Snow – The Vacation Ends Abruptly

Our landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow streaming by horizontally

I’m writing this from the kitchen table. We’re home after a reasonably uneventful jaunt across the country. Of course our biggest worry was weather–which as you see wasn’t too bad.

semi snowy backyard.jpg

Actually we had two worries.

  1. We were scared we’d be stranded out west
  2. We were also a little spooked about driving home in whatever would be falling

Helaine packed an abbreviated change of clothes in our carry-on. Obviously that wasn’t needed. Both flights left on-time.

Here’s a little sample of what we saw leaving Ontario, CA on our first flight. If you’ve never been out west it’s worth watching. These mountains aren’t as tall as the Rockies but the contrast between mountain and desert valley is stark.

There’s a lot of unexplainable ‘stuff’ as you fly out west. There are structures in the middle of nowhere, unpaved roads the width of an interstate and individual single circles of green. Near Las Vegas we also saw plenty of housing developments stopped in various stages of incomplete.

Our second flight was a lot longer (2,294 miles between Las Vegas and Windsor Locks) than the quick hop from Ontario with a smattering of desert and mountain early on. Mostly we flew with the shade down. Helaine tried to sleep. I took advantage of the video and audio capabilities of my iPhone. There’s an iPod inside!

In anticipation of this trip I bought a set of Bluetooth headphones (Motorola S805) from NewEgg. For around $30 I was wirelessly connected. Very convenient and I like the ‘full cup’ style. I see they’re now ‘on sale’ for $50.

On the way out west I watched The Hangover. I had nothing to watch on the way back, but fixed that at McCarran Airport downloading about an hour’s worth of video podcasts over the free WiFi.

“We’ve slowed down,” Helaine said three and a half hours into the flight. I hadn’t noticed, but 30 seconds later we started descending–slowly.

If you’ve never flown through snow you should know it’s bumpy! It wasn’t hurricane bumpy (I have experience flying through hurricanes) but still a little unnerving, especially when the pilot talked about the very low ceiling at Bradley.

The landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow which streamed by horizontally.

Our landing itself was uneventful! In fact it was exceptionally smooth. I’m sure the pilots were thinking about limited runway traction and extra stopping distance as they greased it in.

It was snowing lightly as we taxied to the gate. Mainly light to moderate snow continued as we drove south. The roads were wet, but snow free, until our last mile home.

Tomorrow it’s back to work. I’m not sure I’m ready.

The Long Trip Home – McCarran Airport

In other news, the first tweet I read upon landing was Gil Simmons’ engagement! That was a surprise to me.

Uneventful flight from Ontario. Our plane leaves at 2:00 PST. Hoping for land-able weather at Bradley tonight. More than likely we’ll be fine.

At the moment I’m taking advantage of the free WiFi here to download a few things to watch on my iPhone (which contains an iPod). Just podcasts and the like. Nothing special.

In other news, the first tweet I read upon landing was Gil Simmons’ engagement! That was a surprise to me. Of course I hardly ever see Gil with our schedules at opposite ends of the clock.

It’s impossible to remove yourself from the stream of information today.

Back to CT later tonight. Aloha.

The Long Trip Home – Ontario Airport

This morning its base is covered in low clouds but its peak is visible.

We’re on our way home to Connecticut. That very well could be a problem. It’s raining lightly and 37&#176 at Bradley Airport right now. It will probably be snowing upon our arrival!

The drive from Palm Springs to Ontario was uneventful. Most of the windmills in the pass were still. I wonder if they’re on-demand or how it’s decided whether they spin or not. Shouldn’t windmills be the first type of electricity generated?

IMG_0315[1].JPGWe stopped for breakfast once we got close to here. Is there anything more California sounding than Advocado Burger? We both had pancakes.

There is a very tall mountain adjacent to this city. I’m assuming I’m talking about Ontario Peak, but I can’t be sure. This morning its base is covered in low clouds but its peak is visible.

Helaine said it looked spooky–and she’s right. It does!

We checked our bags, dropped off the rental car and returned to the terminal. Now we wait. This flight to Las Vegas is on time. The bigger concern is the flight from Vegas to Hartford. I expect the weather will allow us to get to Connecticut tonight… I just can’t be sure.

More to come, probably from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.

View Off The Balcony In Palm Springs

I will write more later because there are some problems afoot at this hotel

I will write more later because there are some problems afoot at this hotel, but the weather in Palm Springs is spectacular and that demands a mention. The sky is a deep blue unencumbered any kind of schmutz (as we saw when we landed in a very hazy Ontario). Here’s what we’re seeing. This afternoon’s temperature should top out at 72&#176


On The Way To The Springs

This was a great trip to Vegas–not just because of my luck at poker. I had a great time with Helaine and my cousins and especially with Stefanie.

I’m writing from Las Vegas McCarran Airport. Thanks Google for the free WiFi. Next stop on this vacation is Palm Springs. It’s no secret this is the leading candidate for our retirement… whenever that is.

Palm Springs and Las Vegas are perfectly separated to make the choice between flying and driving difficult. It was truly a toss-up… even with Helaine finding a $25 fare between here and Ontario (where Southwest flies). With our companion pass that’s $25 for two, plus whatever taxes and fees are added, And, of course, on Southwest bags fly free&#185.

We had breakfast at the Grand Lux Cafe and then, on the way to the room, the cows called. We stopped at Invaders from Planet MOOlah.

MOOlah-cow.jpgI’ve written about this slot machine before. If a slot machine can be fun and entertaining MOOlah is! It’s been sort of like an ATM for Helaine and me.

“One day they’ll do an audit and find they made a mistake programming it,” I said to Helaine.

We threw a few bills in, started pressing buttons and… nothing. Oh, the pictures moved across the screen and our money supply lessened, but no payoff. Every once in a while we’d get a quarter back. Unfortunately, it was $1.25 per pull. A quarter back was a Pyrrhic victory to be sure.

I looked at Helaine. “Maybe they caught on?”

The next spin we hit nothing, but mysteriously MOOlah moved into the bonus round. It’s as if one of the cows said, “Oh, the Foxes. We like them.”

Within two minutes our original buy-in had tripled. We printed a coupon, took it to an ATM, cashed out and went upstairs to move out.

We were out of the room at 12:10 and at the airport 20 minutes later. Our flight leaves in 50 minutes.

This was a great trip to Vegas–not just because of my luck at poker. I had a great time with Helaine and my cousins and especially with Stefanie. She was a joy to be with. That will make it that much more difficult when she moves to California next month.

Palm Springs is a whole different vibe. Though also in the desert it is much more laid back than Vegas. It is heavily populated by “gray and gay” (and in some cases both at the same time).

It’s also warmer than Las Vegas year-round. As I type this it’s 72&#176 in Palm Springs but just 59&#176 here in Vegas. When it’s 105&#176 in the Las Vegas summer sun it can easily be 10&#176 warmer in the Springs.

For the next few days we expect to see snow as we drive–but safely on the mountains that surround the Coachella Valley.

&#185 – I mention this because I want to make sure Southwest never changes this 20th Century policy.

I’m A Tracking Fool

My Tuesday ordered computer mostly arrived Wednesday. UPS now says the rest, shipped from California and originally coming Friday, will actually be here Thursday!

Can we talk about package tracking? This is just another version of crack cocaine, right?

When was the last time you ordered something and didn’t check at least once… or seven times? Personally I feel anything worth tracking is worth tracking constantly. UPS and FedEx need to install GPS readouts! I want street-by-street tracking.

My Tuesday ordered computer mostly arrived Wednesday. UPS now says the rest, shipped from California and originally coming Friday, will actually be here Thursday!

It first went from Baldwin Park, CA to Ontario, CA. My guess is that’s a truck route. Then air freight to Dallas, Orlando and Boston.

Hmmmm… sounds like Southwest routing. I’ll check for peanuts upon arrival.

Two hours after it arrived in Boston it moved out again to Windsor Locks. Next stop is probably North Haven then out for delivery.

There are no stores locally that sell the stuff I just bought. Mail order drove them out. Even with instant purchase gratification it’s tough to compete with the selection and convenience of online.

My Friend Lucy and Cottage Country

Her family owned an island in Canada. Woodmere Island is right off of Tobin’s island on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka lakes. It is close to Port Carling. The island itself had been passed down through a few generations. Alas, it is no long in the family.

lucy_hauserman.jpgOne of the cool things about Facebook is coming across old friends. Recently I stumbled into Mary Lucy Hauserman. I met Lucy nearly 30 years ago in Philadelphia. I was a disk jockey back then.

Lucy was a teenager who wanted to get into radio. She made herself well known in the business and stuck with it. She is the production manager for a large cluster of stations in Philadelphia.

By the summer of ’81 I was in Buffalo. These were pre-email and cheap long distance days, but Lucy and I kept in touch.

Her family owned an island in Canada–Woodmere Island. Lucy tells me it’s right off of Tobin’s island on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka lakes. It is close to Port Carling. That’s a nice way of saying it’s way out in the boonies.

The island itself had been passed down through a few generations. It is no longer in the family.

This area of Ontario north of Toronto is often referred to as “cottage country.” It’s quite a drive from Buffalo, but doable.

When invited to spend the weekend on Woodmere Island I jumped at the chance. Lucy’s entire family was going to be there and I was looking forward to meeting them. Who knew there would be blogs by now–no notes. There are some parts of the weekend I still remember vividly.

Going to Canada from Buffalo wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary. Canada was where you went for Chinese food! I drove along for a few hours then stopped for a bite. I ordered a sandwich and Coke, handed the clerk a US $20 and received $22 Canadian in change! What a country.

By the time I arrived at the lakefront it was well after dark. The Hauserman’s were already there and settled in. The night was mild and calm. An beautiful classic wooden boat–I think mahogany–was waiting at the dock. I got on and Lucy gunned it!

I’ll let her pick up the story.

“I remember you screaming STOP we’re gonna hit Rocks or an otter or something! But you knew I knew the islands silhouettes like the back of my hand….I knew where all the buoy were too! So Funny!”

The island itself was beautiful. It was pristine and rustic. There were a few buildings as I remember. Nothing was fancy but everything was substantial. The lake water was very cold. Too cold for me.

I was only there once. Lucy was there every summer.

“I loved our lodge with the big tables and the wonderful fireplace. the boathouse , the beach, the cabins, the walkways with the hand made lights. Water skiing off the dock, hanging out with my family, the sound the water made when it lapped against the dock, the smell of the pine needles in the sun as you rounded the path towards the boathouse….It was incredibly special to me.”

I remember Lucy’s folks being very nice to me. I immediately felt I was part of the family.

On Saturday Lucy’s mom told me of the family’s plans for Sunday church. She said I could sleep in, but I asked if I could come along?

Sunday morning we all piled into the beautiful wooden boat and went to church. Though I am Jewish I found the whole experience as warm as it was foreign to me. Not to play down the religious aspect, but all I could see was how sweet this family was.

“That little church was so amazing on top of the rocky hill….and our antique boats that took us everywhere! What in incredible gift ! I am so happy to have shared it with you, for there are not many that I can speak to… that can understand the incredibleness of Muskoka and Woodmere Island.

I am very lucky to have a friend like Lucy. Don’t think I don’t know it.

Rock And Roll Radio News

Bruce Erik Smallwood (all our newspeople had middle names, whether they did or not!) once said of the local electric company, “Ready Kilowatt says his costs are up, so he’s going to have to (pregnant pause, then with inflection) up yours!

Back when I was in radio at WPEN in Philadelphia, we had a real ‘rock and roll’ news department. Our newsmen (and women) made sure their copy was always snappy with lots of alliteration and plays on words.

Our news presence would never have been characterized as serious.

Bruce Erik Smallwood (all our newspeople had middle names, whether they did or not!) once said of the local electric company, “Ready Kilowatt says his costs are up, so he’s going to have to (pregnant pause, then with inflection) up yours!”

We were good, but we were posers compared to CKLW, a station licensed to Windsor, Ontario, but really serving Detroit. Recently, I was sent a link for a story about CK’s newsroom, which I thought I’d post here.

If you were a radio fan in to 70s, you’ll enjoy this.

Trying To Get A Close Shave

I started shaving late in life. Seriously – I wasn’t shaving on a daily basis at age 30! It was only because I went into TV that I began this daily chore.

I started with an electric and later switched to a blade. Neither was without problems.

The electric shaved poorly. The blade cut the crap out of me.

Once, back when I used to fill-in at Good Morning America, the makeup artist asked if I had shaved with a pin! Early in a blade’s life cycle, when it was really sharp, was when I bled the most. I actually preferred my blades a little dull.

I finally switched back to an electric razor a few years ago. It’s OK, though Helaine notices spot I miss. They’re really spots I’ve hit that the shaver can’t deal with.

Too much minutiae. Let me get to the point.

I went razor shopping Monday night at Target in North Haven. The old one is getting… well, it’s getting old.

There was a pretty good collection of razors, but how can you tell what’s what? Is there really enough of a difference that one manufacturer can sell one shaver for three times as much as another he also makes? How can a mere layman differentiate?

There were two shavers from Norelco with a 2:1 price difference. As far as I could see, the only difference was, the more expensive one was packed facing sideways while the cheaper unit looked forward. Both looked similar and had the same copy points on their packaging.

I bought the cheaper of the two. Who’s the sucker, them or me?

I’ve just been sitting on the sofa, looking through the instructions. I suppose I could have shaved without instructions, but I would have missed this surprise:

Shaving with a clean, dry face gives the best result.

After all this time are they saying, “Don’t use pre-shave.” I think they are. Wow.

Oh, the manual also adds:

The green light ring around the on/off button goes on to indicate the razor is ON. (emphasis theirs)

Isn’t that what the noise is for?

Last Day On Board The Norwegian Star

Aboard the Norwegian Star

This is our last full day at sea. That’s sad. By this time tomorrow, I’ll be pushing a pile of bags eight feet high toward LAX.

I first woke up at 3:30 AM. My throat was killing me. For me, this is often the first symptom of a cold. Better now than a week ago.

I did go back to sleep, but not before noticing the ship is rocking a little more noticeably than before. It’s not rough. It’s not placid either. We’re sailing under partly cloudy skies, but the exposed areas are nowhere near as deep a blue as yesterday or the days before.

It’s winter. In Southern California, that’s the time of year storms sweep across the Pacific. Last week, the Norwegian Star ran into very rough seas as it moved up the coast. This week will be much more docile.

There are white caps on the sea surface, but I think that’s more a short term effect of the wind and not an indication of sea height. Of course, given enough time, wind produces waves.;

I posted an entry last night after the magic show, but that wasn’t the end of our night.

Many cruise ships have nightly ‘midnight buffets’. Not the Norwegian Star. That’s probably because food is available, in quantity, around the clock.

There is one ‘special’ buffet each week, the ‘chocoholic buffet’. Last night was the night.

It is an endless feast of cakes and cookies and mousses (Is mousses actually a word?). All the goodies are flanked by chocolate displays and ice sculptures.

If this was a test of self discipline, I failed miserably.

I sincerely believe a cardiologist, upon seeing the ‘chocoholic buffet,’ would begin weeping uncontrollably.

As Helaine, Steffie and I finished and were getting ready to walk upstairs (actually, for me it is beginning to approach waddle upstairs) we spied the captain! He was standing with another officer near the entrance to the Versailles Dining Room, where the buffet was being held.

I’m not sure why, but I walked over to speak with him. We talked for a few minutes, and though he was cordial, I wasn’t expecting an invitation to the ‘Captain’s Table,’ if such a thing even exists anymore.

Here’s what I learned. This ship is much easier to maneuver than you might expect, especially considering its size.

The Norwegian Star has no rudder! That astounded me. Instead, the rear propellers rotate a full 360&#176, allowing us to pivot or round a sharp corner (as we’ve done getting in and out of ports).

Because of it’s ability to quickly swing around, we don’t need to use a tug boat. I would assume that’s quite a savings for Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Back to today. It’s long sleeve weather, though I’m fighting the tide! We’re leaving the tropics and heading back toward the real world.

You can tell people are preparing to leave. On the in-house TV channel the cruise director (Mike from Niagara Falls, Ontario – no Julie McCoy) is giving the disembarking instructions. What can you bring? What can’t you bring? How much can you bring?

There are more cameras out that on the previous days. Maybe people have discovered they still have room on their flash cards. Who knows?

This afternoon was the crew talent show. I was going to miss it unit Ephren, our cabin steward, made it known he was singing and asked us to attend. How could we not?

Speaking of Ephren, when I walked in the room this afternoon, he and his assistant were cleaning the cabin and arguing (maybe it was a spirited discussion) in Tagalog, the Phillipine language.

No punchline. It was just weird. You seldom get to walk in on a Tagalog argument without traveling to Manila first.

Ephrem was second to perform. He sang, in English, and did a pretty good job.

Actually, much of the crew was reasonably talented, though not enough that you’d want to call Ticketron when “Crew Show” comes to your town.

We’re seeing Dave Heenan again tonight! That will be four times on this cruise.

Meanwhile our room is torn apart. Helaine has started reorganizing to repack our bags. By 1:00 AM they’ll all be outside our door.

It’s so sad.

Well, that’s it for the cruise. We’re still on the ship until tomorrow morning, but I’ll be a little too busy to post. There will be more to say when I get back to Connecticut.

Tomorrow will be a very long day. San Pedro to LAX to Las Vegas to Windsor Locks… get the car… drive home. Yikes!

I wonder if Steffie could be convinced to carry me?

Bad Forecasting 101

Whatever the reason, the forecast through the Great Lakes tonight has been atrocious. A strong line of thunderstorms stretched from the Quebec/Ontario border southwestward into the United States.

At least two tornadoes touched down in Michigan. There was NO Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch in effect.

There might have been a Tornado Warning or Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the counties affected, but since those don’t get issued until a storm is sighted, they afford little in the way preparation time.

I’m not at the Storm Prediction Center and certainly don’t know what goes on in their mind(s), but over time, it has seemed to me like they are reticent to issue a watch box once a storm has already gotten going.

I’ve seen it in Connecticut, and tonight in Michigan. It’s wrong.

Certainly issuing a watch while the storm is already in progress signals a blown forecast, but it allows all sorts of secondary actions to take place which will sensitize residents to what is taking place.

I will read, with interest, the Michigan newspaper websites over the next few days.

Phantom Lightning

As the power failure/blackout story progresses, the Canadian power authority has begun to blame a lightning strike in Northern New York State.

This would be a subject I have some expertise in. So, take my word. There was no lightning strike in Upstate New York this afternoon that might have set off the blackout. Period. End of story.

Continue reading “Phantom Lightning”