Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hello from the Orange County/John Wayne airport

Hello from the Orange County/John Wayne airport

Sunday morning November 14, 2010 (third travelogue of this trip).

I wanted to do a quick update on our testing. It went very well!!

Because of a confidentially agreement, I am not able to include details or photos.

I can say that we did several tests and our modules performed flawlessly! The person we are working with seemed very pleased and is quite anxious to develop the market.

The weather has been so nice here. Not sure I am ready to head back to the cold weather in CO {grin}.

That is all for now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hello again from Anaheim, CA

Hello again from Anaheim, CA

Friday morning   November 12, 2010   (second travelogue of this trip).

If you have been following my posts in the past week or two, you know that Pat and I were not very thrilled with some aspects of the Norwegian cruise ship – mostly design issues.  However, after following the terrible situation on the Carnival ship Splendor, I guess my bitching pales in comparison to what those folks had to endure.  At least we were not served Spam and our toilets worked {grin}.  I  also want to re-emphasize that the overall cruise was quite fun – primarily because we were with some wonderful family and friends.

As we were departing the ship last week, I began to develop all of the symptoms of a cold.  Indeed, it looked like I would be under the weather for this trip (not fun to fly when you are congested).  However, I started my regimen of  Zinc and Vitamin C and it seems that I avoided the worst of the cold symptoms.  I feel pretty good and have only minimal evidence of a cold.

Yesterday was a fun day.  Gary (the person we designed the new system for) is a drag racing fan, so we planned on going to the Thursday qualifying session of the final NHRA  national race of the year.

Before we did that, we went to the location where we will be doing our testing to make sure they were ready for us.  This is a huge facility with probably 100 or more trash truck.  Most are powered with compressed natural gas engines.  When one thinks of a trash truck, the picture is not pretty.  However, these trucks are immaculate and most look like they are brand new.  Each truck is washed each day and the maintenance seems to be top notch (we briefly toured the maintenance area).  They seemed ready for our testing.  We will do quite a bit of the setup this  afternoon and the actual tests will be performed tomorrow (Saturday) when the yard will not be as active.

We then went to Pomona and I had a blast at the races.  I met up with a very good friend (a good Gates customer) and we spent most of the day together.  Steve and my customer hit is off well, so it all fit together nicely. I even got to put on my “blower belt hat” on and worked with Steve in one of the pits of a top Fuel Funny Car.  Steve was delivering a test belt and we got to talk quite a bit to the crew about the operation of the car and the installation of the test belt.  Gary, my customer, had a great time in that pit area.  I also got to say hi to a good friend/racer that I worked with many years ago.  Lou, has terminal cancer and I really wanted to talk to him before it was too late.

My relationship with Steve started out as a customer/vendor when I worked for Gates.  That quickly changed to great personal friendship.  Some folks say we look like twins (he has more hair) and to a degree, I think we both feel like we are twins.  We have kept in touch over the years and this year we  have gotten together twice.  We must act like a couple of old ladies trying to catch up on all of the events of the past few years {big grin}.

We got to see one round of the nitro car qualifications and that was icing on the cake!

That is all for today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hello from Anaheim, CA

Hello from Anaheim, CA

Wednesday night    November 10, 2010   (First travelogue of this trip).

I am in Anaheim, CA without the bus and Pat.  I flew here today.  More about that in a paragraph or two.

I did not get a chance to finish the last travelogue.  When we left off, we were at sea and running several hours behind.  The problem was that we were not able to leave the pier in Cozumel due to high winds.  About half way from Cozumel to Miami, the captain announced that they would arrive in Miami at 10:00 AM on Saturday (over two hours late).  That caused us considerable concern about making our flight.  I got on the internet and started corresponding with our travel agent.  She did some work with South West Airlines to see what our options were.  As it turns out, we were at the pier by 9:00 AM and easily made our flight.  Everyone noted the much faster speed of the ship on that leg of the trip.  I would hate to pay the fuel bill for that trip!!!

In the last blog I was discussing the fact that this was not our favorite ship.  Indeed, it was not our favorite cruise line.  Pat loves the formal dining format where you have an assigned table in a very fancy dining room.  Everything on the  menu is included and you can order as much as you want.  After dinner you can order a cappuccino – also included.  Dress code is pretty strict.  Most have at least one “formal” night.  I, on the other hand like the Norwegian Cruise Line “Freestyle Cruising” where you go to one of perhaps 10 or more restaurants.  The dress code is informal and you don't have assigned seats.  It seemed neat to me the last time we were on Norwegian.  Not so this time.  There were 13 restaurants (including the pool bar).  Out of the 13 only 4 were no cost.  The rest cost between $10 and $30.  The beloved room service pizza for the kids is now $5 and the cappuccino is no longer include in the cruise fee.  That just goes against our grain.  A major enjoyable feature of cruises is the fact that the food is great and included in the cost of the cruise.  Perhaps that is a thing of the past.

Now lets talk about this trip.  I am staying at the Embassy Suites hotel in Anaheim (map).  This is a business trip to test a new product that we have developed.  I will also get in one day at the NHRA drag races at Pomona.  That will allow me to see some old friends.

As background, a bit over a year ago, we were approached by a major vendor to the specialized heavy duty vehicle market.  Our fire detection system was very interesting to him and would compliment the gas detection system he markets to the natural gas powered commercial vehicles (mandated by the government).  We did a preliminary design of a very comprehensive gas detection/fire detection system.  The project became very complex and we decided to focus on the fire detection phase.  A couple of months ago we finished developing a rather sophisticated detection system that would function with an new generation fire suppression system developed by the people who manufacture the suppression system that I market to the RV market.  All of our testing was very successful, but the customer wanted to work with one of his customers to do some joint testing.

Our customer has arranged to do some testing at a refuse facility that has a fleet of trash trucks.  These trucks experience fires periodically and it appears to be a good market.

I will try to detail the event of the next few days as time permits.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hello from somewhere in the Caribbean

Hello from somewhere in the Caribbean

Friday afternoon    November 5, 2010   (Fourth travelogue of this trip).

I will spend most of this post talking about the ship.  However, there is one item that I forgot to mention.  Pat got very sick late Tuesday night.  Acted like the flu.  She was pretty puny most of Wednesday, but felt reasonably good on Thursday for the wedding.  No one else got sick, so I doubt it was the flu.  We all ate about the same things, so that was probably not the problem.  The doctors have to really minimize her immunity system because of the RA and it could have been a very benign bug that got her.

We are having a kind of exciting day.  The captain announced last night that we could not leave the dock due to high winds.  They did not seem all that high to me, but what do I know.  Well, this morning  I woke up early and we were still at the dock!  We finally departed at 8:00 AM Miami time and that gave us 24 hours to travel 6-700 miles.  We were supposed to leave Thursday at 5:30 central time.  After we had been at sea for a couple of hours, the captain announced that we would arrive in Miami at 10:00 AM Saturday.  That really puts us in a bind to make our flight.  I have acted as the group correspondent with the travel agent to establish contingency plans.  She seems to think we can make our flight.  I think that is optimistic, as just about everything would have to go perfect (including clearing customs which can take quite a while).  We will keep you posted.

Up until today the seas have been like glass.  However, this storm really has us rocking.  The waves are said to be at least 15 feet.  I am surprised that a ship of this size with all of the latest stability technology is rocking as bad as it is.  Most everybody is feeling OK, but the ship is handing out sea sickness pills to anyone that wants them.

Now to the ship.  Before I start in with that discussion, which will be a bit negative, I need to be clear that we have enjoyed this cruise.  This has not been our favorite ship for several reasons.  First, the rooms seem to be designed by someone who does not have a clue.  The theme is curved surfaces/walls and that resulted in separate toilet and shower areas -both of which are frosted glass enclosed and just plain uncomfortable from a privacy standpoint.  The sink is very shallow and tends to splash. Indeed, they changed our faucet (without our asking) with the stated reason being to minimize splash.   The sink is at the foot of the bed.  There is almost no room to walk around the bed. 

As a side note:  I often talk about the book “A Corporate Tragedy”.  It is a story of the terrible mistakes that IHC made many years ago that took them from a company much larger than John Deere to a shell of itself.  One of the major stories in the book was how they told the engineers to go to hell and had the marketing folks “design” a tractor.  It was a terrible failure that caused the farmers huge amount of problems and they ultimately were courted by John Deere and many made the switch.  This ship looks like it was designed by the marketing folks.

Next issue is a personal one with me.  I have very sensitive hearing that is easily overloaded.  The public areas have blaring music and then everyone tries to talk over the music making it even more obnoxious.  The most annoying noise issue is in the spa.   The thermal pool is quite noisy by its nature.  The problem is that they have it in the same room as the supposedly relaxing heated ceramic lounges.  That problem gets worse when people try to shout over the water sounds.  At times I have had my iPod cranked and still could hardly hear the music.  On other ships, the pool is in its own room as it should be.

Now let's talk about the crowds.  I have told the story many times that mom and dad took me on several cruises before I was 16.  All but one were on freighters that had accommodations for about 100 passengers.  This was because my dad hated crowds.  I guess I take after him to a degree.  We have been on ships that had almost as many passengers and it did not seem to bother me as much as this cruise.  As I think about it, it might the the demographics.  The other cruises were with Stampin' Up! folks.   Indeed they even chartered the entire ship for some of the cruises.  These are pretty conservative folks who do not drink a lot and who are not out to impress everybody.  Many of the passengers on this boat seem to drink heavily.  That results in very loud discussion and some pretty obnoxious behavior.  I am not a prude, but it just seems to grate on my for this trip.

Ok having said all of the negative things, I need to make sure that folks understand that this has been a wonderful cruise.  We are part of a group of 26 great folks and we had a lot of fun together.

Maybe my bitching is based on the fact that we had to pay for this trip {grin}.

I have attached a group photo at the wedding.  Looks pretty neat huh?

That is all for now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hello from Cozumel, Mexico

Hello from Cozumel, Mexico

Thursday evening November 4, 2010 (Third travelogue of this trip).

I have had the best of intentions posting more often, but I just can't seem to find the time. I have a lot of catch up on, but the first thing that needs to get reported is the wedding.

Shawna and Bryan exchanging vows (note her parents in the background)

Man and Wife!!!

Today we departed the ship and took vans to Mr Sanchos where the wedding was held. This is a small little resort with some neat facilities. The weather was pretty good. A bit windy, but that made the surf really spectacular. I have included a few photos. The setting was absolutely beautiful with the beach and surf in the background. The actual wedding was on the beach and the sand was very clean and white. Shawna looked beautiful and Bryan was quite handsome. Bryan wrote the ceremony and it was very well done. The parents looked approvingly on the wedding and seemed very proud of the couple.

We returned to the ship after the wedding. After lunch, Pat and her sister Judy went shopping and I started working on this blog. We will have a reception dinner in one of the restaurants later this evening.

Now lets do a bit of catching up. Sunday was an at sea day. In the evening they had a big Halloween party. We were amazed at the number of folks dressed up in costumes. We estimate that it was several hundred. Many of the costumes were quite elaborate and/or unique. We positioned ourselves in the walkway that led to the party area and had a wonderful view of all the folks/costumes.

On the last couple of cruises we have splurged and joined the spa and we did that again on this trip. They have a very limited membership, so the place is quiet and relaxing. There is a huge hydrothermal pool, two saunas, a steam room and the wonderful heated ceramic lounges. We have gone every day.

Another splurge is purchasing internet time. The ship gets the internet from satellites (much like we do on the bus). However, the connection is pretty slow and you buy internet connection by the minute. I usually chase some business related activity and it has been kind of busy on this trip. Unfortunately, not much in the way of sales.

I mentioned that I was going to do a dive at Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is an island off he coast of Honduras. It has a mixture of beauty and poverty. When we drove to the dive support area, we passed lush tropical areas. These were intermixed with areas of what looked like shanty areas. These areas were on the main road. The houses were in poor condition and there was trash everywhere. A real dichotomy.

We did a two tank dive and both dives were spectacular!!!. The ship dictates that the dive masters not take us to a depth of more than 70 feet. It was obvious that they were not going to police that rule rigorously. Indeed, my dive computer watch recorded a depth of 95 feet. Both dives were what they call wall dives. We swam at a depth of about 30-50 feet for a while and then we came to a complete drop off where we could not see any floor. The coral was absolutely gorgeous. It was almost like parts were sprinkled with gold leaf. The fish were beautiful and the coral formations were quite varied, some of which I had not seen before. We even got to see a turtle and some lobsters. The second dive was supposed to be a drift dive. This is where the boat drops you off and picks you up some distance away. The current was not strong, so we had to do a bit of paddling with our fins, but we traveled quite a ways.

We could have made it from Roatan without an “at sea” day, but our ship had to perform some mandatory maneuvers. All ships that have been in service less than six months must perform these maneuvers. The process takes about three hours. One of the maneuvers is a 360 rotation of the ship. This is done in the length of the ship using the bow and stern thrust propellers. In addition to that, the ship is put in “anchor mode” where the various propellers maintain the ship in exactly the same location and orientation using a sophisticated GPS system. It is said that they can maintain location within 5 feet.

That is all for now.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hello from Costa Maya, Mexico.

Hello from Costa Maya, Mexico.

Monday Evening November 1, 2010 (Second travelogue of this trip).

We are at our first port (of three) on this trip. Costa Maya is a pretty plain Jane port. We could not see any good beaches and the area is.... well, kind of plain. We did not plan any shore tours. Instead, we walked around the dock area for an hour or so. There were the typical vendors selling mostly tourist type stuff – imagine that. We were the only ship in port, so things were not crowded.

Sunday was a day at sea. We always enjoy that, as it is a bit laid back. Having said that, it seems like we have not had too much time to relax. Sunday night we went to see the “Blue Man Group”. This is the “headline” group for the Epic. It is a very interesting show with lots of drums and all kinds of antics by three men in blue makeup (including blue skull caps that made them look bald).. Kind of like mimes. Very hard to describe. Since I love drums, it was a lot of fun for me and the rest of the group seemed to have a fairly good time.

The seas have been very calm and the weather has been good, but fairly hot. We should be thankful as a tropical depression went through here last week. I think today is the end of the official hurricane season and we have not heard of any storms in the area.

As mentioned in the first post, this is a huge ship. It is quite unique in its design and we are not convinced that they gave a lot of thought to creature comfort. I will talk about that in a post I hope to make on Wednesday which is another day at sea.

Tomorrow we will be at Roatan, Honduras. I, along with several members of the group, will be doing a two-tank scuba dive. It is supposed to be a pretty good diving area.

That is all for now.