Monday, December 18, 2006

"Xmas" vs "Christmas"

Yep. It's true, you got me. I'm one of those people who write "Xmas" instead of "Christmas". It's not even out of laziness, I'm not just saving myself from writing those extra 5 letters. It's not even because "X" stands for the Greek letter "Chi" which used to mean "Christ" or whatever that story is... Nope. I do it because I don't believe in Christ, yet I celebrate the holiday with friends and family. -It's an easy way to express the idea of a non-religious Christmas. I suppose I could start calling it "Christmas-lite" if you'd prefer...

Now, let's face it. Christmas has been drifting further and further from a religious holiday for centuries now... The killer was the inclusion of Santa Clause in the 17th century. Boy, nothing takes a kid's focus off of God faster than the promise of gifts. "Hey Tommy, who do you hope comes down this chimney tonight, Jesus or Santa Clause?"

But there's no going back, so we have to deal with the present, right? Luckily Jerry Falwell's here to tell you about the war on Christmas. Yep. He says you're "either with us or against us". Now, where have I heard those words before...

So, you don't want to be "against" the good pastor! You gotta join his fight! Here's how:

Really, people! Once again it all boils down to "us vs them". Christian and non-Christian. We're asking the Christians to give up being singled out as the only religious group in the country, and accept the acknowledgement of other religions by not screaming like a little babies when someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". 80% of the country may be Christian, but that leaves 20%, or 1/5th that are not. Unless you feel it's a personal insult that we're not a 100% Christian nation, I say get over it!

According to Wikipedia, "Christian Values" are said to be:
  • worship of God: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
  • fidelity in marriage: "Whom God has joined together let no man put asunder."
  • renunciation of worldly goods: "Gather not your riches up upon this earth, for there your heart will be also."
  • renunciation of violence: "If a man strike you on one cheek, turn the other cheek."
  • forgiveness of sins: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
  • unconditional love: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
How does throwing away "Holiday" cards from friends and family, boycotting businesses who cater to everyone (not just Christians), and ranting at people over their choice of names for a holiday measure up against the stated "Christian values". Hmm... I'd give you an "F", but I don't feel qualified judging you, so I'll leave you with this:

What would Jesus do?

"Xmas" vs "Christmas" -Foreword

Yesterday, on the photography_beginners yahoogroup that I own, a member felt it necessary to post this in response to someone's story about a printing mix-up when they had some photos printed for use as Xmas cards...

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.....

Not X-mas

Do we greet eachother and say "Merry X-mas"?? No!! We say "Merry
CHRISTmas"!! Christ didn't forget about you when he died on the
cross!! We shouldn't forget about him at this time of the year (or
any other time of the year). Is it too much to type the entire
phrase?? Have we become that lazy of a society??

Sorry... that's just one of my pet peeves. We don't say happy X-
anza (quanza) or happy X-ukah (hannukah).


Ralph's response got me a tad angry, so I went and took a shower -it's where I do my best thinking... I thought of several good responses, then thought about my goal being the list owner and knew that I had to leave all the good arguements and humerous quips behind and just stop the conversation without adding my 2¢.

By not revealing my own religious prefrence, I hoped to leave Ralph thinking about why I put him on moderation (inflamatory posting about a non-photography-related subject) rather than just being angry at me as a non-Christian trying to put his religion down.

But, I need an outlet for my frustration, so I'm picking up my uh... keyboard again and will make a blog post.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

To do: Photo Studio Technical Assignment

A guy on Flickr posted this lesson about Learning to use perspective control and lighting ratios.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Right and Wrong

We, as a society are often lead to believe that the world is filled with "either, or's".

Good or bad.
Right or wrong.
Black or white.
With us or against us.
Republican or Democrat.

The reality, however, is that the world is full of grey.

Lesson #1: Learn to recognize propaganda.
It's all around you and not always as obvious as the billboards and signs put up by special interest groups. Propaganda is spread through the media, speeches made by government officials, through churches, in popular music, tv programs (including "reality shows"), etc. It comes at us from all directions along with advertisements and other things that we don't take in any more deeply than your average advertisement, yet just like we tend to pick up the brand named laundry detergent in the store, those other messages effect us as well. Consider the source of any information you get and check the statistics yourself. A quick goggle search is usually all it takes. Then, check out the arguments on the other side of the debate to make sure you have all the information before you declare your position on a topic. If you find you don't agree 100% with either side, that's good, it means you're a real person and not a "follower" (aka "mindless drone").

Lesson #2: We all have bias, learn yours and keep it in check.
There's no shame in having positions, but make sure that YOU have THEM, and not the other way around. I'm very opinionated, but I recognize that since I don't believe in a god, I tend to favor reading, watching, or listening to things that are critical of religion. At first I chose this material because it entertained me, then I realized it was strengthening my bias against religion to the point where I went beyond logic and began actively hating the church -wanting to attack it in some way, show people their God was false, discount the church's position in society, etc. -That's going too far. It's important to realize when that happens, then you need to pull yourself back, and start seeking media geared towards the other side of the debate. It probably won't change your mind, but it'll help you see that those on the other side believe in their opinions as strongly as you do. If you don't take time to listen and consider their ideas, how can you expect them to do the same with your arguments and viewpoints?

Lesson #3: Before taking any action, make sure you'll still feel good about it tomorrow.
It's easy to get worked up by the topic of the day, but if you intend to take it one step further by joining a campaign or otherwise working for a cause (including publicly advertising your opinion via T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc) make sure you know where you stand on the topic and think of it in a broader sense. -Is it really what's best for the whole country? What if you (or your child) were in the minority (or the adversary)-would you feel that the change you're fighting for would still be considered fair? -Lots of people believed that slavery was moral and that black people didn't deserve equal rights all the way up until the 1960's when the last of the laws allowing segregation of public facilities and marriage were abolished. If you were fighting to keep segregation then, you'd be embarrassed about it today. Is the topic of today the next big embarrassment of tomorrow?

Which side are you on?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Drama -I'm too old for it.

What is it about some people that makes them hold other people up while they do something insignificant? or be the one person in a group who has a problem with the restaurant that everyone else wants to go to? Does it make them feel superior? -seeing they have the power to determine where the group goes or what they do? Or, perhaps, they just aren't good team players and lack the social skills to negotiate their own needs and wants with those of the group. Either way, these are people I don't wish to be around.

I spent a 4 day weekend with a group of about 12 people, on and off. Every time a decision had to be made personal issues that existed between Mike and Charlotte meant Charlotte threw a fit and either altered our plans, held us up, or otherwise made a scene. ...and if it wasn't her, it was Kris who had an issue with the plan and had to have it altered to suit him. If either of them put forth any effort at all to think about the other ~11 people in the group rather than just themselves, the weekend would have been awesome. Instead, we spent much of the time arguing over where to go and what to do because of a few people who just couldn't put their own selfishness aside for a moment and just go along for the ride.

There was even drama between the men. I actually HEARD someone say "Albert says he'll talk to Mike if Mike comes and talks to him first." PEOPLE! are we in kindergarten here or what!?!

It's a shame. I hope they grow out of it. In the meantime, I'll be limiting the amount of time I spend with them in order to maintain my sanity.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I got a $150 bill from my dentist in the mail and freaked out. See, I have dental insurance (from Great West), for free from my employer, so one day I figured that after 13 years since my last visit, maybe I should go to the dentist again. I had 2 cavities, needed a deep cleaning, and had some pockets they wanted to keep an eye on.

"Okay, fine, whatever. Take care of it" says I. -I was here to improve my dental health after all, the most obvious way to do that is to do what the doctor says.

So, I had the cavities filled and went back every 3 months for checkups like they suggested. Then I get this statement in the mail from my dental insurance company stating that they won't cover the entire cost of the resin fillings the dentist used to fill the cavities because they are in the back of my mouth and my checkup isn't covered at all because I'm only allowed a check up every 6 months.

Now, I wasn't given a choice about the material used to fill my cavities. I didn't even know a choice was available! How am I, as a customer, supposed to keep track of which teeth are considered "posterior" and therefore ineligable for resin fillings? I'd love to see a list of things that are or are not covered. How big of a book would that be? How much of it would I understand as a person who's not all that interested in dentistry. -Will I have my teeth for awhile longer? Good.

...And the worst thing is that this same exact thing happened with my Great West medical insurance in June. I had several bills that were denied or only partially covered and I ended up paying around $400 out of pocket. Needless to say, those little suprise bills hurt me that month -I have my money budgeted out pretty tightly.

Without the knowledge (or time) to figure out what's covered and what's not, a trip to the doctor or dentist is like a game of roulette with my money. Will this proceedure be covered? Who knows, spin the wheel, place your bets, and above all -Good Luck!

Ed's response to my rant -we should move to Canada. I'm totally for it at the moment.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The restaurant waiting game.

As I said before, we eat out a lot. When deciding where to go, my top 3 questions are:
  • What do I feel like/not feel like?
  • What area is most convenient?
  • What time is it?
The type of food and location are probably normal, and those of you who live in populated areas might be able to figure out where I'm going with the time thing too...

Saturday we were looking for a place to eat. It was 6pm, a borderline time for finding a restaurant with a short (or preferably non-existant) wait. The whole concept of having to wait for a table is annoying to me. I mean, if you're looking for a place to eat at 8pm on a Saturday night, you're hard pressed to find a Denny's without a wait. It's insane! ...So you wait 2 hours for a table at a decent restaurant only to get bad service because your server is as exasperated as you are with the number of hungry people packed into the restaurant tonight. The upside for them -tips. What do I get for my wait? Nothing. The same food I could have gotten Thursday night at the same price, but without the wait. I try to plan accordingly and hit "favorite" places at unpopular times, but like many people it's often easier and more relaxing to go out to nice places on the weekend. Something has to change.

Oh, right, back to Saturday night. As you can guess from the pre-rant above, we selected a restaurant (Texas Roadhouse in Joliet) and there was a wait. 50 minutes to be exact. So, we took a number, then sat down to discuss our options. In the end, Ed and Kris were starving, so we left and went to Panera Bread instead. ...but Kris never told the hostess at the Roadhouse that we were going elsewhere.

When we were finished eating at Panera I noticed that it was about 10min or so until our number would be called at Texas Roadhouse... Hmm... Ed and Kris were disappointed that we didn't go there. They've been wanting to go all week. Who else is in the same position? -It's 7 o'clock now, the wait's probably an hour and half at least. Could we sell our number to a new or recent arrival? I wonder how much someone would pay to get seated immediately? Is there a potential business selling spaces in restaurants? I, for one, would pay $5 to reduce my wait from 45min to 15min. $10 to go from 1hr to 5-10min? Hmm...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Customer Rant?

I ran into the waiterrant blog a few weeks ago and read the whole thing! Considering Ed and I eat out almost every night, it's interesting to hear what goes on behind the waiter's smile and accommodating attitude. But what about the customer???

I've seen firsthand how rude customers can be, but I've also experienced bad service. I think we need a customerrant! I doubt I'll be that blogger, but a dining experience last night was worthy of ranting about...

We found ourselves in Plainfield looking for food. Ed and I have driven past Main St several times, noting the cute restaurant called Baci's that looks like a church. So, we decided to give it a try.

We had no idea what to expect, so we opened the doors, walked through the arched doorway, and were greeted by an 18 year old host dressed in a heavy metal t-shirt. Mmm... Okay, well, perhaps they're understaffed, I thought.

We were shown to a very private U-shaped booth that'd seat up to 6 people. On the wall was an adjustment knob for the music volume and a slider to adjust the lighting. Nice touch! The rest of the ambiance was... well, not great, but it's an old church, so what would you expect? It's kindof lodge-looking with wood paneling everywhere. It looks like they've got room upstairs and in the basement for parties or other gatherings. The bathrooms are in the basement, which might be a problem for those with mobility issues, but then again I think the only entrance had stairs too -I'm not sure.

Looking over the menu, there was the usual fair. Pizza and pasta mostly, but the choices were good -vodka sauces, gnocci, chicken, veal... You can even get pesto sauce on your pizza, which I'd love to try! The prices were high considering the ambiance, but were about right for the quaility of the food... once we got it...

Now, usually we're indecisive and have to ask servers to come back for our order, but last night we were waiting and waiting to put our drink order in. didn't look like they were overstaffed at all and the place was far from mobbed, so we had no idea what the problem was.

When our waitress finally made it around to our table, we put our drink orders in and ordered our food at the same time. Once again we had to wait awhile for our drinks, but they came with bread and roasted garlic, so -cool! We downed the bread and our drinks and waited for refills. Refills took forever! While waiting we witnessed our waitress arguing with a customer over whether they said no onions on their appetizer. She swears she wrote it down right, the kitchen must have screwed it up. -Whatever, just fix it -it wasn't drawn out, but it was an indication she was having problems with more than just our table...

Finally she came around to get Ed a refill on his diet, no ice. Now, it's not unusual for servers to get the 'no ice' wrong on the refill -it's okay, we know it's just habit to put the ice in. We politely pointed out the mistake, and she left to go get a new soda. Again it took her forever to get back with the refill. She dropped it off hastily along with more bread and dashed off towards the kitchen again. -Ed takes a sip of the soda and it's regular, not diet. ...Now we're getting frustrated.

We set it on the edge of the table as an indication of a problem, but she doesn't notice. While we keep an eye out for her, we notice the smell of someone smoking... Our friend Kris points out that there was a "No Smoking" sign when we came in, but it's the HOST that's smoking! Nice... Everyone who worked there looked like they were in high school and acted like it. Their behavior would have been considered normal at Chili's, but considering the prices and quality of food, I found it to be unprofessional in this setting.

Eventually Ed and I both got refills and we started on a 3rd loaf of bread while keeping an eye on our watches. We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30pm, it was 8:30pm and we hadn't gotten our food yet! When it arrived, there was no explanation for the delay. -I understand that there are sometimes nights where a restaurant is short-staffed or the waitress is just having a bad day. As long as there's communication about the problems and status of the food, it's not a big deal. But we never heard, there was no appology, it was just bad service...

The food, on the other hand, was excellent. It all tasted great, wasn't totally overcooked (like I've found the Olive Garden lately), but we also all agreed that we wouldn't be back because of the service. It's unfortunate; I really wanted to try that pesto pizza!

Luckily, we didn't have to wait for the check! (I think they were looking to close soon.) Payment went quickly and smoothly, but I had to fight my tablemates to leave a tip (they wanted me to leave nothing). Maybe I should have, I don't know, but I left 10 % and we got the heck outta there. -It was past my bedtime! Who would have ever thought pasta could take that long???

Okay... Maybe that was more of a restaurant review than a customerrant. I don't know. This is a topic-less blog, deal. :)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Personal Blog moved to Yahoo 360

I've started a blog on Yahoo 360 about what's going on in my life for those friends and family who are interested. This blog has been kinda crazy -some personal stuff, some political, etc. I don't know what it'll be in the future, but I guess we'll find out...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Canon 30D

Here it is...

And here's the story of how it got here (drama warning).

On February 21, 2006 I found out about the 30D coming out. At that time the release date (as per Canon's USA press release) was March 15, 2006. I re-did my research about the APS-sized sensor vs full size and decided to buy it. On March 5 I put in the order with Amazon -a retailer I trust, and one I assumed would get a sizable shipment as soon as the 30d was released.

On March 10th I re-checked the status of my Amazon order and saw that their site said "This item will be released on May 15, 2006." May!?! -I rechecked Canon's press release. It said March.

Well, I thought, maybe it's a typo. March, May -it's easy to mix them up. Besides, it says the 15th -coincidence? I doubt it. It's a 1/30.5ish chance. So, I emailed them.

I just checked the estimated delivery date on this item and it says May 16th. I hope this is a typo. This camera is due to hit the shelves on March 15th, so I would think I should receive it on MARCH 16th (since I selected 1 day shipping). Could you confirm the estimated delivery day so I can either sit
back and wait or cancel the order and find another supplier for this camera? I've been literally counting down the days until it's arrival.

Their response (same day):

Greetings from

We apologize for any frustration you've experienced. It is certainly
not our intention for our customer to have anything but a pleasant
experience at

I have checked your order and found that "Canon EOS 30D 8.2MP
Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)" is going to be released on May 15,
2006. If you do not want to wait until that period I would request
you to cancel this item from your order. We do not charge you until
the item is being shipped.

The following details about this item are available on the site.

Availability: This item will be released on May 15, 2006. You may
order it now and we will ship it to you when it arrives. Ships from
and sold by

Thank you for shopping at

Best regards,

Bhaskar Customer Service
Hmm... Could the release date have been pushed off? I called Canon and the lady on the phone said it was due on MARCH 15th. To double-check I called Wolf Camera and confirmed with them that they expected the camera on March 15th as well.

So, I emailed Amazon again on March 13th:

Here's the Canon press release stating that this camera is due to hit stores MARCH 15, not May 15:

Also, I just called and confirmed this with Canon. It's supposed to hit store shelves on Wednesday, MARCH 15.

Wolf Camera says they're due to get them in this month as well.

My preference is to keep my order with you guys, but if you really aren't getting them in until May I'll have to cancel and go with Wolf since they will have them this month. The question is... with my order for this camera, I also bought a Compact Flash card to go with it. I have received the card already, but I paid for 1 day shipping in order to get the camera ASAP. If I cancel this order, will I get my shipping charge refunded/discounted? The Compact Flash card is doing me no good without the camera...

Amazon's response (March 27th):

Thank you for writing to us at

I apologize for any misunderstanding about the delivery estimate for
your order. The "Canon EOS 30D 8.2MP Digital SLR Camera" has not
yet shipped because it has not yet been released. As listed on our
site, it is currently scheduled to be released on May 15.

I have also checked with other online camera and photo retailers,
and I cannot find one who has the item in stock--they show not
available or ships when received from the manufacturer.

As soon as the item has been released, we'll be able to ship it to
you. As per our standard policy, we do not charge you for items
until they enter the shipping process, so you will not be charged
for this item until it is available and we have shipped it to you.

Of course, we understand if you prefer not to wait. Just click the
link below and we will be happy to cancel the order for you.

I regret the inconvenience this has caused, and we thank you for
shopping with us at

Please visit the following link to provide the information we

Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept
incoming e-mail. Please use the link above to send us your reply.

Best regards,

Beth Customer Service

In the interum I found out that the release day had, in fact, been pushed out -until March 27th, the same day Amazon finally responded to my email. So, I decided to call them. After all, they should be getting them in today (3/27), right? The person on the phone insisted that the 30D would be released on MAY 15th even though I was staring at 2 online retailers that showed them as "in stock".

One of them, Canoga Camera, was selling it for about $60 less than Amazon. One day shipping was about $60. In the end, I'd save a few dollars going with Canoga over Amazon... Hmm... I did some research on the store since I had never heard of them, and I found nothing but glowing reviews. So, I cancelled the Amazon order and put my order in with Canoga around noon.

I checked back with Canoga's site in the afternoon and found the camera to be "sold out". Right before going home I received a call from Canoga Camera asking me to call my credit card company to add my work address as "authorized" so they could ship it to me there. I did so, and later that night got a tracking number from Canoga.

Today, at 10am, UPS delivered my 30D. It was less than 24 hours from ordering it to having it in my hands. Thanks Canoga Camera!

NOTE: Amazon's website STILL claims that the 30d will be released on May 15th. Weird. I won't be doing any more pre-orders with them, that's for sure!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Learning to weld

Ed and I took a tig welding class yesterday in hopes that one of us will quickly learn how to weld in order to get his car back together. The verdict after the class is that I'd be doing the steel welding, and Ed would do the aluminum. But either way, we could both use some more practice!

Here's a picture of my first weld. Let's hope that in a little while I'll be laughing at this rather than being proud of it!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Going Digital.

About 2 years ago, when I first started becoming a little more serious about photography, I took a few rolls of film to a Meijer to get developed. The person at the photo desk informed me that their machine was being repaired, so my photos would take a little longer than normal to be developed -2 hours instead of 1 hour. "No problem" I said, and I went about my day. Later I picked the prints up and headed home.

At home I took a look at the photos and found some problems with them. Here's an example. If you look closely (the scan isn't very good) you can see bands of faded color in the print. Several, if not all, of the prints had this banding although some were worse than others and the effect is visible in the negatives as well. I chalked this up to their machine being broken, and a poor choice of photo processors (Meijer is a discount super store like Wal-Mart).

So, instead of paying about $5-$6 for 24 prints, I started taking my photos to Wolf Camera/Ritz Camera for developing even though the cost nearly doubled. I considered the cost difference to be justified since they claimed to have higher standards of equipment upkeep, etc. Well, about a year ago at Wolf Camera in Hinsdale, I got some prints back with these vertical lines down them. Click here for an example. Again, in this instance, the negatives are also effected.

Now, I don't go through a lot of film, so I'm surprised I've had as many problems as I have had. I figured that the second issue, the one with Wolf Camera, was a fluke, but I've had other minor issues since then. So, I don't trust my prints with Wolf/Ritz anymore either, and I'm at a loss for who to go to next. I looked for a little Mom & Pop photo store, but there seem to be none near by.

Another problem with film is the cost of it and developing. Last time I visited Wolf Camera it cost me over $30 for developing 3 rolls of film, single 4x6 prints, and a CD. The film itself costs about $12 for four 24-exposure rolls. So, that's $3 a roll for the film + $10 a roll for developing, prints, and a CD (which I usually get 'cause it's easier than scanning them all individually later). That comes to a cost of$13 a roll or over $0.50 each time you press the shutter button. For pictures you're likely to keep, that's not too bad, but for practice or experimenting with certain effects, like motion panning, where you can take 3 rolls of pictures to get 1 good shot... well, it's prevented me from even trying.

Then there's the issue of instant feedback. I joined a photography email list about a year ago and I've learned a lot from it. ("Photography_beginners" yahoogroup if anyone's interested.) They have 3 monthly photo contests every month that force you to be creative -I had never even tried set-up shots before, but it turns out I've become fairly good at them. The thing is, that I've shot 20 or so pictures to get the final photo that I enter into a contest. I usually start out with an idea; take some pictures; view them on my computer; change the background, lighting, or whatever; re-shoot; take another look; etc until I'm happy with the outcome. That simply isn't practical with film.

The last thing about film that I hate is having only 100 speed film on an overcast day. Grr. Even just having to rewind a roll of 100/200 with only a few pictures on it so I can load 400/800 for night shots is annoying. I don't know how many times I've had Ed driving around some weird town in the middle of nowhere looking for a store to get some X speed film. Blah. With digital you can adjust the ISO on the fly as needed.

So, I started looking into a digital SLR camera about a year ago and was happy to find the Canon 20D, which takes the same lenses as the Canon EOS Elan IIe film SLR that I've been using. But back in August I had a conversation with a techno-geek and photographer wanna-be who convinced me that cameras with APS-sized sensors instead of full-sized ones were cr@p. so, for the last 6 months or so I've been convinced that I needed the $3000 Canon 5D. Well, that simply isn't in my budget, so I've been wishing and saving and dreaming about getting it -maybe by mid summer.

Well, that changed on February 21. I came across a press release from Canon about the new 30D they were going to release March 15. With a retail price of $1400 it was worth looking into! So I did, and I found that it wasn't much different than the 20D. :-( But it made me look into the reasons that I thought I needed the 5D. Basically it all came down to that full-sized sensor vs the APS. Well, I found this article that explained the crop factor I was so afraid of and it turns out that the APS sized sensor is BETTER for my style of photography (nature mostly) than the full-size.

Turns out this "crop factor" is an easy concept. The sensor is smaller than normal, so the lens will be delivering a bigger "picture" than the camera can use. The effect is a "cropped" picture -some of what you would have seen on the sides and top will not show up on the 20D because of the smaller sensor. (But, the viewfinder shows what the sensor sees, so you don't have to worry about that.) This results in a loss of "wide angle" shots, but improved telephoto shots (the crop makes the photo look magnified since the end result, a 4x6 print or whatever is the same size). To figure out what the effective focal length of a lens will be on an APS-sized sensored camera, you multiply the focal length of the lens by 1.6 (that's the "crop factor" on a 20D/30D). So, my 28-80mm lens becomes a 48-128mm lens. -See how I lost out on some of the wide angle abilities of the lens, but the "zoom" was increased? Now, my 75-300mm lens will be more like a 120-480mm lens. I can't wait to see that!

So, the 20D would have been fine for me. I opted for the 30D to gain the bigger LCD screen, spot metering, and a few other minor improvements. Generally the Canon community has been disappointed that the 30D doesn't include more MP's or any sensor improvements, but seeing how some people have blown up photos from their 20D to 3'x4' (with some tweaking in software), I think 8.2MP will work great for me. Besides, it sounds like Canon may be headed towards eliminating the APS-sized sensors and I really think that they'll work out best for me.

I won't be throwing out my film SLR though. That thing's tough, dependable, and I look forward to using it for some more serious photography, perhaps with slide film to get a nice shot I can blow up BIG to put on display. I'm also looking into getting a Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L lens so I can take some wide angle shots with the 30D (for vacations, etc) and it'd be neat to take full advantage of the lower end of that lens' focal length with the film SLR.

Anyway, that's my news as photo-geeky as it is. 10 days and counting 'til my 30D is delivered. I can't wait! :-D

Friday, January 27, 2006

The wedding, the cruise...

Whew! It's over :) ...but it's over :(
-Here's a synopsis...

Thursday, January 12:
I got home from work and immediately started packing what I could. For the most part I had my clothes packed from earlier in the week, but I needed to gather up jewelry and other odds and ends. I also had to test-fit the recently picked up dry cleaning stuff to see if it'd fit in our garmet bag, finish up some last-minute laundry, etc. Soon, Ed came home and we left to drop the dog off at the vet for boarding and grab the last chicago-style pizza we'd have for a week (Oh noes!).

But since we chose Giordano's , Ed had to have some last-minute Cold Stone ice cream as well. When we were done there, we climbed back into the car and started back towards home to finish packing and get to bed. 1 block later I remembered that we needed to pick up a new garmet bag since our old one was too small, so off to Target we went. At 9:50pm (10 minutes before closing) we stood at the checkout panting, but with a (pretty nice) garmet bag on wheels in tow.

We got home and packed until 1am when we both collapsed onto the bed from exhaustion.

Friday, January 13:
Around 9am we woke up, packed up the last-minute items and then headed out to return our rental car (our WRX was in the shop due to an accident on New Year's Eve), then we had to mail a rebate for Ed's phone and pick up some cash for the trip. We got back around 10am and I remembered that I needed to send out my Thank-You cards for all my shower gifts! So, we addressed the envelopes, put stamps and return address stickers on them (assembly line style) and threw them in our carry-on hoping to find a mailbox somewhere. Just as we were finishing up the taxi arrived (early), so Ed started bringing out the luggage as I finished up the thank-you's and turned off all the lights. I then locked the doors ran out of the house before they left without me ;)

As we headed towards the expressway I checked to make sure we had the unreplaceables -the cruise tickets, our passports, etc. They were there. Anything else we forgot we could buy in Miami or on the ship, right? :P

As the taxi driver got on the on-ramp for I-88 he quickly slowed down and brought the car to a stop on the shoulder. "Don't worry" he said. Mmm... too late. What's up? -He turned the car off, then back on and headed back on the ramp. Soon after getting onto I-88 he pulled over again. Turns out he just got his car back from the shop where they replaced his transmission. Well, he's still having problems. It sometimes refuses to shift and he has to turn the car off then back on (resetting the TCU) and try again. Well, all the way to the airport whenever he slowed down (for tolls or whatever), he'd have to play with it. It was annoying, but I felt bad for the guy -I mean, his car is is livelyhood and he looses more money than just the cost of repairs when it's in the shop. We left ridiculously early anyway, so it was no big deal. I tipped him well for getting us there dispite the trouble with his car and for helping us with all of our heavy luggage.

By the time we got to the airport, the drizzle that just started as we got into the taxi turned to a full-blown snowstorm. I hoped it wouldn't delay our flight as we checked in via the automated system, turned over our luggage, slid through security, and headed for Chili's to eat lunch with inadequate plastic utensils. (We were hungry, though, so it didn't really matter.) After lunch, Ed hit Starbucks to get the last of his essentials before roughing it for a week :P -then we picked up a some Mrs. Fields cookies to eat on the plane and headed for our gate.

Soon after finding a place to sit at the gate, my Mom, Dad, Jeff, Grandma, and Aunt Dolores arrived there as well. Boarding was starting as they arrived, so they wolfed down some McDonalds and then we started thinking about joining the line of people waiting to board the plane. Takeoff was still about a half-hour away yet, so my Dad went for a last-minute potty break. Shortly afterwards, my brother decided he'd go too.

A few minutes later Jeff returns. "Where's Dad?" -My Mom goes into a panic and she and Jeff run towards the bathroom while Ed and I sit with my Grandma and Aunt Dolores. My Mom returns, still no Dad, so she goes back to continue looking. Ed and I think about getting the girls on board since it'll take my Grandma awhile to get to her seat, but my Mom has their boarding passes. Grr. So, I start looking for my Dad too. There's so many people... I go back to the gate. Still no Dad. Ed's getting nervous now... As we talk about what to do, they announce last-call for boarding -they're going to give our seats away to stand-by's if we don't get on in the next few minutes. Great! So, I run down the hall looking for everyone while dialing my brother's cell phone. He picks up, I tell him what's going on -they still haven't found my Dad yet. I go back to the gate and Ed's talking to the lady behind the counter, but there's nothing they can do. They need everyone on board now or they'll give away our seats. Then I spot my Mom, Dad, and Jeff walking towards the gate. "Run!" I yell as they make the final call for passengers. They got there just in time. Whew!

So, we all settled into our seats for the flight and calmed down after that bit of excitement. Our flight time comes and goes while we sit and wait. "Hurry up and wait" is the motto of all travelers. I didn't let it get to me. It turned out we were waiting for the plane to be de-iced. When that was done, we got in line for take-off. As soon as we were up in the air we all relaxed with whatever diversion we brought with us -Ed on his laptop, me on my Palm, Jeff on his bean (an mp3 player).

We landed in Florida about a half-hour late, picked up our luggage, and got 2 taxis to bring us to the hotel. Once there we checked in, dropped off the huge mountain of luggage, and then grabbed 2 more taxis to go to Chili's for dinner.

Now, we chose Chili's just because we saw it on the way from the airport and they have a wide variety of food, so we figured it'd be the most convenient. Well, when the taxi pulled up to the restaurant we all just about died, the entire parking lot was full -I mean FULL of teenagers. The taxi couldn't hardly pull in because there were so many of them. So, we had to pick another place to eat. We chose a steak place which ended up being a lot like Texas Roadhouse, and everyone enjoyed it.

After dinner, we got 2 more taxis to get back to the hotel, then we all split up and went to bed. It'd be an early morning for all of us -especially Mom and I since I had an 8:30am appointment to get my hair and makeup done by Panache solon (near the pier).

Lying in bed was the first time I had a chance to really think about the fact that I was getting married. Nervousness started to set in. I tossed and turned a little, but luckily I was exhausted and eventually fell asleep.

Saturday, January 14:
When the alarm went off it was rush time again. I quickly got dressed in jeans and a zip-front shirt and met my Mom to grab a quick continental breakfast before heading to Panache salon in yet another taxi. This cab driver set herself apart, though. The entire ride was spent listening to horror stories about her children's weddings (that is, in-between her many many phone calls from her son). Bleh, but we got to the salon with a little time to spare.

When the hairdresser came in, she had me take a seat in her chair and she handed me two hairstyle books that looked like they came from the 1980's. The page she opened one of them to showed a bunch of up-do's -not what I was looking for. I ended up just explaining that I wanted maybe some curls and for her to somehow eliminate the harsh middle part in my hair. She immediately gathered the hair around my face and pulled it back and up just a little and said "what about something like this?". It looked nice, so we went with that.

For the next half hour I sat there while she sprayed small sections of hair with gallons of hair spray, curled it, sprayed it some more, then moved onto the next little section of hair. When she was done I had a beautiful helmet. No, really, it was beautiful! She even created these little florets of hair in the back -she did a really good job. And the hair wasn't going anywhere! -Which was good, 'cause it was really windy that day in Miami! (Actually, we lucked out because it was supposed to be rainy!)

After the hair was done, the makeup lady came to get me. I sat down in her chair surrounded by posters of women who looked like this. "How you wanna look?" she asked. "Uh... natural." I said while thinking about just how ironic it was that I was spending $80 for someone to make me look "natural". Anyway...

First she puts this lotion all over my face, then she dabs it off with some cheesecloth (or, at least, that's what it looked like). Next, she applies a gel all over. Then we get to the foundation, which was fine until she stuck her little foam applicator thingy up my nose -a little weird... I just sat there thinking that all those Hollywood people have to go through this at least once a day. I dunno if I could stand all that. Anyway, in the end she did a great job although it was weird looking at myself in the mirror -I looked like a porcelain doll!

We tipped both ladies, then decided to buy the lip gloss she used on me since the wedding was about 4 hours away. $28 later (for lip gloss!!!) we caught another taxi and headed for the pier. It was a short ride. We found our gate and waited for the rest of the family who arrived shortly after us.

When everyone was there and our baggage was checked, we headed upstairs to wait to board the ship. When we got there we found that Ed's family was already there. We took a minute to hug each other -we hadn't seen Doug and Yolanda in over a year, and it had been 6 months or so since we saw "Mom" or Sharon. After the hello's we introduced them to my family, and we all stood around talking and getting aquainted with one-another. No suprise that Jeff and Doug got along so well...

Soon Sue and Skip and their clan showed up (I was a little worried about them getting there since Keith didn't get into Ft Lauderdale until 9am) then we were herded to wait in a line. (During all of this we met our wedding coordinator who was a really nice girl, and our officiant who was also very nice. They went through how boarding and the ceremony would work, and the coordinator took down our request for wedding music and took really good care of the less moble people in our group.)

Eventually they let us through security and into registration. Our party got to go first since we had the earliest wedding. After getting through all that we waited some more (all this waiting resulted in Doug and my Dad getting a little silly. At 12:30pm we were finally allowed on the ship. That left us exactly a half hour to get to our rooms, change, and then get to the chapel.

Ed and I quickly dressed, then he headed to the chapel as instructed. I was to stay until the wedding coordinator came to get me. It seemed like forever sitting there waiting with nothing to do but get more and more nervous. -There was no time for worrying while rushing to get onboard, but now... Eventually there was a knock on the door, and we talked about how much she loved my Dad on the way to the chapel. We stopped short of the chapel where I met the photographer, Vlad, and he took a few pictures. Then it was up to the chapel -my Mom was just arriving; she was a wreck! -in full panic mode again. She started crying as she said "You're beautiful!" then she totally broke down about forgetting her camera in the stateroom. "Don't worry" I said -there was a professional photographer, plus Doug, Sue, Jenny, and Sharon were all taking pictures too!

They were still working on getting my Grandma and my Dad up the stairs on a chair-lift, so I had to stand out of the way and wait. I continued getting nervous while peeking at the chapel full of relatives. The officiant came out and explained that I'd walk out with my Dad, stop when he told me to, then he'd ask "Who gives this woman to this man", my Dad would say "I do" (he's been practicing for weeks now), then my Dad would kiss me, I'd take Ed's right hand (or was it the left), then turn around and stand on his left (or was it right?) with my ? hand on his ? arm.

Well, none of it went quite as planned, but it all worked out. Slightly misty (Marines don't cry), my Dad gave me away, I eventually got into the proper position, and the ceremony went on. It was quite nice. The officiant was great (although I was sometimes distracted by smiling for the photographer). We exchanged rings and vows, kissed, and walked out of the chapel as man and wife. -It still sounds weird saying that.

After walking back down the aisle and out of the chapel, we were ushered back in for more pictures. Stand here like this, smile. Now put your hand here, the bouquet there -smile. Now, come over here. And on and on. "Okay now to the reception."

The reception was held in Cloud Nine lounge -a pretty place with windows overlooking Miami and the harbor below. As soon as we got there, they lead us to the cake. After a quick picture of just the cake, it was time for a picture of us before cutting the cake. Then as we started cutting the cake. With the cake cut. Ready to feed each other the cake. Feeding each other the cake...
Then someone said "Come on, this is far too civil." -That's all Ed needed to hear, so he proceded to try to put the remaining cake DOWN MY DRESS!!! Luckily, with a few quick threats, I got him to stop short of actually doing it. There is a picture of that too, of course. :-P

After that came the toast, which my Dad made. Followed by his toast, Ed's Mom welcomed me to the family, which was sweet. A few others made short comments, then straight on to pictures of us with various family members. (Although I'm disappointed we never got Sharon in one of the family pictures...)

Anyway, after the family pictures Vlad sold us on another hour of photography around the ship. I'm very happy we did that, 'cause the pictures turned out great! (You can see all of them here.) So, we got about 1 minute to wolf down some cake before bringing everyone down to a staircase mid-ship for a group picture. On the way we took several pictures next to an old car and in front of a cafe. The group shot took awhile to compose, but worth the work 'cause it came out great too!

After the group shot, the family was free to explore the ship. We did the same, but lead by the photographer and at a lightning pace! We visited the dungeon, where we took humerous pictures, Boleros bar, the helicopter pad, the casino, the dining room, and a few other places. When our hour finally came to an end I thought my feet were going to fall off and I was unsure how the pictures would turn out. They ended up being beautiful, though IMO.

When all that was done we went straight to our cabin and... changed. :-P Then we explored the ship. At 4:30pm the muster drill was called. We grabbed our life jackets and met everyone else at our muster station. After that, the ship left Miami, so we went outside with Sharon to watch land slip out of sight behind us.

It was nice meeting up with everyone again at dinner although Sonny and Kay had been given an early dining time, so they weren't with us. We got the head waiter to change them over to our table during late dining for the rest of the trip, though.

After dinner Ed and I walked down the promenade, which looks like a city street, but it's on the inside of the ship (the Navigator of the Seas). When we got there, there were a whole bunch of people crowding around. We stuck around to see what was happening, it ended up being a Bon Voyage parade!

When that was done, we went outside to get some air. The full moon was out. It was a beautiful night. We both got some pictures and talked about how great everything worked out.

Sunday, January 15:
This was a full day at sea. We spent the day exploring, taking in a show at the Metropolis theater, buying art (a Brodinsky), etc.

Monday, January 16:
We didn't arrive in Puerto Rico until 2pm, so we had the morning to relax and eat a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer restaurant. As we came into port, Ed and I grabbed his Mom and brought her up to an outside deck to get a nice view of San Juan. When we docked, Ed's Mom went with Doug and Yolanda while Sharon came with us to tour Old San Juan. We did a little shopping, then went to fort San Christobal.

After we'd seen everything there, we did some more shopping, then Sharon took off for the casino while Ed and I toured around some more. We went to a small park, saw some statues, and took pictures of the ship at night.

Eventually, it came time to get back on the ship, and we had dinner, then got our stuff ready for our dive early the next morning.

Tuesday, January 17:
The alarm went off at an hour that was never meant to be seen by vacationers. Luckily, the excitement of our first "real" dive enabled us to get out of bed, grab our gear, and meet the other divers at the onboard dive shop.

At the ship's dive shop we rented 3mil shorties for $10 apiece. The rest of our equipment we rented from the land-based dive shop, Water World Outfitters. After getting off the ship, we did a brief stop at their store for some people to pick up masks, snorkels, and fins, then we headed for the dive boat "Reef Safari" owned by Underwater Safari.

On the boat, our equipment was all set up already. The Dive Master showed each of us to a BC (buoyancy control vest) and tank that would fit them and we were underway. From here we had no idea what to do, so we just watched everyone else. We unpacked our bag, piled our mask, snorkel, and fins out of the way, clipped our whistle and Sensus Pro's (dive loggers, they record our depth, etc for future review) to our BC's with some carabiners I brought along, and I put my EMT shears, flashlight, and DiveRite (waterproof) notepad in my BC pocket. The safety sausages (signaling devices) we brought we left behind -I had no idea where to clip them. We figured we'd play with them next time we went to the quarry.

After getting all that settled, the DM (Dive Master) started handing out weight. Neither Ed nor I knew how much we needed, so he made his best guess. I (5'2", 135lbs) had 12lbs, which was perfect. Ed ended up needing 2lbs more on the 2nd dive, but that's still pretty accurate! Next came the pre-dive briefing which we listed to as we started getting into our wetsuits. The DM explained that there were something like 18 divers on board, 6 students and 12 certified divers. We'd dive as 2 groups, each going a different direction on both dives. We would do both a reef dive and a wreck dive without the boat moving in-between.

Soon after he was done talking, we arrived at our dive spot where we were the 3rd boat I think. The other boats just had snorkelers aboard, so the area wasn't croweded at all. Ed and I started gearing up. When I was ready, the DM checked me over, I checked my pressure guage (3100psi) and jumped in. The water was a nice warm 80 degrees. Shortly after I was in, Ed jumped in, and we switched from our reg to our snorkels to conserve air while the others got in the water.

When everyone was in, the DM gave us the okay to go down. Happily, I had no trouble with my ears and was able to descend easily. After getting close to the bottom, Ed and I adjusted our BC's to get neutral, then the DM signaled for our group to follow him. The "reef" was basically a pile of rocks with some coral and sponges growing on them. There was enough to see, but it wasn't nearly as nice as some I've seen snorkeling. We saw plenty of yellowtails, though, along with some squirrelfish, a big blowfish, and a small sea turtle! There were some bright purple sponges (at least I think they were sponges), coral, sea fans, etc that made for nice scenery too. We toured around a bit, then our ascent was slow. Max depth was around 65 feet and we were down for about 40min including a 3min safety stop.

After surfacing both Ed and I had big grins on our faces. We climbed back on the boat, then headed for a sunny spot to warm up. After a short break while the DM and his assistant switched our BC's to fresh tanks, we put the equipment back on, Ed got 2 more pounds of weight, and we jumped off the other side of the boat for the wreck dive.

The wreck we dove, the DM told us, was a drug boat sunk by the coast guard in about 80-100 feet of water. After a hurricane threw it up on land, in ended up back in the water where it now sits in 3 pieces at about 40-50 feet. It turns out it was really the Cartanza, a WWI steamer. Anyway...

A short swim brought us to the hull where Ed gave me "ok" signs with both hands and had a big grin on his face that could be seen, even behind his regulator! We toured it for awhile and saw lots of sargeant major fish swimming around. Some coral had started to grow on the boat, but not a whole lot.

After touring the hull, the DM banged his tank to signal us to follow him again. This time we saw the engine room. 2 engines were clearly visible (Ed and I are car geeks, so we thought they were cool) and as we were looking around someone ahead was pointing at something down inside the wreck. We swam towards them and finally I saw what they were pointing at. It was a barracuda -about 3 feet long! He poked his head out from down inside the wreck and slowly swam out so I could get his picture! ;-)

After that one by one we made our way over to the engine room where the ship had been broken in two. During the briefing for this dive, the DM explained that there was a small swim-through -entirely optional. We just had to swim inside an empty room about 8 feet square, the DM was inside standing under the 2.5-3 foot hole. We swam up to him, took a deep breath to start ascending up towards the hole, and the DM gave our tank a little push to help us out. It was easy, and a lot of fun. When everyone had gone through the DM banged his tank again and we headed to the 3rd piece of the ship for a quick look. There we saw more yellowtails, sargeant majors, and more purple sponges.

Another bang signaled that it was time to head back to the boat. As we swam we heard a low humming noise and everyone started looking around. It grew louder and louder and finally I saw a boat moving fast straight above us. We had no dive flag -I assumed the area was marked off so that boats didn't go through it, but I guess not! Anyway, we were still at about 30 feet, so we were all fine, but it was a little scary!

The rest of the swim back was non-eventful and we slowly ascended as we swam so when we got back to the boat we just held our safety stop. After that we boarded the same as before and Ed and I agreed we'd be diving again ASAP -we both had a great time!

When we got back, we went back to the ship to change, then headed to Charlotte Amelie for more shopping. When we were tired of that, we went back to the ship and got washed up for dinner, but not before stopping at a Cold Stone Creamery near the pier for some ice cream. (Who knew there'd be one in St Thomas!)

Wednesday, January18:
We arrived in St Maarten early and had plans to go on a bus tour with both sides of the family. My Dad, however, had a "bad night", so he slept all day and my Mom took the day for herself (it did her a world of good too!) So after a room service breakfast, Ed, Sharon, Jeff, and I took my Grandma, Aunt Dolores, and Ed's Mom on the bus tour instead. It was an entertaining ride; St Maarten is an interesting island. During the ride we got a feel for how the islanders live, then we stopped on the french side for some shopping.

We went through a mall, then to an open-air market where my Grandma was looking for a specific kind of bag to bring back for my Aunt Del and Aunt Marie. Well, in the quest we lost Ed, Sharon, and his Mom. And Jeff was off buying a beautiful ring for some lucky girl, so I was left to watch the clock and get us back to the bus on time. Well... I didn't. I got back late, but the driver waited for us (and we weren't the last ones on the bus either).

The next stop was a lookout where only Ed, Sharon, and I got out. It was nice, though, and Ed made friends with one of the island's many stray dogs. After that the driver brought us to the shopping district on the Dutch side where Ed, Sharon, Mom, and I got off. Gram and Dolores wanted to go back to the ship (I think they felt they were a burden -they were not). Jeff stayed with them.

When we were done shopping, we took a water taxi back to the ship to go relax before the ice show. Who ever heard of an ice skating show on a cruise ship, but hey -we had to go. I mean Ed's Mom, my Grandma, and my Aunt Dolores are big ice skating fans, so this was not to be skipped!

After the show was dinner, and we all agreed that we had had a whirlwind of a few days there. Luckily, the next day was another day at sea so we could take it a little easier and just relax. We got a jump on the relaxation by sitting in the hot tub for awhile after dinner with Jeff.

Thursday, January 19:
Ah, a day at sea. We all needed it. Ed and I slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and then met up with my Mom, Grandma, Aunt Dolores, Jeff, and Kay on the promenade. It turned out they were going to bingo, so Ed and I followed. I spent $35 on cards and won absolutely nothing. Neither did anyone else. Jeff provided entertainment, however. He played bingo whenever he could throughout the trip, and by the end I think he started everyone saying "Yes!" everytime they got a number (any number). It was his shtick.

His other shtick, which did not catch on, was ripping limbs off his stuffed dog. -I guess they handed these dogs out or sold them at one of the first bingo games. The dog was good for a free card at each bingo game. It was supposed to bring him luck and Jeff thought he'd increase his odds by threatening the dog that he'd rip off a limb for each round of bingo he didn't win. Well, it didn't work. By the end of the cruise there was nothing left of the dog, and Jeff never did win a game. :(

Anyway, we spent the rest of the day at another art auction (we bought another piece of art, a Gockel this time) and doing similarly mellow activities.

After dinner we got together with the photographer, Vlad to go over our pictures. I was genuinely worried about them 'cause I usually take such bad pictures, but they turned out wonderfully. He even made us a slideshow which blew me away. When we were done going through the prints, we discussed what prints we wanted, and ended up leaving it in his hands after he got an idea of what we wanted to give to our parents, etc. When he wrote up the total cost I about died, but in the end it was worth it. I really love the pictures and the slide show, as I said is amazing.

When we left Vlad, it was about 1am and we were exhausted, so we went straight to bed.

Friday, January 20:
We woke up at about 9am and headed down to breakfast. On the way we saw Vlad in the centrum selling those 3D pictures in a glass cube things. We went down to say "hi" and ask him if he slept at all. "Does it look like I slept?" was his answer. Wow. The staff on cruise ships really put in the hours -and for 7 days a week! Plus, you never see anyone without a smile on their face. Anyway, we watched him manually editing each dot for one of those 3D crystal images on his laptop before the data was fed into the "printer". It's crazy how much work goes into those things. Well, Vlad's a perfectionist. Still, my brother bought a $25 keychain with a 3D image of his head in it for some girl's Mom. To think that hours of editing went into it... $25 almost seems unreasonable cheap!

We eventually did make it to breakfast, and the ship arrived in Nassau at about 1pm. Before getting off we met up with Jeff, so we ventured out together in search of a beach to spend our last day on. We found the free beach, but our attempt at finding rental equipment for snorkeling failed. No biggie. We set our stuff down in the sand, and headed for the water. It was cold!

The water in St Thomas was 80*F. This water was more like 70 I think. But we got used to it and ended up sitting in the water for quite awhile skipping rocks, splashing each other, just soaking up the sun, taking goofy pictures, and watching Jeff put coral up his nose.

Eventually we moved onto a quick bit of shopping, then headed to Senor Frog's for some lunch. The food wasn't bad (there sure was enough of it!) but it was kinda expensive -$72 for 3 people, no alcohol. I don't think I'll be going back there.

Anyway, after that we went back to the ship and washed up. When we were back out and about on the ship we ran into Vlad in the photo gallery while picking up some prints we had ordered. He was "printing" the crystal cube pictures. We got to watch. It was really neat to see.

When the crystal was on it's way to completion, Vlad told us that our pictures were ready and asked if we had brought along a bag to carry them back in. We had not, so we ran back up to the room and grabbed a bag from our stateroom that was about the size of a paper grocery bag. When Vlad saw that he laughed and said maybe he could find something else in the back. He disappeared behind the photo desk, and came out a little while later with our bag, another (bigger) bag, and a box full of stuff for us. Plus our other prints. Wow! -We had no idea we were getting so much stuff!

We got 2 silver frames, 4 portfolios, 2 large photo albums, 4 small photo albums, 3 complete sets of pictures, plus selected 8x10's and various other prints AND the negatives, the slide show, and all the pictures on CD. Whew!

We brought it all up to the room and quickly sorted the 5x7 pictures into 3 seperate sets to give out (1 to my Mom, one to Ed's Mom). Then we headed to dinner where we invited our families back to our cabin after dinner. My Grandma and Aunt Dolores opted out -they were pooped, but my Mom, Ed's Mom, and Sharon made it. We showed them all the slide show, then gave them the pictures and a small photo album.

Everyone loved the pictures as much as we did and after watching the slideshow a few times I've realized something. All along throughout the planning of the wedding I kept thinking of the event as a formality. Ed and I already lived together and we were already committed to each other, so I saw little significance to the wedding. After the fact, however, especially after viewing the slideshow which really touched me, I do see the significance. Both to us and to our families. It's an event that I'll never forget. -My love for Ed hasn't changed, but is made more significant somehow by... not only the ceremony itself, but the two families meeting each other, how well everyone got along... I don't know, but it was kinda sad to see the week come to an end.

But come to an end it did. We said our good-byes to Ed's family, then after everyone left our room we scrambled to get everything packed. The deadline for getting your luggage out in the hall to be collected was midnight and I think we got ours out at 11:59pm! We skipped our showers and fell into bed. In the morning the alarm went off at 6:30am and we got dressed, packed up our last-minute items, and met the family to wait for our luggage tag color to be called so we could get off the ship.

When we were called, we went down to baggage claim to collect our luggage. We got everything but our garmet bag and my Mom's big suitcase fairly quickly, but we waited and waited for those last two items. Eventually, new luggage tag colors started coming out. We started to get worried, and sent people to check the other carrousels for our missing luggage. Soon we found that others with our color were missing their luggage too. Royal Caribbean employees were notified and were making efforts to find our luggage. As we debated what time we'd be forced to leave for the airport to avoid missing our flight, our garmet bag turned up. We waited some more for my Mom's big suitcase, but we ended up having to leave before it was found. (In a way it was a good thing. The suitcase was overweighted, so my Mom had to pay $50 extra for American Airlines to fly it to Miami with us. So, since Royal Caribbean had to ship it to her, it saved her $50!)

The next step was boarding a bus to the airport. That went smoothly, thank goodness, as did check-in at the airport. We arrived at our gate as boarding was started -we had just enough time to grab some pizza to eat on the plane. Baggage claim at OHare went smoothly as well. From there Ed and I said goodbye to everyone, called a cab, and started for home.

Once home we debated going straight to bed (at 3:30pm!) vs grabbing something to eat. We decided to eat, but still ended up in bed fairly early. The next morning was laundry day. Back to the real world...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wedding bands turned out nice!

We got our wedding bands from Bruce Boone last week ( They are beautiful. I got a good picture of them too:

Mine fits inside of Ed's, which is oddly amusing. Anyway, to see the full size, click here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wow! Been busy...

The wedding:
For those of you out there who are single -don't get married. No matter how "simple" you think your ceremony's going to be it's a big PITA. Live in sin for as long as possible. If the day comes where you realize how much cheaper your auto insurance, health insurance, etc will be if you get married, then proceed with your pracitical position on the matter and arrange some time at the local courthouse. If you want it to be special, book $50 rt airfare to Vegas and have Elvis marry you. All other options suck.

Every step of the planning has been painful. We originally decided to do the ceremony on a cruise because it'd make the planning much easier. No hall to book, reception, etc. They even take care of the flowers! What we didn't anticipate was: our original date, the one we put on our wedding announcements/invitations to be changed -the ship was chartered. Getting my grandma a passport being a big hassle. I think we started the paperwork in October, then found out that she didn't have a birth certificate 'cause she was born at home. Wait, no, she has one, but it's just a copy, we need a certified copy. We got that from Springfield in November and sent off for the passport. The post office delayed the application, she still doesn't have it. I just checked the law and it turns out they postponed it until next year. She could sail with a certified copy of her birth certificate. But, guess what? It was sent off with the passport application! So, we're 2 weeks away from sail date -everyone on the edge of their seat waiting for it to arrive in the mail. -I can just see us sailing away, leaving her on the dock. :-(

Blah. What else? Everything with the Travel Agent was a nightmare. I don't know how many times I had to ask her to put us down for late seating for dinner. Every invoice said "Early". Luckily, our tickets confirm we're set for the late as we wanted. The TA sent out reminder cards to all our guests with the wrong groom's name. I called and politely told her about it. She appologized profusely and I dropped it. The day before the next post cards were to go out, I reminded her about the groom's name and she said it wouldn't happen again. Well, guess what? Yep, 2nd post card goes out with the same (WRONG) groom's name. Geez! Then there's hotel reservations, renting medical equipment for Ed's mom, trying to arrange a pre-cruise dinner in Miami the night before the cruise, just a ton of little details...

But, we're finally ready I think. It's January 2nd and we just picked up my jewelry and Ed's shirt and tie for the wedding. Wednesday I get my dress back from the tailor (I'm shaped funny apparently). Next weekend we'll throw everything we own in a suitcase or two and head to Miami.

Left to do: Wait for a whole bunch of stuff for diving to be delivered. Stupid Xmas. I couldn't order anything I needed until Xmas was done incase I got some of it as gifts (I did, thanks Mom!). Make sure Ed has dress shoes -he's not sure. Make sure I have dress shoes -I'm not sure. (We're not "dress up" people.) Learn to walk in the thong heels I bought for the wedding. (Stupid, I know, but they're so cute!)

I know what you're thinking... They're green!?! Yep. I'm not one to do things "normal". My dress is white, fear not. It's actually just a white cotton sundress with a hawaiian hibiscus pattern in white on it. It's simple and pretty (like me?). *Smile*.

So, hair and makeup need to be scheduled, we need to pre-register, get the bus tour of St Maarten reserved for the whole family. Find out if we need to do anything before showing up at the airport (Am I the only one that finds e-tickets confusing?)

Oh yeah! The rings. Doh. We procrastinated due to some money issues when Ed was out of work, but since he's now much more happily employed at Performix (at least I think that's their name) we finally sent off for our rings. They're matching, titanium with a band of "mokume" -a japanese art form of folding different metals to make them look like wood grain when cooled. They're pretty cool. Once again, we're ordering from Boone. See them here: Hopefully they'll get here in time. We do have cheap rings in the wings just in case, but I don't want the "real" ones sitting on our doorstep while we're on vacation...

I have to get my nails done. Ew. I'm not looking forward to that at all! I can't stand to file my nails. I've never been able to do it -it makes shivers run down my spine.

My Mom and I are grating on each other. Wow. Now that she's retired she's calling me every day at work. Besides that she's telling everyone that my Dad's delusional and he's not. Every time he gets mad and starts yelling, if I take him to a quiet place and try to figure out what he's trying to say, it makes sense -like one of his new meds seems to be making him dizzy or shaky.

Well, he's still weak on the right side and his speach hasn't improved, but it looks like his meds are finally straightened out as far as his mood goes. I mean, he's still grouchy at times, but he's in a frustrating situation not being able to speak and my Mom drives him crazy at times too.

It's, well, interesting. I mean, we're getting sued by the State's Attourney, CUB, the ICC. We've also filed for bankruptcy, but they say that it'll all get straightened out.

The Cars:
The Eclipse is still Engineless, but we talked to Mitch a few days ago and it should be ready by February. It would have been ready about now, but we agreed to some changes that'll take a little more time. In the meantime I'll be bugging Ed to get working on the fuel upgrades, getting the front mount in -or at least figuring out the routing for the pipes. He can get the oil sump in and the hoses run as necessary... This car HAS to be up by the Shootout in August or we'll never hear the end of it!

My Laser is still broken. All it needs is the new(ish) transfer case installed and the new driveshaft bearings. The parts are on the way to do that. It's taken me, what, 4 months to get them ordered? Bleh. I'm just so sick of working on the thing. Everytime I think it's fixed something else breaks. I guess that's how it goes with a 14 year old car. But it's a lot of fun when it works. I just need to drive it again and I'll love it again, but for now it's referred to as the POS.

The WRX... click here for a pic, but it's BIG For those of you on dial up or who are too lazy to click the pic, the WRX is no longer in it's previous shape. The whole front end has been, er, "reconfigured" to take up less horizontal space. Okay, we got in an accident. On New Years Eve. Out partying? Nope, we're old, remember? We were coming back from my Mom's place at about 9pm -to get home before the "crazies" hit the road, and about a mile from their house we were sitting at a light on Blakhawk waiting to turn left onto Sauk Trail -the light was green, but we couldn't turn 'cause there was a car stalled in the intersection heading South on Blackhawk. The light turned red, so we stayed put. Traffic started moving around the stalled car, then the kid got it started and darted forward. A guy in a SUV was unable to see him until it was too late. BAM! The kid was T-boned by the SUV and then he ran head-on into us. Lovely. Why did it have to happen in this car? It's 6 months old!

The Jeep: What can I say, its still running. The only one, in fact, that we own that still works. Bleh. It also still sucks to drive with those huge knobby tires -great in the mud! Lousy for gas mileage and generally driving around, but at least it works.

Ed got certified in October, I was certified about 7 years ago, but until now never had anyone to go with. I went with him to the classes, pool session, and even on the Open Water dives in the quarry. It was a good refresher for me since it had been so long since I dove. We both did really well and are quickly accumulating all the little stuff we need to dive in St Thomas. -We're renting all the equipment, but there's a bunch little stuff that I wanted for safety before we jump in the big scary ocean :-P

I got a new digital camera -an Olympus C-5000 for super cheap on eBay plus an underwater housing for it so I can bring it diving with us. I've played with it a little on land and it takes good pictures -sometimes. The exposure and focus are tricky. Hopefully my underwater shots will turn out...

As far as my gallery goes... I don't know what I'm going to do about this, but the database is messed up again. It's all there and working, but I can't add any pics. Ed's current solution is to re-create it all. There's probably hudreds of pics in there right now! The pictures are still there, I'd just have to re-do all the captions, titles, etc. Grr... That's a lot of work. I'm not sure if I'm going to do that and then we'll start backing it up before he playes with potentially database-corrupting updates, changes, whatever -or maybe I'll just start using something without a database. A photoblog would kinda work, but I liked the Gallery layout. I'll probably go back to it. I just don't want to think about all the work involved. :-(

Xmas / Shower:
Another Xmas over with. This one was particularly stressful since I knew my Mom's side of the family was also throwing me a wedding shower. Ugh. I hate being the center of attention like that. Turned out my Dad's side did the same thing. But, we got through it and got some lovely things to boot! The gift Ed likes best is the breadmaker I think. He's made 3 loaves of bread in the 9 days that we've had it!

So, that's why this blog hasn't been updated in awhile. This should hold you for awhile, don't ya' think? I'm sure I'll have more to say after the cruise. I honestly can't wait until January 15th. The wedding will be over (see previous statement about me not liking to be in the spotlight), and I can enjoy the cruise. Even with my family being there -it's a big ship! Then, when I get back, no more wedding plans. Life will go back to normal. ...well my version of normal anyway.