List of Previous Titles

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cruising in Luxury

A Dream Vacation

I admit I have not as yet had the experience of cruising in luxury aboard one of the world's cruise liners, but it is on my "To Do" bucket list. There are stories about people, usually retired people with some money to spend, who either take very long cruises, or who come off one ship and promptly go aboard another. There are many examples of people who have the choice of living in an upscale nursing home, or for the same money living aboard a cruise ship.

There will be no cigar for guessing correctly where to find them if they are really needed.

The thought of taking a cruise myself is always there in the back of my mind, but recently it has been brought to the forefront because of two incidents involving cruise liners, both of which belonged to the same company. The most infamous is the Costa Concordia that is lying on its side in the waters along the Italian shore. The second simply had a fire in the engine room that knocked out all power and set the ship a drift.

Every cruise liner works very diligently to ensure through risk prevention that they do not have any kind of breakdown. This is just commonsense, but sometimes things do happen in spite of best efforts to avoid them. That is generally called bad luck. The Costa Concordia situation appears to have been something that should never have happened. A formal enquiry is under way, so we shall see.  The facts are that normally, things work well enough 99.999% of the time so that we don't even think about these things. However, when we do dig into the risk potential we come up with such shocking "what ifs" that we wonder why is there a cruise industry at all.

Scenerio:  With mega cruise ships cruising the world, lets say that a ship leaves port with 4,000 passengers and 1,000 crew.  It has a pre-planned route and it must not deviate from its course because many things will have gone into those coordinates to keep the ship in safe and deep enough waters. In our example we have five thousand people on one ship that is now out at sea.

Something goes wrong, against all odds, and a fire occurs in the engine room that knocks out all power that disables the ship's ability to move under its own power, or to provide pumping capabilities, or cooking facilities, or airconditioning or heating, or any of the essential services. This is what happened to the Costa Allegra.

In the case of that ship it got a tow from a large fishing vessel and was taken to the Seychelle Islands, under perfect weather conditions. Passengers had to survive on sandwiches, many of which were delivered by helicopter. But, what if the weather had become stormy while the ship was completely shut down? I am not an expert in these matters and can only use my own imagination, but I see a situation where the ship would founder in rolling seas with thousands of civilians who are being tossed around like bread crumbs. The ship would of course, go off course, but as long as it were in deep water it would still be in a recoverable situation.

If the situation of not having any control over its direction were to continue over several days, each day would raise the risk of a deadly ending. I am an optimist, and because it hasn't happened yet, I will leave that possibility and move on to other probabilities.

What happens when a ship at sea suddendly has to land all its passengers, and even its crew on shore in a country that is not ready to absorb so many people at one time?

There are few countries that could cope with a mass of five thousand people landing on its shores in one spot, all at once. The logistics are mind boggling, and I am fairly certain that cruise companies employ some of the best people to track and be ready to deal with the unexpected at all times. I am convinced that the companies know their business and I would put my faith in them. I am sure that they do not leave shore without things planned down to the tiniest detail, but every plan is only as good as the people who will do their part.

So, in summary, every thing that we do in life carries some risk, but as long as the risk is reasonable, we can live our lives to the fullest. However, one of the things that I will do when I get around to taking a cruise is to ensure that the crew whose hands I place my life and welfare in at least speak a language that I can understand. If the official language of the officers and crew is say, Italian, and I do not understand Italian, that will massively complicate the situation if we get ourselves into a situation that would involve an emergency. Therefore I will not be taking a cruise with an Italian crew any time soon.

Secondly, and most important of all, emergency stations should be called before the ship casts off, just as is done with airlines, because once on the move who knows what might go wrong. According to Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Happy Sailing!

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Festivals of Las Fallas and La Magdelena, Valencia, Spain

A Fallas monument built and sponsored for Nou Campanar

March is the biggest month for celebrations in Valencia. In spite of our economic problems the show must go on in the name of Tradition and Custom. Perhaps it is just as well that we do have these things to cheer ourselves up, and the truth be told, the customs are really worth preserving.

Essentially these are springtime events that help us throw off the depression of the cold winter. The fact that both events rely heavily on noise to chase away old man winter is no coincidence. March begins promptly on the very first day with a mascletá, or daytime firework display at 2pm in the main city square in Valencia City.  Because it's a day event, the only possible purpose is to make lots of noise, the more the merrier. As the days move along the tiempo picks up pace leading to the planting of various monuments with a satirical theme around the city and the suburbs from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, at which time they are set on fire where they stand.

Many of the monuments will have cost about half a million euros to design and build, but when it's over, it's over. I always say, what a shame, but they ask, what do you want us to do with them?

Normally, the party begins with Las Fallas in Valencia City until the 19th, followed by the Festaval of La Magdelena in Castellón de la Plana, located about 50 kilometres north of Valencia City. Usually the dates for this would be March 26th till April 3rd, however, this year, because of conflicting dates La Magdelena began on the 10th March and continues untill the 18th.

La Magdelena celebrates the birth of the city of Castellón 700 years ago, and is  nine days of continuious events that are similar yet different than what goes on in Valencia City. They too make a lot of noise with both daytime and night time fireworks. There are lots of parades and wonderful costumes; dancing in the streets, brilliant  monuments of lights, that are not burned, in the principal parade known as the Gaiatas.

It is simply not possible to commit to words the spontaneity and sheer joy that these events generate; nor the passion and feeling that those participating experience, especially in the Ofrendas of flowers to The Virgen. How do I explain what makes a person carry flowers and walk for hours to come into the presence of a wooden statute of La Virgen, and then burst into a flood of tears.

This is really one of those things you must experience for yourself. Once experienced, never forgotten.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Don't Leave Home Without it!

MoBo Phobias
We have become so reliant on technology that we are making ourselves slaves to machines.

I left my home in a hurry and found to my horror that I had left behind both of my mobiles. Panic!
I considered turning the car around and going back for them, but time was of the essence, and if I continued I could make my destination comfortably, and in time. So, I continued on with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong for which I would absolutely need my mobile.

I was on my way to purchase tickets for the coming concert in Valencia by Lang Lang, perhaps the greatest pianist/showman in the world. I had left home very early in the morning to reach The Palau de la Musica
where I had to present myself in person. Tickets would go on sale via the Internet the next day, however I was fairly certain all of the Season tickets holders would claim their seats, and together with the tickets sold on the first day meant there might not be any available the next day.

As I drew up to The Palau, there was not a person in sight. Perhaps I had the wrong day, but I continued on to find a parking place. When I walked into the building I was flabbergasted to find hordes of people in the area of the selling booth, and after being given the number 138 I walked towards the other side of the building where there must have been about 500 people. They had started serving early, and number 10 was being served.

Evidently, there were so many people congregating in front of the building that they opened the doors early and gave people numbers, then the people disbursed into the spacious lobby. They had come in groups to buy tickets for the whole family and friends, so one number was used to buy several tickets, perhaps as many as twenty or thirty tickets.

This was going to take some time and I needed to contact several people to let them know that my appointments for the rest of the day were going to have to be cancelled. What a dreadful day to leave my phones at home. For the first time in twenty years I would have to use a public phone.  The Palau has four mounted on walls, and I couldn't get any of them to work.

Firstly, I felt the need to use a wet wipe on the phone before placing it to my head. Secondly, they are such complicated instruments these days, I wasn't sure whether I was the reason I couldn't get one to work, or whether it was the machine. Finally, I did make a contact, but at a total cost of five euros.

The Palau originally intended to sell  between the hours of 9:30 and 13:30,  I finally bought my two tickets at ten minutes before two, and at 2pm they closed for lunch and returned at five pm. By the end of the day, I believe all tickets were sold out.

Roaming around without my mobiles was a peculair feeling. At first I was very uneasy, but as the day progressed I began to relax. Phones were ringing all around me, several with ring tones similar to my own, but I knew it was not for me. I felt a great sense of freedom, kind of like walking around without my under, and over pants. It felt good. Mankind is not wired to be on alert at all times. When my phone rings and I am driving, I ignore it, intending to return the call when I am stopped. When I am eating, or attending to some matter during which I should not be disturbed, I place my phones on silence.

There are those people with their smart phones that register their every incoming e-mail. That is built-in stress, and I know that isn't good.

I am not likely to leave my mobiles at home any time soon, but I will continue to control my reliance upon them, and perhaps I won't buy the iPhone after all. That piece of equipment is so powerful and capable of so much technology, I fear it would enslave me into total bondage.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Cuddle

Two young people who look perfectly happy as they cuddle.

There is one absolute certainty: throughout the history of men, not one has ever said the following- "I'm going home because I want to give my woman a cuddle." It is also highly unlikely that it will ever be said.  This is because men don't understand what a cuddle is, nor why it might be appropriate.

Your woman will often be in need of a cuddle, and when she turns to  you for you to wrap your arms around her and give her a loving embrace, you become sexually aroused and off go your hands in search of something else. She gets angry, pushes you away and storms off saying all you bloody men are alike. "What?" What did I do?

Our wiring is completely different in this regard, so it takes tremendous understanding to respond in the appropriate fashion. When we men come into close contact with the soft and curvy body of a woman we respond automatically to think sex. Sex is evermore on our minds anyway, and the least little thing set us off.

Women, on the other hand are generally motivated by feelings of tenderness and love. If she has had a very difficult day, and you have behaved yourself properly in letting her get things off her chest, she will most likely turn to you for a long hug and a kiss. That's a cuddle.

If she is not feeling well from a health standpoint, a cuddle will cheer her up just perfectly.  If she is fighting with you because you make her so angry, rather than defending yourself and shouting back at her, if you can get close to her to put your arms around her, the cuddle will probably work wonders.

Even in bed, if you turn to her just to hold her in your arms to fall asleep in that manner, she will appreciate the fact that you see her as a full person, rather than always seeking sex from her. You may be wondering when will we have sex?  Often sex does happen when you least expect it. If you can make her feel really good and safe, she knows what you want and need, and she may decide to reward you for being so thoughful. In that regard the cuddle may be thought of as foreplay, although to approach it from the standpoint of giving your woman a cuddle with the expectation of sex would be cynical.

As we have seen the word "cuddle" is not a bad word, and it has a very central role in every couple's relationship. You may not want to say to your mates that you need to give your woman a cuddle, but do it every chance you get. No woman has ever said, "I suffer from too many cuddles," and she never will.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael