Sunday, September 18, 2016

Alaskan Cruise 2016 - Tips, Tricks, and FYIs

My first cruise ever was this past August on Holland America (MS Westerdam). We left from Seattle and spent seven days traveling up and back from Alaska. It was great and I highly recommend it.

I thought I would draw attention to a few things that I learned that might be helpful to others or a reminder to myself for the next cruise I take. This is supplemental to the endless paperwork and info the cruise line gives you.

Before you go:
  • Read this:
    • It was extremely helpful to prepare me for my first cruise
  • I had no cell reception with AT&T on the ship even when in port.
    • They charge international rates for Canada so be very aware of when you are in Alaska and when you are in Canada.
  • Random things I would recommend bringing:
    • Highlighter – for picking which activities you are interested in.
    • Notebook (fits in a pocket) – for writing those activities you are interested in so you don’t have to take the oversized itinerary with you. Also, good for making notes about your trip.
    • Travel mug/water bottle – you can fill up with drinks at the buffet and take with you out on the deck or to the other areas of the ship.
    • A watch – if you don’t want to lug around your phone that has no reception anyway, you do want to make sure you have a way to keep track of time.
    • Power strip/extension cord - there are limited electrical plugs and they can be in awkward places. There was one outlet in the room and one in the bathroom.
  • If you are travelling with another person and splitting up the charges, you should know general room charges will be automatically applied to whomever the primary person who made the reservation is. Otherwise, they will swipe your card to keep things separate.
    • When setting up the reservation, you might want to keep this in mind.
    • For example, if TC made the reservation and you got into the mini-bar, it will automatically go on TC’s account.
    • You can go to the main desk at any point and check the charges applied to your account. It takes about 24 hours to make any changes. Everyone tends to do it on the last day and there can be a line if you wait.

On Ship:
  • The ship is open for touring of all the areas until 10p on the first day. The usually offer tours a couple of times before departure.
    • The tours start on time. We ended up getting there 2 mins late and had to play catch up trying to find them.
  • Drinks that are free: water, coffee, tea, and juice. Pop/soda and alcohol cost money.
    • Even though water is free, the bottle of water in the room are considered part of the mini-bar and can cost up to $5
  • The casino area will let you use cash or charge to your room so if you want to limit your gambling, you can use cash.
    • The poker tables do not use real cards. It was one big video table. They had a demo and let you try it. The rest of the tables did have regular cards.
    • The casino hours are based on the gaming rules for the part of the world the ship is in at that given moment so in the off hours, you can ask for lessons if you want to learn any of the games.
  • If you like hot showers, there is a red little safety button you can press in to make the water hotter. Otherwise, cranked all the way to the red button is just a level above lukewarm.
  • Look at the schedule for that day for hours on the restaurants. Sometimes they change them for certain ports.
  • The portions of food are more European than American when eating at the restaurant or ordering room service. So, the meals seem a lot smaller than you would expect when they talk about all the food you can eat on a cruise ship.
    • For example: “A plate of cookies” showed up and it was 3 small cookies. A pot of coffee or tea is about a cup and a half.
  • When eating in the general dining area (not the restaurants that charge), you have several options for each of the three courses. You can order more than one from each category.
    • If you can’t decide between the crème brule or the cheesecake, you can get both.
  • If you have food allergies, you need to let them know in advance. Depending on the allergy, they may have you pick your meal for the following day so that they can make sure it is prepared away from whatever foods you might be allergic.
    • They take this very seriously so don’t tell them you are allergic to something if you just don’t like it.
  • Room service is totally worth it. The menu isn’t extensive, but it has a decent set of choices including recommendations if your stomach is not liking the waves.
    • It takes about 45 mins.
    • It is included and no extra charge.
    • You need to call them to pick up the tray. You shouldn’t leave it outside the door like at a hotel because it is a hazard.
  • They have a fruit basket and ask you what fruit you want in it.
    • This gets refilled when they do the morning room cleaning. They also give you ice in the morning.

Before you go:
  • They do not provide irons because of fire hazards. It is $3 a piece and takes a day in advance.
    • They do not allow you to check garment bags because it is awkward when they are going through all the security checks with that much luggage.
    • The hangers are wood and they give you about 10. You can request more, but they are wire hangers and could take up to 24 hours for them to get them to you.
  • The last port which is usually Victoria, BC always gets screwed the most when there are schedule issues. It is also the port you are in the shortest amount of time.
    • I do not recommend booking anything in advance for this because of this.
    • Instead, I HIGHLY recommend doing the Pedicab tour that can be customized.
      • Ask for Kevin Keirle who was fantastic and totally reasonably priced for all that we got. You can find him here:
On Ship:
  • The elevators on the ship have floor mats that tell you what day it is. This was surprisingly helpful on a weeklong cruise.
  • Alaska is an hour behind Pacific time so you gain an hour head up and lose that hour coming back. They do a good job at making sure you are aware of this.
  • They don’t stamp your passport when headed into Victoria. They check it quickly, but since the cruise line has verified all of them, it is just a quick look. The same coming back into the US.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman versus Superman: My Issue

I did not enjoy Batman versus Superman. There are numerous issues that I could individually address, but that is not important as what is wrong with it at its core.

Batman and Superman have existed in the world of comics, movies, and television for the better part of a full century at this point. Fans have their reasons for liking one more than the other or both equally. This is because, for all of their individual faults, their crime fighting methods work for the world the inhabit. Batman fights psychotic criminals and Superman fights aliens. It makes sense they would operate in vastly different ways. Superman was orphaned out of love by his parents making a sacrifice and then was raised by a loving couple. Batman was orphaned out of crime and raised by a single man who was both an employee and family friend. This also plays to how differently they view the world. Aaron Sorkin said on the commentary track for 'Steve Jobs,' "I love writing arguments where both people are right." This is what the movie should have been.

Within the movie, there is no difference between Lex and Batman except that they are relying on audiences to know that one is a good guy and one is a bad guy. The movie has Batman and Lex doing the same things for the exact same reasons. Their methods are only slightly different. It isn't a matter of seeing both sides of the argument between Batman and Superman. You don't. By the time they are on the same side, the movie is more than 75% over and the reason is insanely ridiculous. If they had established that Batman was under Lex's control the entire time and Superman used the word to break that spell, it would have made more sense than what they tried to explain in this movie.

Batman operates in the most un-Batman-like way possible. To a point where even Wonder Woman questions him and his answer is so lame she litterally doesn't speak to him for the rest of the fight. Well, in my head, that was the reason they stopped speaking.

Speaking of Wonder Woman, she was the most redeeming part when she was fighting. She held her own and was actually doing better than either of them for most of the fight. Now, how she could be out of the world of men for 100 years and yet understand government encryption technology, makes as much sense as her flying commerically.

Like I said before, there are countless issues with the movie which can be forgiven for the sake of the movie's plot. However, nothing can forgive their failure to do justice to any of the characters in this movie.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Book Quest #1: BBC List of Top 100 Must Read Books (2015 Update)

I have previously mentioned my wanting to read all of the books on the BBC List. I thought I would put which books I have already read and then I'll also have a list of the ones I need to read yet. I know the list isn't perfect, but it is a good jumping off point.

When I first saw this list in 2010, I had read 17 of these books. My goal by the end of 2015 is to have read 68 of the 100 which I have done! My new goal for the end of 2016 is to have read 78.

The ones in RED have been read (the ones Bolded were the ones I have read this past year). The ones in italics have not been read, but I have seen the movie so that should count for something.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (3/3)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling (7/7)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows     
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible (I went to Catholic school so it counts)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (3/3)
  • The Golden Compass
  • The Subtle Knife
  • The Amber Spyglass
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (7/7)
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 
  • Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Horse and His Boy 
  • The Magician's Nephew
  • The Last Battle
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchel
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

So the count is 69 down and 31 to go.

Rented Movies in 2015

Each category is in the order of when I watched them and (method I watched them in)

The Award Season Awesome (A+):
  • Tim's Vermeer (Friend)
  • Wild (GG) 
  • Rudderless (AP) 
  • Woman in Gold (RB) 
The Highly Enjoyable (A-/B+):
  •  Ella Enchanted (AP)
  • Age of Adaline (GG)
The Award Season Good (B):
  •  Me, Earl and The Dying Girl (AP)
The Guilty Pleasures (A for Effort):
  • Knights of Badassdom (NI)
The Good (Solid B):
  • That Guy Who Was in That Thing (NI)
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (NI)
  • Horns (NI) 
  • In A World (NI) 
  • Leap Year (NI)
  • Theory of Everything (RB) 
  • Quartet (NI) 
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? (NI)
The Just Okay (B-/C+):
  • The Late Quartet (NI)
  • Boyhood (RB) 
  • Entourage (GG) 
  • Nightcrawler (NI) 
  • Insurgent (AP) 
  • While We're Young (RB) 
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (RB) 
The Bad (D):
  •  Foxcatcher (GG)
  • Mr. Turner (GG)
(RB) = Red Box
(SPL)= Seattle Public Library
(NI) = Netflix Instant
(ND) = Netflix DVD
(AP) = Amazon Prime
(HBO)= HBO to Go online
(Cable) = Watched it at my Mom's house 
(Friend) = Borrowed from a Friend
(Hulu) = Watched on Hulu Plus
(GG) =

Television I Watched in 2015

The Awesome:
  • Black Mirror - Season 1-2
  • Daredevil - Season 1(watched twice)
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Season 1)
  • Walking Dead - Season 5 
  • Outlander - Season 1 (both parts)
  • The Fall - Season 1-2
  • Jessica Jones - Season 1
  • The Man in the High Castle - Season 1 
  • Broadchurch - Season 2
The Good:
  • Justified - Season 4
  • Bates Motel - Season 2 
  • Downton Abby - Season 5 
  • Mad Men - Final Season pt. 1-2
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 1 
  • How I Met Your Mother - Season 7-9
  • Garfunkle and Oats - Season 1  
  • Bloodline - Season 1
The Guilty Pleasures:
  • Gallivant - Season 1
  • Scandal - Season 4
  • Constantine - Season 1
The Just Okay:
  • True Detective - Season 1
  • House of Cards - Season 3 
  • Sons of Anarchy - Season 7
Shows I Watched the Pilot of and Then Stopped:
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Sense 8
Shows I re-watched:
  • Friends (Entire Series)
  • Entourage (Entire Series)
  • Sherlock (Entire Series)
  • House (Entire Series)
  • Deadwood (Entire Series)
  • Dead Like Me (Entire Series)
  • Scandal (1-3) 
  • West Wing (Entire Series) 
  • Veronica Mars (Entire Series + Movie)
  • Grey's Anatomy (Season 1-3) 
Shows I am deeply conflicted with:
  • The Jinx: Robert Durst

Weekly on Hulu:
Castle, Grey's Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Hannibal, Agents of SHIELD, Supernatural, Arrow, Flash, Agent Carter, Muppets, Last Week Tonight

Purchased on Amazon the Moment it is Up:
Doctor Who, Sherlock

Watch When It Comes out on DVD/Netflix:
Walking Dead, Downton Abby, Scandal, House of Cards, Game of Thrones,The Blacklist

Books I Read in 2015

My goal for 2015 was to read 60 books. I actually read 65.

Top 9 Personal Favorites I Have Read This Year (Fiction and Non-Fiction):
  1. All the Dresden Files books I've read so far - Jim Butcher
  2. All the Thursday Next books I've read so far - Jasper Fforde
  3. All the James Bond books I've read so far - Ian Fleming
  4. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  5. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
  6. The Martian - Andy Weir
  7. Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film - Patton Oswald
  8. Outlander (Outlander #1) - Diana Gabaldon
  9. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Each category is in order of when I read it...

Bold means I now own it in book form. Italics means I own it in Kindle ebook form.

Fiction Awesome:
  • Changes (Dresden Files #12) - Jim Butcher
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  • Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
  • The Martian - Andy Weir 
  • High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
  • Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron (Shades of Grey, #1) - Jasper Fforde
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell- Susanna Clark
  • Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, #2) – Jasper Fforde
  • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  • Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13) - Jim Butcher
  • The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) - Jasper Fforde
  • Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) - Jasper Fforde
  • The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Non-Fiction Awesome:
  • Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
  • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right - Atul Gawande 
  • Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film - Patton Oswald 
  • The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help - Amanda Palmer
Fiction Recommended:
  • The Tale of Desperaux - Kate DiCamillo
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
  • The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains  - Neil Gaiman
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) - Laini Taylor 
  • Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
  • Love in the Time of Chlorea - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Short Story Audio Collection - Neil Gaiman
  • Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant #2) - Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories- Tim Burton
  • Sunshine - Robin McKinley
  • Me, Earl and The Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews
  • MirrorMask - Neil Gaiman
  • David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  • Whispers Underground (Peter Grant #3) - Ben Aaronovitch
  • Five by Fitzgerald: Classic Stories of the Jazz Age - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Casino Royale (James Bond #1) - Ian Fleming 
  • Live and Let Die  (James Bond #2) - Ian Fleming 
  • Moonraker (James Bond #3) - Ian Fleming 
  • Complete Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Diamond Are Forever (James Bond #4) - Ian Fleming 
  • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman
  • From Russia With Love (James Bond #5) - Ian Fleming 
  • Doctor No (James Bond #6) - Ian Fleming 
  • Armada - Ernest Cline
  • Goldfinger (James Bond #7) - Ian Fleming
Non-Fiction Recommended:
  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
  • And Furthermore - Judi Dench 
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed 
  • Drama: An Actor's Education - John Lithgow  
  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette - Hampton Sides
  • If You Ask Me - Betty White
  • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland - Patton Oswalt 
Books I Re-Read
  • The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
  • World War Z- Max Brooks
Fiction NOT Recommended:
  • The Fall (The Strain Trilogy, #2) - Guillermo del Toro
  • Raging Heat (Nikki Heat #6) - Richard Castle
  • The Enchanted - Rene Denfield
  • Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
  • Brooklyn - Colm Toibin
  • Middlemarch - George Eliot
  • Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom 
  • The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
  • All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr 
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
Non-Fiction NOT Recommended:
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - Erik Larson
  • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers - Valerie Lawson