Sunday, August 30, 2009

An Update On Charlotte

Charlotte is just past 15 months old now, and really getting into the toddler phase full time. Walking (fast), a few words and much gibberish, and a growing personality! Here are a couple of short videos to show what she's like these days.


Charlotte's walking is really stable these days.
It's a new game to run in the opposite direction of where we are.


Still happy even when woken up, and enjoying Peek-A-Boo.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shocking Events

Two weeks ago, we had an unfortunate experience with electricity. Due to some investigation and work being done to repair the power to another unit in our townhouse complex, something was done to send a number of large power surges to our unit. We were home, relaxing on a Saturday morning about 10:30am, when our security alarm went on... then off, then on. After a dramatic few minutes of rushing around and getting Charlotte outside away from the alarm, we discovered the construction people in the complex who cut off all power to our unit when they realized what was happening.

We had heard some definite electrical "popping", so we searched the house for damaged items. As it happens, almost every room in the house had one item which was dead. The fridge was out of commission, and smelled burned. The security system was down (turned out it was just the transformer), as well as a CD player, my iPhone dock / radio, our computer's power supply, and our cable modem.

The fridge had the worst damage, and once it was taken apart, we saw that it was even worse than initially thought.


Burned fridge electronics.


The burned and smoke streaked fridge ceiling.

It's pretty obvious that there is no easy way to fix this, and the appliance inspector from the insurance company noted it as such. The electronics could surely be replaced (although not all were in stock), but the inside ceiling of the fridge was burned too which makes it pretty much impossible except for massive repairs.

So far everything is going well with our insurance claim. We went ahead and bought a replacement fridge of the same make and model as we couldn't wait, but at this point that should be totally fine with the insurance as well. The rest of our items are relatively minor and will be replaced.

As for the complex, the work being done involved digging a new trench for a power cord to replace a faulty or damaged one. I nicknamed this project the Big Dig, after the Boston tunnel project which we drove through while we were there last year.


Our local "Big Dig", repairs for another unit.

The repairs to the complex are now complete, although there are a number of issues yet to be resolved, such as the developer neglecting to get a permit for the running of the new power cable. But these guys are a bit flaky, unreliable, and sometimes downright stupid.


Confidence wanes slightly when a carpet cleaning van comes to do electrical work.

Honestly. Add shady to the list of negative traits. It seems they have a whole series of businesses between which they exchange employees as needed.

That's our story for now. Like they say, if it isn't one thing, it's another. The good news is that everyone's okay and for the most part this is just a big inconvenience. Life goes on and we hope the next "thing" won't be for quite a while.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Post In 13 Days

This has been one of the longest stretches without a post in the history of this blog. It's not because we have nothing to write though. Indeed, the summer has been packed with fun, adventure, and even some mishaps. There is a ton to write about, many photos to post (our cruise album hasn't been put online yet), and a number of blog ideas just waiting to be put into action.

So, bear with us, and check back in the next week as we start to get things rolling again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Available!

Firefox has been releasing new versions at an amazing pace, and it just keeps getting better and better. Version 3.5 is available, and claims to be 10 times faster than version 2.


Speed improvements between Firefox versions.

For those of you using Firefox already, you have no doubt been prompted to install version 3 and now 3.5. If not, and for those of you using the big blue "E" or other browsers, Click Here To Download And Install Firefox 3.5!

Welcome to the web!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Alaskan Cruise: Overall Review

As promised, here is our last post directly related to our Alaskan Cruise! We've taken a number of categories, ranked them from 1 to 10 cruise ships, and provided our commentary on each. We have written these reviews independently, and the comments of the person who rated each category the highest will be listed first.

FOOD

Andrew


The food on this cruise had its ups and downs, but for the most part I was quite pleased. I think what we found was that it takes a day or two to become familiar with what food is served where, and to get into a routine of going to the right places at the right time.

One thing is certain; The food was plentiful, as was clear by our post about our meals. I would have liked to have been more amazed by some of the dishes, and certainly would have liked to see more shrimp, but overall I'll give the food a solid 8.

Natasha


I loved the "freestyle dining". Eat where you want, whenever you want. No set schedules, and no specific places you have to eat. I found the food was plentiful. There was always lots of food and we could eat as much as we wanted. The variety was very good as well. The only thing I would say was slightly below my expectation was the quality. The food was very good but I had heard lots about cruising and I was expecting to be blown away by the food. I would say overall the food experience was a 7/10!

ACCOMMODATION / SERVICE

Andrew


This is a tough one for me because I was not going on this cruise expecting amazing accommodation. We probably could have had a balcony, but decided to save the money because we wanted to be out and about during the cruise, not in our room. The room itself was comfortable and had a surprising amount of storage space. For the first time I realized the benefit of actually unpacking when on a trip instead of living out of a suitcase. The bathroom was probably the most disappointing part of the room, being very airplane-like. Still, for the amount of time we spent in the room, I thought it was decent.

The service also had its ups and downs. The room service was good, and the few problems we had seemed to be resolved quickly. Where things were lacking was the restaurant and bar staff. One waiter was fantastic, the rest were rather bland. As for the bar staff, I'm sure I got a frown or questioning look every time I ordered an ice water (no doubt the least ordered drink on board).

I'm going to rate this a 7 out of 10 and hope to get an 8 next time around.

Natasha


We had a few small issues with our stateroom when we arrived on board. However, the management was quick to fix the problems and even gave us some chocolate covered strawberries for our troubles. A few of the servers we encountered weren't very "friendly"... they just did their jobs and didn't say much. Other times the servers were very friendly so it was about half and half. I would say overall the accommodation and service were a 7/10 as well based on the above average service but considering it could have been slightly better.

ENTERTAINMENT

Natasha

On the Norwegian Sun there was never a reason to be bored. From the games room, library, dance classes, fitness classes, to the nightly entertainment there was always lots going on for every type of person. We attended several art auctions, a first for us, and really enjoyed learning about different artists and types of art. We even won a piece of art in a raffle just for showing up! There were also game shows in the evening featuring guests on board which were lots of fun. The nightly entertainment was always really good. From dancing, singing, to magic and comedy, they were all well rounded and very talented individuals. I would rate the entertainment a 10/10 because I feel I couldn't have been entertained any better!

Andrew


The entertainment aboard the ship can be summed up by a single word: Unbelievable! I guess I'm sort of new to big entertainment, but the quality of singing, dancing, acrobatics, stunts, and music blew me away. We have heard that Norwegian Cruise Lines leans towards better entertainment while other cruise lines focus on food, and I think that's totally fine. The long list of activities throughout the ship made it difficult to choose what to do, and we often made a list in the morning so we would have a bit of a plan.

The only thing stopping me from giving it a full 10 is that I thought the comedian(s) were more silly than funny, and while very much geared towards being family friendly, still contained a few too many innuendos for my conservative-leaning taste. Still, I'm rating this the highest of all the categories and look forward to more of the same next time we cruise.

PORTS OF CALL

Natasha

Ketchikan - 6/10 I found Ketchikan had some very nice parts but also some dumpy parts. Had we done an excursion in Ketchikan we might have had a better idea of what the town was really like... but as it was we chose not to and only did a self-guided walking tour which was nice, but which also took us through some of the not-so-nice parts of town.

Juneau - 8/10 Juneau is the capital of Alaska so it is a very big town. We were only there for a morning and since we chose to sleep in we didn't have a lot of time to explore but we did end up going to see the Mendenhall Glacier which was really beautiful! We also were able to see quite a few eagles on the flats on the way to the glacier (on the bus). I enjoyed our stop there quite a bit.

Tracy Arm Fjord & Sawyer Glacier - 10/10 The fjord was amazing! It was so narrow that we felt like we could almost reach out and touch the towering mountains on either side of us. While going into the Fjord we saw lots of waterfalls, some Eagles, and beautiful towering peaks. Once we reached the Glacier we soaked in the beautiful ice and the many ice bergs all around us. Definitely an experience of a lifetime!

Skagway - 10/10 We had an entire day in Skagway and we took the White Pass Railroad up into the mountains. The train ride was definitely worth the price, we had a great time! The town of Skagway was well laid out, interesting, and attractive. I really enjoyed Skagway, it was my favorite stop!

Andrew

Alaska is a beautiful place, with rugged nature all around. For views of hills, trees, iceburgs, glaciers, and animals, you will not be disappointed. The ports of call are somewhat less exciting. My 6 out of 10 rating should not be taken to mean that I did not enjoy my time off the boat. On the contrary, I did have fun, but I think they are geared towards people who a) love to shop for jewelery, or b) have a suitcase full of cash to pay for excursions which are truly amazing. Being that we didn't fall into either category, we enjoyed a few of the basic excursions, took in the towns on foot, and just enjoyed each others company off the ship for a while.

To make your Ports of Call experience an 8, 9, or 10 out of 10, budget between $1000 and $2000 for your off-shore fun.

OVERALL VALUE

Natasha

I really enjoyed my Alaskan Cruise aboard the Norwegian Sun. I think 8/10 is a really good rating for an overall experience all things considered. Next time we cruise, there's a very good chance we will be cruising once again with NCL. I would say the two things that really stood out for me... 1) The freedom of freestyle dining and 2) The excellent entertainment.

If you're considering a cruise in the near future... take a look at NCL, they're definitely worth consideration!

Andrew

The positives of this cruise far outweighed the negatives, and I would cruise with NCL again. I would even take this same cruise to Alaska, as we now know what to expect and could plan accordingly to make the most of our time and money. Overall, I recommend this cruise to anyone interested in a leisurely and comfortable trip to visit Alaska, the last frontier.

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