No. Sea Cruise

by Bob Sparrow

Hamburg water statue in Alster Lake

The title seems to infer that there is no sea cruise – there is! The title is simply my way of trying to label our trip of cruising both the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea.  By the time you get this blog, we will have embarked from Hamburg, Germany, leaving all the local Hamburgers behind and will be adrift somewhere in the North Sea on a 12-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Jade. It’s actually a 14-day cruise, but they’re throwing us off early – more about that later. What I can tell you now is that I’ve never been to any of the destinations we’re visiting, so Wi-Fi willing you’ll join us as we discover some new places.

The ‘we’ on this trip, joining Linda and me, is the same as our Baltic Sea Cruise gang (where you could always find a ‘john’), Jack & JJ Budd, John & Judy VanBoxmeer, John’s  sister and brother-in-law from Canada, John & Mary Billham, plus friends of theirs, Steen & Sue also from Canada (I believe Steen is Canadian for John).  Why so many Canadians?  Just in case we get called ‘Ugly Americans’ we can all say were from Canada, eh?

Getting to Hamburg, Germany

Our trip over started ignominiously with a European air traffic controllers strike, so our original flight to Europe was cancelled along with our up-graded seats, so we ended up in ‘steerage’.  The good news is that after 27 hours of airplanes and airports we did eventually get to Hamburg, so either the strike was settled or the pilot landed by

Jack, JJ, me, Linda, John & Judy prior to Copenhagen Segway ride in 2015

the seat of his pants. The bad news is that my luggage went to Dubai and our golf clubs went to Kuala Lumpur or at least somewhere other than Hamburg.  As of this writing I’m wearing the same shirt I started out with two days ago, no wonder no one wanted to sit with me at dinner!  Hamburg has been in the news lately as the recent meeting/protesting place for this year’s G20 Summit. All the leaders and protestors have since left the city, but the Putin-Trump “I Got You Elected Comrade” t-shirts were still available in the gift shops.  We only had one evening in Hamburg to scarf down some schnitzel and German beer, which we did as we were pretty sure we weren’t going to get much to eat or drink on the cruise.

The Ship and Her Measurements

Many of our blog readers are big cruise enthusiasts, so I don’t have to go into a great deal of detail about the Jade, but I will anyway . . .

  • 93,558 gross ton; I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like a lot

    The ‘Jade’

  • 965 feet in length – over 3 football fields long, and while there is no football field on board (I don’t think!) there are tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. (May not get to all of those)
  • Passengers: 2,402 of our closest friends
  • 1,037 crew member (most of them will be down in the hold peddling to make the ship go faster)
  • Library (I may not find it)
  • Gym (I may not find this either)
  • On board chapel (where I will be praying that I don’t burst during the cruise from eating and drinking too much)

Dining opportunities

  • 2 Main Dining Rooms plus, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, Cagney’s Steak House, Jasmine Garden – Asian, La Cucina – Italian, Le Bistro – French, Brazilian Steak House, Sushi & Teppanyaki (What, no fusion Thai food?!!)

They know how that salt air can make one very thirsty, so they’ve made it so you’re never too many steps away from staying hydrated.

Adult Beverage Opportunities

  • Atrium Bar, Bliss Lounge, Jade Club, Magnum’s Champagne & Wine Bar, Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar, Mixers Martini and Cocktail Bar, Sake Bar, Spinnaker Lounge, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, The Great Outdoors Bar, The Pit Stop, Topsiders Bar & Grill (Makes me thirsty just listing them!)

On Sunday we headed north out of Hamburg, which is pretty much the only direction you can go on a boat out of Hamburg, to our next port of call.  This is the maiden voyage of the Jade after spending the last six months in dry dock getting a total ‘face lift’ .  Wait a minute, isn’t ‘maiden voyage’ the same words they used to describe the Titanic’s historic journey?  I hope I don’t hear Celine Dion singing ‘The Heart Will Go On’ as we board. Thank goodness for global warming, the iceberg’s aren’t as big as they use to be!

It will be an adventure; welcome aboard, we hope you’re not on a diet and we hope you enjoy the journey. Thanks for joining us!




Post Debate Ditty

by Bob Sparrow

I regress to Morning News in Verse,

As it seems that things just can’t get worse;

After watching the debate

hillary                     And becoming irate,

            I wonder how it got so perverse.


            I know I should just bite my tongue

            Ignoring the mud that’s been slung,

                  But there’s just no good choice,

No reason to rejoice,

                                It’s akin to two piles of dung.

From the long list we had to choose from

You’d have thought we’d come up with a plum,

But there’s no understanding

Our choice for commanding,

It’s either ‘the bitch’ or ‘the scum’.


We can vote for the one who can’t email,

Who probably should now be in jail,

Who thanks the paparazzi

For going light on Benghazi,

         And for hiding the things that might ail.

And Trump’s just a rambling buffoon;

A self-centered, babbling tycoon

Whose manner is crude

And often times rude

And promises the wall in by June.

So where are the Reagans or Trumans,

Or anyone else that’s half human?

Instead we are stuck

With a couple of shmucks;

Hell, I’d settle for Alfred E. Newman.

No one’s voting because they are proud.

No one’s saying their choices out loud.

“We can’t have her win!”

“We can’t let him in!”

Is the only thing voters avow.

I’m embarrassed that American voices

Have come up with these two dreadful choices.

When all the ballots are in

And the new term begins

There’ll be no one who really rejoices.

As a nation we’re on our last nerve,

Electing a new leader to serve.

It won’t matter who’s hired

Or who ends up fired,

We’re getting just what we deserve.



“Every nation gets the government it deserves”

                                                  Joseph de Maistre, French lawyer and philosopher (1753 – 1821)


Do we really deserve this?


The Election Process Explained . . . Sort Of

by Bob Sparrow

elephant & donkeyTo go from my sister’s emotion-filled description of her experience at the 9/11 Museum in New York to my discussion of today’s politics is like going from dining on filet minion to choking down some chipped beef on toast. But you can’t have steak every night and we can no longer ignore the elephant or the donkey, (or more aptly, asses) in the room. However, we do understand that the subject of politics can be polarizing, so I’m just going to try to ‘splain’ some things, because politics can also be confusing.

We’re now in the middle of presidential candidates vying for electoral votes via the state’s ‘primary’ or ‘caucus’ process. There are ‘open primaries’, as well as ‘closed primaries’; there are ‘semi-open primary’ and ‘semi-closed primary’. You would think that should just about cover it all; but it doesn’t, as there are also ‘blanket primaries’ and of course the ever-popular ‘nonpartisan blanket primaries’. If you’re already confused, that’s exactly where the politicians want you.

Some states don’t use the ‘primary’ process for delegate voting, but rather they have a ‘caucus’, where a select group of community leaders gather together in high school gymnasiums, church basements or community centers to cast their votes. The results of the caucus voting, however, do not directly determine which candidate will win the support of that state’s voters for the presidential nomination, so sometimes the caucus is just a place where locals stand around and try to figure out what a caucus is.

gummy bears


Whether the delegates vote in a primary or in a caucus, it is a very confusing process that varies state-by-state; for example, all the delegates in Louisiana can change their mind and thus their allegiance after the first vote in the state. In order to understand how delegate votes are gathered, you would need to know the importance of  the terms winnowing, calendar and front-loading.  Just know that it is possible for a candidate to ‘win’ the state in the primary, but actually end up with fewer delegates. And let’s not forget about the ‘super delegates’, a position that the Democrats created in 1968 after they felt that the regular delegates were doing a poor job of selecting presidential candidates. If you’re thinking that ‘super delegates’ would give us ‘super candidates’, think again. Regardless if it’s a ‘primary’ or a ‘caucus’, the object is to get the required number of delegate votes to win the nomination at the convention. But what happens, you ask, if no candidate gets the required number of votes?

Ahh, then we have a ‘brokered convention’, which is another contentious process whose rules read in part as follows . . .

On the first ballot at a brokered convention, delegates from all states and territories except Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and a few from Louisiana must vote for the candidate who won their support on the day of their state’s primary or caucus.

On the second ballot, “55 percent of a state’s delegates will be free to vote for whomever they want.”

I’m not making this shit up!

The confusion and convolutedness of this process is only overshadowed by the puerility and pretentious nature of this year’s line-up of self-absorbed candidates. We started with over 20 hopefuls, who thought they could solve our country’s problems that they mostly helped create; we are now down to the following five:




Trump – A snake oil salesman who has come at a time when our country is apparently in need of snake oil.




Hilary – who, if she can perfect her phony genuine smile, could win.







Sanders – If he wins, will be the only president required to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ document prior to his inaugural speech.


poor black



Cruz – has realized that being the son of Cuban immigrants isn’t enough; so listen for him to vow that he was born a poor black child.




Kasich – Listening to him is like watching an episode of Ozzie & Harriet where Ozzie is trying to tell Thorny why he’s running for city counsel


Once each party selects its nominee, and after months of the requisite mud-slinging, we then go to the general election where a candidate can win the popular vote, but lose the election via that arcane institution called the ‘Electoral College’, whose mascot is the Cheetah. You don’t really know how this process works either and you don’t want to know!

electoral college 2

Go Cheetahs!

On Election Day, we in California are particularly frustrated, as by the time many of us actually get to cast a vote, the networks have already predicted a winner. We vote anyway as we like to show off the little sticker we put on our shirt that says, “I voted”. Emotionally, we feel like we were part of the process of selecting the leader of the free world, but intellectually we know that our ballot went the way of the hanging chad.

Sometimes I wonder why we all just don’t put our heads down on our desks, close our eyes and raise our hands when we hear a name we like. Hey, it worked in elementary school and after listening to this year’s debates, that’s probably fitting. It couldn’t possibly produce worse results.