Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As I Was Saying

It's not impossible to come by fact-based opinions in the Pope-condoms-AIDS controversy. But they might not say what you expect them to.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mistral Winds

are notorious amongst sailors in the Western Meditteranean. So as we were departing Barcelona the captain interrupted our dinner to announce that we would be travelling through gale-force winds in the night and should expect a bumpy ride, stabilizers or no. I must be acclimatizing to the sea-travel, because I slept through the whole thing.

It was cool and blustery in Monte Carlo when we docked this morning. We did a bit of walking around, though slower and more purposeful than my preferred style. The wife was investigating perfumes for the girls at home. But nothing satisfied, so we'll keep looking for ideas in Rome. At least the sun came out and shone beautifully on the gardens by the palace.

We have one more cruise day tomorrow, then it's off to Rome for six days. That's the portion of the trip I'm looking forward to. We're hoping to attend the anniversary mass for the death of John Paul II on Thursday evening. We arrived in Rome for our first visit a month and a half after that (2005).

There's plenty of time left on my ship-board account, so I'll blog again tomorrow. We hope to see Pisa and Lucca. The bus driver in Palma correctly pointed out that these single-day visits aren't really adequate. You need to stay at least a week someplace to get a good feel for it. I'm afraid only Rome get's anything like that attention this time around. Quello che sarĂ .

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sun and Fun

I was laughing yesterday (inside) at the natives of Palma and some tourists as they huddled against the "cold". It got all the way down to 15 C. And I´m sweating from the exertion of walking around. My favourite activity is getting lost. As in, wandering around aimlessly until I can´t figure out where I am. I succeeded fabulously yesterday. There are little mini-boulevards tucked away in various neighbourhoods.

I did find an internet cafe there, but siesta, especially on Saturday, starts no later than 2 p.m. So I only had time to write one email and was politely evicted.

Today in Barcelona is more Vancouver weather, though: Cool and wet. We went to Montserrat this morning. We were taken up the winding road to the monastery and basilica. We went up and touched the Madonna (9th century?). The wife is resting on the ship. I caught a shuttle bus back to the Placa Colon.

I wandered into the Gothic Quarter and eventually was, as desired, quite disoriented. By luck, I looked up and saw a couple of maniquins with hard-hats posed on an iron-grated balcony. At that point I was completing a circle and about the re-trace my steps.

Duly re-oriented I headed back to the ship and was seduced by a sign on La Rambla, the central pedestrian boulevard, offering 0.99 Euro beer (I can´t get the Euro symbol on this keyboard, even though I can see it). That´s when I saw that this place also has an Internet Cafe on La Rambla, the central pedestrian boulevard. So that´s where this is being composed, as the time counts down. I´ll probably have to skip the beer since Mass is at 5, just an hour and a half away. Oh well.

There´s nothing to say about Lisbon and Cadiz, alas. I was under the weather and stayed onboard. The wife had a great time, tours to Fatima and Sevilla. But she´s not much for blogging.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Don't Bother Me With the Facts, Son...

I've already made up my mind." That was a saying of Foghorn Leghorn, one of my favourite cartoon characters from another millenium. Maybe the tempest in a teapot over the Pope and the effectiveness of condoms in preventing AIDS falls into this category.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

But no pictures today, alas. We landed this morning at Funchal, Madeira. Every letter of every word that I type tends to be done twice or more, since I`m not used to the Portuguese keyboard.

A week ago Sunday we stopped at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. We´re not beach people, so we enjoyed the barbeque, attended by the free range chickens. I watched the little black chicks wandering under the tables as the happy people ate, blissfully unaware. More than once a chick stopped and looked thoughtfully at some well shaped toe, exposed through sandals. But there were no incidents, happily.

Seven days at sea go by remarkably fast. Especially for the wife, who is up early (well early by cruising standards, anyway) and tries to close down the Piano Bar every night with a busy schedule in between. I gave that up after a couple of nights. Getting old, I guess.

I did find a chess partner, though. We use the large set by the pool. I recommended FICS to him. If I manage to not drop a piece early I´m usually winning. But we take an hour or more to play, so they´re fairly serious games.

Today we´ll just wander around the Old City and maybe take the cable car ride. There are beautiful orange blossoms in the trees above me as I write. Across the road pink and red geraniums fills an iron grill balcony, the length of the street. The clouds rolling in just highlight the intensity of the colours.

After a day at sea tomorrow, we plan to make a pilgrimage to Fatima on Wednesday. That will be the feast of the Annuniciation, solemn feast of Our Lady. We have had a special devotion to her since she aided us during a crisis fifteen years ago. But that´s a story for another day. The point is, I may not have time to blog from there. If not, I´ll try to do it from the ship (far more expensive).

Time to move on. See you all later.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

This is my second attempt at posting about the first full day of our trip. The previous attempt was on the hotel tv screen and seems to have disappeared into the ether.

Our day (Friday) began with watching the sun rise over the Atlantic as a van drove us away from our hotel and towards the Everglades. Once the van was full (14 passengers and the driver) we proceeded South and West into Sawgrass country. We stopped at an Indian airboat place. (You see one on the opening credits of CSI: Miami). That was a bit of a thrill and quite noisy; cottonballs really help.

As we drove West we slowed down frequently to admire the American Alligator. The females travel together, so it's no exaggeration to say that we saw dozens, if not hundreds of them. The birds were also plentiful and varied. For example, there were cormorants, egrets, cranes and ospreys. The turkey vultures having a committee meeting over an alligator carcass had a certain morbid interest. They were trying to figure out how to turn the body over so they could get to the soft under-belly.

A manattee was resting in a canal not far from the coast. And a young mother alligator was watching over her prodigious, striped brood by the roadside.

The climax of the "eco-tour" was a boatride into the national park, Ten Thousand Islands. Dolphins dutifully leapt alongside us a we navigated the mangrove islands right up to the Gulf of Mexico.

By then jet lag had caught up with us and we slept on the ride back across Florida. When dropped off at our hotel we strolled north and had dinner at a restaurant specializing in fish, Coconuts. We had a table with a view over the inland waterway, facing West. A pelican was perched on a pile nearby. He periodically dove into the water for his dinner. As the meal was winding up, with the obligatory Key Lime Pie, the sun set in front of us.

Not bad for a spare day in Fort Lauderdale.

If this post is successful I'll try to update our trip. We're currently in the Atlantic, having just visiting Half Moon Cay. We just caught the trail of the Discovery Space Shuttle taking off from Cape Canaveral. Maybe we'll have pictures when we get to Madeira (a week from tomorrow).

Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

was supposed to Mao's strategy. Is this more of the same from the new orthodoxy?

BREAKING: Conn. Bill Proposing to Restructure Catholic Church Pulled, Hearing Postponed:

By Kathleen Gilbert
HARTFORD, Connecticut, March 10, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Following widespread outrage from the Catholic community, a Connecticut bill seeking unprecedented regulation of the Catholic Church has been temporarily pulled and its public hearing postponed while legislators...

Read the whole thing.

(Via LifeSiteNews.com Headlines.)

Liberal Fascism

I had occasion to write about competing orthodoxies. There are a number of disturbing things going on that indicate that the intolerance of the new orthodoxy is be ratcheted up:

Proposition 8 Thuggery:

When eerily convenient Prop-8 directories and Google maps were released earlier this winter, accounts of threats and thuggery began accumulating. But how much of this was real intimidation from the left, and how much was the pretense of doom from the right?

Read the whole thing.

(Via First Things.)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Human Knowledge

marches on. In this particular instance our knowledge of news media:

General Theory of Media Incompetence:

For a very long time I have held what might be termed the Special Theory of Media Incompetence, which is: The mainstream newsmedia is spectacularly incompetent when reporting stories concerning religion, morality, etc.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Public Debate

on serious moral issues is very rare. Here is something could be the beginning of such a dialogue:

Father Reese and the Fallacy of the Mean:

If His Most Plausible Claim

to be competent to be President was his running of his campaign for that office, how is that working out so far? Given the snafu's so far, one might begin to think that actual executive experience at a fairly high level might be a pre-requisite for future candidates. Certainly nothing less than being, say, governor of a small state, anyway; Alaska,for example.

Obama Botches Meeting with British PM:

Our new President ran for office on a promise to use the power of diplomacy much more effectively than George Bush; indeed, he seems to believe diplomacy alone can solve almost any problem, from the Taliban to Iran’s nuclear program.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Little Green Footballs.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

This looks interesting

Though I'm not sure where in Philosophy it lands exactly:

Why Minds Are Not Like Computers:

Most of us instinctively agree that the human brain and the computer are qualitatively different—that the difference between human and computer intelligence is one, not of degree, but of kind. If you were wondering, however, why this is true, Ari N. Schulman at the New Atlantis has a wonderful new article illustrating the proverbial nuts and bolts that make up both human and artificial intelligence:

Read the whole thing.

(Via First Things.)

Science Marches On

And is ignored by the ignorant, the ideological and the avaricious. All the supposed promise of embryo-destructive research is beginning to be realized by other stem cell research (usually captioned "adult stem-cell research"). But this progress is studiously ignored..

<Rant Mode>

There is a great deal of money to be made in ESCR, witness governments stampeding to throw millions at researchers. The disproportionate amount of money being directed at AIDS research is another example of this marriage of ignorant and ideological politicians being led by the nose by greedy scientists and their coterie.

</Rant Mode>
So let's review the state of Adult Stem Cell Research:

Another Stem Cell Advance:

The announcement in November of 2006 that researchers in the United States and Japan had succeeded in turning skin cells into what appeared to be the equivalent of embryonic stem cells transformed the landscape of stem cell science, and the related ethical debate. If Democrats in Washington ever notice it, it might even transform the political debate.

Read the whole thing.

(Via First Things.)