Monday, August 31, 2009

August 29-30 Weekend in St. Thomas.

If you want to be technical, this probably could not qualify as a "weekend" in St. Thomas, as we arrived at 2 p.m. on Saturday and departed at 3 p.m. on Sunday. But we had fun while we were there! And golf was the ONLY non-revenue (employee travel pass) passenger to get on the flight from Atlanta to St. Thomas -- and in first class. Whew!

First, golf picked up our rental car -- a dinky little Toyota Yaris. The rental agent said she would love this little car because she's little -- well, she might have if (1) she'd been able to figure out how to open the hatchback, (2) it had had power windows and locks, and (3) it hadn't smelled like kitty pee. But it served its purpose and it did have air conditioning -- the weather was hot and humid while she was there.

Traffic was very crowded going though Charlotte Amalie. Maybe the cruise ship in port contributed to this (but how? Those people aren't driving cars! ??), but she was able to get to Hwy. 38 East and headed cross-island toward her condo at Sapphire Beach (where we stayed in June with her friend, Kathy). Of course, K-Mart was on the way, so she stopped and got five cartons of Mores for Larry and five Cartons of Marlboros for herself. Remember the cost of these at K-Mart in STT (airport-speak for St. Thomas) is $17.99 per carton (when Larry has made the same-day runs to STT to get them at the duty-free shop at the airport [because he didn't have time between arrival and same-day departure to get to K-Mart], the cartons at the airport are $26.95, which is a $10 savings [at least!] over Atlanta prices--but still $10 more than they are at K-Mart!) and she had coupons from Marlboro for $4 off per carton, so she was able to get her Marlboros at $13.99/carton. Unbelievable in terms of current U.S. prices! She also got a couple of litres of Bailey's Irish Cream and a litre of Lunazul tequila, which she and Larry think is better than Jose Cuervo, though slightly more expensive at $16.99/litre where JC is $14.99. But they can't find Lunazul in the U.S. She was delighted to return to her car and find it had not been broken into, even though the two bags she had brought were right out in the open on the back seat (remember she couldn't figure out how to open the hatch!). No problem for her after that stop in getting to Sapphire Village -- even the same gate guard as when she and Kathy were there. BUT the SV office isn't open on weekends! AAGGH!! How does she find out which unit she has and how to get in? The gate guard sent her down to the reception desk at Sapphire Beach Resort, and they did have her check-in information. And, would you believe, her unit was in the same building where we had stayed in June, so she knew exactly where to go! Two thumbs up for that.

While she was getting settled in, Kathy just happened to call her on her cell phone! golf was able to report on the differences in her current unit and the one in which we had stayed in June. E.g., this one had NO beach towels (the June one had about six), but this one had a hair dryer (June didn't), and a TV with satellite (in June, it was promised by the owner that it was supposed to be installed the day they moved in, or the next day -- and it never was), but golf wasn't planning on watching much TV anyway. Other comparisons: Kathy and golf were able to get an internet connection while on the balcony in June, golf could not pick up any wireless internet on this balcony and had to break down and pay $9.95 for 24 hours' worth of internet, but she needed it to communicate with Larry (at work that evening and at home Sunday morning) and to check availability for her return non-rev flight.

In the meantime, golf had realized she has nothing to eat or drink. She had been so lucky at K-Mart in getting the clerk to take her $4 coupons on the cartons of cigarettes, she'd forgotten to add Diet Cokes to her purchase. But she wasn't about to go back to K-Mart and fight the crowds that had been there, so she got back in the car and headed to the Food Market on the east end of the island past Red Hook. There she got a nice New York strip steak for dinner, some English muffins and butter for breakfast, but the only caffeine-free Diet Coke the store had was a 12-pack of cans. golf figured she probably wouldn't drink all 12 cans in less than 24 hours, but the 12-pack was $4.99, and a couple of big soda drinks at a fast-food joint would have been nearly that, so she decided she'd just get the 12-pack and leave whatever was left for the cleaning folks.

She got back to the condo around 5:00 and realized we needed a photo op while she still had good daylight. So I graciously agreed to pose for a few shots.

All this taken care of, golf still really wanted to go snorkeling, though STT gets dark by about 6:45. But she wanted to snorkel as much as she could while she was there, so she donned her swimsuit and headed down to Sapphire Beach, where she was able to snorkel for about 20 minutes before it started getting a little too twilight-y and she thought it was safer to head back to the condo.

Well, there she got involved in internet stuff, had a margarita (which got her pretty loopy on an empty stomach), and at that point wasn't hungry enough to broil the steak she had bought! So she had enough presence of mind to stick it in the freezer so she could at least take it home starting in frozen form (along with 3/4 of the butter, 1/4 of which she kept out for her English muffins for Sunday morning).

Oh, yes, I need to explain how she planned to get all this liquid back to the U.S.: She brought a virtually empty piece of luggage, filled with empty plastic liquor flasks and a huge clothes-packing "baggie" that she inflated to "fill" the empty bag. So she packed all ten cartons of cigarettes in this to-be-checked bag, along with filling the flasks with the two litres of Bailey's and the one litre of Lunazul. Gotta give her credit -- she can plan! And incidentally speaking of which, golf likes a really FLAT pillow and pillows at condos are always too thick for her -- so she had kept the little pillow given to passengers on the aircraft on the way down, so she had little flat pillow to sleep on that night!

I didn't have a problem . . . .

Because golf had crashed and burned by about 10 p.m. on Saturday night, she didn't have a problem getting up early on Sunday morning. She had to check out by 11 a.m., so she wanted to get in a snorkel before she had to clean up and pack everything for the return. And she did enjoy her snorkel!! She never found the squid she saw in June, but she did have a disposable underwater camera with her and got pictures of schools of tang, some butterfly fish, and, she thinks, a queen emperor fish. Can't post the pictures yet, as she had to send the film off for developing (boy, does she want an underwater case for her new Sony W220, but the underwater case costs more than she paid for the camera! She still has to figure out how she can get that case prior to the Sept. 14 trip to Maui . . . . .), and she's not sure how good the pictures will be -- the last time she took underwater pictures with one of these cameras, well, the pictures were very good. But hope springs eternal . . . . and all that.

I watched while she packed everything she could into the bag to be checked -- the flasks of booze, 10 cartons of cigarettes, the snorkel gear, and anything else she could fit in the bag. Larry had sent her an email to stop by K-Mart on her way to the airport and get more cigarettes. I need to explain here that golf needed to get enough cigarettes to, in essence, generate enough savings over what would be spent in Georgia for cigarettes and booze to pay for her trip (condo, rental car, internet, etc.) to STT to get these things and still have a little "profit" to justify the trip. To cut to the chase on that subject, totaling what she spent, the cigarettes and booze at home would have cost $140 more than she spent while in STT in accommodations, rental car, cigarettes, and booze. So it was for the most part, a successful foray, AND she got to have fun snorkeling!!
So that's enough for this report. I know you're getting tired of hearing about all their "coffin nails." But just to end with a little "hah"! Here's her "loot."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009 -- More Venus News

golf hasn't posted because she was bummed that Venus disappeared in a storm Sunday night, just after Larry had found her and golf got pictures of her and her gorgeous web. But then on Thursday, August 20, Larry found Venus in the tomato garden close to where Ariadne had been most of the summer. At first, Larry and golf weren't sure it was the same spider (and golf was dreading coming up with a name for another spider), but golf checked with her Argiope expert (Jerry Cates of; and with the pictures she sent to him, he confirmed (1) that it would be fairly unusual to have three different Argiopes in their gardens in one summer and (2) the spider in the lily garden, pictured with the web on August 16, is the same spider pictured yesterday in the tomato garden. He assured her of this by pointing out that Venus has unusual coloring on the second left leg, which should be yellow/gold for half the length of the leg and it is not. Click on the pictures below to enlarge them and see the markings as pointed out by the arrows. Then compare the coloring with Ariadne's leg. First picture below is Venus in her new location.

Here is a picture of Ariadne after she laid her eggs and just before she disappeared, with an arrow pointing to her second left leg, and you can see how it is gold for half the length of the leg (the entire first "segment" [?] of her leg):

Now here are the two pictures of Venus, with her new location on the left and the first location on the right, with arrows pointing to her second left leg, so you can see (1) how it is different from Ariadne's and (2) how it is the same in both pictures so it IS the same spider.

So golf is currently a happy camper, now that she has a new spider to track. She's hoping that Venus will also make an egg sac (and hoping she and Larry can find it!) to see what it looks like compared to Ariadne's, as Ariadne's egg sac is an unusual shape and placement for an Argiope aurantia. So we need to see what Venus creates. In the meantime, we hope to watch her increase in size and she fills up with eggs.

In the meantime, I haven't been going anywhere interesting, so this is all you get. golf may go back to St. Thomas next weekend to make a "cigarette and booze run." The next trip should be Maui, starting September 15. Yippee!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday, August 16 P.S.

Well, an argiope expert and golf have determined that the pictures we've posted recently are NOT Ariadne. This is a different spider. golf has named her Venus Lubentia (Roman goddess of gardens). So apparently Ariadne is R.I.P., but at least golf has a new spider buddy to entertain her. Yes, apparently, she is easily entertained . . . .

Comparison pictures shown below (click to see enlarged pictures). Now my little voice tells me we just might have a new egg sac to look forward to. Ariadne's was an unusual shape for an argiope aurantia, so we'll wait and see what Venus produces. It will be interesting to see if our garden lends itself to distorting spiders' instincts so they build egg sacs that are the wrong shape for the spiders' species.

Sunday, August 16 -- more Ariadne

Okay, I know you're probably not interested in the daily activities of a spider, but we're having fun tracking it. So put up with it, or don't check in with us until September 15 when we go to Maui.

It rained pretty hard yesterday evening and apparently wiped out Ariadne's web. But you gotta admire her stubbornness and hard work in continuing to re-establish her home. Here's what I found this morning; and when I first moved in close for the pictures, she started pumping the web like crazy, making it rock back and forth. So cute -- though I think she was trying to look tough -- didn't work ;-). Then she ran up to the top, and she tore the web on the way -- now that surprised me, that she damaged her own web so much. Hmmm, I wonder if that is indicative of anything, e.g., she's still building but the strands are weaker?
Above, Ariadne after running up to the top and tearing her web. Note the dew you can see on the web.

Just at the top, will try to get a more focused picture later.
Below, the right upper side of the web.

The lower left side of the web below:

The stabilizer in the middle -- a double zigzag this time:

Lower center shown below:

We would really love to see her DOING all this building, but since she does it at night, we'll probably never see that. Even if we put a spotlight on her, she'd probably freeze and not do anything while the light is on her. May try tonight and see. But then there are a lot of mosquitoes out there . . . . so . . . . maybe not.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday, August 15 -- Ariadne Update

Now we're trying not to get all excited here, but Ariadne seems to be doing much better. She built a very detailed and extensive web overnight! golf couldn't get really good pictures because there was a breeze and the web kept moving. She'll try to get better pictures later. But if you look closely, you can see the strands of the web. I don't know that she is supposed to be THIS industrious after depositing her eggs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14, 2009 -- We're Losing Ariadne . . .

See how thin she looks??? She's wasting away.

But that is the cycle of life.

Ariadne disappeared off her web on the stairs to the deck on Thursday. Larry found her today (Friday) in a rather skimpy web between the struts supporting the deck and a gardenia bush in the yard beside the deck. She's losing her strength and no longer able to create a properly "organized" web. But then she's not even expected to be creating webs at all at this point. So she's certainly hanging in there and performing "over and above" the standard for her species!

Still . . . . from what we have been able to find out via internet research, it is "her time" -- she has performed her purpose in life by procreating (though HER egg sac is the wrong shape . . . . don't know that that means). Larry emailed golf today that golf needed to "salt" Ariadne's web with bugs because Ariadne seemed to be losing weight and Larry felt she needed assistance in obtaining sustenance. But our research now indicates she is supposed to lose her appetite after laying her eggs and is then supposed to fade away and expire. This is also SUPPOSED not to happen till autumn. But Ariadne always seemed to be a bit precocious!
Well, golf's "R.I.P." may have been premature -- but apparently it was prognosticative.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday, August 11 -- Ariadne Redux!!

Okay, not the clearest picture in the world (will try to get another one later), but the best Larry could do on short notice. Ariadne has relocated to the stairs between the deck and the patio, where, on one side's railing, we have an Oriental carpet hanging out to wash and dry. Apparently, Ariadne wanted plusher digs than the garden and the house wall. Larry found her this morning when he went out to check on all his orchids outside and the garden -- and found he couldn't walk down the stairs from the deck to the patio without going through her new web! He retired back inside and went outside through the downstairs back door.

Golf is SO HAPPY Ariadne is okay!!!

About mid-afternoon golf emailed Larry from work and asked how Ariadne was doing. Larry responded that he would go check. Upon his return, he reported, "She said she is not real sure her new web was placed correctly, the wind is blowing the rug and she has to keep repairing [her web]. She is now in between the folds of the rug making another one."

We may have to do an intervention to assist her.

Later: Now, here's our girl at 6 p.m. this evening, under the rug to get out of the 94-degree sunlight, we guess. Welcome home, Ariadne!

P.S. After the sun went down, she came out from under the rug and showed off on her web again. Isn't she gorgeous? Click on the pictures for a big view, particularly the second picture below and you can even see all the little hairs on her legs!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday, August 10 -- :-(

I am sorry to report that Ariadne disappeared sometime Saturday night. We have not been able to find her since. The garden is such a mess, I doubt we would ever spot her poor, shriveled corpse among all the vines. We will raise a margarita toast in her honor this evening. We will miss her (See? golf TOLD Larry we should bring her in . . . .)

"Alas, poor Ariadne . . . . I knew her well."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday, August 8

First of all, update on Ariadne: She has obviously created her egg sac and filled it. Boy, just like any other pregnant female who births her offspring, her size has reduced by about 2/3! Good girl, Ariadne! You aren't like the humans who get big with babies and then stay big. She's sticking close to the sac, so we'll keep an eye on it. But I don't know how much longer Ariadne will be around. According to one source on the internet, "female orb-weavers die soon after producing egg sacs containing several hundred eggs. Eggs may hatch soon after or not until the following spring." So based on that, I'll let you know when and if Ariadne stays around or not, and if the egg sac hatches this season. If not, maybe Larry will let golf bring it in and put in a big, empty 55-gallon aquarium they have. Ooops, Larry says "no dice" to that idea. (He says golf can take it to work with her, to keep her two bettas she has there company. Probably not . . . . Her bosses tolerate her two big bowls for the bettas [and one even feeds Frito and Concord, the bettas, while she's on vacation], but I have a feeling they might object to a 55-gallon fish tank, especially if it's full of thousands of spiderlings. Picky, picky, picky.)

In the meantime, golf and Larry received their replacement video card that died, and since they had ordered a replacement anyway, in case the manufacturer didn't replace the one that died, they had a spare, so golf asked Larry to put it in the gaming computer on which Flight Simulator 9 and 10 are installed. golf didn't see a significant jump in fps, as she had hoped, but the graphics were better. Of course, then she went flying around Oahu in T.C.'s chopper. Here she is approaching T.C.'s Island Hoppers homebase, which is actually the Makai Research Pier. Whoever created it for FSX didn't know what it really looks like. Not even close to the real thing.
Also, though golf successfully landed on it, it wasn't an easy task, as visually, where FSX allowed the "touch-down" of the chopper's skids, the "landing zone" was about 5-6 feet ABOVE the pier.

AHA! The picture below probably shows this best. She has landed here and isn't just hovering there. Nice little airplane with floats there, to the left.

The far east end of the pier where the helipad actually is has been turned into a sort of fishing boardwalk.

Where she touched down does not exist on the actual pier, and that "leg" of the pier off to the right below is also inaccurate.

Another addition of a motorboat beside the pier.

She then took off, heading for Robin's Nest, to see what it looks like in this scenery. Well, the tidal pool shows up (I guess it should, since Google Earth is the basis for the scenery).

But the buildings -- the main house -- on the estate are conspicuously absent.

Nice to see Rabbit Island off in the distance though.

Apparently, with this scenery, the only building on the estate is the boathouse, which is far too large.

In the picture below, the boathouse is on the far right. Well, at least the doors are correct . . . . sort of -- there are two doors on the boathouse that face the shore.
But no fence or sea wall.

Beside the boathouse, where in reality there's no room for a helicopter to land or even come close.

No way could a helicopter be here at the actual estate. But I just wanted to show you what it looks like in FSX.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009 -- New Camera

Poor golf! She has a new camera and nothing special to take pictures of! She got a Sony CyberShot DSC W220, and she really likes it. So she takes pictures of Ariadne and her "home" (click on the pictures to get a bigger view and you can see this WONDERFUL spider web and detail of Ariadne sucking the innards out of something-or-other!) (and "dinner," I think) and tries to create dioramas for me. Sad efforts . . . . .

The camera also takes videos, so she tried a little of that while out playing golf with Larry on Friday and Saturday, but she had more success with posting something here by just capturing a frame from the videos. (After waiting 12 hours [started last night before 8 p.m., STILL "processing" at 8 a.m. the next morning!!!] for a 6-second video to upload, she gave up. What kind of junk program is Google running here? They don't even have a support desk where you can actually contact someone and ask a question. She is seriously irritated.)