Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back in the USA

We entered the Ft. Lauderdale harbor around 6:30 am, Wednesday.

Once again, four photos merged together, using the Photomerge command in Photoshop CS3.
I love this stuff! 

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last Day At Sea

Robin gives one of her presentations in the ship's theater

I attended Robin's presentation this morning (Why Is The Nightingale In The Pomegranate Tree?). Great name, eh? A packed room of new Robin devotees listened intently. It's amazing how many Shakespeare attendees have taken the time to heap praise on her and credit her with learning so much and how they have new eyes (to put it Shakespeariously) to look at the plays. Now when she walks through the ship, everyone bows and chants "We're not worthy, we're not worthy." Just kidding again!

One of the OSF people told me that this group has given her the "credentials" that she claims she doesn't have. It could not have been a more successful event for her. I've heard more than a few tell her she was the highlight of the trip. And others express how much they learned from her. And these are people that eat-live-breath Shakespeare and live in Ashland so they can be involved in the OSF. One woman told me that Robin had raised the bar for what they expect from the OSF educational programs. I could go on and on, but she's coming this way and everyone is getting ready to bow and chant.

OK, she's gone now.

I attended two great talks today. Jason Snell, an editor at Macworld Magazine, gave a very good talk on Video for Mac. It made me wish I hadn't missed his other presentation earlier in the week.

After lunch I went to Sal Soghian's talk about his early days at Apple. He's the guy behind AppleScript and Automator. An amazing guy with great true stories of life at Apple. Although his particular life at Apple might not be a typical example. Brilliant guy, inspiring, and very interesting.

We spent the afternoon relaxing on our balcony. We saw flying fish and as soon as Robin went inside I saw 5 or 6 dolphins.

There's a Shakespeare Party in the Crow's Nest later tonight. We have to pack and put our bags in the hallway by 11:30 pm. And fill out evaluation forms. And maybe some other disembarkation forms. I'm going to put my people on it right after dinner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday in Puerto Limon

Lovely Puerto Limon

We docked all day in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. It rained most of the day, but some passengers went on shore excursions anyway. Elizabeth West went on a jungle trip and had a close encounter with a sloth. Sounds bad to me, but she seemed to enjoy it.

Robin and I stayed on board. Partly because the port of Puerto Limon makes Curaçao look like Cannes, France. Robin, as usual, prepared more for her presentations and for the Shakespeare Quiz Show she moderates this afternoon. I shot some photos, uploaded a couple of photos to this blog, then went to the room and watched "Apocalypto" (Mel Gibson movie) on my iPod. Incredible movie. Very stressful. Very violent. I was glad the screen was just 3 inches wide.

Robin's Quiz Show was a success. The theater was nearly full and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Richard Dreyfuss was on one of the teams. Tomorrow the two winning teams from today face off.

Speaking of close encounters, we're off to dinner at the Pinnacle with Richard Dreyfuss, his wife Svetlana, Neil Bauman, and his wife Theresa.

Tick tock -- time passes…

Just got back from a fun dinner with the people mentioned above. I sat between Richard Dreyfuss and Theresa Bauman. Richard my new best buddy is real nice and had lots of great stories that included lots of names I recognized (Steven Spielberg, Marsha Mason, Neil Simon). I could have told my story about being in a minstrel show when I was in the 6th grade, but Robin and Richard were talking non-stop Shakespeare stuff.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The port of Colon. Panorama shot from our balcony. Four photos stitched together using the Photomerge feature in Photoshop CS3. Amazing stuff -- just select two or more photos, click a button, then wait a few seconds for the merged photo to appear.

When we docked in Colon, singers were singing and dancing at the shopping area next to the dock. From our room we could hear them, so we went to the balcony and grabbed this shot.

Another ship in the next lock. If a smaller boat (such as a tug boat) can fit in the lock, they squeeze it in. If you're in a yacht, you'll be sharing the lock with several other smaller boats. It took a couple of hours to go through a set of three locks and enter Gatun Lake, where a half dozen other ships (mostly cargo ships) were anchored.

Robin enjoys lunch in the dining room (at the rear of the ship) as we go through the Gatun Locks. Through the rain covered windows you can barely see another ship following us, one lock behind (right behind Robin's head).

The canal first opened to commercial traffic in 1914. In 1928, Richard Halliburton swam the Canal. It took him ten days and cost 36 cents in tolls (passage fee based on weight, I assume).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Panama Canal

Louise inspects the first set of locks of the Panama Canal.

After dinner last night we went to the Crow's Nest bar for a drink. We sat at the bar and made friends with Lee from Choctaw, Oklahoma. He's a stand up comedian and his show is tonight. It should be good because he was pretty funny at the bar, even though he tries not to be funny when he's not being paid for it. Several times I had to remind him he'd just given us a freebie.

The great window views from the Crow's Nest were showing a lightning storm on the horizon. Back at the room, I went on the balcony to check the weather and watch the lightning. Several flocks of over 100 birds (large and small, mostly white) were flying circles around the ship. Maybe they were running from the storm and looking for shelter. We watched them for about 30 minutes, then went inside. I was watching TV and Robin was working on her presentations at the desk. Suddenly there was a knock at the balcony door. Actually it was a thud. A big bird had flown into the glass door and was walking around on the balcony. It flew off before I could unpack the shotgun (just kidding).

Around 6:00 am this morning we woke to the Captain's announcement that we were entering the Panama Canal locks. We watched the process from our balcony. Shot some video. Took photos. This series of locks put us in Gatun Lake, where we're anchored for the day. Adventurous people like Robin's mother have left the ship for a train ride or other various shore excursions. Robin wanted to stay onboard and prepare for tomorrow's presentations. I decided to do the shore excursion thing on my very next trip here. This enables me to spend more quality time with my computer and to practice some of the Mac stuff I've been learning, like processing HDR images (High Dynamic Range) in Photoshop CS3.

I woke up feeling guilty about poking fun at the predominant age demographic on this ship. If we're lucky enough, we all get older and a little less athletic. So, sincere apologies to anyone who might be offended by insensitive or cruel attempts at humor. Really. I mean it.

However, if the one or two real zombies onboard mess with me, I'm gonna blog about it.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apologies At Sea

Robin's unscheduled, impromptu discussion in the ship library.

Apologies to anyone who might have been offended when I hinted about this being a slightly "elderly" cruise. Although that was my initial impression, I realize now that there's actually another explanation: I'm on a freakin' Zombie boat! The Cruise of the Living Dead! Just like in the movies -- sloooow moving people that sorta stumble towards the cafeteria and then eat voraciously. I've also noticed that some of the oldest looking passengers only leave their cabins after the sun sets. I've been tempted to warn the two or three people on board that are younger than 60, but hey, I might need them for human shields later.

Let me be absolutely clear -- I'm not talking about the MacMania people or the Shakespeare At Sea people (people who might actually find this blog). We're all really cool. I mean all those other passengers. The Zombie At Sea people. Creepy.

I'm just kidding, for Swan's sake!
(chortle chortle)

I spent most of the day in Derrick Story's class about choosing between iPhoto '08, Adobe Camera RAW 4, Adobe Lightroom, or Apple Aperture for planning a digital workflow for photo and image editing. Very good classes. Cool stuff. No zombies.

Then I caught the last hour of Janet Hill's presentation on iWork '08 and Numbers (the new and extremely cool spreadsheet application in the iWork suite).

Just before I went to my 9 am Derrick Story class, Robin and I stopped by the Library to get a latte. Robin said she was going to hang out there for a while in case in Shakespeare people wanted to find her and get answers to the Shakespeare quiz sheets they've had delivered to their rooms every night. An hour later when my class took a break, I went back to the Library and Robin was surrounded by a throng of at least two thousand people (see photo) and was chattering away about all sorts of obviously fascinating Shakespeare stuff (judging from the rapt expression on everyone's faces). I shot a photo then went back to my class. When class was over one and a half hours later, she was still there, although the number was down to less than a hundred.

(I probably should double-check my numbers, but you get the idea.)

The Shakespeare attendees are in the Wajang theater right now, watching Hamlet with Kenneth Brannagh (that speling mite be rong). There's also a pre-movie discussion by Barry Kraft. He has been with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 20 seasons, been a dramaturg for 40 OSF Shakespeare productions, and has acted in all 38 Shakespeare plays including King Lear in 82 full productions. From what I gather he's pretty much a revered icon of the OSF.

Did I already mention that I was in two blackface minstrel shows between 6th and 10th grades? It's not King Lear, but it's pretty damn unforgettable.

I'm going to the Wajang Theater 6–7 pm for part 2 of David Pogue's Leopard presentation. Then it's another formal dinner in the Rotterdam dining room at 8 pm.

Gotta upload and run -- zombies stumbling this way.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Elizabeth West on the bow of the ship.

Docked at Curaçao

Elizabeth Thornton (extreme left) sends email while Robin (right) reads in the ship library.
Tech note: photo merged from two separate shots using the Photo Merge command in Photoshop CS3.

It occurred to me that at some point in the future -- the year 8008 for instance -- cruise accommodations will look just like this, except it'll be the Holland Galactic m.s. Volendam (still "m.s" for Motor Steam). The Captain's voice blares from the intercom: "If you've booked a planet excursion, please meet on Deck 900 to board the launch. Be sure you have your ship card and a photo hologram with you in order to re-board the ship." Or maybe not -- I'm just saying...

Today we were docked at Curaçao all day. Robin's mother took a trolley tour. Curaçao was discovered by Alonso D' Ojeda in 1499. It's name is Portuguese for "Heart."

Robin and I stayed on board the ship, checked email, posted a blog or two. We watched a great movie at the Wajang Theater. The name escapes me, but it was a masterpiece of character development and universal themes (love, honor, betrayal), just like Shakespeare. Interesting that the cruise people were insightful enough to include this film at the same time that Shakespeare is being studied and performed on the ship. Hopefully someone besides me noticed the connection. I'm sure I'm not the only one that's smart enough to see the parallels. Oh yeah, I remember now -- it was "Mr. Bean's Holiday." Great stuff. I cried.

After the movie, Elizabeth Thornton, Robin, and I went to the 9th deck to have a drink in the Crow's Nest bar. Nice place. Great views. They stay open until 1:30 am. But if they have customers, they can stay open until 5 am. Considering the cost of drinks here, only rich people will be still drinking at 5 am.

At 6 pm I went to David Pogue's presentation about Leopard, Apple's new operating system. Very entertaining. Very informative.

We decided to pass on the Chocolate Extravaganza being offered after dinner. Just walking past the spread of chocolate desserts added 5 pounds. On a related note, one of the patrons of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival said he'd warned the Festival director that if he didn't start getting younger audiences, he'd have to start installing wider seats.

We've departed Curaçao and are headed North-West, in the direction of the Venezuela and Columbia coasts. Next stop: Panama Canal. We'll be at sea all day tomorrow (Thursday) and tomorrow night, then enter the Panama Canal at Cristobal at 5:00 am Friday.

Aruba again

Robin contemplates Aruba from the Promenade Deck.

Even more Aruba

Ship officers view Aruba from the Bridge (telephoto shot from our room's balcony).

More Aruba

A friendly looking bus.


Do you know where the name "Google" originated? The two founders of Google thought that "googol" -- the term for a 1 with 100,000 zeroes after it (or something like that ) would make a cool name, but they misspelled it. By accident. "We didn't have the Google spell checker at the time" they explained.

That's just one of the things we learned in our morning session, "Extreme Googling," presented by David Pogue, (technology columnist for The New York Times). Other fun stuff was presented, including David groveling apologetically because he didn't realize today was his presentation and was late. Then the projector wouldn't focus. No problem. His comedic style charmed the audience. Later this week he's giving a presentation about Leopard, Apple's new operating system.

Robin wasn't there because she was busy making her first Shakespeare presentation of the cruise to a nearly full house in the Wajang Theater on the ship. I left my event early and grabbed some video of the last couple of minutes of her show. As the audience left, I heard comments like "great" and "fabulous." Several people invited her to speak to organizations they're affiliated with.

We had a fancy dinner at the ship's fancy restaurant with Robin's mother, Pat, and her shipmate Louise. We saw Neil Bauman, wife Theresa, and Sandra (an Oregon Shakespeare Festival coordinator that helped organize the cruise) as we were leaving the restaurant. They gave Robin great, complimentary feedback on her presentation this morning. Lots of attendees have been passing along great reviews to Neil and Theresa.

My morning class was an excellent overview of Adobe CS3 Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw 4, presented by Derrick Story. It convinced me that I should be shooting more photos in the RAW format and using ACR4 more for of my image processing. Fun stuff. It also got me hooked on Photo Merge (automatically stitching together two or more photos into panoramic shots) and HDR photos (High Dynamic Range). Photoshop can combine several photos of the same subject -- each photo shot with a different exposure -- to create one photo that contains a wider range of detail in both shadows and highlights. In other words, instead of setting the exposure to favor either highlights or shadows, you shoot a couple of shots underexposed, a couple overexposed, then let Photoshop combine them and keep the best from each. You end up (in most cases) with a single photo that shows the best of both worlds: highlights with detail and shadows with details.

We docked at Aruba this morning. At noon we walked into town and ate at The Old Fisherman. Not so good. I had fried rubber bands. It was called "calamari" on the menu, but I brought most of it back to the ship to make slingshots and to strap my extra camera batteries together.

Because it was 88 degrees and humid in town -- and because the town just didn't seem very interesting -- we went back to the ship right after lunch. Pat and pal Louise took a tour of the island and said it wasn't very exciting. They did mention seeing a lot of cactus. Sweet Swan of Avon! I sure wish I hadn't missed that!

At 11 PM tonight (Tuesday) we pulled away from the island of Aruba and headed out to sea. Tomorrow morning we arrive in Curacao (pronounced cure-uh-sow, I think), another island in the neighborhood. No classes tomorrow, so we'll probably go ashore and see what's happnin'. Take some photos.

Also, tomorrow I hope to upload a blog from Robin for her take on the cruise and the Shakespeare and MacMania conferences.


Monday, November 5, 2007

White Caps

There are lots of white caps on the waves outside, but not as many as inside the ship.

There's more white hair on this boat than a polar bear convention. You'll notice in my bio photo that I've bleached my hair to fit in with the majority of passengers here. People are coming up to me and saying stuff like "Hey, you're the guy who's with the really young girl with dark colored hair." Just joking. Really. Probably no more than 98% of us have white hair. Most of them aren't prematurely white like me though.

I bumped into Elizabeth Thornton on the buffet line. She's just returned from a shore excursion to Half Moon Cay, here in the Bahamas. She mentioned something about tacky tourist shops and huge, overweight tourists walking on the beach. So I guess it's not Bay Watch over there on ol' Half Moon Cay. More like Full Moon Cay or something. She seemed grateful that most of the beach waddlers were wearing clothes instead of thongs. I didn't see it because I chose to stay on the ship and waddle around here.

Speaking of waddling, I checked out the health spa. Nice workout equipment (treadmills, bikes, etc) looking out a big window towards the bow of the ship. I think I'll do a daily workout there. Starting tomorrow. Or sometime real soon.

Robin went to an afternoon performance by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors. The performance was cancelled because costumes and props weren't delivered. Or some kind of story like that. It's unclear if the props and costumes are going to get here eventually, or if they're actually on the ship somewhere, or what's going on. At least it's unclear to me, but most things are unclear to me because I've got white hair. The Festival's artistic director stepped in with a Q&A session that Robin says was interesting.

As part of Robin's presentations, she prepared a daily Shakespeare quiz to be left each night at the door of Shakespeare at Sea attendees. A nice surprise, and beautifully designed stuff. She's good that way. She's been spending most of her time in the room putting finishing touches on her presentations.

While she was at the Shakespeare presentation, I attended the MacMania presentation "Amazing Mac Utilities" by Randal Schwartz. It was a very fast paced overview of cool, mostly free utilities that you can find at MacUpdate.com. He covered about a hundred utilities, so there wasn't time for demos.

Some of the coolest sounding stuff: SoundSource -- automatically smooth out audio levels in a podcast or other audio track; AOL Radio -- listen to XM radio for free (200 streaming radio stations); iVisualize -- use Mac's Quartz Composer to create visualizers (the visual effects in iTunes); SuperDuper -- disk cloner and backup utility that can create a bootable drive; Adium X -- a multi-protocol chat client; Hoverdash -- lets you easily float selected widgets on the Desktop; Podmailing -- send files by email, regardless of size; iPod Disk -- copy music from your iPod to your computer; VisualHub -- convert any video format to any other video format; and more. much more.

I missed the semi-formal dinner last night due to motion sickness, but tonight I was OK, even thought the boat was swaying quite a bit. Gotta love those pills. Sharing our table were four people from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival: two actors, Michael Elich and Robin Goodrin Nordli: Ms Briggs, a Festival patron; and Kimberly Jean Barry, the Festival's Production Stage Manager. Robin Nordli also missed dinner last night because of motion sickness, so that made me feel less like a cruise-wimp. The actors are hoping their costumes and props (swords, most importantly) catch up with us in Aruba on Tuesday. Especially since expert stage fighting is one of their special skills.

The stage show after dinner featuring (hmm, I forget) Somebody James from Chicago, a juggler/comedy guy was entertaining in a cruise ship sort of way. Funny and corny. And good juggling.

I'm sitting in the "Maximizing iPhoto" presentation by Derrick Story. Later today it's "One finger automation tricks in Leopard" by Sal Soghoian.

Robin is attending "Elizabethan Violence in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" and "An Insider's Guide to the 2008 Season." (Referring to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival season.)

Smooth water, we're passing between Cuba and Haiti.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday morning

Woke up at Half Moon Cay, calm water, and the captain's voice booming a welcome message. Coffee delivered to the room.

We bought a Wi-Fi Internet connection yesterday, but as it turns out, it's not available in the room, just in certain areas. Fortunately, those areas are nice places and I'd already planned to spend some time there.

Off to breakfast and to find ship pals.


Ten Years Before the Mast

Or "Waiting for the m.s. Volendam" (m.s. = motor steam. Romantic, eh? I bet it didn't take marketing long to replace motor steam with "ms").

OK, it just felt like ten years, waiting for hours in the hotel lobby this morning (Saturday) for the announcement that our bus to the ship dock had arrived. None of us heard the call for bus number 3, so friend Elizabeth West missed her bus. When our bus was announced (number 4) minutes later, we lost track of E West (hey, East West -- cool name!). I was worried about her, but Robin assured me that she was very capable of handling the situation. And by golly, when we got to Customs at the dock, Elizabeth was there, ahead of us by a hundred people. We were standing there wondering why we didn't take cab (like E West) and skip about 3 hours of waiting in the hotel lobby.

Going through customs was slightly frustrating, as the line moved reeeeally slooow. But our friend Elizabeth Thornton (hey, ET -- cool name) was in line visiting with us, and E West was within sight in a nearby line, so it was better than some whiney blog might suggest.

As we approached the ship Volendam, I thought it looked a little dumpy from the outside, compared to the giant Carnival ship I was on a few years ago (OK, approximately ten years ago). But once we were onboard, it was very, very nice and elegant. We pulled away from the dock about 5 pm. I ran into E West on the promenade deck and we went to the bow to watch our harbor exit. She stayed at the bow when I left for an upper deck, from where I got some great shots of her alone on the huge bow.

There were welcome parties for both Mac geeks and Shakepeare freaks (respectfully referred to in the future as and M-geeks and S-freaks). After our ship left the harbor and I walked around the promenade deck that cirlces the ship, I noticed that I was having trouble walking in a straight line, even occasionally running into walls, railings, and passengers. Other people were walking funny too. The horizon wasn't staying horizontal anymore. Sweet Swan of Avon -- Rough water! I'm not good at that. I stumbled back to the room, sat on the balcony for a while, then went to bed while Robin went to the welcome parties and dinner. She brought some magic pills back with her, the water calmed down, and by 10 pm I was up and feeling great. At 11 pm I went to Deck 5 for a late snack, then to the Front Desk on 4 to get a Room Service form.

Tomorrow we dock in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. At 3:30 Janet Hill gives a "Guide to Macintosh" presentation to the M-geeks. Randal Schwartz (renowned expert on the Perl programming language) presents "Amazingly Cool Utilities."

On the Shakespeare side, Christopher Duval (nine seasons as an actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festivals) and Michael Elich (13 seasons) present "Shakespreare Platter," the debut of a new work, drawn from the Shakespeare canon, created especially for this voyage.

All is well. All Systems go.

Our ship leaves this Saturday

Chips Ahoy!

Robin Williams and I leave Santa Fe this Friday for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We'll board the Holland America Line cruise ship, m.s. Volendam on Saturday. The Volendam is home (for 10 days) to both the Shakespeare At Sea cruise and the MacMania 7 cruise, running concurrently. For generic information about either of these, visit www. geekcruises.com

Even though both events are sold out, you'll get to experience the cruise through this blog. Of course, I'm assuming the Internet connection onboard is decent and dependable. We'll see. I have a Verizon Wireless PC card, but there seems to be large chunks of open ocean that don't have Verizon coverage. Not yet, anyway. I'm sure they're working on it.

My sweetheart/co-author, Robin, is speaking at both events, although primarily at the Shakespeare At Sea event. Most people know her for her books about design, type, and Macs, but a growing number are getting to know her as a teacher of the works attributed to Shakespeare. One of her most recent books is a compelling book of research into the Shakespearean authorship question, titled "Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare." Before you scoff, read the book. Interestingly, even people who don't have any particular interest in Shakespeare find it compelling and fascinating. I know, because I'm one of them.

Of course, she won't be talking about the authorship question -- just about the Shakespearean works. That's because some people go bat-poop over the suggestion that the man named William Shakespeare might not have written the stuff. Heck, there's no documented evidence that he could write at all, much less a genius playwright. But hey, just because no one mentioned meeting him in his lifetime, that doesn't necessarily mean he couldn't have been the most prolific literary genius of his time. Other famous writers of the that period might have just forgotten to mention him. You know, like "oh darn, I forgot to mention that genius Shakespeare... oh well, he's so famous it won't matter." It's just so damn sad that every writer of the day made the same mistake. Big deal. It hasn't hurt his PR much. So, in the interest of keeping the cruise from being boarded by rogue Oxfordians or Marlowe pirates, discussions will focus on the actual works rather than the author, whoever she may have been.

If possible, I'll be spending more time on the Mac side of the ship, where it's safer. This is my first Geek Cruise, so I don't know if a fight usually breaks out between MacMania attendees and PC people who just happen to be onboard. I think we're beyond those days, but I'll keep the cameras on standby.

More ship talk later, mate.

Getting There

The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was pleasant enough, with the usual assortment of small travel events that differ from daily routines: flying with an extremely tall collection of Chinese women (a basketball team); the guy sitting next to Robin telling her about killing four deer near Santa Rosa, New Mexico (his 17th trip there to go deer hunting); bus driver humor between the Ft. Lauderdale airport and our hotel ("Ladies and gentlemen, it will be only a two hour drive to the hotel."); watching "Wild Hogs" on my iPod Classic; reading the book Robin bought for me at the Albuquerque airport, "The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A personal view of the search for God," by Carl Sagan. If like thinking of yourself as the focus of God's creation, instead of a speck of dust in the boondocks of a minor galaxy, you might want to skip this book.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the cruise. After checking in last night, we made ourselves at home in the middle of the hotel lobby, visiting with friends. We met the Neil Bauman (CEO of Insight Cruises) and his wife Theresa. Super nice people. I took an immediate liking to Neil because he was carrying an Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro (laptop).

We board busses in a couple of hours that take us to the ship. So far everything is soooo much better than the Carnival cruise I took years ago out of Miami, where the boarding procedure was a nightmare (a thousand people crowded in the hotel lobby for hours, waiting for permission to get on assigned busses). Neil has everything so organized that there's no crowds or lines or stressed-out passengers. Two gold stars for Neil so far (counting the laptop one).

One last note for dog-people: we met a 8-month old Golden Doodle in the lobby last night. She's in town for a dog show.

Next updates from the floating Volendam.