Yesterday at Seatac I boarded a bus for Seattle Harbor and lacking any phone or mifi service, promptly left the grid. The following is rough chronology of events of day one of seven days aboard the Crown Princess cruiseliner with my family for my mom’s 70th birthday. I’m writing these summaries (typically the day after) based on items recorded in my personal log and other offline tools and devices, not knowing when they’ll make it to my site.
We boarded the Crown Princess not long after checking in at the port, after having them verify our passports, take our self-assessed medical questionnaires, and give us our boarding cards. My parents had kindly arranged early boarding for us.
Just before we stepped onto the gangplank they checked our boarding cards and took our photos (without glasses). Thoughts of a complimentary cruise yearbook briefly went through my head.
Finding our rooms easily, we unloaded our backpacks and put away our small hand luggages. We had checked-in our rollaways at the Princess Cruises counter at Seatac for them to bring direclty to our state rooms later that afternoon. Apparently hotel rooms on ships are called “state rooms”.
I was up all night the night before, alternating between laundry/cleaning and doing online tasks in some rough order of priority. Folded sports clothing, picking out just one tshirt and pair of shorts to pack. Respond to a few things on IRC, editing wiki pages accordingly. Folded numerous clean towels, having hosted four the past weekend.
Wrote a letter of recommendation and sent it. Cleaned house some more. From lots of travel I’ve learned that returning to a cleaner home makes you feel taken care of. Even if it was just your past self caring for your future self.
I checked the Twitter home page / social stream one last time (I only check it every other week or so anyway). A few friends & colleagues had tweeted about Foo Camp starting that night and how impressed they were with each other. Decided to post a friendly nudge of a note to their #foocamp hashtag as my last post to my site before leaving home.
It had been a while since I pulled an all-nighter, through sheer willpower (no caffeine), not at an all night underground somewhere, and having been up since before 6am. Suffice it to say I slept well on the flight from SFO to SEA, but awoke starving upon landing, and had to grab a quick snack before meeting my family at baggage claim, the others having flown in from other airports.
After an airport Starbucks run for my usual (quad espresso over ice, ice first, in a venti cup, with cold soy on top), I felt awake again, and took care of a few last things. Downloaded the maps.me offline mapping application along with maps for Washington, Alaska, British Columbia.
I reserved our Mozilla Community Space for August's first Homebrew Website Club meetup in SF, and asked my co-organizer Kyle Mahan to post an indie event and POSSE it to Facebook accordingly, as well as pick a venue for the second meeting in August.
Took a photo of the cruise ship icon at Seatac and posted it to Instagram as a public clue to my off-grid plans, cross-posted as a Foursquare check-in. My last online act of creation, ironically a double-silo post. Perhaps a public self-reminder that I too have much work to do.
When you sleep little or not at all the night before, you’re a lot hungrier the next day. After checking out our rooms, their balconies, which happened to be connected, we quickly went to get lunch. There was no line at the Horizon Lounge, one of many buffet restaurants on the ship that’s open continuously from 06:00 to 23:00. I had pan cooked Alaskan cod with lemon, mashed potatoes, a big salad, and a small piece of onion focacia.
As we left the line went out the door. Curious about our workout options, we went to explore the gym.
To get to the gym you have to walk through the spa, with all manner of marketing posters and upsells of various rejuvenation, pampering, and beautification options. (Writing this makes me want to go back and photograph the posters, realizing just how strange they might seem out of context.)
In addition to wide spread of cardio and weight machines, most with a beautiful view out the front of the ship, they offered various classes on the hardwood floor behind the machines. Yoga, pilates, TRX, etc. As part of the cruise package we’re on, we each have $50 credit on our boarding cards (which double as room keys, triple as onboard credit cards), and a $12 yoga class seemed like a reasonable way to spend some credit. The classes only had about 15 spots each, with 3 lines for a waitlist. That seemed small for a population of nearly 3500.
We explored the upper decks, took in the views, and watched our departure from Seattle Harbor. We went back to our rooms, and I decided to read a bit from the three books I brought and take a nap to keep catching up on my sleep.
I awoke a couple of hours later (apparently I needed that nap) to the sounds of my roommate (nephew1) scurrying about and noise from next door as well. Everyone was getting ready for the imminent safety drill.
Each cabin has lifevests for precisely the number of occupants. We were instructed that the drill was imminent and to carry (not wear) our life jackets to the Muster Station for our section. Everyone in my family was already on their way well before the official drill time. I made grabbed my life jacket and made my way as well, following the well placed signs and arrows to the Muster Station.
Found my parents, sister, a nephew, and my niece in the Muster Station which turned out to be an auditorium. Crew members scanned our boarding cards at the entrance. The crew member on stage quickly quieted everyone down and then started welcoming people by country and making other comical banter. Once in a while an official sounding (or perhaps just British accented) voice would come on the loud speakers reminding us what was going to happen in mere minutes.
Minutes before drill time, the lead crew member becamse increasingly serious, teaching us what would happen in case we had to abandone ship, finally instructing everyone how to put on their lifejackets, and then had us all do so.
16:00: the general alarm sounded. 7 short bleats and one long bleat. Everyone looked around, and the various crew members did a once over the crowd. Having passed the drill, we were told to take off our lifevests and return to our rooms. We did so, putting the lifevests back where we found them.
A Little Tour, A Few Mental Exercises
After the drill we wandered around the boat a bit, walking from pool to pool (pretty sure I counted four, not counting the hot tubs).
We stopped to check out the Calypso pool in particular, above which was place a massive display and adjacent speakers, for daily movie showings.
My parents arranged for reserved dining for our dinners. 17:30 and 20:00 were the only two options so naturally we chose 17:30, better suiting the kids and us early risers. After our little mini-tour, we changed to look a bit nicer for dinner. For me that meant zipping up my fitted Betabrand jacket rather than being loose and casual with a black v-neck t-shirt underneath.
Dinner was sit down and order style, and I suddenly realized just how hungry I was (again). Feeling even more impetuous and impatient than my nephews & niece, I decided to first help nephew2 work on the puzzles on his kid’s placemat, and then we did mental exercises while waiting for our food.
First I asked him to tell me the ISO date, which he nailed without hesitating. Two thousand fiften DASH zero eight DASH zero one. Then a big grin knowing he’d nailed it. So of course I hit him up with a bigger challenge, the ISO ordinal date. He protested, claiming he hadn’t practiced it.
No chance I was letting him off that easy. I told him, no problem, let’s figure it out from what we know. How many days in January? 31. How many days in February? 28. What does that total? 59. How many days in March? 31. Add that? 90. Ok let’s put that aside, 90 days in the first quarter. How many days in April? 30. May? 31. June? 30. Total? 91. Let’s put that aside for the second quarter. 181. Yes that many days in the first half of the year.
How many days in July? 31. What day is it in August? 1. Add those. 32. What was the number we had before? 181. Now add those. 213. So what’s the ISO Ordinal date? Two thousand fifteen DASH two hundred thirteen. Nailed it. In his head, no paper needed.
The bigger goal here is of course to teach him two general purpose problem solving tools by practicing them: deconstruction and clustering/chunking. Every problem can be deconstructed into smaller, often trivial pieces. By clustering and chunking these solved pieces into larger pieces, you can keep the whole solution in your head as you build it back up.
Having mastered dates (all an 8-year old needs to know about dates anyway), we moved onto other units. I grilled him on metric lengths. Millimeters, centimeters, decimeters, meters, kilometers. With a little help, he got all those too. What about weight / mass? 1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds. He told me his weight / mass in both.
What about the periodic table of elements? Apparently he hadn't studided these yet. So I let him "phone a friend" and ask his older brother for help. We got thru nearly the first two rows. Finally we ended with naming airport codes and our food arrived.
Dinner And A Sunset
Our food arrived, one course at a time. For my appetizer I had Alaskan salmon gravlox. Then a simple small Caesar salad. Finally the baked Alaskan salmon special. Everyone else ordered dessert. I merely helped with some of the chocolate bits.
The temperature outside had swiftly dropped from high 80s down to windchilled 50s. We returned to our rooms and put on a layer or two. I grabbed a book to read as well. My younger sister and I went out to the upper sports deck level to walk around and watch the sunset.
First sunset on a boat in just over two years. Last time was nearly half a world away, when I’d let myself believe, rather, was convinced by another, that we were on a particular trajectory. Memories fade with time, and thankfully so do projections, expectations, even hopes. That particular alternate timeline continues to diverge, dimming as it recedes beyond my current time cone, leaving behind nothing but a couple of abstract notions.
The sun lit the cloudy horizon on fire, glinting off the tips of the waves. Approaching the bow of the ship, we had to push against an ever stronger headwind. I held my camera firmly, took a few more shots near the bow, then put it away, leaned into the wind, and just enjoyed the view.
A little windchill can’t scare off a San Franciscan. I walked back to the semi-protected Calypso Pool area where a movie was playing. Didn’t matter which one, it was just background. I picked out a pool chair, reclined comfortably in my layers, and only then noticed that everyone else on the chairs was bundled-up under indentical red green patterned wool blankets. It wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last time on the ship that I would suddenly feel different from everyone else around.
I started reading More Awesome Than Money (MATM), and while doing so gave in to the nearby unlimited pizza and softserve bar. A couple of slices of margerita and a small chocolate softserve later, I’d read thru about 10% of MATM and decided to return to my room.
Introduction to TRON: A Bedtime Movie
My roommate nephew1 was already getting ready for bed, and I found myself sleepy as well. Earlier I’d disclosed that I “brought” a few movies with me (they just happened to be images on my laptop from a few DVDs at home), and he’d done his due diligence, asking his parents which he could watch. Of the dozen or so I had that was permitted to see, he picked TRON.
It was already late, so we collectively decided to watch the first half hour, and then go to bed. It’s amazing what observations an 11-year old will make, and what questions they ask. Especially when seeing a movie with some of the earliest computer generated special effects.
We watched up through the scene where Kevin Flynn is introduced, and talks his friends and former colleagues into helping him break into ENCOM. As they were sneaking past towers of computers, we paused the movie and went to sleep.