Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Marseille and Aix-en-Provence

The next morning after Barcelona we arrived in Marseille.

Our tour took us by bus from Marseille to Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence is a very charming town, full of history.  We walked along its narrow streets and squares, and admired the old fountains, saw many fine shops, and the girls went a little crazy buying French cosmetics at impressively good prices.

Lots of historic things to see as well.

The Aix Cathedral has parts that date back allegedly to Roman times, and was allegedly built over a Roman Temple to Apollo and is built on the old Via Aurelia - a road that  - you guessed it - leads to Rome.

This is the entrance to the earlier part of the building with the main part of the cathedral towering to the left.




In more recent history, the people of Aix commemorate their liberation in World War 2:


 Aix, in addition to historic buildings and streets, also has a lovely and lively farmer's market with local produce that made for a very tasty lunch:

They also have bakeries with a sense of humor:

While wandering by the cafes and stopping for some beverages, we got to admire this very nice Moto Guzzi motorcycle:

We then headed back to Marseille and had a short time to wander around the old port.

 The port has a bust of Ethymenes, the Greek seafarer and explorer from Masallia, which is now modern Marseille:

We also saw the Marseille's Arc De Triomphe built in 1837:

Then we headed back to the new port, and the ship, and onwards.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Barcelona Part III - The City of Churches and Gaudi

First building we entered was the Cathedral of Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona.

Interestingly, it had a large cellular advertisement placed on top of the building, which seemed a bit profane.


A Cathedral in the Gothic style, it was built from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.

The inside is as impressive as the outside, if not more:

The choir area includes seats with the coats of arms from knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, as Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire established a chapter of the order in Barcelona.

The Cathedral also holds a cross that was at the Battle of Lepanto.  The cross is off to one side, as it apparently moved to dodge an Ottoman cannonball at that battle. 

Tiles with inscriptions from the 1700s can be seen on the floor.

It also holds the Well of Geese and 13 Geese are supposed to be maintained in it at all times.

The 13 geese are in honor of the Saint Eulalia, who the cathedral was named after and was 13 when she was martyred.

Very impressive building and well worth the visit.

Next we went to the Sagrada Família, the Cathedral designed by Gaudi, the famed architect, and it is where he was buried.  Under construction since 1882, The Cathedral is currently the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world.

To say it's huge and will be awesome when it is eventually done. It was supposed to be completed in 2026 the centennial of Gaudi's death.  It likely won;t be done by then due to the delays brought on by the COVID lockdowns.

The details of the facade are amazing.

After seeing the Sagrada Família, we then went to a scenic overlook at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya to see the city.

You can see the Sagrada Família standing out as a landmark over the city.


The view in other directions are equally impressive.


After getting awesome views of the city, we then headed back to the ship, and headed to our next port.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Irony Of Detroit Gun Violence Interventionists

In the Detroit Free Press, there's an article about a rally against gun violence, as they are of course blaming guns for criminal's actions and the fact that criminal violence and assaults, often over trivial matters are very much on the rise in the D.

The Detroit Free Press: Shootings over simple disputes on the rise, Detroit interventionists say

It's mostly pay-walled, but the photos accompanying the article are not.

The irony of course is because of one of the featured speakers depicted in the article:

Sam Riddle.  

Sam Riddle talking against gun violence.

The very same Sam Riddle who himself was sentenced to two years for firing off a shotgun in a "simple dispute" - being caught in bed with another woman by his "live in companion" and then shooting at his companion with a shotgun.

So yes, Sam Riddle would surely know all about inappropriately using guns during a simple dispute. 

In the D, even violent felonies, even involving firearms and violence against women - two things Democrats profess to be against - don't stop Democrat politicians from being considered respected (and of course paid) heads of Democrat organizations rather than placed beyond the pale for their actions.

You just can't make this up.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Abby On To The Next Stage

Moved Abby to her dorm today.  She's officially off to begin her next challenge at University to study micro-cellular biology.

Move in was smooth and helped her get unloaded, unpacked, and organized within a couple hours.  

The room's bed, drawers, and bookshelf are modular and can be moved around to make a loft/half/loft or bunk bed.  She chose the half-loft and so we lifted the bed up and got it all setup on top the the drawers and shelf and she gets some storage out of it underneath.  Got her desk moved as well and her room looks quite nice.

The room really is rather nice and spacious and given what we're paying for room and board it better be. Only downside is there's no AC for the room, so they've got a fan running and need to get another one. 

She's rooming with a friend of hers from middle school that has a business major compared to her science major, and such differences in their fields of study should be good for both of them. They're both pretty solid organizers and their room looks great.

She is all setup now. Once she was all done unpacking, then she was off for an orientation meeting and we headed home.  

We did say we wouldn't rent her room out while she's gone, but it sure feels strange that she won't be in her room now.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

So When Exactly Is It Acceptable For A Politican To Make Clearly Racist Statements?

Imagine what would be the reaction if a prominent politician running a major county in a state publicly said these things in an op-ed in a major newspaper:

"If [the] County's White leadership of faith-based, business, educational, political, community groups and grassroots organizations had united our support behind a single consensus candidate, rather than eight White candidates entering the race and duking it out amongst themselves — thereby fracturing our voting power at such a critical time — we would not be in this position."

"Such a travesty would essentially be the same result as having no White representation at all, only worse."

"This could be the first time that [our city], doesn’t have White congressional representation [ ]. Disenfranchised.  Although we had the power to prevent this, we were unable to unify to use it. And this is what we are left with."

"Ever since I was first elected [], I have nurtured a desire to use my position as best I could to solidify White leadership and White voting power throughout the state of Michigan."

and finish off with:

"As an elected official who represents all [ ] County residents, I feel it necessary to add that this is not about granting priority to any group over another, nor should this be misconstrued as anti-Black or any other race."

I daresay such a politician would be run out of town on a rail, and rightly so.

Except in this case he won't be, nor do we have to imagine a politician saying these things, but we just have to replace the word White in the proceeding statements with the word Black, and in the finishing paragraph shift from anti-Black to anti-White and you'll have the piece published by Wayne County [the county that contains Detroit] Executive Warren Evans.

The Detroit Free Press: Evans: Black voters must learn from 13th District Congressional race | Opinion

Friday, August 26, 2022

Barcelona Part II - You Never Know What Is In Some People’s Basements

As we walked through he streets of Barcelona we came to an apartment building.

Kinda nice building, not much to talk about really. 

But when they were doing renovations a long time ago,  they dug in and around the basement and foundations and you head down:


They found a Roman Temple dedicated to the Emperor Augustus.

To say it's an impressive sight is an understatement. Just a Roman Temple found in the heart of the core of the medieval city of now modern Barcelona.

There's also a large stone block with an inscription honoring a prominent Romaan Aedile and Priest who lived in the Roman Colony of Barcino which in time became Barcelona.  

The block had originally been at this temple,  but over time had been removed and part of of the foundations of a church moved to a church and was discovered there and then moved back to be placed on display.

Lots of history underfoot and all around you in Barcelona.

Barcelona - Part I

We left Gibraltar and had another relaxing day at sea before the ship pulled into port in Barcelona.

We had signed up for a shore excursion for this one so we all loaded up into a bus with about 40 other cruisers and headed off into Barcelona for the tour.

Once we reached the old city, we got out of the bus and began the tour proper.

The old city is very historic, with narrow streets and dates back to Roman times.  It is remarkably clean with nary a piece of litter to be found.

On the upside, the guide, who had a great sense of humor and excellent story-telling style had provided everyone with a radio audio set to be able to hear him.

On the downside the system seemed to have a very short range, and with 40+ people we would get pretty spread out walking through the narrow streets.


Of course we had some being very slow walkers between us and the guide leading us to be even more spread out, and the system lost reception due to the distance from him, so we didn't always hear what he was saying.

Our guide was very engaging and rather humorous, and made the tour nice and lively.

The guide narrated a history of Catalonia and how it got the flag it did. 

 There were also quite a few Catalonia is with Ukraine banners hanging from government buildings.

The story as to the origin of the Catalonian flag (Yellow background with four red stripes), as told by the guide is this:

The ruler of Catalonia was dying after a battle and his less than manly son apparently cried and asked him what banner they should use now.  The dying man with four bloody fingers dragged his hand along a yellow flag forming four stripes in blood and stated that was the flag of Catalonia now. Interesting story anyways.

Interestingly there were many Cuban-looking flags hanging from apartments.

The guide explained that Catalonians don't really consider themselves Spaniards. 

He stated that Cuba, being both a last possession of Spain and now communist, holds a special place in many Catalans hearts (He did not mention if Catalonian Commies are saying that Cuba isn't real Communism, but I;m sure they beleive they'll get it right if they're in charge....).

Apparently, Catalonians who favor independence from Spain fly a Cuban-style flag with Catalonian colors:

But, if they're flat-out Catalonian Communists, they just fly the Cuban flag.

So we saw lots of architecture walking around the old city and many fancy old buildings.


We then came to a building, currently the Museum Frederic Mares, built from part of the Royal Palace of the Counts of Barcelona that looked rather old, if pretty standard for the city.

On looking at the bricks a little closer, one could tell the Palace had been built using non-typical materials:

Yep, the palace was built using Jewish gravestones taken from the nearby Jewish cemetery, around the time the Jews had been expelled from Spain in 1492 and expelled from Catalonia as well - causing an economic crisis.   

The guide in a rather deadpan manner noted that Jews on tours tended to be a little unhappy on seeing this, and it was not very nice that it had been done.  

European rulers taking stuff from Jews tended to be a repeated theme throughout European history.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Perhaps Ingrates Are Not The Best Choices To Show Who Benefits From This Profligate Loan Payoff Giveaway

So as an election year gambit, President Biden has announced he's going to spend between $300-600 billion to forgive $10-$20 thousand of many students current federal student loans. 

This of course rewards his progressive university educated base who lack financial literacy and likely never took a personal finance class with a cool extra ten (to possibly twenty) thousand dollars in their pockets, paid for by everyone else.

Apparently, it's unfortunate that I worked and paid off my loans timely.  Had I waited, I could have gotten $10,000 forgiven - now I and all other taxpayers get to pay for those who chose or otherwise did not do so.

Of course, this is naught but an election year trick and does not fix the problem of the cost of higher education. 

It does nothing to reduce the actual cost of college, which will likely go up by around ten thousand dollars given this incentive.  Nor does it ensure future students student loans are reduced, and it may encourage people to take out even more loans hoping for further political forgiveness stunts.

But even spending $300-$600 billion is not enough for some.

The Detroit News: Who gets student loan forgiveness? Relief prompts joy, angst

Lots of stories of those both happy to get the 10k, but many ingrates claiming its not enough to pay off their debts, debts they freely entered into in return for an education that no one forced them to undertake.

Amazingly, in one case we have a lawyer -- who clearly looks like she never missed a meal in her life -- claiming the $10,000 forgiveness is not enough for people of color like her:

Dallas attorney Adwoa Asante borrowed $147,000 in federal loans to attend Emory University School of Law. She graduated in 2015 and has since paid back about $15,000. With interest, she still owes $162,000 — a debt that she says has limited her career options.

That means she's only paid around $2,200 per year -- less than $200 a month toward her debt.  Of course the debt is not going to go down much when you only pay off 10% of it in seven years.

Did anyone force Ms. Asante to go to law school?  

Anyone force her to take out student loans to go there?   

I highly doubt it.  Ms. Asante you're a lawyer, presumably you understand how a contract works.  You entered into one to borrow money, which you promised to repay, in return for an education.  You got the education so why should someone else pay for it on your behalf?

And, to top Ms. Asante, we have an illegal immigrant featured in the story,  complaining the forgiveness program won't work for her because she's an illegal and lacks a social security number - otherwise if she had a social security number she'd get the 10-20k forgiven at American taxpayer expense.

Giglio, 20, is in the country without legal permission and doesn’t qualify for federal loans because she doesn’t have a Social Security number. She won’t receive any benefit from Biden’s debt cancellation plan.

Giglio, who expects to borrow a total of $150,000 in private loans by the end of her four years studying graphic design at Suffolk University, is already paying nearly $400 a month to pay off the 12% interest on the money she borrowed to finance her first two years of school.

“It’s frustrating. It’s 10 times harder for me to go to school, to earn money," she said. "There’s no help for us.”

She's paying an estimate $150,000 to get a degree in graphic design? Who the heck thinks that's a good deal? And she can't even legally work here?  What exactly was she thinking doing that? Who the heck even gave an illegal a loan to go to university?

You know she had one heckuva an option to save money beyond choosing a cheaper school here - she could go to any other country in the world and get a cheaper education. She darn well could have gone back to Chile or Italy to do so. But for some reason she did not.  

Yep my sympathy for the ingrates complimenting in the article is someone between zero and SFA.

So a quick couple questions:

 1. If you didn't go to college, possibly because you couldn't afford it, or wanted to do something else, or didn't want to take on debt, are you happy that you'll be paying a lawyer's (and the other people in the article's)  student loans for a political stunt?

2. If you paid off your loans for your education and spent years saving and faithfully paying them off, not using the money for more fun things, making do with less and delaying gratification, how do you feel about others getting 10,000 to 20,000 in forgiveness (or about $2,000+ of the taxes you're personally going to pay this year) to try to buy votes for the midterms?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Gibraltar Part III

Quick quiz:  What side of the road do they drive on in Gibraltar?

Answer, surprisingly, is the right side.  The reason is that as they share a close border with Spain, they decided the traffic direction should be the same to prevent daily accidents.

We drove to some more scenic locations including an overlook of Gibraltar's airport, at first glance looks like every other airport around.

It looks like every other airport around.  except that...

Gibraltar's main road runs through the runway!

Lights and barriers come down to stop traffic when planes come in to land or takeoff.

There was also a nice cannon at the overlook with the cruise ship in the background:

We drove by the Moorish castle.

We then went for a walk over the cliff.

Literally on the Skywalk over the cliff that overlooks Catalan Bay, onto a thick glass platform.

Above the glass walls, there's quite a wind, but a great view:

Near the Skywalk there's a plaque where an attack by 500 Spanish soldiers was defeated.

After the Skywalk, we headed back into town and looked back up at the top of the Rock:

The radar station there is used these days to attempt to intercept drug smugglers from Africa, which is apparently an ongoing problem.

We then browsed around the shops a bit more and then headed back to the ship. Even though Gibraltar is a small island, there's still far too much to see in just one day.


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Gibraltar Part II - The Heights Of The Rock And Monkey Business

We headed up some rather steep and narrow roads to the Pillars of Hercules monument.

Looking out we could see Africa in the distance.

Quite a scenic outlook.

Then we headed into the Nature Preserve and visited St. Michael's Cave.

The cave is indeed a natural wonder, and to say it is huge is an understatement.

It descends hundreds of feet into the earth and the ancients thought it was an endless portal into the netherworld.

One story has it that two British Army explorers entered the cave and never returned.  Extensive exploration of the cave system since has found no sign of them.

During WWII it was further expanded with a room carved out to make an underground hospital.  Today the room  is used for concerts. 

The cave complex was nice and cool, if a bit damp  if not wet in spots.

After the cave we headed out and met some of Gibraltar's most famous inhabitants - the Barbary Apes.

The Barbary Apes are native to Gibraltar, with some imported during World War 2, and are the only wild monkey population on the European continent.


There were  more apes imported during World War 2 as the legend has it that the Rock will remain British sol long as thew Barbary Apes live there, so Churchill smartly imported some additional packs of them to make sure the population was maintained.

The babies and younger apes are rather cute.

We had been warned to leave bags in the van, as the Apes tend to swipe them thinking there's food in them.  T

hey will grab it, take off into the bush, and you'll never see your stuff again.  They are wild animals, will bite if threatened,  and they may approach youto play or climb on you but they are renowned for swiping food or objects right out of people's hands. or bags off your person.

Such as this fellow who swiped some watermelon from a fruit vendor and then proudly sat down on a rock to eat it:

 They can also be rather insistent:

Hello Human, I see you like food. I, too, like food. Do you have some food for me?  I suggest you do.  Just sayin'.

He did get a reward for his efforts, but after not getting more food, he then stuck out his tongue and jumped up and hitched a ride on the roof for a bit before jumping off.

We then drove on to see more of the island.