Good Bye

Steve and Nicole Gille have been great friends and I wish them many blessings on their relocation to Alaska. Halloween won’t be the same without their annual great pumpkin carving party. Hopefully Mandy and I can keep the tradition alive (once we get a little bigger house)! We’ll even make sure to have the giant cookie.

Steve and I never completed our 8-ball pool challenge to see who would be the first to win 100 games and consequently was the superior pool player. According to my journal we began this challenge on 11/18/2002 and I was up 1-0. Steve and I played over 100 games at Miss Cues in Findlay before it was downsized. We enjoyed men’s night with the discounted pool and beer when you wore your Miss Cue t-shirt. I should note that Steve now has a sizeable lead.

When I purchased my Nautique (ski boat) Doug and I needed an observer. I talked Nicole into going on the maiden voyage on 07/10/2002 (on the Maumee River). One other great memory of Nicole was her attacking me with her foot after I gave her a solid poke. Taylor captured it on video and it is hilarious.

The Gille bar and all their accumulated bottles of liquor (which they couldn’t ship to Alaska) were setup for the good bye party. I finished the Vanilla Schnapps, which was very smooth on ice. I did my part and the other 23 bottles were someone else’s responsibility. It was a bittersweet party and I still can’t believe they are in Alaska.

The day after the good bye party I was driving to Lake Swerve. I was talking on my cell phone and I noticed people behind me frantically waving. I wasn’t sure who they were and thought that I must have agitated a couple of people from Utah. The waving continued for quite awhile and I eventually realized it was Steve, Nicole and Gretchen going to the airport in their rental car with Utah plates. God Bless!

My First O

Yesterday I did my first O on a slalom trick ski. An O is a handle pass 360. Amy taught me this trick and I worked on doing the following:

  • perform this trick straight behind the boat
  • take a couple of practice pulls (to get a little slack)
  • look at the shore on both sides (head stays up during trick)
  • pull in, rotate quick, keep head up, pass handle, grab handle
  • trick can completed with one hand riding it out forward (but I prefer both)
  • look into the back of the boat at the completion of this trick
  • fast rotation is very important, don’t stop backwards

Woo hoo! I love learning new tricks.


My dad and I shot two rounds of trap last night. I achieved a new personal best (at 16 yards) just shy of a perfect score. I started in the far right position which is my weakest link and hit all 5. I hit all 5 on the far left position. I shot another 14 in a row in the center positions. I just needed to hit my last shot. As soon as I shot I knew I had missed. I achieved the near perfect score of 24 out of 25. None-the-less I was thrilled with my new personal best. ;-)

Le Blanc

Saturday July 26th
We arrived at the Le Blanc and were greeted with cold scented towels,flowers for Mandy and fresh coconut milk. The lobby had a lavish scent, breathing in had the effect of relaxing your whole body.

During check in we were offered margaritas which we accepted. Our butler explained how everything worked in our amazing room. That evening we ate at the Blanc Italia. The meal started off with a collection of breads, water garnishes of cucumber, lemon or lime, and a welcome appetizer. The meal was superb. When we returned to our room they had relaxing music on, chocolate deserts ready to eat, slippers out next to bed,and our bed turned down with fresh chamomile pillows and bath robes hanging by the shower. Our room overlooked the lagoon and we enjoyed the sunset. Later we went had some drinks at the Blanc Stage and played foosball.

Sunday July 27th
I enjoyed the top notch BlackFitness facilities. I worked off several hundred calories in preparation for breakfast. At breakfast waiters carried our plates for us and we gave the special mixed fruit drink of the day a whirl. The breakfast buffet was amazing with lots of unique items to try. We went swimming and enjoyed the beach and of course some fu-fu drinks.

The pool helpers brought towels and made towel pillows on the beach chairs for us. They also bought a huge ice bucket filled with ice waters. Lunch was another amazing buffet. In the afternoon we went on the included jungle tour. We had our own individual speedboat and we followed the guide’s speedboat. We drove through marsh land into a channel and then into the Caribbean Sea. We went snorkeling on a reef and the sea life was amazing. The guide provided ice water and we returned via a longer path allowing for more enjoyment of the speedboat. I did a couple extra circles and the rest of the group followed me. The guide later laughed and asked me, “Did you enjoy doing circles?”

We returned to cold towels and the lavish scent of the Le Blanc. We had room service for dinner. The Mexican appetizers and the chocolate sponge cake were excellent.

We walked around outside until the mosquitoes had deterred us. I didn’t see the giant lizard since I had the camera ready this time. We ran into biologist Sue and she asked if we wanted to participate in turtle release. We each released three loggerhead sea turtles. As soon as the turtles hear the water they start running right into it. There was one turtle that was confused and kept running away from the water. Since flash photos were prohibited we didn’t take any photos. But on Flickr I found someone that blinded their sea turtles to get a good photo.

We went back inside, listened to the accomplished violinist and enjoyed some fresh coconut milk. Later we went to salsa lessons and had a blast. Note to self, take small steps and eliminate the bounce. When we returned to our room it was well attended too and some new chocolate treats awaited us.

Monday July 28th
I got up early and went to an individual yoga lesson inside the open air hut overlooking the lagoon. There were pleasant nature sounds and no mosquitoes. The yoga class lasted almost an hour and was demanding given my lack of flexibility. The instructor, Ricardo, did a great job and wished me a “happiful” day. Another amazing breakfast followed.

We went to Wet & Wild for the day. This water park was free since it was also owned by Palace Resorts. Drinks and food were included. I especially enjoyed the banana monkey mixed drink. Water parks are even more enjoyable through the lens of free alcoholic drinks! Strangely the tubes for the lazy river were not included for free, but it was still enjoyable to ride along on it and it was so much less crowded than in the states!

We returned to cold towels and the lavish scent of the Le Blanc. The Blanc Orient restaurant had slow service and they were out of most of the sushi on their menu. The ahi tuna appetizer was delicious and very generous. Later we went had some drinks at the Blanc Stage and played more foosball.
Tuesday July 29th
Breakfast was delivered on time, hot and delicious. I saved some of the massive amount of toast for feeding the fish in the lagoon. We went to Tulum, a walled Mayan port city with beautiful beach. The beachhead was protected by reef except for a 120′ opening for commerce. Recent hurricanes didn’t damage Tulum since buildings have no 90 degree angles, allowing wind to pass. Perhaps, New Orleans should take note? Hurricanes wash artifacts up on beach and they prove the citizens participated in long distance commerce since the closest turquoise is found in New Mexico and Arizona.

Mayans used lime to pave roads. Lime is a natural pesticide and this allowed for nighttime commerce since all freight was carried on backs of the people. Remember that horses were not available. Mayan buildings were made of stone that absorbed the energy of the sun and became golden. When Cortez saw the city he wrote it was made of gold. Coco beans were used as the local currency, hence the saying, money growing on trees.

That afternoon we went to the Xpu Ha resort for a cattle call lunch buffet with poor service. There were kids everywhere which was much less relaxing than the adult only Le Blanc. We went snorkeling and saw a barracuda and a few other fish. We enjoyed the beach even though it was very rocky. The Xpu Ha nature preserve had deer, turtles, crocodiles, monkeys and catamidi.

We returned to cold towels and the lavish scent of the Le Blanc. We had a seven course dinner on the Blanc Terrance overlooking the beach. There was a nice breeze and the main course was a steak stuffed with lobster. Each course was matched with a nicely selected wine. Later we had some drinks at the Blanc Stage and enjoyed the end of the magical show. After dinner we ran into our friends from California at the lobby bar. We did a tequila tour: Tres Generations, Don Julio, Don T., 1921, etc.

Wednesday July 30th
Breakfast was delivered on time, hot and delicious. We took a bus to Paradise Snorkeling at the El Dorado Maroma. The atmosphere reminded us of the El Dorado Seaside Suites we visited last year. We rode a catamaran sailboat out to the Palencar reef to snorkel on the 2nd largest reef in the world. The guides fed the fish and we saw lots of topical fish. Mandy saw a large sting ray. We did the optional Jet Ski excursion for $91 per person. We Jet Skied to a cenote that terminated in the sea. Fish gathered to eat at the cenote and the water was noticeably cooler as fresh water was entering into the sea from it. The Jet Ski was fun in the rough and windy conditions but I definitely would not want to own one. There were no mishaps but we did get air a couple of times and Mandy nearly flew off.

The Mexican lunch buffet was tasty and the service was much better than at the Xpu Ha buffet. We were serenaded by Mexican hat performers.

We returned to cold towels and the lavish scent of the Le Blanc. We had dinner at the Blanc International restaurant. We stopped at the hotel lobby bar and talked with some honeymooners. We tried Casadores tequila and rumor has it that our friends drank the Le Blanc out of it. We learned that King Bush II vacationed at the Le Blanc a couple years back. We returned to our room to find delicious chocolates with fresh fruit.

Thursday July 31st
I started the day by worked off 550 calories. We went to breakfast at the Blanc International. The scrupulous food sculptures were amazing.
We enjoyed the pool and ordered a tasty nachos platter. We did the jungle tour again in the afternoon. There were a lot less people and we saw an amazing amount of fish we never saw before while snorkeling. Mandy drove the speedboat well. Another couple crashed their boat several times into the shoreline and broke off the rear wing.

We returned to cold towels and the lavish scent of the Le Blanc. We relaxed around the pool and enjoyed margaritas made with Don Julio. We had dinner at the Blanc Italia where they made us a surprise second anniversary dessert and then we enjoyed the fire show. I captured this impressive show on video. We stopped at the lobby bar for some lemon drop shots and I enjoyed a Drambuie on the rocks. Bar was still out of Casadores tequila… Later we had some drinks at the Blanc Stage and played more foosball.

We upgraded our pillows to rose and lavender aromatherapy ones.
Friday August 1st
I started the day by worked off 175 calories. We both got up early and enjoyed a personal yoga session with Ricardo inside the open air hut overlooking the lagoon.

Mandy saw a crocodile in the lagoon. We had a refreshing breakfast at the Blanc Terrance. The Mexican breakfast was stout! We relaxed at the pool and enjoyed the nacho platter. We had a light lunch at the Blanc International.

We arrived one hour early at the spa to prepare for our couple massage. Preparation entailed shower, sauna (10 minutes), cool towel, steam room (10 minutes), cool towel, shower, foot massage hot tub, full body hot tub, pool of cool water (3 minutes). The 80 minute full body aromatherapy massage was amazing. The pressure points on my head and hot rocks on my back and hands were my favorite parts. I think Mandy picked natural rose oils for us. We were served hot tea afterward and my body felt so relaxed and like new. We sat in the relaxing area at the spa for a long time.

We had a seven course dinner on the Blanc Terrance overlooking the beach. Later we had drinks at the Blanc Stage and enjoyed the jazz band and played some pool.
Saturday August 2nd
I started the day by worked off 120 calories prior to yoga. We both got up early and enjoyed a personal yoga session with Ricardo inside the open air hut overlooking the lagoon. We had breakfast at the Blanc International and ended with a selection of delicious ice creams. We feed the fish in the lagoon with all the extra bread I saved. We saw several neat jelly fish.

We swam in the lagoon swimming pool and talked about the Nephilim and Dec 21st, 2012 with Susan See from Arkansas. Robert and Susan own a fish market and were treated to the Le Blanc by a vendor. They were part of a huge group! By the way, I am not into end of world theories, but we had an interesting conversation.

Mandy and I swam in the ocean and enjoyed the infinity pool one last time. We ordered lunch pool side. We even had box dinners packed to eat at the airport while we were waiting for our flight. Yummy!

We had a direct flight to Detroit and avoided going through customs at a connection airport and the whole madness of retrieving our luggage, repacking duty free items, going through passport controller, customs and security again! We arrived late into Detroit and with no other international flights landing passed through quickly.

Rounding Six

Rounding Six

Waterskiing is a lot like life. When waterskiing around the slalom course you are never exactly sure how successful you will be in passing through the entrance gates, around six buoys, and through the exit gates. Mentally I know what I need to do to complete the slalom course, but the trick is in getting my body to do it. It is easy to just go into an automatic mode and let the pass through the slalom course happen. Unfortunately, growth is impossible since the same strategy yields the same results.

I made good progress this year in improving my slalom course strategy by pushing myself outside my comfort zone. It is always difficult for me to attend waterski school since I have this fear of being unable to make my body finesse itself through the slalom course with a different strategy / form. I worked past this fear and received top notch slalom course instruction at April Coble’s Waterski School.

I was able to break through a plateau in my waterskiing with this instruction. I still struggle many times, I know what to do but am unable to get my body to bend to the will of my mind. I have the same problem in real life. I know the good I want to do but leave the kind word unspoken, the good deed unattended and the charity not given.

Fortunately, my waterskiing improved throughout the summer and I won the most improved waterskier award at the Ohio INT Championship banquet last evening. I was very surprised and honored to receive this award. My friend Jason probably deserved this award more than myself but I won’t complain. I won 1st place in the Men’s Slalom Expert division after getting bumped up from the Slalom 1st Class division at the last tournament.

I hope I am successful in applying my slalom course learnings to the rest of my life. The most important life lesson I learned this year was that equilibrium (or balance) in living is dangerous. Forcing myself to change by challenging old habits and trying new approaches was very refreshing while at the same time very scary. Having quality instruction, peers to hold you accountable and time to experiment with new strategies was a very successful equation.

A big thanks goes out to Jason for all his feedback, helping me to hang in there on the rough days and for giving me excellent tidbits to get around that next buoy. Jason is also very generous with his boat and taught me that I need to be more trusting with my toys. I thank God for the good health and opportunity to waterski. I qualified for and hope to ski again this year at the INT national championship.

Waterski Slalom Course

Instant Watching, I think not

NetFlix offers Instant Watching of movies directly from their website so I decided to give it a whirl. NetFlix doesn’t currently support FireFox so I was forced to use Internet Explorer 6. After I clicked Instant Watching, I was notified that my Windows Media Player was out of date. I downloaded the 25Mb update to Windows Media Player and Microsoft demanded that I validate my XP Pro license.

After letting Microsoft sneak a peek of my machine I installed the Windows Media Player update successfully. Of course, this update required a reboot and after trying unsuccessfully without the reboot I acquiesced. I opened Internet Explorer again and tried Instant Watching. This time I was notified that movie playback required a component of Windows Media Player to be upgraded. I tried installing the component and was greeted with “Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close.”

Now I remember why I enjoy using FireFox so much. I tried one last time to Instant Watch and received the following error:

Server Connection Error
Make sure your computer has a live connection to the Internet and that security software is not blocking the Netflix Movie Viewer’s access. If you have an active, unblocked connection, close all browser windows, then try to play a movie again.
For further information, see our Internet and Server Connection Error FAQ. If the problem persists, or you would like assistance, please contact Netflix technical support and report the following error code(s):

I wish I only wasted an instant. This whole fiasco was the result of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the software to support it is not even half baked.

The Red Devil and The Battle of Whiteface Mountain

We left from Findlay hoping for a relaxing and low key week of snow skiing at Lake Placid. Per the GPS, aka our brain, we were well ahead of schedule until we entered the eastern Cleveland snow belt. My red TDI Jetta, aka the Red Devil, did not meet winter traction expectations. Even with my driving prowess, the heavy snowfall required us to slow down and very quickly the GPS started tormenting us with a later projected arrival time.

Then the Red Devil decided to develop serious transmission issues. The Red Devil is a 5-speed manual and I lost the ability to shift. We were forced to pull over. We talked nice to the Red Devil and were able to get her moving again. We pulled off in Erie Pennsylvania in the middle of a whiteout and investigated further. I put Doug behind the wheel since he is an excellent driver with legendary skill at escaping from fiascoes. Houdini would be proud.

Luckily he got her moving again up a vicious snow-covered hill without the aid of 1st gear. Thankfully diesel cars have a ton of torque. We continued on to Buffalo for lunch at Famous Dave’s BBQ and I fired up my computer and started reading the VW forums. We stopped at Wal-Mart to purchase additional clothing and the auto parts guy was completely clueless. We barely got the car going again and called my friend Jason. He is a premier Ford engineer and he happened to have a master mechanic with him. We interrupted their 10.5-hour gambling seminar in Vegas and they had a good laugh at our expense.

They weren’t sure we would make it and thought the only way we could keep moving was power shifting. Doug picked up quite a knack for power shifting and I told him our shift count was limited to the number of digits I have. We were still ~400 miles from our destination. Stopping to pay our toll at the Syracuse toll booth disabled us completely and we thought it was game over. However, like rebooting a windows computer we got the Jetta going again. We started in 2nd and changed gears into 3rd and 4th. We made it to Watertown NY with only 4th gear. We finally stopped to top off the fuel at Jet Gas (the only store with diesel). Unfortunately, Marathon doesn’t sell fuel in NY State. This vintage station had a tidy little bathroom with a depression era light switch. More fun starting off and soon we escaped town.

Doug commented it was smooth sailing. Heavy snowfall soon developed and the road was completely covered and visibility was limited. It is much more difficult to drive in heavy snow especially on twisty Adirondack Mountain roads. Luckily we caught up to a snow plow truck and followed it for many miles.
Not too long after the snow plow turned off, we were pulled over for having no tail lights and the officer was polite but firm in his resolve for us to remedy this problem. We had him call a tow truck and we waited and waited and waited. Doug had time to take two separate pit stops. I requested that the tow truck be a flatbed but we got an ordinary wrecker with a good old boy driver. He towed us to a repair shop that just happened to be open at 9:00pm on a Saturday evening and was less than a mile down the road.

He got the tail lights working by jiggling them and we were on the road again about 1.5 hours away from Lake Placid. Snow was even heavier and Doug imagined where the road was. We barely limped into Lake Placid, but we made it!

The world cup was in Lake Placid. As a consequence, it appeared that no hotels available, but with a high-speed cellular internet connection we found a room at the Econo Lodge. However, I discovered I lost my only credit card and this complicated making the reservation. Six drunken guys propelled the Red Devil down a hill to get her started in Lake Placid and after a little navigation difficulty, we found the Econo Lodge.

They didn’t think we had a reservation at the front desk and their computer was down. They found a room and we went there ready to crash. However, the room was still un-clean from the last patrons. Fortunately, they had one more room for us to try and it was perfect! One Woodford Reserve (courtesy of the Intercontinental) and Coke for each of us and we were ready for bed.

The sun came up the next day and it was a beautiful day. I called Famous Dave’s BBQ and they had my credit card. It is always good to leave waiters generous tips in case you leave your card behind. Russ and crew were behind us and picked up the card for me. I worked out a couple possible options for repairing the Red Devil. The VW / Audi dealer option required a ferry boat ride into Vermont. Doug and I have problems with ferry boats, but that is a story for another time. It was several days before any repair shop could evaluate the Red Devil.

We started the Jetta in 2nd for the trip to the condo. I had to help push the Jetta up a hill due to traction problems. Since we couldn’t use the clutch anymore I had to jump into the moving Red Devil. Luckily, we made it to the condo we were staying at for the rest of the week. Our condo wasn’t available so we walked downhill to the convenient Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. Doug and I tried their beer sampler and my favorite was the Ubu ale. Of course, I had to have a full pint of the Ubu ale while I enjoyed a hearty shepherd’s pie.

The condo people called and our unit was ready. It was a large and impressive condo with a 42″ LCD TV, sauna, and tall fireplace. Doug and I chilled out until Rusty and crew joined us later that night. Apparently, they took a scenic path. We still had time to play some rock band. I was the weakest link and really didn’t have the hang of it.

We skied at Lake Placid the following day. I added some drama by misplacing the lift ticket receipt but I eventually found it in my ski jacket. I warmed up on the green and blue runs off the new Face Lift. Rusty, Doug, and I took the gondola to the lesser summit and I enjoyed some very long blue runs. Later, we went to the greater summit. The view was amazing from the summits. I skied without falling which was amazing given the way the trip was going. The Red Devil was towed while we were on slopes. I hoped that she would be fixed for the return trip. For dinner, we ate at Pete’s Steakhouse and the food was okay.

Tuesday, we took the Lake Placid Olympic Tour with Mr. Rogers. He was a walking encyclopedia of winter Olympic history. It was a great tour topped with a stop at the rink where the “Miracle on Ice” took place. Touring the Olympic venues provided a fun recovery day. Doug and I were pleased with the good, plentiful, and reasonably priced food at Wise Guys. I persuaded Doug to do a little wine tasting and for $3 we tasted eight wines and had a souvenir glass to take home. The next stop was the Steak and Seafood micro-brewery. Their beer sampler included eight four-ounce samplings featuring two seasonal specials. I really liked their Abbey Ale and Barley Wine (11% alcohol beer). I even talked to their brewmaster who was a cool cat.

Wednesday, we skied again (for $35 by providing a Coke can). The runs were covered in fresh powder from steady flurries all night. No injuries were logged. Thursday, Doug and I took a bobsled ride and it was quite a rush. (It is definitely an experience to put on the list of 100 things to do before you die.) We traveled down the bottom half of the Olympic track and reached 50+ MPH. We also visited the ski jump complex. Friday, we skied for $30 since it was Whiteface’s 50th anniversary. I ventured down some black diamonds and only fell once.

We also picked up the still broken Jetta since the parts to fix it weren’t readily available. While returning to Lake Placid a small town had a fire that closed their downtown and forced us up a very steep hill. Of course, Doug was forced to stop at the top and I stopped Rusty’s Jeep four car lengths back. Every time Doug tried to take off he slipped backward. He cleverly used the Emergency brake to hold his position while the spinning tires melted the ice and eventually provided enough traction to proceed. Later, we stopped back at the Steak and Seafood brewery and the brewmaster gave Rusty his Barley Wine recipe. Rusty promised some of his future batches.

We left Saturday for home and hoped to reach Batavia where I had a Holiday Inn booking. We took a different route with less stop and go. The scenery was even better. Unfortunately, we decided to get cocky and take a shortcut. The shortcut shaved mileage but cost us lots of stops and go traffic without a working clutch. It would definitely have been better to stay on the interstate. We barely made it to the Holiday Inn and the starter pulled us out of the toll booth and across the street to the Holiday Inn.

The following day we completed the trip home. Doug did all the driving home and he deserves a big thank you.

Bottled Water Is Still A Scam

Bottled Water Is Still A Scam.
Interesting Points:

  • It’s worth reiterating that Aquafina and Dasani are just tap water.
  • Fiji Water produces more than a million bottles a day, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have reliable drinking water.
  • If the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.
  • 24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi.
  • The bubbles in San Pellegrino are extracted from volcanic springs in Tuscany, then trucked north and injected into the water from the source.
  • We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year—in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
  • Worldwide, 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water; 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water.
  • We’re moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That’s a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water.

Gasoline is profoundly cheap in comparison with bottled water. ;-)

Jason and the Trophy Carp

Jason smoked this carp going around a buoy on the slalom course at 32MPH. When Jason’s ski fin hit the 32″ fish it tripped him causing Jason to flip over and crash. Since the fish was killed by the incident I guess you could say the fish won the battle but Jason won the war. Jason 1, Fish 0.