Sunday, November 28, 2010

Droid X and the Incredible… a comparison

So we have pretty much settled on the fact that we will be switching our phone carrier from AT&T to Verizon based upon the wisdom of those fulltimers before us who stated that the coverage of Verizon was superior to all other carriers.  Now this may change in the future but we are about to commit to a 2 year plan with Verizon for this reason.

So which phone should we get? We have looked at and researched a lot about Verizon's phones and have narrowed it to the Droid X and the Droid Incredible. I have researched these two phones and thought I should share so here are my research results for a side-by-side comparison of the Droid X and the Incredible.

They are both black in color. Both of these phones have the Android 2.2 OS installed on them and both come with 8GB of internal memory.  Both feature an eight megapixel camera and the ability to record video. But this is where the similarities seem to end.

The Droid X is made out of metal not plastic like the Incredible . Droid X records video in HD while the Incredible does not.  Droid X's screen is larger also (4.3-inch touchscreen with 854x480 pixel display beats the Incredible’s 3.7-inch, 800x480px screen). Droid X has external storage of 16MB while Incredible has none.

For processing power, the Incredible com has a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, while the Motorola Droid X has a 1GHz OMAP 3630 CPU and when benchmarked (this tests the processor, memory, and graphics) the X scored 2.4 times better. When used outside in the sun, the display on the DROID X was brighter and easier to read than the Incredible. The Droid X has an HDMI output which can be very handy.

Droid Incredible is more compact and is less weight but this seems to be the only major plus for them in my opinion over the X.

For a great comparison chart of these two phones along with the Droid 2 and the Droid Pro go to computerworld.

Now the only problem is that there is a rumor that the HTC Merge/Incredible HD or “Mecha” is coming out real soon.

Hmmmmmm… which phone should I get…

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all…

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all… and as I sit here today and ponder our future once again it allows me time to reflect upon the things I should be thankful for.  This will be the last Thanksgiving we have in the house that we have lived in for the past 16 years. This makes it a somewhat sad holiday until I think about all the things to be thankful for…

I am thankful for my wife and kids who mean so much to me… and without them I would not be complete.  I am thankful for the job I have had for the last 17 years and the people that I have been fortunate to work with.  I am thankful for each of my friends and acquaintances I have that have touched my life.  I am thankful that we have been fortunate in life. I am thankful for all the little things that go unnoticed by so many… the sunrise and sunset… the twinkle in the stars… the green in the leaves at spring… the songs of the birds…\

There is so much for us to be thankful for and at times I wonder if we Americans remember all that we should be thankful for… and with that I want to thank all those serving our country overseas… may you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

99 days to go and saying goodbyes…

gypsyWow looked at our calendar today and noticed that we have broken the 100 day marker.  So we now have 99 days to go until we are FREE! … and on the road. However, as I mentioned in my last blog we still have tons and tons to  do…

We got a little disappointed this weekend when we found out an RV that we had narrowed our purchase down to and that we were becoming very interested in has apparently sold :-(  Oh well guess it wasn’t meant to be for that one… and there will be others.

ladies loungingSo this last weekend was the beginning of us doing some things for the final time and the beginning of us saying our goodbyes.  Saturday was my last day as a NCAA statistician for Texas A&M University football as I worked my last game before retiring. What a game this was for my final game as the Aggies were victorious on primetime ESPN against the #8 ranked Nebraska. When the final gun sounded the Aggies had upset the Cornhuskers 9-6 and the fans were throwing white towels in the air and from the press box it looked like it was snowing… a memorable experience for sure.

giantThen on Sunday we went to the Texas Renaissance Festival in Platersville, Texas. Long ago when the children were little ones we went to RenFest many times and on Sunday we decided to go for our last time… Since we were given free tickets to Ren Fest and the weekend’s weather was great we decided that this was the day to go, so off we went for the day… It is only about a 45 minute drive and was a relaxing and fun day.

jesterThere is much to see and do at RenFest although be prepared to bring lots of greenbacks as zombiethere is much opportunity to feast and imbibe in refreshing beverages… There are many vendors selling all kinds of wares. Also many of the participants and all the employees wear medieval themed clothing for the occasion which makes this a wonderful place for people watching.

ded bob showMany shows are free with optional tipping at the end of each.  One of our particular favorites at RenFest is the perennial Ded Bob Sho where you have to be careful or you will get Bob-mo-tized.  The other stand out show this day was the German brothers Gunther and Gotha who portrayed German Rap Stars.  These two comedies are not to be missed… All and all a relaxing day and it was even better when we realized we now have 99 days to go until we are FREE!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So what is next for us… The Punch List!

Centrum ArtWell now that we are back in Texas and a trip of a lifetime for us is over it is now nearing crunch time for us as we prepare to ready ourselves for the next chapter of our lives... we have LOTS to do still before we are ready to hit the road!

centrum at nightSince this topic had no photos associated with it I have included some photos of the ship and the towel folding that our room steward left on our bed at night while on out last cruise.

So in order to make some sense out of all the madness that will enter our lives soon I thought it best to come up with a punch list of items that need to be done before we have pig towelout “stuff” together.

  1. continue to opt out of paper mailers and bills where possible
  2. stop all magazine subscriptions
  3. switch to Verizon from our current AT&T provider
  4. determine which TV network to use (DISH vs Direct TV)
  5. determine which internet solution works best for us
  6. sign up for select RV clubs
  7. determine a mail forwarding solution (Escapes most likely)manta ray towel
  8. tll the house (set a closing date)
  9. buy an RV (determine where it will be if we close earlier than our departure date)
  10. sell all the stuff a future home buyer doesn't want
  11. sell all the remaining stuff that won't fit into our RV
  12. solve the insurance issue for our home on wheels (American National most likely) elephant towel
  13. buy a tow vehicle
  14. sell both our current vehicles
  15. insure the new toad
  16. find a towing solution for the toad
  17. learn to drive the RV
  18. take a shakedown trip
  19. finish any mods or repairs necessary before we leave
  20. determine which maps/books we need for traveling
  21. plan our first route
  22. retire from our jobs :) :) :) towel monkey2
  23. transfer our current retirement account to a vanguard account
  24. say our goodbyes

Crikey! The list is HUGE and pretty ominous considering we only have about 3 1/2 months before we plan to hit the road on March 2nd, 2011... now I am not sure now that it was such a good idea to make this list as it seems a bit overwhelming…towel turkey

…we had better get busy as it is almost turkey day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The end of our last vacation…

south pacific sunset111/6/2010 and 11/7/2010 – Another two days at sea before we are done with our cruise. Above is a picture of our best sunset of the cruise… and below is our best sunrise as we entered the Sydney Harbor.sidney sunrise 2

11/8/2010 Sydney

sidney sunrise 6I got up early since we arrived in Sydney at 6:30 AM and then we had breakfast before we were suppose to leave the ship. We booked a sidney sunrise 15tour off the ship to Manly Beach.  Since our flight didn’t leave until 3:25 PM this seemed like a great idea. We were happy to hear that we weren’t on Qantas since they were grounding all their A380’s due to the engine failure on one of their planes. We were so glad we had booked United and one of their 747’s.

sidney sunrise 14The tour to Manly Beach was a nice guided bus tour and the tour guide was very nice and informative as he pointed out many things along the tour like the jacaranda trees that were in magnificent full purple bloom (Remember in the southern hemisphere it is spring time and not fall).

harbor bridge 11-8The bus took us to an overlook of Sydney harbor before taking us over to Manly Beach where the sunlit skies made the waves a brilliant blue as they were rolling onto shore.  Shelley Beach was visible off manly beach wavesin the distance. We had about 1.5 hours to just hang out in Manly on our own so we went for a walk along the beach and walked around the town of Manly.part of sydneyfrom above

And then it was time to go to the airport and fly away… as you can tell by the photo above, but we will remember the good times and not the end… because there is no end for us yet…

us opera house across the harbor

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Isle of Lifou -Loyalty Islands

11/5/2010 Ile Lifou -Loyalty Islands

Lifou 1Well today was to be our last island stop and after Vanuatu I was looking for a more scenic non-commercialized stop… and Lifou was just what the doctor ordered. This was going to be the first ever stop for the Rhapsody of the Seas at Lifou and it was going to be the largest cruise ship to ever visit the island. Thus we had to tender once again so we were off the ship around 7:30 am and on to Lifou. This was going to be a shorter day today as the all aboard was for 3:30 pm before our last two days at sea.

Lifou 4Our plans here were to spend the day at Luecila Beach which was right near where we tendered to and was just beautiful. Not a thing commercial at all… just island people carrying out their island lives.  We had heard about a good snorkeling spot just down the road from the beach so we walked about 15 minutes from the beach up the road to the place we heard that was good for snorkeling… man were they wrong… it wasn’t good snorkeling it was GREAT for snorkeling.

Lifou 3If you were to visit here you will need some reef shoes as the shoreline is mostly broken coral and rough on the feet. There was a small dock with a fairly poorly designed ladder going down to the waters edge.  At the edge was a smooth bottom that was in shallow water which was great for putting on our fins. Then you could gradually swim out in the clear aquamarine waters…

Lifou 8The snorkeling here was the best we have ever experienced in our lives!  The water was perfectly clear and it felt as if we were swimming in an aquarium.  The diversity of corals and fishes was bountiful.  The corals were gigantic and pristine. We saw many bizarre and unknown fishes here of all sizes and shapes.  We also saw numerous different colored clown fish swimming amongst the anemones as well as the giant deep see clams (some as large as 2-3 feet across). There was even one species of fish that swam around in the taller corals and would defend them by swimming aggressively at you to scare you away… which was quite humorous.  My favorite as a fish with green dots on his side and what appeared to be gold eyebrows and they would come right up to your mask and just look directly at you… really cool!

Lifou 5

slh in Lifou 13We snorkeled here for hours and to top it off there was a Lifou native lady selling cold drinks out of a cooler so we had a couple of “number ones” after snorkeling… The number ones were more than eight dollars at Isle of Pines but here we could get four for that same amount… what a life… life is good!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Port Vila, Vanuatu

11/3/2010 – Just another relaxing day at sea...

Tuesday 11/4/2010 Port Vila, Vanuatu

Vanuatu1This was the one port I was most looking most forward to but to be honest it was the most disappointing port we had on this entire cruise, despite its beauty. Port Vila is located around a magnificent natural harbor offering stunning views of Iririki and Ifira islands. It is Vanuatu's international gateway and remains the only town on the island. Vila is a pretty dirty town. and is a bit polluted even though the corals and tropical fish can be seen in the water.

Vanuatu2We left the ship at 8:00 am again and found a taxi to give us an island tour. The taxi was quite expensive and more than 3 times what I expected based upon my internet research (but shared it with another couple). Nonetheless we hired a taxi and took off for our first stop cascade falls.  This was supposed to be a nice falls in a bit  of a wooded scenic area.  We were confronted with a booth that said to see the falls it would cost 35 dollars for the two of us… OUCH!  We decided that $35 to see a water fall was a bit too steep since we will be seeing oodles of waterfalls in the states when we start full timing.

Vanuatu3So our cabbie suggested an overlook of the bay instead… and guess what… to visit the overlook also cost us money.  It seemed everything we were going to do on this island was going to include a fee so we were talking with the guy who charged us a fee to visit his overlook and when we told him we thought all the fees were Vanuatu6 excessive to simple see the beauty of their island especially when other islands don’t charge excessively to see theirs. He then asked where we were going next and we told him we heard hideaway island Vanuatu Papayawas nice and had good snorkeling.  He said that it would be $20 per person to get on the island and suggested a beach resort that his cousin worked at that would let us use there facilities and snorkel for free as long as we bought beverages or food from them… so off we went to a small Beach Resort name Tara Beach. On the way I took a picture of a popo tree (we call it papaya).

Vanuatu Resort and SLH with Christina What  a score this was…  Although the resort didn’t have great amenities and it wasn’t much of a beach but it did have some fine snorkeling and was very peaceful.  To top it off the cousin, Christina, adopted us when she found out we came there based upon her cousin’s recommendation.

Vanuatu Tusker beerWe practically had the place to ourselves and we spent some Vatu (local currency) on some cold beers and some real good fish and chips and Christina even charged us less than the stated menu prices.  Thank goodness for this spot as otherwise Villa, Vanuatu would have left a bad taste in our mouths.

On the way back we stopped briefly in the town of Villa to check out the duty free shopping… not much to speak of… the town is not that interesting and the shopping (other than booze) was not that much cheaper than in the US.  I did however find a bottle shop to buy a few more tuskers for the road… and had time to pose in front of my favorite Vanuatu beverage…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lautoka Fiji

Sunday 11/2/2010 Lautoka

Lautoka Fiji welcoming party

We docked and were allowed off the ship at Lautoka, Fiji at 8:00 am. Lautoka is situated on the western side of the big island Viti Levu, opposite of Suva. Vita Levu is the largest island in Fiji, and approximately 250 km from Suva, the capital. Not real far but considering the roads in Fiji it would take a while to get there. We had a welcoming party of Fijians dressed tradition garb and holding "CALI’s" or war clubs. These people were once cannibals so we weren’t sure if this was a greeting or a question of “Guess who is coming to dinner” :)

palm frond

Lautoka is surrounded with the blue Pacific Ocean on the western side and green gold sugar cane together with pine trees on the other sides. We had no real plans for this stop so we got off the ship at 8:00 am and found a tour booth that had a tour to Bounty Island the sister island of Treasure Island. They said the snorkeling was great and the beach was white… sounded great to us so we booked it.

bounty island

We took a 20 minute bus ride to the boat dock where we caught a motor boat for another 20 minute ride over to Bounty Island. Now this place had it all… crystal clear blue waters, large areas of reef, white sand beaches, and a nice bar on site… this is the life.

bounty island looking towards treasure island

From Bounty Island you could see treasure island off in the bounty island bbq2distance. We snorkeled here for several hours before they fed us a grilled lunch that included maji maji, beef, lamb, chicken and sausage along with the complimentary sides of salads, rice, and vegetables.  To top it off they had cut freshly picked bananas and papayas and man were they absolutely delicious.

us at bounty islandAfter lunch we snorkeled a bit more since the water clarity and diversity of sea life was spectacular.  After tiring we then went to the bar and consumed a few Fiji Bitters and Fiji Gold beverages before heading back to the ship… another excellent outing in Fiji…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Suva Fiji

10/31/2010 – Another day at Sea

Friday 11/1/2010 Suva, Fiji

port of suva fijiWe docked in Suva and were allowed to leave the ship at 8:00 am.  Suva is the pulsing heart of the South Pacific and also Fiji's main port. This waterfront district provides the hub for much of Suva’s activity with high-rise office buildings, colonial buildings with second-story verandas, parks and government buildings.

suva fiji parade2We got off the ship and walked through an area called the Triangle. slh and cheap false tethThen we crossed Nubukalou Creek a rather dirty creek but then we crossed Cumming Street and passed by the Suva Market where local goods and produce are sold. Here we passed a band that was parading down a side street.  We thought it may be in celebration of Fiji’s 40th birthday of independence. Sharon found a dentist’s sign for 50 dollar false teeth… wow!

black pearl resort fiji6We passed Sukuna Park named for Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, founding black pearl resort fiji5father of independent Fiji. Next we came upon Old Town Hall and then passed the Suva City Library and eventually we stopped walking when we hit the first of the Government Buildings adjacent to a large open field called Albert Park.

black pearl resort fijiThen after returning back to where we started we went and hired a local taxi for an island tour and to find a snorkel spot.  We ended up at the Black Pearl Resort which was on the beach and had a very nice beachfront with huts, bars, a restaurant and loungers where we sat looking over the ocean.  Although we didn’t find a good snorkel spot here we did find a slice of paradise and stayed for most of the rest of our time on shore. Nice relaxing spot with nice cold Fiji Gold beers… man life is tough…

innovative boat in fijiOn the return trip we stopped at an overlook where I took a few photos of the harbor like the first photo of this blog.  Then we stopped at a rain forest resort for a cold drink and a rest. This was a beautiful resort (and it was raining) so we sat in the restaurant overlooking a small lake.  We saw an innovative use of plastic bottles in the small lake nearby. There was a small boat made entirely our of the plastic soda bottles…. how clever! We also saw a lone Fijian fisherman on the far side of the lake fishing in the rain in the rainforest. His yellow slicker contrasting against the greenery of the rain forest made for an interesting shot…

lone fijian fisherman

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Boarding the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Isle of Pines

Wednesday 10/27/2010

After waking up and packing we went for faith cafebreakfast at a quaint little spot called Faith’s Café. Then we caught a cab over to the International Passenger Terminal at the Circular Quay. We then checked our bags with the cruise line porters and walked over to the “Rocks” of Sydney that consists of an area of the oldest buildings in Sydney that have been converted into a nice shopping area.  Here we visited the NSW Art gallery which is a great place to see unique Aboriginal art .

rhapsody in sydneyWe then found a nice little pub in the Rocks at the Mercantile Hotel where we decided to have a couple of cold adult beverages since it was still too early to board the ship.  Once we boarded the ship we grabbed lunch at the Windjammer on the 9 deck and checked out the ship. It was a bit cool this day and a bit cloudy so we just checked out the ship until dinner time. We left Sydney Harbor at 6:30 PM and the views leaving were stunning.

rhapsody in sydney harbor10/28/2010 and 10/29/2010 - At Sea

Every day at sea is packed with activities...from deck games, to casino action, to live music and entertainment. This is the time we indulged ourselves in exercise or laid out in the sun or took a dip in the pools, hot tubs or “spas” as the Aussies call them. Just a totally relaxing time…

Saturday 10/30/2010  Depart at 6:00:00 PM

norfolk pines at Ile des PinsWe arrived at Isle of Pines (part of New Caledonia) at 8:00 am and our plan for the day was to snorkel all day.  The Ile des Pins (as the French call it) is often referred to as the jewel of the Pacific and the currency is the Pacific Franc. Isle of Pines is known for its pristine beauty, prolific Norfolk pine tree skyline (up to 200 feet tall), aquamarine lagoons and powdery white sand beaches.

blues waters of Isle of PinesWhen the ship anchored we caught a tender over to the island. The Isle of Pines is said to have some of the best snorkeling in the area. The spot we were looking for was called sacred rock in Kanuméra Bay.  The left hand side of sacred rock is the place to go and the water is very clear with lots of varied corals and abundant fish within meters of the beach. The beach here had the whitest sand and it's almost as fine as talcum powder.  Once we were off the tender we Sacred Rock Isle of Pinestook a short 5 minute walk over to a beach near sacred rock… the rock was stunning, surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. It was a bit cloudy and the water was a bit cooler than we expected but that didn’t stop us from snorkeling completely around sacred rock.  The most interesting thing we saw was a deadly sea snake called a banded sea krait. Their venom is ten times stronger than that of a cobra, making them extremely dangerous. Fortunately, this snake won’t bite humans unless they feel threatened and they are incapable of dispensing enough venom for a deadly bite. We saw two of them but always made sure there was plenty of distance between us :)aquamarine waters of Isle of Pines

As we were about to go ashore the skies erupted and produced a torrential down pour of cold rain.  We could feel it hitting our backs as we were snorkeling and would dip under the water to warm up and to prevent the stinging rain from hitting our legs.  When it let up we Oro Bay lagoonwent to the beach for a small walk down the coast line and then returned to circumnavigate the sacred rock a few more times.  After getting our fill of the wonderful corals and diverse and colorful fishes, we found a small café where we were able to sample the local beverages… a “number one” beer that cost eight bucks US but we still had to have a couple and spent most of our francs on beer.. oh well…Number One beer at the Isle of Pines