Archive for September, 2006

The reason she knows the word “Giraffe”

Sunday, September 24th, 2006


The reason she knows the word “Giraffe”

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Just a ‘little’ something from Grandma K. for Emma’s birthday.

We call her Gina.

D’oh!

Friday, September 22nd, 2006
  

Starbucks Drive Thru

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Cost of maintaining addiction to increase.

Starbucks raises coffee drinks price.


One Minute Cruise Log – Day 5 (and David)

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

“Overnight, Coral Princess transited the southern section of the Lynn Canal en route to Juneau. In the early morning we set the final courses through Gastineau Chanel passing abeam Sheep’s Creek and Juneau Island, before staring to swing the bow to starboard approaching the berth at 0452hrs.”

The sun rose at 5:11 a.m. on this, our fifth day of vacation, and the ship was fast alongside Franklin Dock by 5:56.

We woke up just after that – we had another early schedule to keep on shore. We were seated on the tour bus by 7:40, and that’s where we met tour guide, David.

Keep in mind that our tour guide from the day before had impressed me as one of the best guides by whom I’ve ever been led. He spoke of the area’s history and current physical, economic, and political climate. He pointed out geologic formations and introduced us to past and current issues and thoughts – even literature – relevant to the area.

David was not that kind of a tour guide. And we found that out before he even started to drive the bus.

Holding up pink strips that I recognized to be wrist bands, most likely a prerequisite to our entry at the first destination of the day, David, a middle-aged guy who had come to Alaska from Detroit in the early 70s, announced, with regret in his voice, “I don’t know how to say this.”

Interesting, I thought to myself. He must find it unfortunate for us that we have to wear pink wrist bands. He must find the wristbands to be a tacky tool of corporate tourism.

But my speculation was wrong.

Still holding up the wrist bands, David struggled, “you have to wear one per couple. No. Two for two people. No. . . . I don’t know how to say it.”

A moment of quiet followed.

“You mean each individual should wear one wrist band?” asked a passenger.

“YES! Thank you!” said a relieved David. Whew. Someone had articulated that challenging concept for him and thereby removed that responsibility from his shoulders. He simply hadn’t known how to say it….¬†

As David began to distribute the wristbands, someone behind us volunteered to his travel companion that “David hasn’t had his coffee yet today.”

David then drove us through Juneau to our first destination, Mendenhall Glacier Park. This being my first, and likely only trip through Juneau, I had hoped that our driver would throw us a few tidbits of information about the local landscape and city.

But that wasn’t to be. I noticed that David was very visually oriented. His only comments directing our attention to things seemed to be triggered by his seeing that very thing. We would approach a road and a sign for “Glacier Highway,” for example, and David would tell us that “this is Glacier Highway.”

We passed some large white birds on the side of the road, and David told us “there are some big white birds.”

Others in the bus were beginning to speculate that David had been drinking.

Finally, we arrived (wearing pink wristbands) at Mendenhall Glacier National Park, and I forgot all about David for the next hour and a half.


Near Mendenhall Glacier

Near Mendenhall Glacier,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.



I had been unsure whether we should plan to visit this park, but I’m so glad we did. We spent a lot of time walking the nature trails, where we saw¬†bald eagles, a porcupine in a tree, and lots of northbound salmon. Some in our group saw a baby bear, but we missed it – although it was clear that bears frequented the area. We saw several recently eaten salmon remains just off of the trail on which we were walking.

Mendenhall Glacier, itself, was beautiful and surrounded by exquisite pools of clear blue water.

We had such a nice time wandering the gorgeous grounds that we didn’t have much time left for the visitor center. But no matter. I’m sure our time was best spent outside.

Then it was back onto David’s bus and over to Auke Bay to board a double-decker boat for a three-hour whale-watching trip.

Whale Watching Brochure

Whale Watching Brochure,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


On the Whale Watching Boat

On the Whale Watching Boat,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


Our Whale Watching Boat

Our Whale Watching Boat,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


The whale-watching excursion was our favorite of the entire vacation. The first wildlife we spotted were harbor seals. A little further into the trip, we began to see humpback whales – lots of them! We saw several whales diving, spouting up water as they breathed near the surface, and most spectacularly, breaching! During a breach, the whale jumps up vertically out of the water and crashes back into it on its side. It was an amazing sight to see – and we were fortunate to see it so many times! We were told that our boat’s crew had only seen breaching activity on twelve other days this summer – and they sail every day.

We met a family of Wisconsinites, first at the glacier, and again on the whale boat. They live not far from Milwaukee. The man we spoke with most owns a restaurant there – one that features “German Night” on Tuesdays. We exchanged information and promised to eat there soon.

David picked us up after the whale-watching and had a hard time counting the number of passengers on board. Apparently working on their own theory of David’s behavior, some other passengers asked David if it was his birthday. It wasn’t. But David found the question as amusing as we found it perplexing.

Given David’s poor guide skills, I had already decided that we should probably not tip him for his services. But as David drove us for the last time that day, he attained such great form as a bad tour guide, that I gained a whole new respect for him.

On that last stretch, he pointed out to us (not that we would ever need to know) both the first and second most expensive gas stations in the town (“but you can save three cents a gallon if you join the club.”) He pointed out the road down which his sister lives, and generally provided other info of absolutely no practical value to visitors, whatsoever. He was telling us the kinds of information that you would tell your visiting Uncle Louie, on his third day in town, after¬†everyone had already run out of things to say. Observing this, Paul and I became positively mirthful at how good David did bad. With each new impractical observation he offered up, we laughed even harder.


Where I developed a whole new respect for salmon

Where I developed a whole new respect for salmon,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

We parted ways with David as he delivered us to our last on-shore event of the day – an outdoor Salmon Bake. And we ended up giving him an extra large tip. I decided that the poor guy had lived a little too hard in the 60s and 70s and could use a couple of bucks. Besides, we hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.

The Salmon Bake was great. We ate delicious salmon, grilled over an alder wood fire. There were various side-dishes available. We ate near a British couple as we listened to a folk singer. After eating, we roasted a couple of marshmallows around a fire, and then walked along Gold Creek where we saw more determined salmon, up to that old swimming upstream thing. There was a substantial waterfall there, too, and we were SURE that the salmon wouldn’t be able to make it over such a barrier. But a local there assured us that they did, and looked at us like we were a little odd for doubting it.

The Salmon Bake Bus

The Salmon Bake Bus,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Finally, we took the “salmon bake special” bus back to the port in Juneau. We popped inside the Red Dog Saloon for a few minutes before heading back to the ship.

That night, worn out from our two days of on-shore exploring, we dined at Sabatini’s, the Italian restaurant onboard that serves a 17-course meal! Each course was very very small, but I was still¬†so full at the end that it was hard to walk back to the room.

“With all passengers on board, at 1549hrs we let go the lines and commenced thrusting off the berth moving astern. Once our maneuver was completed, we commenced moving ahead and retraced our steps southwards through Gastineau Channel. At 1647hrs we entered into Stephens Passage and set a southerly course towards Chatham Strait. We continued southbound for the remainder of the evening.”

The sun set that evening at 8:53 p.m.

Almost trick or treat time…

Thursday, September 21st, 2006
       

Originally uploaded by karinf95.

Here’s a little hint about who¬†someone¬†at our house might resemble¬†on some¬†crisp fall day a few weeks from now.

Just the thought of her having her first trick-or-treating session with mom and dad gets me all excited and silly. 

I’m sure she’ll be wondering just what all the¬†excitement is about.

Date Night and Mini Movie Review

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

We parents of a 13-month old sometimes feel that we don’t get out too often, other than for work, school, etc.

But we had a date night over the weekend, while Emma stayed at home in the care of my mom.

Dinner at Crawdaddy’s in West Allis was fabulous.¬† Crawdaddy’s boasts a New Orleans-style menu and was ranked best local restaurant for seafood by some local reviewers.¬†¬†It was our first time eating there, but we’ll be back in the future.

And then it was off to the movie theater.

None of the choices were particularly appealing, but we figured that a film with Nicholas Cage in it couldn’t be all bad.¬† We chose The Wicker Man.

It was a strange, and¬†I hate to say it, bad film.¬† We didn’t even know until later that it was a remake of an earlier film (or two?).¬†

I could take the time to expound on why this one left he wondering what I had just seen, but that has already been done so eloquently at this link.

I’m not telling you not to go and see it.¬† There’s something oddly appealing about some of the bad lines in it:

“Move away from the bicycle!” [spoken by Nicholas Cage, brandishing gun];

(and my favorite:)¬†¬† “Aaahh!!!¬† My LEGS!!!!” [spoken, I mean, screamed¬†by Cage offscreen in a really weird part of the movie]

And then there was the satisfaction that I had pretty much guessed how it was going to end fairly early on. 

I’m still not sure what it was . . .¬†¬† But a Leaving Las Vegas performance it was not.¬†

Not Once, But Twice

Monday, September 18th, 2006
  

black cat

Originally uploaded by hananoki.

Strange. The road ahead of me was crossed by a black cat once on my way to work this morning, and once again on my way home. I doubt it was the same cat, as the incidents occurred several blocks apart.

I’m not sure if the superstitious would consider me to have a double case of bad luck, or whether the evening crossing undoes the bad luck of the morning crossing.

It was a pretty good day, too.¬† I didn’t have a reason to perceive¬†any doom or ruin.

Either way, I figure that the odds of that happening to one person twice in one day are pretty low.

Spinach Adventure

Monday, September 18th, 2006
bagged spinach

bagged spinach,
originally uploaded by jeffturner.

I attended a firm recruiting lunch today. The three female diners at the lunch were a bright Summer Associate candidate from Beijing (who attended University in Hangzhou), another attorney, and myself.

The other attorney ordered a “honey pecan salad,” and we were all surprised, when the salad arrived, to see that it contained spinach leaves (!), among other things.

I thought that the media has been doing its best to scare us all off of spinach for a while. And the caution seems especially justified given that the recent spinach-linked e. coli outbreak claimed a life last week in Manitowac, Wisconsin, just an hour north of here.

I can’t believe the restaurant served spinach!

The attorney bravely ate around the threatening leaves.

I suggested to her that if she takes ill, she may be able to make a worker’s compensation claim.

One Minute Cruise Log – Day 4

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

The sun rose at 5:07 a.m. on the fourth day of our vacation, and by then, our ship had already arrived in Skagway, Alaska, and would soon be tied fast to its berth. 

When I woke up, I saw that we had arrived.  We had an early breakfast, as we were due on land at 7:30 that morning. 

At 7:30, we met our group, led by a likeable mid-20s¬†man named¬†Jonathan.¬† Before long, Jonathan had delivered us to the train station, where we boarded the¬†White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, renowned as the “scenic railway of the world.”¬†


The Princess literature had told¬†us that “against all odds this iron trail was forged through some of North America’s most rugged terrain.”¬† We relaxed “in old fashioned parlor cars and marvel[ed] at the spectacular waterfalls, cliff-hanging turns, tunnels and historic sties” we passed on the journey to the summit of the White Pass and¬†beyond to Fraser, British Columbia.¬† The view really was something to see.¬† And¬†the¬†trip was¬†narrated by a¬†live guide over the PA, which helped us to understand the history and¬†the details of the area.¬†


We got off the train in Canada, where our trusty bus driver, Jonathan picked us up and took us, on the Klondike Highway, to the Yukon Suspension Bridge Рa bridge completed only this year and suspended over the churning rapids of the Tutshi River.  The view was lovely, and there were outdoor museum-like interpretive displays.  Paul found it odd that it was a destination in the middle of nowhere, but I enjoyed the stop.  We took pictures and video of each other walking across the bridge.




Then Jonathan drove us¬†back into the United States¬†and on to our next¬†destination.¬†¬†On that stretch, he earned my admiration and unofficial recognition as¬†”best tour guide of the trip”¬†by continuing to share interesting information about the area, and by reading us, while driving, a poem by Robert Service: ‘The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill’.¬† Jonathan¬†introduced Robert Service to us by explaining that he is also known as the “bard of the North.”¬† He made his fortune during the gold-rush era, not by finding gold, but by documenting the lives of those who tried to¬†in an everyman, but somehow¬†erudite style of poetry that I can’t put down.¬† (I picked up a book of his “best” a couple of days later).¬†

Welcome to Alaska

Welcome to Alaska,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


Our final stop of the day was at the Jewell Gardens, a “show garden” displaying the amazing size that flowers and vegetables can reach in the “land of the midnight sun.”¬† After walking among the 30-pound cabbages and other fauna, we ate a lovely lunch.¬† The ingredients for our soup, salad, and quiche had been picked that morning from the garden surrounding us.¬†

Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska

Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska

Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.



Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska

Jewell Gardens, Skagway Alaska,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.


Finally, Jonathan dropped us off in the tiny town of Skagway proper, where I was shocked to find that a Starbucks exists. 

We visited the Red Onion Saloon, a former brothel that still caters to the image of its past.  Strangely, we had a bartender there who hailed from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and we learned that a man who sat down next to us was a fellow attorney from Milwaukee. 

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.




Finally, we got back onto the ship for a casual dinner at the buffet, and some folly in the casino.  Paul continued his winning streak while I slowly enriched the cruise line via the $.01 slots. 

Our ship¬†remained alongside Skagway “until 2028hrs.¬† At that time, we let go our mooring lines and maneuvered clear of the berth swinging the ship bow to starboard moving astern on engines.¬† Once the swing was completed we set a southerly course leaving Lynn Canal.¬† Throughout the evening, we continued to follow southerly courses bound for Juneau.”

The sunset was at 9:05 p.m.

Big Girl Bath!

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Big Girl Bath!, originally uploaded by Koog Family.

No more blue baby bathtub for our growing girl!  She took her first bath in just the regular bathtub tonight! She enjoyed it, like she enjoys all her baths. The only challenge was to keep her from standing up and crawling around in all the new (and slippery) space.

That’s a big change from those early days over the kitchen sink!

Bath over the Sink

Bath over the Sink,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

One Minute Cruise Log – Day 3

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Our third day on the ship, and our second day at sea, was spent cruising around beautiful, chilly Glacier Bay.

The sun rose at 5:12 a.m. I was up sometime after 6:30 to check out the scenery and the naturalist’s on-board announcements again.

We could tell that we were supposed to be taking the opportunity to see glaciers very seriously. The atmosphere on board at mid-day was more sober and dignified. Even the casino was closed, and there were no signs to be seen for Jackpot Bingo.

Our ship picked up some National Park Rangers who boated up alongside. One of them gave a nice presentation on the bay (and we attended) in the Princess Theater at 11:30.

 

Newly inspired by the Park Ranger, and¬†as I described in more detail HERE, we next¬†bundled up in our coats, hats, and gloves, grabbed our binoculars¬†and headed out to the open Lido Deck to see what we could see. Paul roamed around trying to make the world’s best glacier video. I, meanwhile, took my cue from the Princess Patter, which, under the heading Coral Princess Presents the Chili, Chowder Cookoff & Alaska Fish BBQ Buffet, read “Join us on the open deck today to enjoy a delicious Alaskan Fair Buffet whilst taking in the breathtaking views of Glacier Bay, featuring favorites such as Alaskan Reindeer Chili, Rockfish Chowder Cookoff and Alaskan Fish BBQ. This is definitely the place to be. Lido Pool, Deck 14.”

Now, I don’t think there was actually any element of a genuine cookoff involved here. I didn’t see any sign that any passengers or crew actually submitted competing recipies for any of the dishes served. But no matter, the Rockfish Chowder I tried was tasty and warm. And I was even able to wash it down with a glass of heated Gluehwein, which always makes me think of Berlin.

Paul’s video efforts, meanwhile, paid off. He ended up getting footage of a fantastic glacier calving – the oohs and aahs of fellow passengers included.

Finally, it was time to reverse course and head out of the bay.

 

The scenery remained lovely to look at well into the evening, but the more frivolous aspect of the cruise experience returned with full force.

By this point in the trip, we were relaxing so genuinely and entering a cruise-induced state of consciousness that was willing to suspend rational skepticism. For a while there, we actually entertained the belief that we were only a few moments, and a little bit of determination, away from having an encounter with a movie star. The Crooners Martini Bar section of the Princess Patter invited us to try “Today’s Martini of the Day – the Mini Mi Martini: Meet the real ‘Mini Mi’ in the Bar.” I held on to the belief that this ship had paid Mini Me, the actor, to come on board just to amuse the likes of us and to promote their drink special. I didn’t snap out of the cruise-induced delusion until my questions about the little guy were greeted with the confused smiles of the non-native speaking bartender on duty.

In our leisure, I took time to sneak into our originally assigned stateroom, A209.¬† Just as I had thought – the balcony door was broken, and was being repaired by workmen when I looked in.¬† It was identical in layout to our “upgrade” room, B437.¬† But I liked the B437 location better, so I decided to play along with the “upgrade” narrative, however inaccurate.

We then headed over to the Internet Cafe, as we had already become accustomed to doing, to check up on our little daughter back home.

Before and after checking e-mail, we used our good manners by using the anti-bacterial hand gel there for that purpose. I was very impressed, throughout the trip, at low-key but effective way in which such hygiene was promoted, and that the well-publicized evil noroviruses were kept at bay.

Day 3’s copy of the Princess Patter echoed several signs around the ship, for example, exhorting: “We kindly recommend that you wash your hands frequently. We also wish to strongly encourage you to use your private toilet facilities and not the public toilets unless absolutely necessary. These simple precautions are a great contribution for maintaining a healthy shipboard community. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Hand washing was frequently, almost subliminally, recommended through a variety of media. And anti-bacterial gel was widely available, and occasionally mandatory, as I learned one day upon entering the buffet line.

As day 3 wore on, we stopped into the 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Afternoon Tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room. There were some self-important duds at the table where we were seated, though, so we drank our tea, sampled a couple of treats, and retreated to the sanctity of our cabin.

 

That night, we took in a show in the Princess Theatre by “World Class Illusionist CHIP ROMERO.” He levitated a girl. She didn’t seem to know how he did it, so that was impressive.

“Throughout the early hours of the evening, we set various southerly courses back towards Bartlett Cove. We disembarked our [National Park] Rangers at 2030hrs, and once clear of Bartlett Cove, set westerly courses into Icy Straight towards Lynn Canal en route to Skagway.”

We fell asleep knowing that tomorrow would be our first exploration of Alaska land proper.

Sunset was at 9:05 p.m.