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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Recent Silence, or Travelblogging Part 3

My personal pace this month past has been insane, even though this was betokened by silence here in my tiny corner of the blogosphere. My family spent two weeks right after Christmas in Houston and then on a cruse, and I left immediately after to for two and a half weeks in the slums of North Las Vegas, on a "business trip" that was an utter waste of time, but demonstrated to me better than any recent experience how contractors working for the government are little better than gypsies, bilking taxpayers out of millions. More on that anon. For now, suffice it to say that I've been too busy to blog for quite some time.

The only time available for blogging was over MLK weekend and then I had time for only one entry, touting our slowly enlivening space program -- thanks be to the boys and gilrs at JPL.

Ironically enough, we began our travels a month ago in Houston by touring the NASA Establishment's shrine to itself, the Johnson Space Center. It was great fun, even though I was inclined to smirk at its self-congratulatory puffery from time to time. The motto, "failure is not an option," of Apollo 13 fame, appeared everywhere without the slightest tinge of irony. I was inclined to say, "really? Can you say 'Challenger?'."

Success ain't much of an option either

It is amazing how primitive the Shuttle's cockpit seems: decades-old technology. seemingly less advanced than the B-52s I flew many moons ago and defintely a generation behind even the most rudimentary glass-cockpited aircraft like the T-1.

Cessnas now have more advanced cockpits

From Houston's not-so-beautiful port, we boarded our beautiful ship. We were supposed to ship out of New Orleans, but Katrina had other plans for that unfortunate town.

Norwegian Sun, sharing the quay with container ship cargo

and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. On this cruise, we secured a suite with a huge balcony, rather than just a cabin with a porthole,

so the view was remarkable.

On the way, of course, we detoured to pick up what appeared to be two desperate refugees from Castroland. They were, instead, two of the dumbest drug smugglers (barely) alive. They lovingly baled their doobage, but neglected to pack any food or water. It's a shame the Coast Guard sent them back to Cuba; they would have made splendid Democratic voters.

The white bales floating near the jon boat were filled with cocaine

Our first stop was a cruiseline-owned island in the Bahamas

Life on the reef was remarkable

Followed the next day by a sojourn to Atlantis, in Nassau

Which claims one of the largest aquariums (aquaria?) in the world.

Atlantis: Perfect place for an Evil Underwater Lair

Where sharks (with no laser beams on their frickin' heads, sadly)
share the waters with giant, cranky mutated sea bass

And where the artwork seems suitably bizarre

Uncle Ken tickles a shark

We spent the next day in Jamaica, where we scaled a waterfall and swam with dolphins. Forgive the Ugly Americanism, but Jamaica is otherwise a rather unremarkable Third World country -- not the soul-numbing dirt-poverty of, say, Honduras (or any other Latin, vice British, based culture), but with a bit of industriousness, it could be so much more. Perhaps more time would have revealed its charms.

From Montego Bay, we sailed west to Grand Cayman, another charming, Bahama-like Brit colony, where we got up close and personal with giant sea turtles (again, sadly, no laser beams)

And stingrays. Almost enough to make one yearn for a marine biologist's life.

Our final port of call was San Miguel, Cozumel, which, if I didn't know it well from previous trips, I would have regarded as a dump. In fact, Cozumel is a charming place, but it suffered terribly from hurricane damage this year -- especially Rita, which spent 70 hours stalled out over the island. All things considered, Cozumel is bouncing back nicely, despite the destruction of its main piers. My day was spent mostly shopping and eating.

Damage to the sea wall in San Miguel

Posting this many pix leaves me too tired to rail further against slimy contractors, so I'll bid a fond adieu for now, on behalf of the entire cruise gang....

Dockside: Our entire Motley Krewe, sans your intrepid reporter


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