BMW Take 2

So after the 335i debacle, I still needed to upgrade my ride. The new role at Juniper has me spending way too much time in the car between Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.  The RX8, as awesome as it is, just isn’t a highway road warrior car.  I need comfort and quiet so that I can continue to live on the phone an in conference calls while I drive around.

During the debacle I got to drive relatively new Honda loaner and I just wasn’t impressed.  I had also test driven a few other cars and just couldn’t shake the feeling I got in the BMW so we started looking around.

As much as I loved the performance associated with the twin-turbo 335i, we decided to take a different approach. We lucked into a pretty good deal on an older and larger 528i.

2008 BMW 528i

No Turbos, just a regularly aspirated straight 6.  *most* of the bells and whistles.  The bluetooth integration works well. The nav is old and crusty and non-updatable because it’s DVD driven, and  it doesn’t even have heated seats.  Who orders a car without heated seats these days?  It’s had most of the normal BMW leaks fixed recently and the stealership just put brakes all the way around and new shoes too.  So it’s likely I can drive this for 2-3 years and flip it without having to buy brakes and tires.

It’s a quality long distance commute vehicle. I’ll report back on any maintenance that’s required.  We’ll see how much the Bring More Wallet adage is true.  So far it gets a smooth 30MPG on the highway so that’s a significant boost.  I can get from Dayton to Louisville to Columbus on a single tank.   That I like.

More as it develops.

Scuba Cayman – May 2017 Trip

Claudine and I had been planning to get our SCUBA certification for a while.  In the fall of 2016 we booked our classes with Scuba Unlimited.  Our plan was to do all the prerequisite work here but do the open water certification somewhere warm.  Grand Cayman to be exact.

So basically, for my 50th birthday that’s exactly what we did. We did the classwork and pool work in November and December of 2016 and the open water work over the week of May 13th through 20th, 2017.

We booked a condo for a week in Grand Cayman at Seven Mile Beach Resort with some friends (the same one’s who recommended Scuba Unlimited) who have a time share there and who has been spending a week on Grand Cayman since the early 90’s.

The flight down was anti-climactic.  Since we’re staying for a week and everything is expensive on Cayman we brought a suitcase full of food at the suggestion of the folks we’re going with.  (Sandwich fixings, meat, some steaks to grill, etc, etc.) So that we can cook our own breakfast and lunch, and have a cookout once or twice.  We also brought 4 bottles of wine (4x 750ml).  We also each brought a liter of liquor from the Duty Free.  Claudine a bottle of Vodka, and I opted for a bottle of Kraken rum.  For those doing the math, you can see that’s too much.  You’re allowed 1 liter of liquor per person, or 5 liters of wine, but not both which was a misunderstanding on our part at the time.

During the immigration/customs shakedown we disclosed that we had some FDA approved meat, which they wanted to see. Upon inspecting the meats they discovered the wine.  We had declared the 2 liters of Vodka and Rum but totally disregarded the wine.  Customs wasn’t happy with that and we were now treated like world class smugglers. In the end it cost us $12 duty.  Not the end of the world[tm].

We rented a car from Andy’s Car Rental who matched a budget price, it was $89 US for the whole week.  The car was a midsize, which in the US is a sub-compact.  I’d do that again, I’d think.

On the way to check in we stopped at the grocery and picked up all the other things we needed but didn’t bring.  Condiments and the like, we also discovered, outside of alcohol, food prices weren’t all that outrageous so we’ll not be bringing a suitcase full of food next time.

The condo was great, two bedrooms, nice living area, on the first floor, thanks to our Hosts.  About a half a block walk to the beach.

We arrived on a Saturday, with time to settle in and get a little beach time.  We would spend the next 6 days diving and enjoying the Cayman life.

Basic Dive Log details for each of the dives:

Sunday: Dives 1 and 2 of our 4 Certification Dives.
At the Aquarium (46 ft /41 mins) and Victoria’s Secret (48 ft / 44 mins) Dive sites.  At each of these sites we did skills for the first 20 mins in a sand spot and got to spend the rest of the time enjoying the dive.

Monday: Dives 3 and 4 of our 4 Certification Dives.
At Darvin’s Theory (60 ft / 38 mins) and Spanish Anchor (50 ft /  40 mins) Dive sites. At each of these sites we did skills for the first 20 mins in a sand spot and got to spend the rest of the time enjoying the dive.

(Yea! we’re now certified)

Tuesday: Dives 5, 6, and 7
At Sentinel Rock (80 ft / 28 mins) and Turtle Schooner (39 ft / 42 mins) Dive sites and afternoon at Stingray City (14ft /32 mins).
Sentinel Rock was a little deeper than expected, with our first swim through, completely awesome.  Turtle Schooner was a sweet shallow reef dive.  Our afternoon dive was a shallow dive at Stingray City west where our give master spent time feeding the rays.

Wednesday: Dives 8 and 9
Two short dives at Turtle Reef (60 ft /  45 mins) and (58 ft / 39 mins).
Our first real experience with significant current.  Dive one was a bit tough, dive 2 was better despite the shorter down time.  Spent some time working on buoyancy.

Thursday: Dives 10 and 11
At Slaughterhouse (104 ft / 35 mins) and Anglefish Reef (52 ft / 52 mins) Dive sites.  Slaughterhouse was awesome, deep wall dive with swim through, Anglefish Reef was also amazing, we’re hitting our dive stride now.

Friday: Dives 12 and 13
At Round Rock (100 ft / 35 mins) and Kittewake (61ft / 44 mins) Dive sites. Claudine and I coming through the 100 foot swim through.  I’m behind and below.

We had an amazing week, 2 dives a day on average, looking forward to buying our own regulators and BCD’s.  We ate at some amazing restaurants while we were there.  We also had excellent Snorkeling at the beach at the resort.

Other photos from our trip.

Coffee, we love our coffee, and our KRUPS Bean to Cup.

A few years ago when visiting the company office in Munich Germany I was introduced to this “Bean to Cup” concept that wasn’t a vending machine.  They literally had the same coffee maker.  While I thought the maintenance, and extra work seemed like a little too much to have to deal with every time you wanted a cup of coffee.  I quickly got over it.

Krups bean to cup

When I returned home I started looking at them.

Krups Espresseria  (< $600 now)

$900, $700, are you kidding me? So I turned to ebay, and bought a ‘barely used’ like new model for about $300.  When I told Claudine I had purchased a $300 coffee maker she gave me that look.

The look I had seen once before, when we were first married, over 27 years ago, when I had to explain to her that I spent the rent money on a new camera body. It was not a good look.

Needless to say it didn’t take long to convert her.  This thing makes excellent coffee.  Is it worth over $600? (These are now under that new, because they are a little long in the tooth).  I’d say yes.  Hard to believe but yes.

The red one in the photos is the original used unit that I purchased about 3 years ago.  It has been back to the factory for repairs, twice.  Once for the grinder, and then when we got it back it wasn’t right so we sent it back and the put new brains in it.  It has over 4400 coffee cycles today and had over 3600 when that event happened.

We drink a lot of coffee.  There are at least 4 of us that have multiple cups per day.  Word on the street is that they really only last about 3,000 cycles.  But we’re going strong at over 4400 after the last rebuild.

It is not perfect though, and there are things I’d change and be willing to pay money for.  So if you know of a similar sized unit that has some of these features for less than $2000 let me know.

  • This is a single bean unit.  Which means you can have any flavor coffee you want as long as it’s the kind that’s in the hopper.
    • I’d love a unit that would let me side-load decaf now and then (for guests of course).
    • Or some other flavor, or even pre-ground coffee.
  • The ability to brew more than 10 ounces (a double) in a single button push (actually two button pushes but who’s counting?).
  • Ideally a larger used coffee hopper, since most of the folks in my family are doing double or long coffee’s and you have to empty the thing about every 4 or 5 cups.  (both the drip tray and the grind hopper).
  • Would be nice to have a larger cup area so you could put a tall travel cup.  Today we have to make 2 or 3 coffee’s and dump them in.  Not a deal breaker but would be a nice to have.

This thing get’s two thumbs up from the disher household.

 

Cruise 2016 (Oasis of the seas)

This year Claudine and I decided we needed our own vacation.  So just like 5 years ago we booked a cruise.  This time on the Oasis of the seas, Royal Caribbean’s largest ship to date.  (At the time I’m writing this the Oasis class is still the largest ship, there is dispute over which one of the ships is actually the largest, it might be the Allure).

This blog post will be about the highlights of our cruise, it’s not going to be a review of the cruise or the ship.  That will come later.  The short review is simply this:

We love cruising, we love the all inclusive nature, with the opportunity to see multiple ports of call, good food, good atmosphere, add in the rocking of the boat and it’s the best sleep you’ll ever get.

This cruise was not without its challenges.  In short, it is unlikely we’ll ever cruise on the Oasis again.  We might try the Allure, but not the Oasis.  This has nothing to do with cruising itself, but Royal dropped the ball more than a few times on this trip.   We heard from plenty of other passengers including a few that had previously sailed the Oasis and other Oasis class ships that this was below their normal expectations for service and quality.  It is unclear to me if this is a company wide issue or if it’s an issue with this ship.  In the past we found our trip on the Freedom of the seas to be a 10 out of 10, the same ship (Indy) was more like an 8 out of 10 with respect to service/entertainment.   Using the same scale, the Oasis probably only scores a 6.5-7, and that’s not ‘awesome’.   Still at the end of the day, you’re on a cruise ship!, and it was still hella fun, and still an outstanding value.    Details on this will come later.

We booked our 7 night, Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Oasis of the seas through Costco.  Including flights from Cincy to Fort Lauderdale we were all in for a little less than $3000 USD ($2400 for the cruise/$600 air fare).  This was an upper ‘superior view balcony stateroom’.  I’m sure this isn’t the ‘ultimate deal’ but it was in our minds a pretty good deal.

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Tuft and Needle–Mattress Review

First, I’m not a mattress expert or a traditionally trained sleep specialist.  Although if sleeping were an Olympic sport, I could probably pretty easily make it into the regionals.

I know how to sleep.

We recently ordered a Tuft and Needle Foam Mattress after reading a review on Bestmattress-brand.org and when I posted that via Facebook folks said they wanted to know what if we liked it.

So here goes.

A good mattress should last between 8 and 10 years.  According to the Internet.  Just google it and that’s the answer you’ll find so I’m using that.

We’ve had multiple mattresses during what’s so far is a 26 year marriage.   Admittedly in the beginning we had cheap ones.  We had a water bed when we first got married (Don’t judge me, it was the 80’s).  Then a cheap King mattress set, and at one point we got a new foam mattress from the in-laws who didn’t like it or found it to soft or something.  I can’t remember the details.

But what I do know and can easily recall is our last mattress.     We decided it was time we had a ‘good mattress’ and we bought that in 2008 from the Original Mattress Factory.    They are, or were highly recommended in our area.  At the time we purchased a Orthopedic Luxury Firm Mattress.

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