, most aware but also the most reserved, was soaking up every new experience with concentration and delight.  From their perspective, there is only one cruise line on earth and its name is DISNEY!

famous steam clock in Gastown, Vancouver
quality entertainment!!!

who looks Goofy?

well the girls didn't get all the attention

every wonder how the Disney characters see out of these costumes

receding glacier near Tracy Arm - still quite beautiful
really cool bar I also visited about 14 years ago- the first time in Skagway
gold rush days prompted many benefits for those lucky prospectors
Cruise dining room head waiter was very engaging
music was pretty good...not really anything danceable but good enough to
dance with my granddaughters
another cool bar this time in Juneau - the Red Dog Saloon

antler chandelier in Red Dog Saloon
famous Alaska Hotel - on historic registry
the bar in the same hotel - clearly I would spend too much time in these Alaska
bars if I lived in Alaska

Juneau taken from the cruise ship - the only capital in America that you
need either a boat or a plane to get to!

Monday, August 1, 2016

PSA Revisited - Happy!

My latest PSA taken last week is the lowest value I've had in 6 years!  Makes me very happy. Tomatoes, green tea and abstinence from red meat is my prostate healthy diet. I have religiously adhered to this for the last 5 years. Does it work? Well at least I feel I am doing something to help myself.  

My PSA values taken biyearly over the last 16 years beginning in Year 2000.
The peak value five years ago promoted one biopsy and another one was taken
6 months ago when the PSA was trending upward. Both biopsies were thank-
fully normal!  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

RNC - 2016 - Brief Impressions & Conclusions

For those who would rather not read a longwinded rant, I am summarizing my overall observations and impressions of the RNC in order to get to the heart of the matter. After all, this is just my opinion and you can take it or leave it. I don’t feel a need to justify anything. I realize that most who read this will not agree with my impressions and conclusions including my kids.
  • Overall, attending the RNC was a marvelous experience, a once in a lifetime occurrence. Thank you Miriam Hellreich for inviting me as a guest to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  And thanks Phil for baby-sitting me during the week. It was truly a memorable event. Overall, I would give the event a B+ for organization, execution and performance based on my observations and those of other attendees who have much more experience attending these types of political events.
  • Visibly absent from this RNC were many prominent leaders of the Republican Party including past presidents. This significantly muted the historical connection and significance of the proceedings, as well limited the selection of potential speakers available for prime time slots.  Thus, many presentations were relegated to much less well-known politicians and extraneous speakers whose presentations were passible at best.
  • As a result of the above, the week was characterized by shifting highs and lows in presentation quality, significance, enthusiasm and spawned crowd electricity.  Nevertheless, it ended on the strong words of Donald J Trump to a receptive audience.  But there was a moderate amount of tiring redundancy in the presentations across speakers during the week’s event.  How many times do I need to hear the same criticisms of HRC?
  • A significant effort was made with considerable time spent exposing HRC’s past missteps, bad judgment, dishonesty and outright criminal actions, particularly but not exclusively during her time as Secretary of State. The case against HRC was compelling, especially to the audience of Republicans eagerly buying into the arguments presented. Nevertheless, very little information was presented that was new. Kudos to Chris Christie for doing an excellent job in “holding court” against HRC, and calling upon the delegates in the audience to determine innocence or guilt for the multiple “crimes” she committed.  
  • There were several inspiring and heartfelt presentations by mothers of fallen soldiers and police officers including one mother of a Bengasi soldier killed by terrorists attacking the American Embassy on that fateful day when no one came to them rescue thanks in part to HRC.  But the best presentations (that I heard) were made by Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, David Clarke, Laura Ingraham, Linda Lingle, Ivanka Trump, Newt Gingrich, and despite the lack of endorsement for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz’s presentation was also excellent. Donald J Trump also gave the best speech of his life.  It was written and vetted, rehearsed and re-rehearsed. He used a teleprompter to read it, but it did not fall flat.  Basically, Donald offered himself as the solution to what ails America’s, which he described in detail. Much of the media interpreted his presentation as dark but those attending the RNC that I canvassed emphatically did not! With almost one terrorist attack occurring at least weekly, who can say that they feel more safe now than before BHO took office eight years ago. Certainly not I. And with HRC, we would get more of the same for the next four years. 
  • Donald Trump’s family was skilled, professional, and exemplary in their behavior and attendance throughout the week.  They all presented outstanding personal testimonials, portraying their father in a positive light. They emphasized the opportunities given to minorities and women that he has provided, working in his real estate empire. The truth is that the children's presentations were all outstanding, so much so that Donald Sr’s acceptance speech fell short of his children.  Again, Donald Trump Jr was particularly skilled and delivered a truly presidential speech.  Indeed, some of us wished Jr and Sr would switch roles at the convention. And of course, Ivanka’s performance was also compelling and delivered with style and grace. 
  • The media did little to accurately portray the events of the RNC, concentrating their time and effort on whatever negative moments they could dwell on, rather than providing a balanced viewpoint. This applies not only to the cable news networks, but also many newspapers.  The NYT typically showed its truly disgraceful biases against Republicans with their coverage.  The media no longer reports the news, it makes and shapes the news with its egregious biases and predispositions that, to me, are so far removed from reality and the life of typical Americans. But they are no longer listening or trusting their words.  This is especially true of words that are focused on Donald Trump.  How wrong can you be about predicting Donald’s demise? Despite the most disparaging of commentaries throughout the last year from just about every media outlet, the Donald’s ratings and successes have continued to progressively increase. To be sure, this has defied the pundits and expert commentators who have been all to ready to ignore and forgive their previous failed predictions about the Donald but do not hesitate to hoist their next vitriolic diatribe against him. Well guess what MEDIA, your words are landing on the deaf ears of the mainstream American public.  Maybe this is what really hurts!

Well, I think I will stop there.  But I think I will compose one last blog about the RNC.  The last composition will stem from a more personal nature, not totally relevant to the theme and purpose of the RNC, but rather from my mini recollections that have stuck to my brain this last week in Cleveland. 

Miriam Hellreich presiding over the Hawaii Delegation at the hotel

back at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - two ladies dancing freestyle

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seen near the end of the day

not a very good picture but what the heck

quite the crowd

The Donald at the Helm

Thursday, July 21, 2016

RNC-2016 - Day 2-4

The first two real days of the RNC were filled to the brim with speakers….not only from well known and lesser well known politicians, senators, congressmen, governors but also from retired military, religious figures, business leaders, Trump coalitions and rally groups, Trump children – at least one a day, mothers of slain soldiers and policemen, an actor, a police sheriff (David Clarke- he was fabulous), several veterans, youths, a great speech from Linda Lingle, an inspiring and “well” crafted, albeit controversial presentation from Melania Trump, and the most thrilling and motivating speeches by Rudy Giuliani….who seized the first night, and by Donald Trump Jr and Chris Christie who seized night #2. Night 3 was polluted by the likes of Ted Cruz, but partially rescued by Newt Gingrich and Mike Pence.  Night 4 is still forthcoming. And more on these aspects in my next chapter.

But first this blog will highlight a little about the ambience.

Security was high everywhere.  Indeed, I would not be surprised if there was a security guard planted in the bathroom of my hotel room!  There were cops, federal agents, secret service, strong looking military types that you would have to be crazy to f…. with, men, women of all sizes, shapes…..legions of them all over the place…in the air, on the ground, in their cars…..everywhere.  You could not go ANYWHERE without seeing an ARMED officer of the law or secret service staffer with that signature plastic ear piece wired down under his/her collar - to protect your safety and your right to participate in this most American of constitutional traditions.  And they were all friendly and kind and conversant and appreciative of the signs of gratitude from those passing by. I never felt as safe and protected in my entire life….thank YOU US law enforcement!!!! But their job was overwhelming in scope.

Protestors filled the assigned areas far from the reaches of the Q, and were peaceful until day 3 when 18 were arrested.  For some reason, one protestor tried to burn the American flag and instead set his trousers on fire – nice job guy!  The police had their own strategy for containing protestors with lines of policemen on horses, followed by lines on bicycles to contain those that slipped by the procession of horses. If the protestors somehow squeezed by the barrier of oncoming bicycles, they had to contend with hundreds of officers on foot.  Quite an elaborate plan; one that has been heretofore very successful.

Inside the Q, in the inner sanctum of the RNC, it was a little like being thrown into a pinball machine.  Chaos, noise, and thousands of human bodies moving haphazardly vying for the same space…..at the assigned seating area, buses, street lined pathway to the Q, communal food concessions, elevators, bathrooms, etc.  I found the only way to navigate this human infestation of living bodies was to transform into my New York persona.  So I moved forward with purpose and found that the faster and more direct I moved, the quicker others would skirt my path to avoid collision.  It was truly beautiful to experience such navigation strategy…only if I could navigate so well on the dance floor. 

Rita with the Newt!
There were many famous people passing by, not only the obvious high ranking republican politicians that were there by obligation or free will – many chose not to attend.  Check out the picture of Newt Gingrich taken in the elevator next to one of our Hawaii delegates and another one of Chris Wallace (Mike Wallace’s son) with Hawaii delegate, Miriam Hellreich.   

Miriam Hellreich with Chris Wallace
I also had my own adventure.  From the chaos of the crowd passing from one area to the next, I just so happened to pass shoulder to shoulder with Wolf Blitzer of CNN news while waiting for an elevator on my way to one of the RNC Special VIP Lounges.  At first I was not sure whether it was truly Wolf, and it took a second look to confirm his identify.  Well, instead of the stunted, squirrelly looking TV persona that he inspires, he looked younger, well groomed and oddly handsome in person.  I was so impressed that I put my hand on his shoulder and whispered to him that he looks much younger in person than on the news!  He thanked me and quietly walked away in the opposite direction…. probably disgusted from these types of comments voiced uninvited from the public riffraff. 

But when not navigating the crowds getting from place to place, there was a lot of sitting going on during the convention.  As mentioned, we were assigned seating in the upper section of left field bleachers.  On the first full day, we left the hotel at 11am and returned back at midnight.  Subsequent days were a little more tolerable.  Either way, the lion’s share of time was spent stuffed into a reasonably cushioned chair with little to no legroom.  My legs were spewing out over the side of the aisle begging for freedom and my butt was flattened and numb.  My body cried out for uncoiling, but none was forthcoming.  And there were several more days of this imprisonment to endure.

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but whom you know.  And so through a very good friend who seemed to know everyone at the convention, we were able to garner a few passes to the RNC lounges generally reserved for VIP’s and beautiful women who seem to gain entrance to the most exclusive venues everywhere in the world.  The Q was like a maze and the number of lounges and special reception areas were too numerous to count.  I was privileged to have daily access to one but we also ventured to two others that were somewhat crowded but worth experiencing.  One private lounge was the domain of the assistant RNC convention director.  There we sat and ate and drank and watched the last few presentations of the RNC on night number two and three. There was so much schmoozing in this lounge, eating and drinking, with guests making lots of noise rather than listening to the presentations that folks were ostensibly there to hear.  It was quite disruptive as it made it difficult to hear the speakers over the cacophony of the nearby chatter.

Naturally, being at the RNC was much different than watching it on TV.  For sure, it is would be much easier to watch it from afar but the experience was much less personal.  For one thing I felt warmly patriotic throughout the proceedings.  This was a powerful sense of nationalism that most of us just take for granted or maybe even trivialize or outright reject.  Every meeting day was greeted with reciting the pledge of allegiance, singing the national anthem and listening to a preplanned invocation. The American flag was everywhere!  It made me truly feel proud to be an American.

Sheriff David Clarke
Another difference was that the presentations of the first two days seemed more personal, inspiring, emotionally effective, and real-time when visualized in person.  TV has a way of impersonalizing everything, distorting reality into fiction and biasing reporting to satisfy the ideological predisposition of the liberal left media.  It was nice to be able to witness the proceedings in person and to interpret for myself the quality and impact and crowd reaction without a surrogate and biased explanation from the media.  It was also nice to compare my own notes with theirs and uncover major discrepancies.

I had the opportunity on Day 3 to meander around the convention floor after borrowing a floor pass from one of the members of the Hawaii delegation.  What a treat!  That’s where all of the action was, the delegates moving haphazardly around like in an ant colony, chanting and yelling during the speeches, dancing with the music, sitting attentively to some of the more inspiring of presentations.  They frequently interrupted the speakers with cheers of joy, boos of anger (more on that in the final installment), yelling USA, USA, or LOCK HER UP, LOCK HER UP – of course referring to Hilary R. Clinton who was the subject of continuous ridicule.

This RNC for me was an interesting and enlightening experience.  The Hawaii delegation was warm and friendly and there to do a job which they did well.  I experienced a historic event that will be documented forever in history.  Unfortunately, I’m not certain how history will judge the event when it is said and done but I will offer my own interpretation of the overall successes and failures in the last installment that I hope to complete in short order.

Thanks all for being patient with me and living the RNC through my eyes and partially deaf ears.
Entrance Door Greeter  # 1
Greeter #2
Greeter #3

A relative of my dance friend Ju-leei
Hula to God Bless America at our Hawaii Delegation meeting
beautifully done
This lounge we went to each day
a closer view from the lounge
Thanks Phil for being my baby sitter for the RNC

I gained weight hanging out in this lounge
Donald Trump Jr giving one of the best presentations of the RNC
Also an amazing presentation from Chris Christie