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Dirk Collins
Works at Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County
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Dirk Collins

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Spring Break 2014
 
This seemed to be the longest and coldest winter I can remember, With freezing and subzero temperatures, and snow on the ground from Thanksgiving, continuously through to the 15th of March or so. The only winter I remember that was colder, snowier, and longer was the Winter of 1977. We left home on the last week of March while the kids were out of school. For the first time in fifteen years we took a Spring Break vacation, and the entire family headed south for a Caribbean cruise.
 
We departed from a freezing Indianapolis on the 23rd of March and after changing planes in Philadelphia, arrived in Miami to a sunny 79 F (26 C) day. We were whisked to the Port of Miami where we immediately embarked onboard the Carnival Glory. If you have a bit of spare change, and some time on your hands, I would heartily recommend taking a cruise vacation. I would do it again! Glory was underway at promptly 4PM EST with approximately 1,100 crew, and just around 2,800 guests.
 
It was destined to be a really good voyage, as the very first night out of Miami, I was looking down at the sea during dinner from the Lido deck and spotted three Dolphins leaping off the bow wave of our enormous liner. Actually it was an entire pod of Dolphins, and the three young ones were racing back and forth along the starboard side from the stem to the stern of the ship dancing in the wake. They only did this for a couple of minutes, and then they swam off, and naturally I was so surprised I forgot to take the camera out of my pocket and take pictures of them. There it was though, the whole family saw them (and the folks at the dinner table next to us after overhearing my surprised exclamations), we saw dolphins in the wild our first evening at sea! It was a good omen. 
 
Our first Port of Call on Day two was Nassau in the Bahamas, and we arrived just as the sun rose early in the morning on the 24th. Just prior to taking vacation me and the boy had been watching episodes of Black Sail to get in the proper piratey mood. Our first reward was a schooner anchored in the harbor under the rising sun, with Atlantis in the background. They boy wanted to meet real Redcoats. The Bahamas have been Independent since 1973, sooo... no redcoats. We didn't see any a couple days later on the British Virgin Islands either.
 
We had booked excursions for every stop on the voyage, and our first land stop was the Adastra Gardens and Zoo in Nassau.  It is a miniature tropical forest ,and they have an impressive collection of wildlife, including some rarer species and Caribbean Flamingos. They also have many exotic tropical plants, and the gardens were well maintained and cared for. We stayed too long though, and were unable to make our scheduled stop at Fort Fincastle to visit the Queen's Staircase, and were tranported by shuttle bus to Fort Charlotte instead which was another English fort built in 1796 that overlooked Nassau Harbor. We were only allowed to tour Fort Charlotte for 15 minutes before the shuttle departed back for the Port. When we arrived back at the Port we had less than 30 minutes to shop at the Nassau Hay Market just adjacent to the docks before we had to be back on board Glory for the next leg of the journey.
 
While the service aboard Carnival Glory was Five-Star all the way Kudos!. The land based tours were exactly opposite. None of them finished on-time, two featured unplanned detours by the tour organizers, and the last one (our snorkeling trip) was cancelled entirely due to rough seas and high ocean currents generated from a Nor' easter that had formed up some five hundred miles away in the North Atlantic. At least we got a refund for that, and we had the best time snorkeling on our own and just exploring Grand Turk right where we docked. I would have liked to enjoy more time for shopping in each port.
 
Day Three was a day at sea, we caught up on our sleep, enjoyed the games, excellent food, and activities onboard the ship and of course, attended the Captain's Meet and Greet.  On a lark, I took the boy to the meet and greet about 20 minutes early... The Captain and key deck officers, were of course, ...also early. The kind of crew that arrives early, leaves early, and gets things done! My kind of crew. Yet another good omen for this voyage.
 
In the last Photograph, from front-to-back, left to right... Erik Speekenbrink, Hotel Director. He is in charge of both rooms, guest services, and entertainment... he coordinates activities for all the comedians, the lounge singers, the bands, the magicians, The dancers, etc... that put on shows during the cruise. Then there is Nick, my son. The good Reverend Dr. E. If you want to find the party on the boat, (or on shore) if you are up for some fun, or just a good physical dance workout, just find the Reverend Dr. E. He inspires both the guests and the ships crew, and kept everyone informed on what was happening with his morning television show and by making announcements a couple times a day using the shipwide intercom.
 
I can't tell who the guy behind Nick is, He was shy and we didn't get the chance to talk. To his right though is Irina Jevdokimova, Guest Services Manager from Estonia, and of course, far right, Captain Gianluca Longhin from Italy. I let the boy know he should always listen to the Captain of the ship, the master in all matters while we were at sea. However the Captain himself was humble, and let it be known that Carnival let him have the boat just to drive around the Caribbean. He also let it be known that he himself appreciated, and was humbled, by just how hard his entire crew worked to ensure that all the guests aboard had a really good time. This of course, just put him up another notch in my estimation.
 
He had his fun too. Several times during the voyage he would stop in on the Promenade deck and loiter near the Casino and shopping mall, just to see if anyone would notice that the Ship's captain was present.
 
Day Four, we docked at Charlotte Amalie at the American Virgin Islands. Carnival Glory is about 18-20 stories tall. There are fourteen decks and a nine hole mini-golf course level above the waterline. It features a 27ft draft (8.2 M) below the waterline The smokestack is another 60-75 feet (20-25 M) above all that. It is 952 feet long (290 M) and has a beam of 116 feet (35.4 M wide). The captain and crew would dock this huge thing to a dock less than 1/3 the length of the ship, then would reverse engines, pull the ship off the dock, spin the ship on it's center, using its forward and aft navigational thrusters and rotate the whole ship, and it never drifted off center by more than 3 feet or (1 M) or so, the entire time the ship was rotating. I couldn't get over just how much control the bridge crew had, and how smooth it cruised on the open seas, and how gently they docked this behemoth with such precision in port. It was an amazing feat!
 
At Charlotte Amalie we transferred to a smaller boat named Speedy (Which my daughter later renamed Slug) which took us over to Dolphin Discovery at Road Town over at Tortola, on the British Virgin Islands. This was about ten miles ( 16 Km) from St. Thomas. We had to clear British customs going in, and there is actually a departure tax when you leave BVI ( British Virgin Islands) so if you are broke, you are stuck! Fortunately we had paid our departure tax as part of our tour package, so were not detained on that account...
 
At Dolphin Discovery we swam with the Dolpins, We played with the Dolphins, We high-fived Dolphins, The Dolphins kissed us... My wife even got Dolphin cooties. She had some kind of reaction, and still hasn't quite recovered, but she would do this again, in an instant, given the chance. It was something I always wanted to do as well. Still waiting on our photographers package from there (which is coming via mail order), with pictures of us and the Dolphins, however I  did snap a few shots of others havng fun there with the Canon A4000 while we were waiting for our turn to swim with the playful and energetic Dolphins.
 
Then after we left there, we met with another of those famous detours, as our tour bus didn't take us back to Road Town to depart the BVI, but instead  drove ½ of the way around Tortola to the West End Ferry Terminal and Frenchman's Cay instead where we stood around waiting almost two hours for our water taxi Speedy to catch up to us. We made it back to Carnival Glory just in time to board and then the crew cast off, and we were on our way to Puerto Rico. No chance at all for shopping.
 
Day five brought us to San Juan. Old San Juan is simply amazing. The five hundred+ year old Spanish Gateway to the Caribbean. An elegant old world city, with the most impressive castles and fortifications I have ever seen, plus we finally got to go shopping! But only after ditching our tour guide after the tour was running an hour beyond what they had listed the tour duration for when we booked it. It was (Thankfully) the last scheduled tour we did.
 
Day six brought us back up the Eastern side of the British West Indies for our last stop at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos. Being out in the open Atlantic, this is where we caught the remnant of the Nor'Easter. The storm gave us scattered intense rain squalls, high winds 25+ Mph and steady sets of 8-15 foot waves with occasional swells of 10-20 feet. On the lower levels the rolling from the rough seas was barely noticeable, however up on the top decks, ten stories (or more) above the waterline, they had to empty out the swimming pools, because the water was just spilling out of the pool and literally sweeping people off their feet on deck. The evening dances and on-deck activites were canceled, and we pretty much confined ourselves to our stateroom for the night after we went top side and found we were having some difficulty just standing and walking around. Slept good even with the rolling.
 
We made port at 11:00 right on schedule, docked to this itty-bitty postage stamp-sized dock, and had our last tour cancelled (the tour where we would swim and snorkel with the sting rays)... and the sharks. They never mention the sharks, but they are there too. We all poured out of the ship, and we staked ourselves out a spot on the beach, and I went off and rented some snorkeling gear and of course, spent the day, teaching the kids to snorkel. Did get to tryout the new GoPro 3 style XTC 280 Midlands video camera rated to 200 ft (60M) underwater and it prodoced some splendid HD 1920x1280 video. I only got a few shots of some undersea corals and a few parrot fish though, would have really enjoyed being on a full reef. I brought the wife Margaritas, me and the kids snorkeled, and we all had a grand time! Didn't see any sharks while snorkeling, but a guy named Scott who was snorkeing with us, spotted some Barracuda, or some other type of fish like a Barracuda with large scary looking teeth over by the ship pier. We didn't go snorkeling over there.
 
The last day, was another day at sea, in smooth waters off the Northen coast of Cuba, and then we flew home back into the cold from Miami. I got a sunburn, thousands of great pictures, and I'm pretty sure our kids had their best vacation ever! On a great Spring Break adventure by Land, Sea, and Air! They even got one extra day off (We kept them out of school, so they could relax for a day of their spring break!)
 
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Malaysian AF says the plane turned off it's transponders, dropped below 30,000 feet and flew due West for about an hour, and then they lost Radar contact in the Malacca strait North of Medan near a little isle called Pelau Perak.
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There's Islamic terrorism in Southern thailand near the border with Malaysia, it could have something to do with it, but I doubt it.
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Collins Family Holiday 2013

We started out with a bit of snow early on, however that had all melted by the time the kids  got out of school. I started them out right, with Holiday cooking chores!

I taught Nick how to make Chocolate Cocoa Truffles and Coconut Chocolate Truffles, from scratch! +Chef Dadisi Olutosin are you digging this holiday goodness?

He did such a good job, and it was so popular we had to make a second batch after Christmas... This included English Toffee Truffles, and Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles. We are on tap to make one more batch before the holidays are done!

For my daughter Lauren, her job was to make the holiday Gingerbread Men. When we began she wasn't very excited about the whole project, however she came around after we started actually making gingerbread men when she decided to make all the gingerbread men in the likeness of her favorite characters from the Walking Dead show!

We had Daryl (gingrbread crossbow included!), Sherriff Rick, and the Katana Girl, and of course a host of Zombies including some missing, arms, legs, ansd whatnot. She really got into added full color entrails and stuff with the frosting, so the 2013 Gingerbread Man cooking project turned out to be a great success!

The Boy decided this was the year he would start liking Gingerbread. I'm sure the edible zombies had something to do with that!

There's a few more Christmas Photos in this album. Just wanted to share our Holiday goodness with you!

+Lisa Donchak  Really like your Bokeh Christmas, and would like to share our more traditional Christmas holiday photos today.
 
We have had a great holiday, which started on the 20th! Somehow, I managed to lose our Christmas day family picture, however should have a backup available in a day or two (thank goodness there were two of us taking photos!)


Would also like to extend forth best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year to:
+Carrie Canup +Gideon mack +Karolina Przybylska ... Karolina, I'm jealous, you are in Florida now! Would really enjoy seeing some more of your photography goodness in 2014!

...also +Carter V. Wood +Alison B. Lowndes +Cbu York

...and +Idafkir Simo +Annette Proctor +Aaron Garcha  and +Yoguely

Hoping this new year is full of awesome for you all!
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Thank You, Dirk, for wishes :). Currently I'm in Athens, in Greece, here also is nice, but not so hot like in Florida. In Florida You can swim in amazing ocean even winter time. I wish  You and Your Family everything the best in 2014 :)! Take Family and go on vacation to ideal place for You :)!
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Update on Dragon and SpaceX. Looks like they got the engines fired up ok, and Dragon is now under controlled flight (As opposed to just orbiting)! Woot! Good Job!
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An important tip for folks participating in the G+ Secret Santa this year!

Once you setup an Amazon wish list, you have to link your wish list to a shipping address. Amazon does not automatically add your shipping address to your wish list. They should, it's just common sense that the default address for the account should be the one used, but they don't. You have to do it manually. For every wish list you create!

I have been trying to send out gifts to some G+'ers for a couple days now, and finally figured out what is going on. I fixed my wish list for my club kids, and here's how you can fix yours too:

#GPlussanta

#secretsanta
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Dirk Collins

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How you can Help with the Search for Malaysian Flight MH370

Digital Globe, a leading provider of satellite imagery has made a rather large collection of recent satellite photos available of the area immediately around Malaysia, and is looking for help in going over the satellite photos looking for clues as to the fate of the missing airliner.

You can help by tagging any satellite photos that may contain debris, images of aircraft in flight, and/or life rafts for further investigation.
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Hoosier Basketball

It's that time again! Every year for the last six years I have filmed Ivytech Indiana college basketball, and this year is no exception. First game of this year was played on Friday... Ivytech Richmond vs. Ivytech Columbus.

While these are NCAA division II teams, I have filmed some of the best Basketball ever (and I used to work the NCAA Division I playoffs, and from time-to-time some NBA games as well!!!).

Filmed Friday night, and the DVD is finished and ready for the coaches and players for Monday.
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Happy New Year!!!
May your 2014 be even better than 2013!

Happy Birthday +reeta sing . Hoping 2014 brings you even closer to your dreams!

+Ben Gerber Hope you made it out of Claire's with your sanity intact!

+Maddie Grant Is it just me, or are you looking younger in 2014?

+Jürgen Hubert Looking forward to even more Euro goodness in 2014, and also Fresh Baked Bread!

+Sammi P Missing Florida! Will get down there shortly for a caribbean cruise! Stay healthy, stay fit! Hoping you and the young un have an awesome 2014!

+Zachary Houghton We should really get together for some good gaming this year!

+Deborah L Gabriel Really enjoy your inspirational words of wisdom! Hope to share even more over the next year!

+Jesse Miller V Hope the Holidays were good for you! Is there any good news you's care to share?

+Joanne Huang Where are you? What have you been doing? How is school going?

+Richard Green  Wish well, Be Well!
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thank you so much for remembering me, +Dirk Collins I this year and all to come to be full of delightful blessings 
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+Rick Burleson I'd venture a guess, yes, and yes on this. Also, writing a new unique encryption manager would be high on the list of things to do.
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+Secret Santa 
Amazon tells me my two separate Secret Santa gift recipients should receive their gifts by December 24th! Thanks, it's been fun! Will post a 
#Santagift  picture very shortly!

#Gaveagift   x2!

Folks making +SecretSanta wishlists on Amazon still need to remember to add their shipping address to their wishlist. I had to skip my first two choices for receiving a gift because they had not provided an address to Amazon (not to me) where they could receive gifts!
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Thank you for your kindness and generosity.
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Have him in circles
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  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County
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Father, Husband, Inventor, Investor, Teacher
Introduction
Tech Guy, Employed for many years with the Department of Defense (NavCal Labs, Kay & Associates) and at various Fortune 500 Tech companies including HP, Apple, Terradyne, and Ford Aerospace... From about the mid-90's on I changed my work style and focused on entrepreneurial and startup companies like MedSim (Ultrasound Education). These days I tend to work for startups, as a consultant for individuals, and as a consultant for smaller growing companies while also providing tech support, tech programs, and workshops for non-profit corporations and schools part-time.  Former U.S. Army calibration specialist (35H) 



Bragging rights
Pretty good at fixing electronics, great at fixing personal computers and wide area networks, I also enjoy teaching about science, technology, engineering and math. Hosted and chaired one of the first Distance Education courses (1993). Designed an original Ion Thrust Engine (2009) for use in spacecraft, Designed an original green Electromagnetic Power Generator (1983) that provides electricity using no fuel, that does not pollute the atmosphere, or environment. Designed the first Time Abacus (2005), to teach people how to manually calculate fixed time intervals.
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