Friday, April 30, 2004

(Upload Time Again)

It is Friday morning, and time once again to upload to the web. I decided to take this time to just talk about some day-to-day things from the past few weeks, in no particular order.

There have been two group gatherings since I have been on the ship. Since a lot of people have to work at the time, and many more others don't come, there aren't exactly a thousand people there. However, there are usually a couple of hundred, and I figure that it is a good way to meet people. The first one, two weeks ago, was just a dance. It is held on a deck that is open to the air, but they can close the roof. There is a pool and two hot tubs, but they close them for our parties for some reason. :( They also close it off to the guests, which means that they are held pretty late at night (11 - 2). We had one this Wednesday also, it was a crazy-hat party. I don't exactly have any hats, so I made one. During the actual parties like this one, they provide food, beer, and wine, and they take pictures of people in front of a Destiny backdrop. I didn't get a picture, as I didn't know that they only shoot them for the first half hour. People pretty much hang out with others from a similar language, so it doesn't leave me in good shape to meet people.

At the first party, I didn't meet anyone, as I went with my roommate at the time, Mark. We hung out with a couple of his friends that I already knew. At this one, however, I still didn't meet many people. I went with my current roommate, Julio, and my co-worker, Mihai. I met a couple of Mihai's friends, and his girlfriend sat with us also. I people-watched, and eventually (after Julio left) there were a number of Romanian people at the table. Since I was the only non-Romanian and since it was a lot of inside jokes and shared experiences, the conversation for the rest of the night took place in Romanian, and I just people-watched. It turns out that few people participate in the themes, so I was one of the only ones with a hat. It got attention, though. We finally left around 2.

Our server room started heating up yesterday morning, by the time that I got there it was 85. We were in danger of having to shut down the servers. They had looked at it the day before, but obviously hadn't fixed it. So, they worked on it for the morning while I sat and baked. I was supposed to be re-imaging the computers in the training area, but this was a bit more important. Then, when I left to go to the training area (as Mihai got back from a weekly meeting), I passed one of the training girls (Catherine) on her way out. Since the training room was now locked, I figured that I'd head to lunch. After lunch I got an emergency page, a rather important computer in the MSA office had crashed, so I had to fix that. The fan had given out and it had crashed,  by the time I got to the training room there were going to be classes the rest of the day.

Last Thursday after Friends the Chief Purser had a movie party, as a going away for some of the people in her office. She had invited IS, so Mihai and I went. This Thursday she decided to do it again, as there were two more people leaving. This time it was a wine and cheese party, so I brought a bottle of wine. We again used one of my movies (Seven). Someone else had brought one, but (as is often the case here) it was from a different country code, so the DVD player wouldn't read it. I remember thinking the last time that I had been to the party that the apartment was pretty big, but something seemed a bit off. I figured it out this time. I knew that she was dating a really high-up officer, and she is really high-up. I knew that they lived together, and thought that this was their apartment. However, it just seemed way TOO clean. They have a really good deal going, as it turns out. They don't request to live together, which means that they get two apartments. In Mihai's case, this wouldn't be a big advantage, because his girlfriend would have had a roommate anyways (as is my case). However, since each of them get a large, single apartment, it works out much better. They live in one, and use the other as an entertainment and living room. It has a double bed, and a very large bathroom with a bathtub and shower. It seems like such a big waste . . . but is awfully nice for them to have. This party was in the middle of Friends, for some reason, but I taped it.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I find it annoying so I will mention it just to be sure. Whenever we pull into a port, we are required to close all watertight doors on the lower levels (I live one floor BELOW the first floor, so that would be near me). Of course, we come into port at around 6 every day but our two sea days. Since they are closed by a large piston, they of course have warning alarms as they close to keep people from getting caught in them. It kind of sounds like a European police siren. Even if you were deaf, the vibration from the sound alone would warn you, as well as seeing all of the walls vibrate and the glass cracking. Since I don't' sleep well to begin with, this is a guarantee to wake me every morning. :( Yet another reason why I really hope to become a senior IS manager soon, in the distant hopes that I will get Mihai's room when he leaves in a few months (A/C, bed size, and room size, and lack of roommates would be the other reasons). It seems unlikely, though, since whoever they replace him with will likely be more senior than I am. The other option might be that they won't give a replacement. I think that it would be worth doing twice the work in order to get the room. :) I haven't seen it, but I know that it is a lot bigger than mine, and has a bigger bed (and has much better A/C).

I have been eating three times pretty much every day. Breakfast is only served between 7 and 8:30, so the window isn't that big. You can eat pretty much anytime in the general mess hall, and there is a midnight buffet there. They serve pizza 24 hours a day on one of the top decks, and I am allowed to eat that also. On days that we are in port, there aren't many guests in the general eating area, so I can eat there, which is buffet-style, from noon to 1:30. On sea days I can eat there after 1:30, when the guests thin out. I usually eat in the Officer's mess, but a couple of times a week I will eat up there.

Two weeks I have gone into Barbados to the beach on Wednesdays. I was going to go this week too, but it was rainy out so I didn't. On Wednesdays are also my Spanish classes, which are going o.k. so far. It is starting to make a little sense, so we'll see if I actually learn it this time. I have a Hispanic roommate, and there is lots of opportunity for me to speak it on the ship, as I believe that Spanish is probably the primary language. Italian is probably second. Pretty much every senior officer on every ship is Italian. I think that 19 of the 21 captains are Italian, the other two are Croatian. These two groups seem to be extremely driven towards higher rank, and stay with ships long enough to get it. Everyone aboard is supposed to speak English, but few people speak it well. They have a class several times a week just to teach standard English phrases to people who barely speak it (i.e., "How are you?" "Have a nice day!" "We hope to see you on Carnival again.").

People really seem to like Carnival, and I knew that our return customer rate was pretty good. I had NO idea how good 'till recently, though. I actually looked through the reports, and over a THIRD of the people on every ship has sailed with Carnival before. To me that is an amazing return rate. I mean, people usually only take one vacation a year, so it isn't like it is a volume business for your average person.

I am still learning the systems. It takes a bit, since there are about 20 separate systems. almost all proprietary. Each system requires a different login. This would be fine, except that the rhyme and reason is bizarre. Some of the systems use a different username than the IS one. Most use a different password, but not all. Some have a password that has something to do with the system, and some have a username that has something to do with the system, but there isn't a rhyme or reason to either of those. So when I sit down to any particular system, I have to remember whether or not the username is similar to the system, whether it is our normal one, or whether it is a completely random one. Ditto for the password. Each individual one is fairly easy to remember, so Mihai occasionally looks at me oddly when I don't. However, remembering the passwords and usernames are each easy, but remembering which combination goes with which system isn't. All part of the fun . . .

I didn't write many entries this week, mostly because of the two parties and the fact that I was pretty busy with work also. I have convinced Mihai that there isn't enough work to overload two of us, and he can finally start slowing down (he was by himself for four months). We have started rotating the pager on a regular basis, and have started trying to work pretty much 9 to 5. I have read another Carl Hiaasen book, Double Whammy. It was good, I liked it even more than the other one.

A cruise ship that was parked next to us last week (I meant to get a picture, but didn't) had something interesting on the side. It caught my eye for two reasons. One is that the sides of ships are normally pretty free from writing, with the exception of the ship name (unlike cars, that have brand names and engine types and such), and this one had the engine type on the side. The second was the fact that it was turbine powered. Now I realize that a lot of you don't know what this means. However, I can tell you that while turbines provide an awful lot of power with very little weight, they usually wouldn't be advantageous on a ship. Weight (particularly low in the ship like the engine) isn't usually an issue, in fact having a lighter engine means that you have to add weight to the bottom of the ship to make up for it (to keep the ship vertical, since most of the ship is above water it needs to be bottom-heavy to keep from tilting). More importantly, though, turbines generally are MUCH less efficient than diesel engines. On most cruise ships, efficiency is key, since they already get REALLY bad gas mileage. In fact, on the Carnival ships, the captains can get bonuses for cutting down on mileage and fuel usage (turning around less in port, going off course less, using the wind more, driving slower when possible, etc.).

I have two pictures here that I really liked, courtesy of Erle's (who was just called from his family and his job at Evangel back into the Navy, he was still eligible to get called back from being there before) website. The first is a great shot of the Aurora Borealis, taken in Alaska. The second, which I tend to like just because it is purple, is of a polar bear who was having skin problems. They gave him medicine for it, which turned all of his hair purple. He is really embarrassed, but they assured everyone that when his treatment is over it will go back. To see more cool pictures that Erle has scoured the web for, go to his page at www.ganns.com. There are many more I could have put here, including an incredible picture taken through dew-drops of some flowers.

I am sorry that I still haven't had time to gather together all of the e-mail addresses to everyone I need to send this journal to. By the time that you read this you will (obviously) have it, but it means that there will be a lot of reading all at once.  I am going to make a really concerted effort to get it out this week. I was hoping to today, but I am running too short on time. It is lunchtime now, and Mihai and his girlfriend are going off the ship at 3, so I need to hurry. Off to lunch!

Well, since there was an FTP problem, I didn't get the page out on Friday like I was supposed to, so I am hoping to send it out on Sunday in San Juan.