Saturday, February 22, 2020

Celebrity Equinox Cruise: December 14-21 THE FINAL SEGMENT

Like all good things, the beginning of the end of the cruise began after we left Cozumel. We were at sea the next day and I imagine most people were doing their best not to think about the impending return to reality. My wife and I staked an early claim to a couple of lounge chairs in the Solarium to read and relax. The seas that had been extremely rough the day before were still particularly bad with the water in the Solarium pool sloshing back and forth as the ship rolled through the waves.
After several days of hanging out in the Solarium with all the blue-hair old folks, part of me wanted to head outside and get involved with the younger crowd. I was really enjoying all the quiet but after several days of it, part of me wanted something more lively in the way of stimulus. I did try to join the younger crowd but quickly rejoined the blue-hairs once realizing out out of water I felt.
The final stop on the trip was Grand Cayman. While there is nothing wrong with Grand Cayman we've explored the place on previous trips and found it a bit of a tourist trap. The Equinox almost cancelled its visit on our trip because of the lingering storm. There are no port facilities on Grand Cayman forcing visiting cruise ships to anchor offshore, from there small boats ferry people to the island and back. Because we stayed on the ship here are a couple of pictures from previous cruises.
This is a small segment of Seven Mile Beach. It's a party place typically catering to young folks without kids. Going back to my dilemma of not being comfortable with the blue-hairs while being unable to keep up with the younger folks is part of the reason I stayed on the ship.     
On the previous visits, the standard tourist spots like Buffett's Margaritaville was overflowing with Americans making them unattractive to me. My wife, daughter, and I hit this local spot and had a fantastic lunch with a genuine Caribbean atmosphere.   
After leaving Grand Cayman the final night on the ship was filled with activities. This one was called "Silent Disco" where the participants wear headphones that provide three channels of music. The idea being that it allows people to dance to literally their own music. It was a bit freaky, but I found it quite fun.

Yes, I did dance that night with my music being the stuff on the Latin channel. 
The part I miss most is the buffet. Especially early in the morning when most of the other passengers were still asleep. 

  This is the final installment of these posts. For the longest time I wondered just what would be the last picture. I thought about posting one of the ship terminal with thousands of people either scrambling to get off the boats or begin their journeys. If you remember, I hated Fort Lauderdale and decided not to go that route.

So the last picture of the cruise is of a platter filled with bacon. Right now my wife is planning another cruise for 2021. Unfortunately, wifey is talking about taking her sister on a North Sea cruise that would include a trip into the Baltic and a stop at Saint Petersburg. Me going to Russia just ain't going to work for a whole bunch of reasons. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

An Update From Betelgeuse

Just because I do not want to write about the ongoing crimes of the Orange Buffoon, climate change and Australia being on fire, or the really scary Corona virus, here's another disaster that could be upon us soon. Well, that “soon” part is strictly speaking a bit of a misnomer on human terms, but on the cosmological timescale it could happen any minute. The disaster I am referring to is the “imminent” supernova explosion of the star Betelgeuse.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star located in the Orion constellation about 700 light-years away from Earth. That red supergiant description isn't just words, if Betelgeuse took the place of our sun its boiling plasma surface would reach beyond the asteroid belt. Of course, such a size means the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars would be inside the star being cooked like cheap turkeys. 

Wanting to avoid all the stellar techo-babble about Betelgeuse, that huge size means its lifespan is considerably shorter than our long-lived sun. The best estimate of Betelgeuse age is a little over ten million years, thankfully, there hasn't been enough time for intelligent life to evolve on any planets that might orbit it. Although when Betelgeuse does go BOOM, any inhabited star system within a few dozen lightyears are in serious trouble.

When Betelgeuse does go supernova the best estimates is that it will shine as bright as a half-moon for about three months. Bright enough to cast shadows at night and be seen in the daytime. Even as it dims, the supernova will be visible during the day for about a year and several years afterward at night.

The reason why the science journalists have been mentioning Betelgeuse recently is because back in October of 2019 it started to dim noticeably. By January of 2020 its brightness had continued to drop appreciably prompting speculation by less than accurate science sources that the star was going supernova on a time frame on par with our society's short attention span. Realistically, Betelgeuse could go supernova anytime in the next 100,000 years. Meaning our current human civilization will either be dead and gone or changed beyond all recognition by the time it lights up Earth's sky.

Now the universe has a tendency to overturn human expectations, so while I fully understand it will be thousands of years before Betelgeuse explodes, there's a part of me that wouldn't be surprised if it does happen soon. Even though our civilization has embraced rationality and scientific inquiry, at least in name for the last five-hundred years, I can only imagine the ridiculous and possibly dangerous reactions that various people and groups might have to a visible supernova. Just a few years back a total eclipse of the sun tracking through the United States had people proclaiming it was a sign of God like ignorant medieval peasants.

Yeah, if you want to get technical someone could say the orbital mechanics of planets and moons was set in motion by God billions of years ago. But a solar eclipse isn't something that happens suddenly or miraculously, humans have an expert-level grasp on when and where these events occur. Have a wormhole to the Alpha Centauri star system open up suddenly just beyond lunar orbit and that's when I'll start considering the inexplicable. Even then one of Arthur C. Clarke's laws comes to mind that any sufficiently advances technology is indistinguishable from magic.

It would be nice if a Betelgeuse supernova caused humans to realize they are comparable to viruses living on a speck of dust floating in the air and begin to clean up their act. But despite countless religious-based admonishments that humans are insignificant creatures, a number of us not only believe we can guess the mind of God but that the Almighty engages in direct conversations with a select few. The former taking the shape of bizarre indicts condemning certain people for no justifiable reason. As for the latter example, numerous politicians will get on television and say with a straight face that God picked them to be President of the United States. The only thing more glaringly stupid would be for the unwashed masses to believe such claims of divine preference in human political affairs.

So you should be able to guess that my worries about a Betelgeuse supernova would be for the various usual suspects to claim it was a sign of godly displeasure or approval on some subject. Even worse would be for some narcissistic, delusional personality to say it was a sign to launch a crusade or Jihad against evil heathens. Only a few centuries ago some societies freaked out over the sudden appearance of a comet in the nighttime sky. Which is nothing but a large dirty snowball doing a gravity-directed loop around the sun.

When all is said and done Betelgeuse will do its thing when it's ready without any regard to the hairless primates here on Earth. I guess the one certifiably good thing in all this is that we're over 700 lightyears away from the explosion so that when it goes supernova, it will just be a light show for us or our descendants. For any possible alien civilization within a couple of dozen lightyears of Betelgeuse, it will truly seem like a biblical event.

Yes, I should have mentioned the little tidbit about how Betelgeuse could have in fact already gone supernova but we wouldn't know it until the light of the explosion reaches Earth. But I guess if you want to view time from our end of space it hasn't happened yet until we see it.  

Sunday, February 9, 2020

My Outrage is Exhausted

Democracy dies

And Republicans use to make fun of political cults like they have in North Korea and Russia.

I bet the Roman Republic went through this type of shit before it fell.

Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Remember the spasms some went through saying there was no difference between trump and Hillary.

We are so fucked.

Oh, the hypocrisy! 

There's been a lot of talk of Karma and how it will come back on the Republicans. Frankly, from my observations about life and human interactions it doesn't exist. 

Funny how this wasn't more widely viewed or talked about.

Added just because I hate this whiny piece of shit. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Celebrity Equinox Cruise: December 14-21 PART FIVE

For me the best part of the trip was visiting the Mayan ruins at Tulum, a recognized World Heritage site facing the Caribbean Sea. The trouble was that getting to Tulum was a bit of an adventure since the Celebrity Equinox docked on the the island of Cozumel.

The seas were already rough as we pulled up to the docks on Cozumel with the ship you see already tied up. There was a second cruise ship in the immediate area that for some reason that had anchored nearby instead of docking. Scuttlebutt among the experienced travelers was that both of these ships were based in Europe and that do regular transatlantic runs. That's what you get when you live in countries were bosses and management don't think of worker vacations as infringements on their rights to squeeze every damn cent of profit out of their employees.  

To get to the ruins we had to board a ferry to the mainland, which involved us doing the kindergarten-like walk from the Equinox to the smaller vessel. The Mein Schiff 1 you see in the picture was a beautiful ship and I would have loved to see the insides if it was possible. Ignore the drop dead gorgeous blonde in the picture. Yeah, the guy in the orange shirt knew I was checking out the blonde crew member of the Mein Schiff 1. On a side note, there are a whole series of cruise ships carrying the Mein Schiff name, you would think a premiere cruise line could cough up some euros for better, more original names.  

This is the ferry that took us to the Mexican mainland and brought us back. I give the locals that crewed it the highest marks in professionalism and seamanship. The only problem I had was with the weather conditions that made the trip to the mainland difficult and damn near intolerable returning. I didn't get seasick going out but the rough seas coming back to Cozumel had me dry heaving into a plastic bag. In fact, coming back to Cozumel the crew had to stop the boat twice to check its condition after something outside came loose. By that time, I was French kissing the barf bag and going through my first flop sweat in years. It got so bad my wife was worried my heart might go bonkers. It didn't and fifteen minutes after we finally got back to the docks I was back to my usual abnormal.     

Not exactly sure why I took this picture or included it in this post.

This was the stairway leading up to the entrance to the ruins. Had a fine collection of people from North America and Europe. All during the time I heard French, German, Spanish, and what I think was Dutch I wanted to scream out that I was an American that hated trump. I resisted, mainly because my wife would have probably slapped me across the back of the head.

The entrance to the ruined city. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans. It reached it peak between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive for around 70 years after the Spanish began their occupation of what would become Mexico. 

As you might be able to guess, the diseases brought by Spanish colonization resulted in significant moralities among the native population. This disrupted Tulum's society eventually causing the city to be abandoned.  

I first found out about Tulum years ago from watching a documentary on the Mayans. Further research on my part turned up beautiful, sunny, and clear pictures highlighting the green of the vegetation, the light blue of the sky, and the dark blue of the ocean, along with white fluffy clouds. On the day of our visit it was cloudy and rainy throwing off my ability to take a decent picture.  

THis was our tour guide who said his name was Jesus. He was extremely knowledge on the Mayan civilization and took excellent care of his spoiled norteamericano guests. That being said, I got a heavy vibe that he didn't like me. Part of that may have come from the army surplus booney hat I was wearing as well as my camouflage backpack. It wouldn't be the first time that the stink of the "Ugly American" caused me an issue with citizens from other nations. I'm tall, Caucasian, and pretty much a poster child for white American privilege even though I try not to be a dick.     

Too many similar pictures, yeah I know. Was trying to get one to be decent given the conditions and my lack of talent.
I believe I snapped about ten of these while playing with the preset filters on my camera.

One of the current locals at Tulum. He seemed wholly unimpressed with everyone. 

Not sure, since I never could get the tour guide's attention to ask a question, but I guess this was a well.
Probably the best picture out of the bunch. You can actually see some blue sky.

Really wasn't up to spending hours researching the use of the different buildings. Time at the ruins was incredibly limited since the ship had to leave later that afternoon.

By this point the tour guide had broken us into two groups, one that went straight back to the shops and the other which stayed to take more pictures. I stayed to take more pictures and didn't get a chance to prowl all the neat souvenirs.

I did get to the cliff face to snap a bunch of pictures there. No, I didn't get the sunny skies or crystal clear waters like I have seen in magazines. But at least I can say I have seen one of the most remarkable sites on Earth. 

And in the space of a few minutes the clouds came back in and made taking pictures difficult.

Clouds rolled out again but by this time I was down to about 10 minutes before I had to race back to the bus.

The path leading out of the city.

Our next stop was a beach resort that was supposed to be a place to relax and swim. Except the weather had turned bad again with it raining steadily. We got our meal, great local seafood, but no one wanted to go swimming in the rain.

Not sure if this is a real fishing boat or a decoration.

I didn't go swimming but I did take a long walk on the beach. My wife stayed under the shelter drinking coffee.

After the nightmare return trip to Cozumel, the Equinox soon departed for Grand Cayman. As we were heading out I caught sight of one of the Disney ships heading into Cozumel. By this time of the cruise I was perfectly happy with Celebrity Cruise Lines and didn't miss Mickey at all.