Washy Washy, Happy Happy, Smiley Smiley

When you’re on a cruise ship with a couple thousand other people, personal hygiene is very important. All it takes is one “doesn’t wash hands after going to the bathroom” individual to spread sickness to half the ship.

To help prevent that, the Norwegian Gem had hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Every public space you entered, especially restaurants, had them.

When you entered the buffet restaurant, though, there was an additional protection. In the buffet, dirty hands touching food serving implements could spread disease quicker than anywhere else. This meant that they upped the protections by positioning crew members at every entrance with bottles of hands sanitizer spray. As you entered, you would be sprayed with an encouraging jingle of “washy washy, happy happy, smiley smiley.”

Unfortunately, hearing that every day for a week got old. We understood the importance but the jingle turned into a joke and an annoyance. Still, I’d rather have been annoyed than sick so even though we hated the jingle, I’ll still thank Norwegian Cruise Lines for it.

And, to remember the jingle (and perpetually annoy JSL with it), I actually videoed one of the crew members saying it.

Cruise Tech and Geeky Cruise Reads

cruise-techIn part to celebrate my fortieth birthday – and because we haven’t had a family vacation in years, we’re going on a cruise to the Bahamas.  To most people, this would mean finding the right swimsuit or packing extra sunscreen.  To me, it means finding the right technology.

I’m a bit of a photography nut.  And when I say "a bit", I mean I tend to take one photograph every ten seconds while on vacation.  I’ll have my DSLR with me to help take photos, but I’ll also be taking photos with my smartphone.  There’s only one problem:  My phone might wind up running low on storage space.  I’d hate to find myself unable to take photos with days to go.  Alternatively, I might take a spectacular photo with my DSLR and want to share it on social media from the boat.  Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Lines, we’re getting 100 minutes of free Internet service.  We’ll use this – sparingly – to queue up some social media photos every night.

But back to the question at hand:  How do I upload/download photos to or from my phone?  I could pack my laptop, but that would be one more thing to keep track of.  Instead, I did a little research and found out that my phone comes equipped with a technology called USB To Go.  What this means is that – with a special cable and app – I can connect a USB device to my phone.


This adapter cable plugs into the phones’ microUSB plug.  From there, there are 3 USB slots where devices such as a thumb drive or an external hard drive can be plugged in.  There are also slots for memory cards such as SD cards (like my DSLR camera uses).  When I plug in a memory card or thumb drive, I can launch ES File Explorer File Manager (a free app from the Google Play store) to view the files stored there.  I can copy files from the phone to the thumb drive/memory card or vice versa.  This means that I can use a 64GB thumb drive as a backup medium.  Depending on how many photos we take, I could even back up the DSLR photos to the thumb drive using this method.

The other piece of technology that I’m going to bring will help me charge my devices.  I’ve heard that cruise ships can be light on the power outlets.  I guess this is to be expected as the cabins themselves aren’t very spacious.  However, given that we have multiple devices (at least two phones and perhaps the boys’ tablets as well), how can we charge all of them.  We could bring a surge protector, but I also heard that these can be troublesome on the ship which is understandable – if everyone plugged in and filled up a surge protector the ship’s electrical systems could be strained.  My second piece of technology is a USB charging hub.


USB devices don’t need the full power of a standard electrical outlets to charge devices.  This hub will plug into one outlet and will give me five USB charging ports to use.  Granted, we’ll likely wind up using four at most for nightly phone/tablet charges, but still each port will only use 2.4 amps of power per port with a maximum of 8 amps total.  A standard electrical outlet uses 15 to 20 amps so, even if this were fully loaded, it would use less power than a hair dryer (or some other normal plugged in electrical device).  Furthermore, this is very small.  I was expecting something much larger and bulkier, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the main unit fits comfortably in my hand.

The last thing that I’m bringing isn’t tech, but it is for the cruise.  I’m on the hunt for a good cruise book.  I don’t want just any book, though.  I want something geeky to pour into.  Given that we’re going to be pretty disconnected from social media and totally disconnected from any geeky online discussions, I need something geeky to indulge in while cruising.  At first, I considered getting The Bloggess’ new book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.  Unfortunately, it’s release date is September 22nd.  Unless Jenny sends me an advance copy (something that I consider highly unlikely) or unless a blue box comes bearing a gift from the future, I don’t think this is an option.  Quick side note: I read her first book – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – twice and loved it.  I annoyed B a few times by laughing out loud.  (Anyone who knows me knows that I can have a very loud laugh!)  I keep meaning to do a book review of it here and keep getting distracted.  Squirrel!

Right now, my top three picks are:

  • You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day.  I know of Felicia, but must admit that I don’t watch any of the shows she’s in.  Still, the title alone hooked me and the description of her story of her finding success while battling with demons of both the personal and Internet Troll kind struck a cord with me.  Still, I’m not completely sold and am interested in suggestions for other geeky books to read.
  • Nobody Gets The Girl by James Maxey.  This is a story of an average guy living an average life until he wakes up one day invisible and (sometimes) intangible.  Even worse, his house is inhabited by strangers instead of by his wife.  It’s like he never lived at all, but he’s definitely still alive.  As he gets used to his new not-so-normal, he winds up becoming a superhero called Nobody and fights some villains alongside some other superheroes.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.  This is the story of both a genius supervillain and a rookie superhero and how they lives collide.

What tech items or geek books would you take on a cruise?

NOTE: The links to Amazon above include affiliate tags.

Dreaming of Where to Stay At Disney

IMGP5290Last week, I mentioned where we prefer to stay while at Disney World.  Therefore, for this week’s Disney Blog Hop, I’d like to talk about two resorts that I’d love to stay in.

The first of these resorts is the Animal Kingdom lodge.  We love going on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom and so I’d love to wake up in the morning, look out of my window, and see some giraffes and other animals milling about.  It would be a giant dose of Disney magic before we even left the room.  As a bonus, we’d be right near the fabulous Boma restaurant.

The other place we’d like to visit would be the Contemporary resort.  The nice thing about this resort is that we would be able to walk to the Magic Kingdom or hop on a Monorail and go to Epcot.  The central location would be a nice change of pace from the value resort we normally stay in where getting anywhere requires waiting for a bus.  Besides, then we’d have Chef Mickey right near us.

If you could choose any Disney World resort, where would you stay?

Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Canceled, Part 2

Back on September 8th, I posted the first half of our travelogue of the trip that Irene canceled.  I meant to post the second half, but got side-tracked.  So here it is:

Thursday, September 1st:

Thursday would have started with a light breakfast (either something packed with us or at the Pop Century’s restaurant).  Then, we’d head over to Epcot.  We might have gone on a few rides, Test Track and some other favorites, but our main draw would have been in the World Showcase.  Here, we’d have brought out our Hidden Mickeys guidebook and browsed through the countries, looking for Mickey shapes hidden in various places.  There would have been many photos taken as we found Mickey Mouse hidden in the most unlikely of locations.

As lunch approached, we would have headed to the San Angel Inn in Mexico.  When we last went to Disney World, we brought the boys on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.  They loved it so much that we wound up riding it two more times.  The beginning of the ride takes you through the San Angel Inn facing a big pyramid.  This seemed like the perfect spot to have a nice, romantic lunch with my beautiful wife.  (The “Grilled fillet of fresh Mahi-Mahi prepared with capers, olives, bell peppers, spanish onions and tomatoes, seasoned with white wine, and spices, served over a bed of poblano rice” sounds mouth-watering.)

After lunch, it would be time for more rides and hidden Mickey hunting.  As the day ended, though, we’d hop on board the Monorail to go to the Grand Floridian.  Once there, we’d have eaten at Narcoosee’s.  Here I’d likely have gotten the Spring Vegetables dish (Delta Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Sauce, Sautéed Baby Vegetables, Wild Mushroom Quiche, and Toasted Cous Cous with Spinach and Preserved Lemon).

Friday, September 2nd:

Friday would have likely seen us going to the Magic Kingdom.  Here, we could have gone on Small World, Haunted Mansion or any other ride and have been seated side-by-side.  (Something that we haven’t done in years.)

Both lunch and dinner would have been in the Contemporary Resort.  Lunch would have been at The Wave.  (The Vegetarian Cuban Sandwich with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Bulgur Wheat Salad sounded fantastic.)  Dinner would have been at the California Grill (possibly the Handmade Fettuccine with Sautéed Chanterelle and Summer Mushrooms, fresh Buttermilk Ricotta, Tiny Basil).

Saturday, September 2nd:

Our last full day at Disney would have been spent back at Epcot, at least for part of the day.  When considering restaurant options, I had initially written off France as not working with my dietary restrictions.  However, once I looked at the menu for Les Chefs de France, I fell in love with a few of the options.  A big contender would have been the Lasagnes de legumes du soleil a l’huile d’olive au thym (Zucchini, eggplant, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes baked into thin layers of pasta).

Dinner would have been at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  My last dinner at Disney World would have been House-made Yukon Potato Gnocchi with Heirloom Carrots, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Fresh Ricotta, English Peas, and Sweet Corn Nage.

Sunday, September 2nd:

On Sunday, we would have packed up, grabbed a quick bite to eat and caught our Magical Express ride back to the airport.  Part of us would have been reluctant to leave, but part would have been happy to see the kids again.  We would have been relaxed and refreshed and ready to restart our parenting duties.

Ah, what could have been had Irene not ruined our plans.

Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Cancelled, Part 1

I wrote briefly about our cancelled trip before.  Normally, writing is very cathartic for me.  Yet, I wasn’t feeling any better.  After putting some thought into it, I realized two things.

One, I knew, intellectually, that there were roads closed and flooding and loss of life due to Irene.  Still, when I looked at our house, I saw a lack of damage and thought “It wasn’t that bad, maybe we *could* have made it work.”  That doubt in our decision to cancel ate away at me.

Two, I had geared myself up psychologically for this time off.  I was looking forward to waking up beside B without any little guys barging in.  I was looking forward to walking hand-in-hand with her without having to keep an eye on where the boys were.  I was looking forward to eating beside her without worrying about getting home before bed-time.  I was looking forward to going to sleep beside her without having the boys sleeping in the next bed over.  No worries.  No responsibilities.  Just B and I enjoying each other’s company for five glorious days.

Instead, the entire trip evaporated into nothingness thanks to Irene’s meddling.  I needed some time to grieve for the trip-that-never-was.  I had even intended to write this last week, but it was too painful.  Now that a bit more time has passed, here’s a quick overview of what could have been had Irene not intervened.  (NOTE:  We might not have done things exactly as described here.  I’m mostly imagining how things might have gone with our dining reservations as anchors.  With luck, we’ll reschedule soon and I’ll be able to make real blog posts with our real travels.)

Sunday, August 28th

With Irene not a concern, we packed the car up early and headed down to see my parents.  The boys hugged Bubbe and Grandpa and we had some fun shopping, eating out, and talking.

Monday, August 29th

We began the morning with breakfast at my parents’ house and then had a leisurely day together.  We ate lunch at a Greek restaurant near my parents that we love.  (Their spinach pie is to die for and I’m perpetually trying to replicate their chickpea recipe.)  As we tucked the boys into bed, we said goodbye to them knowing that this would be the last time we’d see them until we returned.

Tuesday, August 30th

We woke up very early and my father drove us to the airport.  After checking in and getting past security, we had some breakfast in the food court (or perhaps something we took with us from my parents’ house).  Then, we got on our flight and we were off to Orlando.

After landing, we boarded the Magical Express for the Pop Century hotel.  We quickly checked in and left our carry-on bags at the hotel.  Then, we headed over to Hollywood Studios for our lunch reservation at the Hollywood Brown Derby.  I ordered the Coriander-dusted Grouper with Cauliflower Risotto, fresh English Peas, crunchy Sunchokes, and a Yellow Tomato Coulis.  It was fabulous.

We spent the rest of the day in Hollywood Studios and I made good on my promise to ride the Rockin’ Rollercoaster with B.  (Given my fear of falling, I typically avoid fast, winding, flipping rollercoasters.)  We had some snacks to hold us and then saw Fantasmic.  We returned to Pop Century tired and hungry, but very happy.  A quick stop at the Pop Century food court for dinner (and Tie-Dyed Cheesecake) and then we headed to our room for the night.

Wednesday, August 31st

We woke up Wednesday morning for our first full day at Disney.  After grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed back to Hollywood Studios.  Getting there when it opened, we quickly headed for Toy Story Mania.  After quickly procuring some fast passes, we rode the ride together.  Then, once the Fast Pass time arrived, we rode it again.

As noon approached, we went to our lunch reservation at Mama Melrose’s.  We went here during our honeymoon 10 years ago so this was going to be an extra-special lunch.  I opted to get the Wood-grilled Tuna over a seasonal Vegetable Risotto, warm Vine-ripened Diced Red and Yellow Tomatoes, and Olive-Caper Butte.  Yum!

We stayed in Hollywood Studios for a bit longer and made sure to stop by Starring Rolls Cafe for a cupcake.  When we went there in March, they had, sadly, just closed for the day so I was never able to get my cupcake fix.  This time, however, I got to try not just one cupcake but two.  (B ordered one and I ordered a second and we split them.)  Delicious!  Yes, I took photos of it all.

After awhile, we left Hollywood Studios and bus hopped to Animal Kingdom (Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom lodge to Animal Kingdom).  To be honest, this is the Disney park in which we had the least number of places we wanted to visit.  We went on the safari and a few more items.  With our half-day at the park ending, we caught a bus back to the Animal Kingdom lodge.

Normally, this would mean dining at Boma.  We *love* Boma.  But we decided to shake things up so we (*gasp*) were NOT eating there!  We were eating at Jiko.  It was tough deciding between the great options, but I finally decided upon the Aleecha, Shimbra Asa, Inguday Tibs with Goat Cheese, Cream Ethiopian Vegetable “Stack”, Chickpea Cake, and Spiced Mushroom-Spinach Roll.

Stuffed, we bus hopped back to our hotel for some much needed quiet time and sleep.

Coming next week, part 2 of the Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Cancelled!

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