Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas - Radford Family

Dear Friends and Family:

This is the third year of sending our holiday message electronically, now including Facebook and our blog. It's a sign of the times and offers some advantages over snail mail.

We've been blessed in many ways this year with exciting trips, experiences, grandkids and friends in our lives, too many to mention here. We are grateful for your relationship to our growing family and for the memory of a cherished few who have passed away in 2009, including cousins Jim Warrington and Brian Nelson.

Donna and I still enjoy our small business ventures which keep us challenged and meeting wonderful people. Jim just rediscovered his love of photography, as shown by the sample above of the Advent candles; and Donna
has become a serious expert of fitness. We are proud new grandparents of #8 - Luke Radford Francis.

So, stay in touch! Our emails are below. We wish you and your family a healthy, peaceful & joyous New Year. Jim & Donna

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Security criteria

What is the BEST security software? Best value? Are those different?

According to the testing done of 11 programs by Consumer Reports ---

* these FREE programs are all recommended: Avira, Microsoft Windows Defender, and Spamfighter Standard. But they don't have all the features of paid security programs shown below.

* top subscription suite is Eset Smart Security and it costs the most.

* number 2 is McAfee, which is what we use, and CA

* #3 is Microsoft Live OneCare, and #4 is Symantec. Others follow ie Kaspersky, BitDefender, Trend Micro, F-Secure, CA, Check Point and PC Tools.

The Criteria? = Scanning speed, the CPU resources used, detection quality, scanning of emails, ease of use, child filters, anti-spam performance, files backup and cost. Lots to consider for safe computing.


Have you seen the work-at-home offers? Stuff envelopes or set up an internet business? According to Consumer Reports they are scams. One claim, to make $107,000 in 6 months -- via Google Money Tree. First its not related to Google. A free CD kit is $197 if not ordered instantly online. You provide credit card for a $3.88 ship fee, which let's them charge your account $72 per month for web access to their site if you don't cancel in 7 days. Better Business Bureau has 478 complaints on them re unauthorized credit card charges, and it failed to respond to 460. Whew.

There are many more -- assemble products at home kit -- start with the listings for $26, then $50 for a starter kit from a Texas company Gone Fish' n Tackle for 24 fishing flies. The company actually pays $12 for those IF they pass inspection, so its a $38 loss just to start. Then pay $40 for a 144 fly-making kit. Or materials will cost $890 for 3,048 flies which pay back $1524, or $639 profit for 190 hours work, or $3.35 per hour without a break ... Half the minimum wage. But it's good money for the fly company.

Stuffed envelopes at $5 profit each? The free trial cost $67 for a kit. You pay and place a classified ad to "EARN $1500+ WEEKLY" to get customers to send you the $5 and you mail them a report on how to get big dollars and other promo pamphlets from EasyHomeJOB System. That's it. Never pay for materials, be wary of network marketing, be a skeptic says CR.

Flyer Mileage

When do you spend the money to fly vs using your precious frequent flyer miles? Do the math. According to Consumer Reports, the relative value of a mile is down from 2 cents to 1.2 based on what a passenger would have paid for a free ticket in dollars. Airlines usually charge at least 25,000 miles per round trip award, so at 1.2 cents that's $300. So if a flight costs less than $300 don't spend your award dollars.

A bigger challenge might be getting a free seat. An upgrade might be easier, but more expensive due to new rules.... 6-10x more than coach to fly first class. Yipes. Might be cheaper to fly allot, achieve the highest reward level and then get free upgrades. Do the math.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CO2 Emissions

Your average gasoline lawn mower puts out as much pollution per hour as 11 cars. A manual push-reel mower is zero. The computer you use ... Being on all day and night, contributes 8.3 million tons of CO2 emissions. Converting your lights to fluorescents would reduce CO2 by 42.4 million tons a year. Your annual CO2 emission could be apx 54,273 pounds.... Thanks to air conditioning, heat, computers, pools, water heater, etc.

A gallon of car gas adds 20 pounds of CO2 to the air. A typical kitchen has 10 75-watt spots on all day. Replacing them with fluorescents would save $200 a year. Appliances could contribute half your electrical bill. If we drove 20 miles less each week we would reduce CO2 by 107 million tons or 9%. The US produces 1\5th of the world CO2 emissions.... Six billion tons a year.... Soon to be seven. The average house is 45% larger than 30 years ago. Buildings and transportation produce most of the CO2. Third is industry, ie refineries, paper plants that contribute 28%. But firms like Dow, DuPont and 3M have demonstrated huge savings by reducing energy. At home the top CO2 dogs are the heating pump at 5,249 pounds of CO2 per year in the US, central air at 4,067,oil furnace at 14,380, car at 11,903, pool pump at 1,496, and gas furnace at 6,967 vs TV set at 548, shaver at 1, camcorder at 3 and digital camera at 19. If you take an airplane trip in the US, you will double your daily total of emissions.

Will cutting back help? Consider that 80% of NEW energy demand in the next 10 years will come from China, India and other developing nations where economies are developing faster.

For more about air emissions see the March National Geographic for a reality check.

Review JVC GZ-HD30 camcorder

Jim narrates a review of this small, higher quality JVC camcorder, with recorded examples, and accessory options.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

South America Photos

View our South America tour album here or the larger photos below in my daily diary (more info). Enjoy!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Our final port of call during this two-week South American cruise is Puerto Montt, Chile in northern Patagonia ... population 150,000 in the lakes region, surrounded by the Andes Mountains, water falls and forests. It's an awesome aggregate of mother nature's most scenic architecture (see photos). But it is also a breeding ground for volcanoes and intense seismic quakes from the "Ring of Fire" -- in fact, the largest earthquake ever recorded (9.5) occurred here in 1960, with a force of 100 billion tons of TNT. The resulting tsunami drove waves at over 200 mph into Japan 10,000 miles away, and devastated Hilo Hawaii. Puerto Montt was settled in the 1800's by rugged pioneers from Europe, especially German immigrants looking for a better life. Today their ancestors live within the shadow of snow-capped volcano Osorno, where we made photos between openings in the dense clouds, and enjoyed a Chilean meal at a local resort -- Pisco Sours and wine, chicken salad, salmon, and crispy empenada's. Yummi. Another day at sea, then Santiago and the long ride home again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amalia Glacier

Our very skilled and personable ship Captain Claus Andersen announced an unscheduled visit today, into the misty Chilean fjords of southern Patagonia's Andes Mountains to view the spectacular Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua ... part of a range east of the Archipelago Reina Adelaida. We steamed up the Nelson channel -- deep within a maze of islands and isolated fjords. We saw no other ship, house, or human. With so much mist, the predominent color is gray, with contrast only when we pass near rocks and small islands. The mist hovers over the treetops, and sweeps down to water-level, wiping out all visual details of the horizon.

We were expectant ... watching for any clues of ice flow. Turning a corner into the final few miles ... the face of the flow appears very blue due to the mass of weight squeezing out most of the oxygen, and it's massively wide. The Radiance of the Seas glides quietly closer, carefully cutting through the ice flow ... and aproaching closer than ANY previous ship, in fact, exceeding the border of depth soundings on navigational maps. This is a first. We were within 1,300 feet of an ice wall that extends 21 kilometers across the seascape, fed by a moving icepack, calving into the sea.

The mist miraculously lifts, turning into rain -- which nobody noticed in their awe of Mother Nature. The ship spends an hour in this bay, concluding with a full-circle turn, giving each passenger a full view from the top of the sun deck or the comfort of our balconies.

Without any doubt this is the most impressive glacial visit in our years of travel to icy locations in North America and Europe. Our gratitude to the Captain. Wow - it just keeps getting better. The downside? Amalia has been progressively receding since 1945 -- so far losing seven kilometers to global warming. See a glacier now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The glaciers along the Chilean Fjords of the Beagle Channel are simply spectacular -- especially five of them named after European countries. The blue ice starts high on the 5,000 - 10,000 foot mountain ridges, and flows within camera range into the channel, exposing bed rock and torrents of water threaded through ribbons of falls along the canyon walls. Our ship cruised the narrows slowly, which itself was once a pre-historic 150-mile long glacier. Not a hint of human life in these waters. We watched in awe as each glacier came closer than any we have seen in Alaska. A rare sun beam broke through the clouds, dancing on the ridges of the jagged mountain range. (Note: these are un-retouched photos.)

Monday, January 26, 2009


From the world's most southern town, Ushawaia, the gateway to Antarctica, we toured the Beagle Channel aboard a catamaran, poking our way into tiny rock islands inhabited by wild sea lions, seals, and birds like the Cormorant, a member of the pelican family. The sea wolves are either fighting for superiority of the harem, or posing for the photographers.


Today we disembarked the ship at the crack of dawn. (Seems like too many people who are beginning to look like the penguins.) The upside was a day of unbeatable wildlife at the 'End of the Earth,' Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most town of 60,000 people overlooking a 150 mile long body of water named after the British ship HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's missions of discovery in the 1800's. We were met by busses for transport to a picture post-card location of the Argentina National Park Preserve, which is set at the base of the Andes mountain chain in nearby Chile. Tonight we sail north through the Chilean fjords for a spectacular view of the remaining glaciers here ... most in melt mode for years. (See separate posting.) It's summer ... but many of the peaks are still snow-capped, and as they say --- "Winter is coat weather, and so is Summer." Neither is an extreme thanks to the tempering effect of the oceans, both Atlantic and Pacific.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cape Horn

We're at the southern-most tip of the world, Cape Horn, in the Drake Passage, not far from Antarctica, where it's about 45 degrees, calm seas (for now), but cloudy with dense fog.   Not another ship in sight, where the weather changes four times before lunch and where the albatross soar just inches above the water looking for dinner.  People are gathering in the rain on the heli-pad of our ship, awaiting a photographic moment of landfall.  A rock juts out of the water to mark the final tip of the Andes Mountains as they submerge into the sea, ( see photos attached) and east meets west, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans converge.
The weather thus far has been perfect, although a raging storm and huge low pressure system from Antarctica is expected tonight, as we hide among the Chilean fjords, archipielagos, channels and straits of the Cape and Tierra del Fuego.  This should be interesting. Given some improvement in weather, I'm hoping to kayak the Megallan Straits ... the same path taken by Darwin, Drake, Megellan and other explorers of the 16th century.  We'll see. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Catching up on a few Blog photos from the last few stops: 1) the sheep farm yard is a blend of shapes and earth colors -- one of my favorite images; 2) every night is a spectacular sunset aboard ship in the Atlantic; 3) a young spotted baby Burrowing Owl ... 4) and check out those talons! 5) The Penguin is a bird of a different color, feather, beak, and feet, all designed for different purposes. They say there are two kinds of penguins ... the white ones coming toward you, and the black ones going away from you. Ha.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Sailing all day and a nite, through some of the most trecherous and unforgiving waters on
earth, we enter Stanley Harbor on the eastern-most island of the Falklands. A pair of
dolphin greet us in front of shore batteries that protected the British from the attacking
Argentine junta in 1982. It was a brief but bloody war, costly on both sides, and for what?
A remote, barren and mostly gloomy rock, 8,000 miles from England, and 350 miles offshore from Argentina, which still lays claim to The Rocks, but lost the war. Life has changed for the remaining 3,500 British here ... good fishing, tourism andabout 240 sheep per inhabitant.

Outside the village of Port Stanley, however, life is a bit bleak -- children are schooled
by radio and phone calls, mail service connects to England once a month, and there are still about 17,000 land mines buried in the sand. (Which explains the text on a jeep at the pier, "Bomb Squad." We walked past an aging ship half sunk in the harbor, the "Jhelum" built in Liverpool in 1840, but condemned as unseaworthy in 1871 -- and now the most intact aged ship in the area (see photo).

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral was built in 1892 -- the southern most church in the world, with a huge set of Blue Whale jaw bones near the entrance (photo). While both the summers and winters are more temperate than you might expect this close to Antarctica, many home gardeners raise edibles and flora in their sunrooms or glass green houses using hydroponic techniques. And lest we minimize the importance of penguins for tourism, they are the larger King variety here (3.5 feet high) -- while the Magellans in Argentina were knee-high, and the man-size Emperor Penguins reside in Antarctica.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Located on the south-eastern coast of Argentina's famous Patagonia region, Puero Madryn is a relatively recent development, founded in the mid-1800's by the Welsh, although the first humans made it here 10,000 years ago, and dinosaurs roamed the area 250 million years ago. The city has a population of 60,000 -- although our tour encountered only a few dozen in the 100-degree heat of the bush country. We headed for the Valdes Peninsula by mini-bus, across 75 miles of dusty, rock-bed road., We enjoyed a sumputuous lunch at the San Lorenzo sheep farm -- with cheese, wine, olive and sausage starter, tender lamb, Empenada meat pastries, more wine, and a carmel flan to die for ... then we witnessed the breeding grounds of about 200,000 Magellen Penguins; hidden in nests under shrubs, or learning to swim and fish near the beaches that stretch to infinity. Down the road apiece was a separate colony of sea elephants -- measuring up to 20 feet long and three tons, which is a mere morsel for a 10-ton Orca Killer Whale. Then photographed a baby Burrowing Owl on a fencepost, saw a pair of Patagonian Cavy -- a rodent, which looks like a super-sized jack rabbit, and wild llama's roaming all over the bush, sometimes in battle for a mate (photo).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day #1 - Montevideo

Our first leg in this 2-week journey to South American is a loooong flight from Minnesota to Buenos Aires -- about 6000 miles, cramped in coach class, made tolerable by a movie and a few hours sleep in the 12 hour fight. Everything was delayed from departure to land transport ... But the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas sailed on time for Montevideo, Uraguay in calm seas at 9 pm.

Late to awake for breakfast ... Donna heads for a local wine tour, while I study the history and geography of the coastal towns in South America where we will visit ... soaking up some warm sun on the top deck. We'll visit the city center later ... Checking out the Kobi beef, leather goods and wines. The weather is in the "perfect zone" -- at 78+.

Below our balcony is a fuel ship topping off the oil for our day at sea tomorrow, while they bring on local foods and gifts. We hear the ocean seas here can be a little rough, so we're prepared with Bonine.

We meet interesting people -- less than 1/3 from the US, some Europeans, but mostly Latinos. A key part of these trips is enjoying the experiences, stories, culture and ethnicity of other travelers. (Every announcement is in 3 languages -- ENG, SPA and Portuguese.) There are a few kids aboard on "summer break" from South American schools. So we are learning a few basic words phrases (Bon dia is "good-day" in Portuguese). And the Concierge Club is still a bonus perk for frequent travelers in suites that we enjoy on Royal Caribbean, especially for breakfast and pre-dinner socializing .... As well as getting hot tips for tours or other special arrangements from our concierge Juan from Panama.

Dinner is on the "anytime" plan, so we decide when for the next day at our convenience and show up. Last night we joined a round table for 10, mostly Americans. But more often we could be in the minority, which is good too.

Our Blackberries are perfect for travel emails, altho will probably cost a fortune from sea. So we'll buy a WiFi connection for the laptop on sea days, which we can use throughout the ship. Yep, all the comforts of home ... And then some. Prepped my camera gear for wildlife and scnic shooting later this week. And we are on top of FOX and CNN for news and sports, but somehow that all seems less relevant as we contemplate a more serene life at sea. Bon Dia. Jim

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The Falkland Islands lie exposed in the Southern Atlantic Ocean approximately 500 kilometres (300 miles) off the coast of Argentina. They remain British in territorial terms, population, and character although Argentina's long-standing claim to the islands led to a brief war between the two countries in 1982 for which the islands are probably best known.

There are two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, plus numerous smaller ones. The terrain is mostly hilly, becoming mountainous in just a few isolated places with areas of exposed rock. The highest peaks are snow-capped for large parts of the year with snow-cover descending to lower hills during the winter.

Because of the harsh climate there are no trees and the natural vegetation is mainly grassland. This supports over a million sheep, which produce the wool that was until recently the Falklands main export, now overtaken by the sale of fishing licences for territorial waters.

The islands are sparsely populated with less than 3000 inhabitants and just a few isolated but hospitable villages. However, they are home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including large penguin and seal colonies.

The climate is classified as sub-polar because in no month does the average temperature rise above 10°C (50°F). Rain falls throughout the year, becoming more frequent during the summer when cloud cover is at its maximum.

September and October sees the least amount of rain, and February and March the most sunshine. Temperatures during the winter are cold but generally only fall below freezing overnight. However in summer it never becomes particularly warm usually only rising to 15°C (59°F) in the warmest months.

Diary from South America

Our South America trip begins here -- watch this Blog for frequent posting as we begin the journey in Buenes Aires and travel around the Horn, through the Straits of Megallan, and back north to Valpariso, Chile. ... over 6,000 miles from home. Here's a map of the southern tip, the path taken by early explorers of 16th century. I invite your comments or questions, with a slight delay, as the administrator (me) needs to clear each one to avoid the spam. I will include both photos and some video along the way. Enjoy!