Author Archives: Chuck Huss

The Irish Potato Famine and the Wreck of the Carricks

I wanted to start this story with the introduction of the potato to Europe around 1570 from Spanish explorers returning from South America, but it actually starts a bit earlier than that.

This story begins in 1517 when Martin Luther, a German monk, released his “Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which question the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences. He then supposedly posted it on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. That was the catalyst of the Protestant revolution which would eventually lead to the death and persecution of millions of people in the name of a man who taught love, peace, tolerance and forgiveness.

During the early 1500s, much of northern Europe, including what is now Great Britain, became under the control of Protestants. King Henry VIII was largely responsible for transforming England from a Catholic country to a Protestant one. Ireland, on the other hand, remained mostly Catholic and Henry worried that allegiances might be formed with that of Catholic Europe, such as Spain.

Thus began a policy of “Plantations,” where land was confiscated from Catholic Irish and given to soldiers and colonists (Planters) of England and Scotland. This changed the demography of Ireland, especially in the north, by creating communities that were mostly Protestant British.

These plantations started out slowly but increased as Irish resistance to British occupation increased. This culminated in the “Nine Years War” between the forces of the Gaelic Irish chieftains and of England. It nearly bankrupted England but in the end, the Irish lost. A few years later in 1609, the Plantation of Ulster by Scottish Presbyterians began on a large scale.

In 1641 an Irish rebellion broke out against English rule and the English and Scottish settlers. About 4000 settlers were killed in the early months of the uprising and many more were forced off their property. Troops were sent to quell the rebellion but were recalled in late 1642 when civil war broke out in England. After the rebellion, much of Ireland was under the control of the Irish Catholic Confederation, formed by Irish Catholic nobles, clergy and military leaders

The war kept the British troops occupied until 1649 when Parliament prevailed and King Charles I had been executed. By August of that year, Oliver Cromwell landed near Dublin, with an army of battle-hardened soldiers.

Cromwell had a hatred for the Irish and considered them nothing more than savages. Under his command, many were brutally massacred at Drogheda and Wexford. After the massacres, many towns feared Cromwell and quickly surrendered while others feared what would happen if they did surrender. By 1653, the country was devastated and as much as 25 percent of the population was dead.

In 1652 Parliament passed the “Act for the Settlement of Ireland,” which was supposed to punish participants in the Irish rebellion but was really designed to relieve the Irish of their land ownership and put it in British hands. Many of the Irish were forced into less fertile lands. Other laws were also passed by the late 1600s that denied most Irish Catholics many rights, including the right to own land or to hold office. Some of those rights were restored by the early 1800s but by then the damage was done.

By the 1800s, most Irish Catholics were tenant farmers. They leased small plots of land from which to feed themselves and earn enough to pay the rent. They grew crops to sell and they grew potatoes to eat because potatoes were easy to grow in Ireland and they provided more calories per acre than any other crop. During this time the population of Ireland grew to over 8,000,000 by 1841.

In 1845, blight hit the potato crops in Ireland. One-third to one-half of the crops were lost. This blight also hit crops in many other countries but no other society had become so dependent on the potato for survival.

A Relief Commission was established to set up local relief committees composed of landowners, clergy, magistrates, and others. The committees were supposed to organize employment projects and distribute food. They were also tasked with raising money to cover half of the cost and the British government would cover the other half. Nothing went as planned as many of the committees were run by poorly educated farmers who could not get the land owners to donate any money.

The British government appointed Charles Edward Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary of the British Treasury, to oversee relief operations in Ireland.  Trevelyan was a micro manager and managed every detail of the operation. In the spring of 1846, he set up a large scale public works project that was supposed to help the unemployed but it was so burdened with bureaucratic red tape that it only resulted in anger and confusion. Other attempts to relieve the Irish were made by the British but all failed just as miserably.

By the summer of that year, British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s government had fallen and was replaced by the Liberals, also known as the Whigs. They believed in the principle of laissez-faire, a theory that opposed government intervention in business affairs, believing the free market would naturally take care of things. This might have worked except the market was not free for the Irish. They were held down by laws that made it nearly impossible for them to compete under British law.

In 1782-83, Ireland experienced a famine and ports were closed to keep Irish-grown food in Ireland. No such port closures happened this time. Throughout the famine, Ireland was exporting enormous quantities of food. The country was producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population, but those were considered “money crops” and weren’t interfered with.

The government, through the Irish poor laws, opened workhouses that were little more than death camps. Worse, in order to get into a workhouse, one had to give up any rights to property they might have.

Landlords at the time were responsible for paying the rates, or poor taxes, of all tenants whose yearly rent was £4 or less. That meant that Landlords whose land was mostly poor tenants were faced with large bills. They began clearing the poor tenants and by 1847 there was a great mass of evictions. Getting the farmers to leave their land was not always easy and the landlords soon discovered that it was cheaper for them to book passage for their tenants on ships leaving the country.

Many ships in the 1840s were importing lumber from Canada and were happy to get paid to ferry people on the return trip, for a price. The conditions on these ships were deplorable and became known as coffin ships because as many as a third of the passengers died on the trip across the Atlantic.

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, twice served as British Prime Minister starting in 1855. In 1847 he was Foreign Minister and owned land in Sligo and elsewhere. He was one of the first landlords to carry out what some call “forced emigration.” Whether forced or not, people at that time were starving and desperate and would have probably welcomed the opportunity to leave the country. In October of that year, 177 tenants of Lord Palmerston’s estate boarded a ship, along with 300 other Irish immigrants, called the “Lord Ashburton.” 107 people died during the trip and 87 had to be clothed by charity groups before they could disembark.

Earlier that year, if what I have learned so far is true, my great, great, great grandparents, Felix O’Rafferty and Helen (McCormick) O’Rafferty were tenants of Lord Palmerston in Sligo. They boarded a ship heading to Quebec called the Carricks on April 5, 1847, along with their eight children, including sixteen-year-old Eliza, My great, great grandmother.

The Carricks was a 242 ton brig built in 1812.  It was a two-mast ship, 86 feet long and 26 wide. It was bound for Québec City under the command of Capt. R. Thompson. Aboard were 176 tenant farmers and 20 crew members.  On April 28, a storm forced the ship onto the rocks, less than four miles from Cap-des-Rosiers, where it broke apart and sunk. Of the passengers, only 48 survived, including, incredibly, all ten of my family. Of the crew, one boy lost his life.

The voyage and subsequent wreck must have been very hard on everyone, especially Helen who died a few weeks later. Eliza went on to marry Patrick Blake, who became an undertaker in Detroit after the Civil War. His funeral home business grew to be one of the most successful in the country.

By the end of the Potato Famine, 25 percent of the population was gone; half from starvation and disease, the other half from emigration. Surprisingly, the population of Ireland continued to decline for over a hundred more years, reaching only 2.8 million inhabitants by 1961.

The story of the Carricks is true but I have not been able to confirm that my ancestors were on the ship. The timeline seems right but passenger records were destroyed in in a fire in Quebec in 1865. Other names I have come across do not include O’Rafferty. In any case, the fact that they survived the famine is a story worth telling, especially since I am here to tell the story.

Caribbean Cruise on Carnival Liberty

Our fall vacation plans started early this year, I believe it was February when my wife suggested that we go on a cruise. We had been on several cruises and I was ready to do something different but had limited options.

Last year we planned on going to Germany but Rose’s place of employment went up for sale and her future employment in question so we put off our Germany plans until this year and went on a Disney cruise instead.

This year was not as questionable. Rose got a job with the new company and all was well except taking off two consecutive weeks while working for a new company is probably not the best idea. Instead she decided another cruise was our best option. We wanted to go near our anniversary in October so I did some searching and could find no reasonable alternative in our price range.

After many hours of searching we both decided that a Cruise on the Carnival Liberty, which sailed from Port Canaveral in Florida to Nassau, Bahamas and then to St. Thomas and St. Maarten in the Eastern Caribbean. We liked that because, even though we are not big fans of Nassau, the Virgin Islands and Eastern Caribbean is a place we have never been and we wanted to see somewhere new.

What I didn’t like was that it was a Carnival cruise. The last time we cruised on Carnival we had several issues that tarnished an otherwise fun time. I wrote Carnival about the problems and even included pictures as proof but was disappointed by their eventual response. I was hoping that they would at least offer us a discount on a future cruise to compensate us for the problems but instead I got what seemed like a form letter that just said “too bad for you” in a nice way (see here). We decided that the shorter cruises used older ships that were more in need of maintenance and a longer seven-day cruise would probably be better, so we booked it.

Once we booked it, it was my job to find a rental car. Our truck is a pig on gas so, to save a little money on fuel and avoid the wear and tear on our vehicle, renting seemed like a good option. The last time we rented a car for a cruise was with Enterprise. At that time I wanted to drop off the car and pick up another car for the return trip but the drop off fee was so unbelievably high that it was cheaper to rent it for a week and pay the high parking fee as well.

This time I found a good deal with Budget. I also accidentally discovered a trick for saving money. By scheduling my pickup time for 9:45 a.m. my cost was just over half of what it would have been if I wanted to pick it up at 8:30 a.m. So for just over $100 we booked a car for our trip over and our trip back and didn’t have a drop off fee.

It seemed like it took us a week to pack because we had to bring everything but the kitchen sink. I want to go on vacation to relax but a cruise requires you to dress up every evening for dinner and there was two formal nights which meant I had to bring a suit and tie, not exactly vacation attire. Worse, all that extra clothes meant we had to bring a boat-load of luggage… literally.

Picking up the rental car went anything but smoothly because the rental office was moving and they had no internet access. Since it was the first day of our vacation that minor hiccup did not bother us. We had booked a hotel on Cocoa Beach and left on a Friday, the day before the cruise departed, because we didn’t want the stress of driving across the state with no time for problems, should they occur. It was also a chance to visit Rose’s dad who lives thirty minutes from there.

That evening we received an automated call from Carnival saying the Liberty was delayed due to having to make an unscheduled stop due to a crew member’s illness. The message said not to arrive at the terminal before 1:30 p.m. That left us in a difficult predicament because we had to return the car by 9:45 and take the shuttle to the terminal.

 

Day One: Port Canaveral

The morning of the cruise we had breakfast at the hotel, picked up a few last-minute supplies, then headed to Budget to return the car. We decided to ignore Carnival’s recommendation and got on the first shuttle to Port Canaveral. Once there everything went very smoothly and we were on the ship before noon, well before Carnival told us to show up.

Once aboard I noticed the windows were quite dirty, just like they were on our last cruise on the Carnival Destiny, but the rest of the ship seemed to be in good shape. We had a room on the spa deck, #11-06 on the port side, third room from the front. It was the highest room level on the ship and our section only had a few rooms. Rose thought it was a good choice because it would be quiet and it would be easy for us to workout because the fitness center was connected to the spa. She was right about it being quiet.

The ship left port on time and shortly after we were out to sea we headed down for dinner. Getting there was complicated, at least until we learned the trick. We were on deck eleven forward and our dining room, The Silver Olympian , was on deck three aft. Our deck did not go all the way across the ship and deck three was blocked by The Golden Olympian Restaurant and the galley. So to get to dinner we went down to deck five, walked past the shops, casino and bars, and then went down to deck three.

After we checked in, we were brought to a small booth where two elderly women were sitting. Rose hates sitting at booths but there wasn’t much we could do without making a scene so she just accepted the situation and we sat down. It wasn’t that bad. The women were sisters and were quite nice and we were relatively close to the large aft window that eventually framed a beautiful sunset.

Silver Olympian dining room, Carnival Liberty

The food was also pretty good. The menu changes everyday but has some items that stay the same. I was told years ago the food on cruise ships is world-class. I have not found that to be true but I am not that picky and have always been happy with the quality. It is the quantity that I am not used to. The portions are always smaller than you would find at your local restaurant, which is probably not a bad thing since I usually overeat and feel miserable when I go to restaurants.

towel animalAfter dinner we went to the casino. I am not a big fan of gambling because I have a medical condition called “bad luck,” but Rose likes to play the video slot machines so I will play video poker while I wait for her. I play the video poker because I have found it to be the slowest way to lose money. I have tried the slot machines but find them no more enjoyable, or profitable, then throwing quarters into the ocean.

There was no show the first night so we went back to our room. The room steward came to our room during dinner, turned down the bed, left us chocolates, the next day’s schedule and, of course, a towel animal. We expect all that but we never know what towel animal he will make so it is always a surprise.

Day Two: Nassau, Bahamas

We got to Nassau early and had the breakfast buffet on the Lido deck. I try to eat healthy so I just loaded my plate with several different fruits, a small amount of eggs and a little cottage cheese that I mixed with peaches. That was my breakfast almost everyday.

We were off the ship at around 8:30 that morning. We have been to Nassau several times and it is our least favorite port. The Straw Market is a popular place for people to shop but it is filled with hundreds of high pressure vendors all trying to sell you the same crap. In fact, the entire area around the port is like that.

Carnival Liberty docked at Nassau, Bahamas

Carnival Liberty docked at Nassau, Bahamas

Horse and Buggy in NassauWe chose not to do a ship excursion. We just got off to see what looked interesting. The walkway is like a gauntlet, loaded with people trying to push you to spend money with them. We chose to go on a horse and buggy ride for $40.

After we got on the buggy a woman took my camera and snapped a picture of us and then asked for a tip. The ride around town was somewhat interesting but shorter than expected, about twenty minutes. We paid $49 with the tips, which was not worth it, but few things are when you are on vacation.

After the ride we did a little shopping in town. Rose had some gifts to buy and I was looking for coffee mugs with covers because bringing two coffee cups half-way across the ship every morning was not easy to do. I could only find one store that had them but they were $10 each for cheap plastic mugs. I guess the word “Bahama’s” somehow made them valuable. We went back to the ship before 10:00 a.m. where I was able to get two nice, stainless-steel mugs, with a specialty coffee, for $8 each. I think it would have been better to stay on the ship that morning.

Early that afternoon the captain announced that because of Hurricane Gonzalo, we would not be going to our scheduled ports but would instead divert to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. We were not happy about that since we booked a more expensive cruise to avoid going to the same places but there was not much we could do about the weather.

Rose didn’t like eating at a small booth so she got our table changed for dinner that Sunday evening and for the rest of the cruise. We were led upstairs to the second floor and sat almost directly over were we sat the night before. This time it was a large circular table with nine other people. I felt a little bad about abandoning the sisters but I’m glad we did because every person on that table was very likable.

We went to the theater that night and saw a show that involved a lot of singing and dancing. It wasn’t really my thing but Rose likes stuff like that so I put up with it. It was the only show we saw that trip except for Friday night, which I will get to later.

Day Three and Four: Days at Sea

We spent the next two days relaxing. We wanted to go to the pool but it seemed all the pool chairs were always taken. I think many people go up before breakfast, put a towel or other belongings on a few chairs, then go back to their rooms or to breakfast. There are rules against that but they are not enforced so the only people allowed to enjoy the pool are the rule breakers or the lucky few who get there at the right time.  We did find some out-of-the-way chairs on Monday and spent a little time in the small adult pool but that was the only time during the entire cruse that we did that.

We also spent a little time on our balcony, at least I did, and I was able to get a pretty close look at what I think was Havana, Cuba. Other than that, our balcony went unused for most of the trip.

Possibly Havana Cuba

This might be Havana. If anyone can confirm or deny that, please leave a comment.

That night, and the next, we watched karaoke after dinner because two of our table mates were singing. Those two also got picked for the talent show that Friday night. I’ve never been to karaoke before and I always imagined a bunch of very bad singers but most were very good and some were great.

Day Five: Grand Cayman

We arrived at Grand Cayman on Wednesday morning, which was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Since a coral reef surrounds the area, ships are not allowed to pass a certain point, so there were several tender boats on hand to ferry passengers to shore. We had breakfast first and then got on one of the boats and headed to shore.

Grand Cayman

The last time we were in Grand Cayman we went on a Marineland Tours amphibious bus, which we really enjoyed. It took us for a tour around the island and then went into the water where we got a chance to do some snorkeling. This time the tour wasn’t available, probably because we were not scheduled to be there, so we picked an excursion that went to a sandbar referred to as Stingray City and then to the Cayman Turtle Farm.

Stingray City

We got on a bus which took us to a boat for a thirty minute ride to the sand bar. As we approached, we saw several other boats along with many people in the water. We then all got a mask and snorkel and got into the water. The water was between three and four feet deep and crystal clear. At first I saw nothing but soon there were stingrays swimming all around us. These stingrays were larger than the ones I have seen on the beaches near my home in Florida.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

Rose and I did a bit of snorkeling even though the water was clear enough to see the stingrays while above water. It just seemed more enjoyable to be swimming with them. I had my GoPro camera with me and took videos while I swam with the stingrays.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman Stingray City, Grand Cayman

DCIM100GOPROAfter a short time the first-mate “caught” a large stingray and was bringing it to people to hold and kiss. Supposedly, kissing a stingray is good luck. Rose was able to kiss the stingray and the mate took our picture while she held it.

Later, he brought out some food which really attracted the stingrays to our group. A few large ones were swimming through the crowd causing screams from several young women. They must have been used to people because they had no problem squeezing through the dense group of humans.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman Stingray City, Grand Cayman

When it was over, we hated to leave, but we had turtles to see.

Cayman Turtle Farm

Once back on shore, our bus took us to the Cayman Turtle Farm. The farm breeds sea turtles and has a large, artificial “lagoon” that allows visitors to swim with the turtles. We were given the option of going on the full tour or skipping it and the entire group elected to skip it. Instead we went to where several tanks housed adolescent turtles of various ages.

Cayman Turtle Farm

We were hungry at this time so we decided to buy lunch at the café. We sat outside where a rooster, hen and two or three chicks wandered around the tables looking for scraps. The table overlooked the lagoon where several people were snorkeling. When we finished eating, we headed to the lagoon and picked up snorkeling gear for ourselves.

20141015_Grand Cayman_177420141015_Grand Cayman_1776
As we waded into the water I could tell this wasn’t going to be as pleasant as I had hoped. The ground seemed slippery and there was what looked like chucks of algae floating in the water. I put my mask on and reluctantly started snorkeling. It seemed like I was swimming through a green snowstorm. I just assured myself that there was a shower waiting for me on the other end.

At first I saw nothing but then a swimming turtle came into view. I swam toward it and saw him eat a couple of pieces of the algae so I assumed it belonged there. On the bottom were two more turtles resting on top of a large grate. Our time was short so after a short swim we headed back.

We immediately took showers and then headed into the gift store where we didn’t find anything worth buying but did so anyway. Rose bought a couple of Christmas ornaments and I got a shirt without looking at the price first.

Day Six: Cozumel

The next morning we were in Cozumel. I went to the Lido deck to get coffee and saw that someone was up all night making towel animals and putting them on chairs all around the pool. I thought that was a nice little surprise for people.

Carnival Liberty Towel Animals

The last two time we were in Cozumel, we took a cab to Chankanaab National Park for snorkeling, but this time we decided to do something on dry land so we booked an excursion called “Salsa and Salsa.”

We were given a ride ten minutes up the road to Hotel Cozumel. There we were led into a large room and everyone was given a margarita as we entered. This was a drinker’s paradise because the margaritas kept coming.

Salsa and Salsa, Cozumel, Mexico

We started out by making our own margarita to go with the one we already had. The two young women who were hosting the event kept us entertained as we learned how to make several different kinds of salsa as well as guacamole.

Salsa and Salsa, Cozumel, Mexico

When the food making was over, the tables and chairs were removed and it was suddenly a dance studio. The plan was to teach us how to salsa dance. It was a fun experience but I only saw one couple who really seemed to pick up on it. We decided they must had done this before.

Day Seven: Day at Sea

We spent our last day aboard the Liberty just relaxing. We cashed in what was left on our player cards at the casino and were pleased to have lost no more than $60 for the entire trip, which was great because we each spent about thirty minutes a day gambling. That means it cost us less than ten dollars per hour to gamble.

That evening we had our final dinner with our new friends and then most of us went to see Carnival’s amateur show which I believe was called “Legends.” Two of our new friends were performing in the show. One was Madonna and the other Ricky Martin. I enjoyed their performances when I saw them at karaoke but both stepped it up a notch for the show. The other performers did a great job too and we really enjoyed our last night on the ship.

Day Eight: Debarkation

Port Canaveral

We arrived at Port Canaveral early Saturday morning, and since we brought too much crap to carry off ourselves, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy breakfast.  This trip was the first time in over ten years that we did not carry our luggage off the ship. When our vacations are over, we like to hurry up and get home, so it was discouraging to see people walking off the ship at least an hour before us.

When we finally did get off the ship, we stood at the luggage carousel for a very long time. It started to seem like our luggage was the last two pieces to leave the ship. We then had to wait around for budget to pick us up and bring us to their car rental location. Once there, things went pretty smoothly and we were on our way home.

Final Thoughts

It would be hard to rate this cruise fairly because it did not go to the ports that we chose. If I assume that the ports we went to were part of the plan, I would say that I was pretty satisfied with the experience. My biggest problem would not be with the ship or crew but with the fact that we could have taken a similar cruise out of Tampa (near our home) and saved a ton of money.

We did have a good time, and that is the important thing. We very much enjoyed going to Stingray City and we met so many nice people on this cruise. Perhaps next time we will make it to the Virgin Islands.

If I were to do something different, I would pack less. Rose convinced me I needed to dress up every night for dinner so I had to bring several dress pants and shirts. In addition, I had to bring a suit for the formal nights. That was half my luggage in dress clothes and it wasn’t necessary. Formal night exists just so the cruise lines can sell you pictures and you are not punished for dressing like you are on vacation. In addition, many people went to dinner wearing a decent pair of shorts and a Polo shirt or something similar. All our extra luggage meant that we had to let Carnival remove it from the ship and ended up with a broken suitcase because of it.

I also would get a room with a window but skip the balcony unless the prices are very close. We spent very little time on the balcony during our cruise. Smokers might think a balcony is worth the extra money but smoking is no longer permitted anywhere except certain designated areas of the ship.

Let me know what you think Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts or tips for other travelers.

Note: I have videos that I have not had time to process but will try to add them to this post within the next few weeks, so check back again.

Enjoying the “Real World” on Honeymoon Island

Last weekend Rose and I went to Honeymoon Island for a walk on the nature trail. She didn’t really want to go but she knew I wanted to take pictures so, as a good wife, she suggested it.

At the beginning of the trail we saw an armadillo going about his business, total oblivious to our presence (which is why most armadillos die near roadways). Further down the trail, it seemed that every hundred feet or so there was an osprey in a tree. Some were in a nest, others were nearby keeping a lookout, still others were flying overhead, sometimes with a fish, possibly bringing it to feed their young. We could even hear the sound of young osprey calling out to their parents, but we could not see them over the top of the nests. It is a world of wonder that can’t be fully appreciated from your living room, even while watching National Geographic.

Rose initially came as a favor to me but was soon glad she did. I was also glad to be there but was somewhat disappointed that my camera lens was giving me trouble. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day and it was refreshing to be outdoors in such a natural environment.

The last part of the nature trail was closed a few years ago because bald eagles had built a nest there. It has become an attraction as people walk the trail to see the young eagles during the winter and early spring. We walked to the end and spotted two young birds in the nest. There were a few other people around, some with cameras and another with binoculars. The eagles were too far for a good look but close enough to see what they were doing. On this day, one of the young birds was jumping around the nest flapping his wings like he was almost ready to fly away.

While we were there we met a man named Mike Brown. He was visiting his father from Ohio and we got into a discussion on how people today spend too much time indoors watching television or playing on the internet. When they are outside, their concentration is focused on their phone and they just don’t see the beauty that is in from of them. It is a shame because disconnecting yourself from technology and entering the real world, even for an hour or two a day is very refreshing and I would say even healthy.

Before we left I gave Mike my card he has since contacted me. I feel like we have made a new friendship that would not have been made over the internet. Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fine place to meet people but there is never a strong connection until you can talk to someone face to face. There is so much we humans communicate visually that can’t be revealed in a text message.

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

I ordered a new lens, which arrived yesterday, so Rose and I took another walk on the trail yesterday afternoon. This time we were greeted by a gopher tortoise instead of the armadillo that greeted us last week.

On the first part of the trail we saw fewer osprey than we did last week until we walked a little further down. We then saw one osprey after another, each a few trees away from each other and every one of them was eating a fish. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, which must be lunch time for ospreys. It’s amazing what you can see when you make the effort to get out once in a while.

Osprey with fishOsprey with fishOsprey with fishOsprey with fish

We then walked to the end where the eagles were. One of the eagles was watching from a high branch. We saw the adult eagle flying toward the nest as we approached the end of the trail. There were a couple of photographers there that said she brought them food. We couldn’t see them eat but they must have finished pretty quickly because they seemed like they were excited, jumping back and forth across the nest.

Bald eagle with young

The other eagle watched from a nearby tree.

Bald eagleAll in all, it was a great walk on a beautiful day and I look forward to doing it again.

My Least Favorite Season

My Least Favorite Season is here and it is not winter. No, it is much, much worse. It is election season.

bs on tvThe main problem is that our Congressman, Bill Young, had to up and die so now we have to have a “special” election. There are two main candidates going after his seat, Republican David Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink. The only reason I know their names is because I can’t turn on the television, watch a Youtube video, or listen to Pandora without hearing about how one or the other is the lovechild of Satan and if elected will destroy the Earth.

This happens every time there is a major election. Character assassination is a big part of politics and this election is no different. What amazes me is why this still works. Are people that stupid and gullible and believe what one candidate says about another?

Okay, don’t answer that. I know some people can be pretty stupid. Some people can be amazingly stupid, and it seems like these people are everywhere, but I think the reality is most people have, at least, some common sense.  You just hear about the stupid ones because what they do is so noteworthy. This is why I am amazed that there are enough people who fall for these negative ad campaigns to make them financially viable. They also seem to target seniors like they think they are the most gullible people on earth. They don’t seem to realize that most seniors are pretty sharp and the ones with dementia are probably not going to remember where the polling place is.

I think out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of commercials I saw about David Jolly and Alex Sink, only one was not negative, but that one gets very little air time. To be fair, some do not come from the candidates but other organizations like the Republican and Democrat Parties. This just means that entire committees got together and decided that it would be better to drag the opponent through the mud that point out any good qualities of their candidate.

How is it even legal to lie about people on television. If I were to even write a post and claim that  a non-politician like Bill Gates was having a secret love affair with Kim Jong-Il I would be sued (by the way Bill, I just made that up). That means that this practice is either legal or nobody wants to sue for fear of losing a system that has worked so well for centuries.

Personally, I am tired of it. I cannot turn on my television, computer, or radio without being exposed to so much negativity. I can’t wait until this election is over when I can get all the negativity I need just by watching the news in the morning.

As far as the election goes, I don’t plan on voting, and if I do, it won’t be for David Jolly or Alex Sink. I think promoting smear campaigns against others is a sign of bad character. If I do vote it will be for someone who hasn’t forced a negative agenda on me. Good luck Lucas Overby. You have my vote (in spirit) as long as I don’t have to listen to any of your commercials.

Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade at Marker 1 Marina

The annual Holiday Boat Parade in Dunedin, Florida is a beautiful procession of festively lighted boats that leave Marker 1 Marina on the Dunedin Causeway, head south through the Intercoastal Waterway to Marker 2, turn around and finish at the Dunedin Municipal Marina.

We were fortunate enough to live near Marker 1 Maria and saw a few boat parades from our back yard. From our vantage point, we watched the boats leave the marina, head west and then south until they were out of sight. The parade starts around dusk and I was in an ideal location to get some great pictures, as you can see from the photo below.

Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade 2008

Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade 2008

We now live on the other side of the marina and cannot see the boats exit into the Intercoastal. We are, however, closer to the action and can see people getting their boats ready. Before we were seeing more of the “big picture.” Now we get to see the people involved and get a closer look at the boats, although admittingly, only half the marina comes by our home. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see the parade from a new perspective.

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People are getting their boats ready for the parade.

2013 Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade at Marker 1 Marina

A boat full of Charlie Browns.

We saw a boat full of people dressed as Charlie Brown. That was something we would not have noticed from the other side. We yelled for them to turn their lights on but they had to save their power for the parade. A few boats left with their lights off, which was disappointing but understandable since we were at the opposite end of the marina from the exit.

2013 Dunedin Holiday Boat Parade at Marker 1 Marina

 

Daylight soon faded away and all the boats passing by us then had their lights on.
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It was a beautiful night for a boat parade and from what I could see, Marker 1 did a great job getting the boats out in an organized manor. I am already looking forward to next year.

Why do I Still go to Wal-Mart?

It seems every time I find myself in a Wal-Mart store, as I am leaving I tell myself “Never again!” Unfortunately, I have a short memory and end up back at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks later, where I repeat those same words to myself again.

I stopped at Wal-Mart after work on Friday. I parked a mile away, as usual, and walked past 45 handicap spots (I counted them). Most of the spots were empty and the cars that were in those spaces were probably people parked illegally, people who are not handicapped but driving their grandmother’s car, or people who have no trouble walking but our government classifies them as a handicap because they were able to file the request form. My grandmother had a handicap parking permit for her car because she was blind. What?????

I believe our government, in its infinite wisdom, probably requires Wal-Mart to have one handicap spot for every two regular spots because the government loves making rules and because nobody ever bothered checking how ridiculous that rule really is. I could not find the actual requirement online, because I didn’t bother to look, but I am sure my reasoning is either right or wrong.

The reason I went to Wal-Mart in the first place was to pick up flowers for Rose. I knew she didn’t have a vase at work so I thought I could get both the flowers and the vase there. Sure enough, as I walked in the door, the flowers were right there but there was not a vase in sight. I guess that would make too much sense putting the vases near the flowers. Its better to have the customers go searching in hopes that they will find something else to buy.

It worked. I picked up some fruit, which I was going to buy anyway, so I guess it didn’t really work. I then went on safari for the elusive vases. I thought I spotted them in housewares but I was wrong. They can be elusive creatures but fortunately Wal-Mart has several guides to help people on their quest. unfortunately, those guides are as elusive as the very vases I was looking for.

Alas, after a long and exhausting search, I ran out of time and had to give up. At least I had my fruit. Now came the worst part of my trip: standing in line.

The Wal-Mart planners did one thing right; they put in 52 cash registers because they knew that these supercenters get very busy and they needed plenty of cash registers to keep the customers happy and coming back. Of course, somewhere between the planning and actual implementation, something went very wrong. I don’t think I have ever been to Wal-Mart and seen more than 10 registers open at one time. Usually, when I am there, I see two or three registers open on one end and two or three at the other end, so if the lines are long, you could take the long walk to the other side, but since you can’t see that far there is no way to know what you are getting into.

Finally, after a ten minute wait in line, I headed out the store thinking, “Never again!”

My Observations: Part One

I will turn fifty years old in July and I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the things I have noticed throughout my lifetime. People tend to like their information and quotes in the form of pictures these days so I thought I would start out with some words of wisdom:

Post Quotes as Pictures!

Just kidding, here is my quote for the day by yours truly:

I am amazed at two things

 

If you like it, please share.

How Do You Divide The Kindle Books In A Break-up?

Rose and I both have an Amazon account and after I bought her a Kindle I signed her up for the Amazon Prime membership which, among other things, allows her to borrow certain books for free. Around the same time I put the Kindle program on my tablet computer and linked it to her account. I just thought it would be easier and more efficient if we just had one library.

For anyone who does not know how it works, Amazon remembers all of your kindle purchases and keeps them for you “in the cloud.” When I purchase a kindle e-book, it goes to my (technically Rose’s) virtual library. I can then download the new purchase to my device, whether it be the Kindle, my tablet, my desktop computer or even my phone. To do this, all these devices must be registered to the same account.

If I end up with too many books on a certain device, I can remove some of them and still bring them back in the future if I want to. Another nice feature is that I can read a book on the kindle, then later pick up where I left off on my Android phone.

Here is where it can get confusing. A Kindle e-book is not like a regular book in more ways than one. Besides the obvious, you can’t sell a book when you finish reading it. You can’t even give it away. The best you can do is let someone borrow it for two weeks, but even then, that option must be allowed by the author or publisher. I don’t know all the details but I believe you do not purchase a book but it is more like you buy the right to read it.

I wonder what happens to that right when you die. Does it disappear or does it go to your next-of-kin? Can you leave your rights to someone in your will? Sure, anyone with your username and password can have access to them but what if your benefactor does not know it? Can they petition Amazon for your library?

What I am really curious about is what happens when a couple gets divorced and the one who’s name the account is under changes the password?  I have a good marriage and I don’t have to worry about this but many people do not. I am not a lawyer but I believe anything purchased during a marriage is community property so when the assets are divided up in a divorce the e-books should be part of that division but there seems to be no way to do that.

Technology has changed our lives so much these last couple of decades and the laws that were made for a non-digital society just don’t always apply anymore.I guess for now, in cases like this, we need someone like Judge Solomon to threaten to cut our Kindles in half. What do you think?

 

Sad Times For The Orangutans

Rose and I went to the Lowry Park Zoo last weekend and I was shocked when I learned that the zoo had put all the orangutans out with nothing but the fur on their backs and an old shirt and some paper bags to protect them from the sun.
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One was too embarrassed to show his face.
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Another decided to just wait until the sun went down or until zoo officials changed their mind and let them back inside.
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One thought he could go over the top like Bruce Wayne.
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Yet another decided to use this time to relax.
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With only a few pieces of lettuce to eat, food was getting scarce.

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Soon depression started to set in. This fellow contemplated jumping.

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And this one plotted a way back inside.
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I sat down and talked to one of the orangutans.

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He told me, and I quote, “he he he he he he heeeeee.” I couldn’t help but cry.

Author’s note:
For the one percent of the people that do not know that this is a joke: This is a joke. Please do not call Lowry Park Zoo to complain. Never-mind, call them if you want. It might be funny.

My Smoothie Fiasco

When I was I child I decided the two worst foods in the world were spinach and coconut. This, of course, was before I discovered lentils. I pretty much avoided those two foods until after I met Rose. She made a spinach pie, which I ate out of out of courtesy at first, but then realized that it was quite good. I then discovered that raw spinach was good too and not the horrible toxin that I remember from childhood. Now I will actually order a spinach salad in a restaurant because it is the best salad on the menu.

I think my dislike for spinach goes back to when I was little and my grandmother gave us a bowl of cooked spinach, probably from a can, and told us we had to finish it before we could leave the table. I must have been at the table for an hour before I finally forced it down. I then got up and puked. I think the trauma made me more sick than the spinach. It’s funny how events from childhood can affect us long into adulthood.

Coconut was another story. I didn’t have any trauma connected to coconut, I just didn’t like it. I was well into my forties before I discovered that coconut did not actually taste bad, I just didn’t like the texture. It is like chewing on ground cockroaches.

Ladybug

For those of you grossed out by that statement, let me rephrase it. It is like chewing on ground ladybugs. They are much cuter unless you see them close up.

Ninja BlenderThere is a point to all this, so here we go. Recently Rose and I bought a Ninja Blender. We wanted something better than our old blender for making fruit smoothies and other healthy drinks. This one has 1100 watts and blends much quicker and quieter than I am used to. The first time I used it I was afraid a vortex was going to open up in my kitchen and my brand new blender would be sucked into another dimension. Fortunately that didn’t happen.

Naturally, I looked through the big book of recipes that came with the blender but I could find nothing that I would want to make. Most of the recipes involved opening a can of something or putting perfectly good fruit in the microwave. I’m glad I didn’t pay extra for the book.

I ended up looking on YouTube for some smoothie ideas. I find YouTube to be a great source when you need to learn something and I found plenty of videos on how to make various kinds of smoothies. I saw a few recipes that used coconut and I learned that the fresh, raw, coconut water is very healthy for you. I also knew Rose liked coconut  and I believed that if I could blend it up well enough with other fruits then I could drink it with no problem, as long as I didn’t have to chew it.

The next day I bought a coconut on my way home from work and the following morning I got started on my experimental smoothie. I had watched some videos on the proper way to open a coconut, which all happened to be different, and I thought I was ready. I was wrong.

It seemed so easy. A couple wacks with the back of a meat cleaver and BAM! Of course that didn’t work. The only thing I accomlished was to get Rose yelling at me that it was too early and I was going to wake the neighbors. It didn’t matter that the neighbors moved out days before. So now I had a coconut AND Rose to contend with. How do you quietly pound  the crap out of a coconut? Hmmm…

I decided that I needed to open it fast and to hell with the noise so I got a hammer and screwdriver and pounded until it opened. Even then it took several hits and more yells from upstairs. After it finally opened and I put the water in the blender and then had the delema of breaking the two halves ito smaller pieses, again without making noise.

Once I finally broke the halves into smaller pieses, I then pried the “meat” out of the shell. Unfortunately there is a skin that needs to be removed as well so I had to scrape it off with a potato peeler. When I was finally done I put the pieces in the blender with bananas and other fruit and blended. It came out pretty thick so I added some more almond milk and blended again, this time leaving it on high for a consideable amount of time. I wanted to make sure the coconut was blended smooth.

Finally. After almost forty five minutes I was ready to taste my creation. I poured it in a glass, took a drink and…Yuck! It was like drinking a cat litter smoothie. I had to dump the whole thing down the drain and to top it off, I had to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for work because I wasted so much time.

I don’t get it. How is it that so many people put coconut in their smoothies? Is it just me that is bothered by it or did I do something wrong? If anyone knows how to make this drink so it is actually drinkable plese let me know. In the meantime, coconut is back on my most hated food list.