Thursday, 12 March 2020

Coronavirus disease, COVID-19 on March 12, 2020, and more on March 20

Human civilization has evolved one tragedy after another throughout its history. It has found our current status following wars, xenophobia, crime, corruption and disease inflicted in large part upon itself. But still it survives these vicissitudes. Today, and after several weeks the world claims to be united in the cause to contain and eradicate COVID-19. But is it really?
We have a communication ability with our telephones, our computers, our instant written messages using the Internet, our ability to share collective information and knowledge, both pictorially, written and transmitted instantly with systems using the Internet and Google. But do we?
Some spokespersons speak without basic underlying knowledge to an equally ignorant populace who must follow these dictates, while the experts remain silent. That doesn't make sense to this writer. COVID-19 is a world wide Pandemic, whose validity was proclaimed March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Only a few weeks ago the medical condition was first  diagnosed and treated in Wuhan, China. But the problem grew in places like Italy and then to other countries in the west including Europe, Canada and the USA. One spokesperson speaking with confidence made false claims that a cure and a vaccine would be ready in a month. That spokesperson was none other than the President of the United States; 'there's the rub.' (That's where the problem/obstacle is.) Fortunately, a medical expert from the CDC was close at hand to deliver the truth that a vaccine could be as much as 18 months away. There was no retraction by the POTUS.
That the POTUS continues to deliver monotone edicts that shall be followed no matter how seriously flawed they may be must cause serious concern for all of us. Today he cancelled all flights from Europe to the USA carrying Europeans on board. He made this proclamation to protect the safety of the American citizens. My issue is not that this edict is right or wrong, it is that he didn't discuss, or give his European counterparts a heads-up before he spoke? What we do know is the Markets for all kinds of related Industries nose-dived immediately creating economic problems on top of the medical issues facing us now. Did he listen to any advisors before he made the call?
I started this blog suggesting that civilization survives all kinds of man-made folly and otherwise. Am I confident that we'll turn this corner as well? When will we learn to listen to the experts and carefully consider that wisdom before a spokesperson acts? Without this principle firmly in place we'll repeat the same kinds of mistakes for as long as we last.

This should have been a Bat, not a Rhino
It's March 20, 2020 and the entire world is talking about Coronavirus COVID-19, the disease and its affects worldwide. Millions of us are self-isolated trying to avoid the spreading sickness. You can learn what you need to know by clicking This Link. 
In Port Credit, like all other places, we are seeing this insidious self-isolation and social-distancing everywhere. The stores have little on their shelves due to hoarding brought on by a frightened populace, and of course, the absence of goods on the shelves. Here are the main points as of March 19, 2020 from the World Health Organization

[[• Seven new countries/territories/areas (African Region [3], Eastern Mediterranean Region [1], European Region [1], and Region of the Americas [2]) have reported cases of COVID-19.
• The number of confirmed cases worldwide has exceeded 200,000. It took over three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases, and only 12 days to reach the next 100,000.
• A new protocol to investigate the extent of COVID-19 infection in the population, as determined by positive antibody tests in the general population has been developed. The protocol is titled the Population-based age-stratified seroepidemiological investigation protocol for COVID-19 virus infection.]]

These are numbers that scare the pants off people who are in the know. Perhaps the truth can be spoon-fed to us, but it must be the truth.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

"You Can Vote But You Can't Choose What Is True" written by Yuval Noah Harari, February 3, 2020


On occasion I quote from others and include them here in my work. Y.N. Harari is a thrice published author of significant repute in 27 languages. He is also a lecturing Professor at an Israeli University, one who meditates for two consecutive months each year, and speaks around the world distilling his thoughts and ideas on a world eager for his insightful thorough examination.
The balance of this post will brew, boil and deliver his points on 'what democratic elections actually are.' This piece appeared in the New York Times, and I quote directly:

""The 2020 election season in the United States, which enters a new phase Monday, with the Iowa Democratic caucuses, will probably be among the most divisive and contentious in American history. The results will reverberate around the world, and will most likely shape the global order for years to come. As the political temperature rises to the boiling point, people on all sides should reflect on what democratic elections actually are.
Elections are not a method for finding the truth. They are a method for reaching peaceful compromise between the conflicting desires of different people. You might find yourself sharing a country with people who you consider ignorant, stupid and even malicious — and they might think exactly the same of you. Still, do you want to reach a peaceful compromise with these people, or would you rather settle your disagreements with guns and bombs?
Since elections are a method for reaching a compromise about our desires, in the polling stations people aren’t asked “What is the truth?” They are asked “What do you want?” That’s why all citizens have equal voting rights. When searching for the truth, the opinions of different people carry different weights. But when it comes to desire, everybody should be treated the same.
In the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins protested that the vast majority of the British public should never have been asked to vote in the referendum, because they lacked the necessary background in economics and political science. “You might as well call a nationwide plebiscite to decide whether Einstein got his algebra right,” Mr. Dawkins wrote.
Yet his analogy is flawed. Holding a plebiscite on whether to accept Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is a ridiculous idea, because that is a question of truth that should be left to experts. When discussing relativity, the opinion of one physics professor counts for far more than the opinion of a thousand history professors or a thousand lawyers.
But the question that appeared on the ballot in the 2016 referendum was not about truth. It was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” That’s a question about desire, and there is no reason to privilege the desires of experts over those of everyone else.
You could argue that desires are nevertheless formulated on the basis of facts, and that the Brexit debate hinged on proving or refuting certain economic theories. For example, would leaving the European Union result in an increase or a decrease in Britain’s gross domestic product? Most people are not equipped to answer such a complicated economic question. Therefore, you might conclude, Brexit really should have been left to the experts.
If G.D.P. was the only relevant consideration, then Brexit should indeed have been decided by a small group of experts. However, people may well have wished to leave the union for other reasons, even if such a step leads to economic disaster. In a democracy voters are perfectly entitled to prefer nationalist sentiments and religious ideals over economic interests.
Experts might decry such preferences as “irrational,” but allowing experts to dictate what people should want is the high road to totalitarianism. There’s a joke that a Communist activist once addressed a group of workers and promised them, “When the revolution comes, you will all eat strawberries and cream!” A worker raised his hand and said, “But I don’t like strawberries and cream.” The Communist immediately replied, in a slightly menacing tone: “When the revolution comes, you will like strawberries and cream.”

Outlawing the Truth
Since elections are about desire rather than truth, experts should not be given special voting rights. But for precisely the same reason, elected governments should respect the independence of science, the courts and the media. Government represents the will of the majority of the people, but the truth should not be subordinated to the will of the people, because people very often will the truth to be something other than it is.
For example, Christian fundamentalists very much desire the Scriptures to be true and the theory of evolution to be false. However, even if 90 percent of voters are Christian fundamentalists, they should not have the power to dictate scientific truth or to prevent scientists from exploring and publishing inconvenient truths. Unlike Congress, the department of biology should not reflect the will of the people. Congress can certainly pass a law declaring that the theory of evolution is wrong, but such a law does not change reality.
Similarly, when a charismatic leader is accused of corruption, his loyal supporters usually wish these accusations to be false. But even if most voters support the leader, their desires should not prevent journalists and judges from investigating the accusations and getting to the truth. Even if a parliament passes a law declaring that all accusations against the leader are false, such a law does not change the facts.
Of course, scientists, journalists and judges have their own problems, and cannot always be trusted to discover and tell the truth. Academic institutions, the media and the courts may be compromised by corruption, bias or error. But subordinating them to a governmental Ministry of Truth is likely to make things worse. The government is already the most powerful institution in society, and it often has the greatest interest in distorting or hiding inconvenient truths. Allowing the government to supervise the search for truth is like appointing the fox to guard the chicken coop.
To protect the truth, it is better to rely on two other methods.
First, academic institutions, the media and the judicial system have their own internal mechanisms for fighting corruption, correcting bias and exposing error. In academia, peer-review publication is a far better check on error than supervision by government officials, and academic promotion often depends on successfully uncovering past mistakes and discovering unknown facts. In the media, free competition means that if one newspaper avoids publishing a scandal, its competitor is likely to jump at the scoop. In the judicial system, a judge that takes bribes may be tried and punished just like any other citizen.
Second, the existence of several independent institutions that seek the truth in different ways allows these institutions to check and correct one another.
For example, if powerful corporations manage to break down the peer-review mechanism by bribing a large enough number of scientists, investigative journalists and courts can expose and punish the perpetrators. If the media or the courts are afflicted by systematic racist biases, it is often the job of sociologists, historians and philosophers to expose these biases. None of these safety mechanisms are completely fail-proof, but no human institution is. Government certainly isn’t.
There are of course other crucial reasons to protect the independence of academic institutions, the media and in particular the courts. Democratic elections are about human desire, and the one desire everyone shares is the desire to win. How then can we make sure that powerful political parties don’t rig the game in their favor?
In a football game, it is obvious that the referee cannot belong to one of the competing teams. When players argue whether there was foul play or not, they need an independent arbitrator to settle the matter. The same is true in a democracy. It too is a game with rules, and even a majority of voters should not be allowed to break these rules. For example, if 51 percent of voters pass a law barring the other 49 percent from participating in future elections, some independent referee should call “foul!” and strike down that law — even though the majority of voters support it. In most democracies, that independent referee is a supreme court, and if the supreme court’s independence is compromised, the democratic game turns into a majority dictatorship.

Damn the Bears
As an example, let’s consider the crucial case of climate change. The question “Do human actions cause the earth’s climate to warm?” is a question of truth. Lots of people wish the answer to this question to be “no,” but their desires don’t change reality. So it would be ridiculous to put this question to a plebiscite in which all people enjoy equal voting rights.
Instead, this question should be answered by the relevant experts. If most climate experts answer “yes,” while most voters say “no,” we should believe the experts. The majority of voters should not have the power to stop academic departments and media outlets from studying and publishing undesirable truths.
Of course, when it comes to making policy decisions about the climate crisis, in a democracy the will of the voters still reigns supreme. Acknowledging the truth of climate change does not tell us what to do about it. We always have options, and choosing between them is a question of desire.
One option might be to immediately cut down greenhouse gas emissions, even at the cost of slowing down economic growth. This means incurring some difficulties today but saving people in 2050 from more severe hardship, saving Bangladesh from drowning, and saving the polar bears from extinction. A second option might be to continue with business as usual. This means having an easier life today, but making life harder for the next generation, flooding much of Bangladesh, and driving the polar bears — as well as numerous other species — to extinction. In choosing between these two options, the desires of experts should not override the desires of other people.
The one option that should not be on offer is hiding or distorting the truth. If we prefer to take it easier today, and damn the Bangladeshis and the polar bears, we are entitled to vote for that in a democracy. But we are not entitled to pass a law stating that climate change is a hoax. We can choose what we want, but we shouldn’t deny the true meaning of our choice.

Strawberries Rule
Separating desire from truth is hardly a new idea. It has always been crucial for well-functioning democracies. But in the 21st century it is becoming more important than ever, because new technologies are making it easier to manipulate human desire.
The combination of biotechnology with information technology gives governments and corporations the ability to systemically hack millions of people. We are very close to the point when some governments and corporations will know enough biology, gather enough data and command enough computing power to know us better than we know ourselves. With the help of powerful new algorithms, governments and corporations will then be able not only to predict our choices, but to manipulate our desires and sell us anything they want — be it a product or a politician. When this revolution is complete, the algorithms could make sure not only that you will like strawberries and cream, but that you also will like the ruling party.
In a democracy, the government represents the will of the people. But what happens when the government has the power to systematically manipulate the will of the people? Who then represents who?
To make matters even worse, we are now seeing the rise of populist regimes that first gain power by inciting hatred against foreigners and minorities, and then systematically attack any institution that might limit their power. Their primary targets are exactly those institutions that protect the truth: the media, the courts and the academy. Populist regimes fear the truth because it doesn’t obey them, so they claim it doesn’t exist. The typical populist leader flatters people by telling them that the only thing that matters is their desires. Experts who point out inconvenient truths are rebranded as traitors who oppose the will of the people.
To safeguard the future of democracy, we must keep truth independent of desire. It is not enough to declare loyalty to the abstract ideal of truth. The key is institutions. However imperfect, only institutions can turn ideals into social practices.
Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari's previously mentioned books are readily available by engaging these links: 



Saturday, 1 February 2020

The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley February 1, 2020


The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley a book on evolving world prosperity

I completed this book January 29, 2020 and found TRO tedious at first. His opinions, I supposed, needed to review early examples of doing business, and he did that by looking at man’s pre-historic life without transactions with other men. Like animals, men ate what they killed, they wore the skins and built shelters; they did it all and relied on no one.
When man realized that he did certain things well, and other men did certain other things well, they could then trade their skill sets or their products for the other man’s skills or products. Let’s say one was a good fisherman and the other was a good tool maker. They worked this by bartering fish for tools and both benefitted from the others work. When one multiplies these actions many times over, with many different skills, one’s prosperity can be greater than when one does it alone. And instead of simple bartering, money was created to buy other men’s skills or products. And International Trade became the watchword where worldwide transactions using money increased the number of transactions possible. More transactions created more money in the hands of those who controlled these affairs; and they became rich and prospered beyond previous procedures could ever have produced. And the workers also prospered as a direct result, and they bought and sold amongst their neighbours. And then specialization was born where some countries and peoples were better than others with certain tasks and with their natural products like Minerals, because they had more of the raw materials and/or manufactured products like Spices, they could sell them abroad at less money than other countries and make a tidy profit. That made them unique while other countries were specialized in other ways. This led to increasing prosperity and so on into our times where profit, prosperity and confidence born from prescient characteristics recognizing issues and procedures that continually change the lives of all of the Earth’s people. 
The fine points of all of this are many and opined in this book with skill and ease, and that this skill makes this a great read right down to its last page.

Here's a good example: South Africa's Wine Industry, started by Groot Constantia Winery and created in the seventeenth Century, currently makes great wine and sells it worldwide. Constantia relies on French Oak Trees and French Craftsmen to make and supply their oak barrels, and they also rely on Portuguese Cork to supply the corks to seal the bottles. (Nothing else will satisfy their process.) One barrel will produce five barrels of wine over five years and that barrel is then replaced with a new one from France. The barrel is filled to the brim with wine and stored until perfect, bottled, corked and shipped around the world. What could be better? Full Stop.

Jacques loves his work at Constantia

Constantia Wine fermenting in French Oak Barrels 



Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Cape Town, South Africa January 21 - 27, 2020

The morning opened to a blazing sun overtaking our room looking at Cape Town with its Table Mountain and three others reaching into the sky. One can only imagine what early Explorers thought when they discovered this jewel rounding the southern tip of this massive Continent. Today, the city is wrapped in the comfort and glory of its Bays and Mountains all provided by those incredible Tectonic Plates shifting and driving upward millions of years ago.
During and after breakfast we said our farewells to other guests and staff we had come to appreciate and headed for the Gangway. Not expected, but also not surprisingly, Captain Filip and Entertainment Director Earnest where at the bottom of the plank with stretched out arms for Terryl and the Azamara hand shake for me. Captain Filip and his wife Nickoleta had given Terryl their personal email address; they have also invited us to stay with them in their home in Greece. 

But first I'll need to call them
We checked into Mount Sierra apartments three hours ahead of time and Chantal (the front desk lady who is a gem) suggested a few sights we could see and off we went to Table Mountain, a magnificent sight outside our front window. This mountain and its Cable Car are a main attraction on this day; a very long line of ticket holders were patiently waiting to board, and, the line wasn't moving at all that we could see. Our position on the mountain was approximately 70% of its total height at the point where the lineup, that still wasn't moving, forced our decision to abort the ride to the top.
We came down and checked into our very comfortable one bedroom apartment that was fully furnished, fully equipped and met our needs perfectly.


January 22,  23, 2020

We are off on The Hop On Hop Off bus (this is routine for us in any new city) and from the city centre on the Blue Line head southeasterly on Rhodes Drive (could this be Cecil Rhodes the dude who started De Beers and his world famous uncut diamonds from South Africa in 1844?) and around Devil's Peak past Kirstenbosch and their National Botanical Gardens to our first stop. Hop on the Purple Line to Groot Constantia Wine Estate established in 1685. 763 Hectares of land were granted Simon van der Stel, and with slave labour he established this place which today is the quintessential South African Winery making 25% whites and 75% reds all in French made Oak Casks with Portuguese Corks - no screw caps or boxes sold here. Terryl and I enjoyed a tour of the estate and of course,  a wine tasting that excited our palates and our knowledge all supplied by Jacques, who really knew his stuff. The tour of the wine making and storage was given by Victor who was attentive, a little funny and a wealth of information. I asked about one of Terryl's favourites: an unoaked Chardonnay? And he replied oh yes, but we never make it at Constantia. Our casks are all French Oak. Here's a link if you wish on South African Chardonaay
We continued on along the southern coast past Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay, Sea Point, Three Anchor Bay, Mouille Point and off at Victoria and Alfred for some food and walk-about (shopping). We are going back to Camps Bay tomorrow.
And so we did get off at Camps Bay and did a little walk-about and then sat down for a cool one. We are across the street from a magnificent sandy beach reaching 100 yards into emerald green water. On our side of the street there is one café after another and all of them appeared to be prospering on a sun-drenched gorgeous day. However, we had plans in Victoria & Alfred waterfront and off we went to buy some tickets to the Nelson Mandela Museum (and his prison for years) for January 25, 2020. The museum wanted to see our Passports and said in no uncertain words, bring them with you on the 25th or you'll be denied boarding for the sail over to Robben Island. We had a full day and this cough that came out of nowhere, except that Terryl had it for a week, is wearing me out; we hopped into an air condition newish taxi and told him that Chantal (of Mount Sierra apartments) wanted him to treat us very well. We were in his cab for twenty-five minutes, Donat from French Guiana is his name, and the cab fare was 850 Rand ($8.50 Canadian).

Table Mountain with the cloud sliding down like icing on a cake

January 24, 2020

Up bright and early with some OJ, coffee and fruit for breakfast, and down to the lobby where Chantal asked what’s up today. She called Donat for us and the three of us went to A Gem Store operation, secretly displayed in their driveway, and let them know we were here. The buzzers went off and in we go with Donat waiting for us while we looked at R250,000 (that’s $25,000 Canadian) diamond rings and necklaces for twenty minutes. Terryl simply stated that she wanted to think about it for a day or two. Of course I said okay and we politely excused ourselves and proceeded to the front door and out to greet Donat. Because of my nagging little cough I thought better of playing 18, or even 9 holes on Rondabosch golf course but that didn’t stop me from going there, entering the pro shop, buying the Tee Shirt, asking for a right handed 7 iron, going to the driving range, hitting 5 balls with my new Adam Bazalgette grip and swing, and in 25 minutes we went to the parking lot and hopped into Donat’s car and left to go to the magnificent Mount Nelson Hotel, only two blocks from ours.  
This place is steeped in tradition and old world style, comfort and tried and true service. We casually walked in and with Terryl at the helm they were all over us with an escort showing us around inside and out. I finally sat down in a nicely shaded easy chair while Terryl cruised with a camera in hand. When she returned we ordered a glass of local Chardonnay and beer: both were fabulous with some nuts, olives and chips served complimentary.
Our next stop was Tom’s Mozambique and Portuguese Restaurant just up the street from Mount Sierra apartments. This was lunch consisting of 3 glasses of South African white and a shared plate of Seafood & Spaghetti. We loved it, and all for the cost of R250 or $25.00 Canadian. Life is good down here. I hope you have felt that as you read. 

Just us and another Martini
This evening we ate at Café Paradiso only 50 yards north of our luncheon. We were served by a lovely young lady named Memory. We hit it off instantly when I said I love your earrings. In a flash Terryl starting talking about earrings to match her necklace purchased in Durban that she just hasn’t been able to find. Memory said that she was going to a shopping area that has just what she’s been looking for. Here’s the deal: she is working Sunday between 09:00 to 16:00 and Terryl will see her and buy those earrings from her no matter what. Pretty nice I thought.

The seaside road cuts through miles of rock

January 25, 2020

We have an early morning rendezvous with The Nelson Mandela Museum which will include a water ride to Robben Island where he was imprisoned for a long time. We can’t wait to see this valuable piece of South African history.
Donat picked us up and delivered us on time to see a brief moving picture of several of the former inmates including Nelson Mandela. The Tour at 11:00 was a sell out. While we were in line an attendant came to me an invited me to jump the line and take a seat; at first I said no thank you, but two minutes later I was in his offered chair. We boarded a rather large Catamaran and ploughed through calm water for thirty minutes, disembarked, and loaded into one of several buses to start the tour. As we drove a fine young man spoke and referred to us as my Good People over and over again. This place, Robben Island was discovered in 1488 and has had many uses; the most important was to lock away undesirables such as Lepers and Criminals. We passed by the Leper Graveyard with numerous comments from our guide and continued right around the island pointing out building after building and their place in the order of things over all of its history. All of this was labeled Part 1 of the Museum Tour. Part 2 started when we left his bus and were introduced to a former prisoner who had spent 18 years on Robben Island. He stood before all 60 of us and told of the detail involved in sleeping, eating, labour in the Lime Quarry, toilets, punishment and silence; and silence was most important for Political Prisoners who were the last group of inhabitants. The Real Criminals had far better treatment than the Political Prisoners. Nelson Mandela served 18 years with much of it at hard labour in the Lime Quarry where his eyesight was significantly damaged. We saw the tiny cells with a 1/4 inch thick mattress to sleep on, the bucket in the corner, and nothing else in these cubicles. We entered an open sky surrounded by four concrete walls that prisoners and their visitors lined up to talk to each other for ten minutes. They were ten yards apart as well. Additionally our guide mentioned that much of ‘A long Walk to Freedom’ was written between these walls by the one man who is exalted, praised and above all, the man who gave South Africa back to its rightful owners. That man, Nelson Mandela, and the people he encouraged to follow him, had used peaceful means - despite the blows and mistreatment they endured for hundreds of years - to bring about the democracy and well being that we see today.



Africa is all sorts of people from far away and original coastal regions, and with the migration of Africans from the interior to feed the Slave Trade, the coast of this great continent is now heavily populated. The Continent of Africa lost 25,000,000 men, women and children caused by the Infamy of the Slave Trade. The people that we have met on our journey are kind, friendly, fun loving, and go over the top to please. I said that to two black men that we were talking with, and one of them said straight out, “It’s in our blood.”

January 26, 2020

Today is the penultimate day in Cape Town and we wanted to do something relaxing and enjoy some fine wine and food. We were in Donat's cab heading to Cape Grace Hotel for a little look around during the noon hour. It is spectacular, with its Dutch roots and architecture in full display: attendants holding the doors open with a big hearty welcome, and two receptionist in place to answer any questions one may have. Terryl asked for a little tour before asking for the nightly rate. The receptionist happily took us around and when we returned to her desk, she hesitatingly discussed the rate with questions like the type of room required and when that would be because the rate depends on seasonal requirements. Basically it was from 9,000 to 15,000 Rand per night. Divide those numbers by 10 to have the equivalent in Canadian Dollars. We thanked her for her help and information and quietly left this beautiful place right on the Waterfront.
Only 100 yards away is a Food Experience place that looked enticing. All sorts of different foods by different vendors in a pleasant lively atmosphere was a good start when we dropped into a Sushi Place with the various coloured bowls circulating on a moving platform. We ate two dishes costed at $10 Canadian, enjoyed it and continued to explore. We stopped for a drink at Gingha restaurant and bar with outdoor seating and umbrellas. We spent three hours having cold ones and a little food; it was perfect and Terryl excused herself for 30 minutes to buy those exclusive earrings that will be perfect with her African styled hanging necklace. (Memory couldn't find just the right pair no matter how much she tried.) All is good and we left for Lord Nelson's Hotel and a final look at their beautiful huge Nassau Pink Verandah leading to a lovely garden and more sitting areas for their guests. It was the end of a perfect day.
Donat, the perfect example of, "It's in our Blood."


January 27, 2020

It's another weather perfect day in Cape Town with temperature around 22C, an approximate temperature for their winter time. We have been on this journey for 49 days and I'm a little tired;  we know that we have seen and learned about parts of the Globe that I had thought I would never see. Now if all goes as planned and prepared for we’ll be on an Emirates flight this evening at 18:25 and land in Dubai at 05:55 on January 28. We have a booking in the Dubai Airport's ‘sleep and fly’ for 7 hours only, and then find Terminal 1 for our Air Canada flight at 23:55 arriving in Toronto at 06:05 on January 29.

When I’m in my chair in Port Credit with my Cozy Desk and a hot toddy and biscuit in hand I’ll start to think about our trip and attempt a summary of sorts. But then, is a summary necessary?
Perhaps we’ll be on another adventure while the snow flies in PC.
Thank you for your interest; you've made my day.
Sincerely, Alexander McPope





Thursday, 16 January 2020

January 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 2020 Richards Bay to Cape Town

 January 16, 2020

With a wake up call at 06:00, room service breakfast at 06:30, and my walk to the Cabaret to see South African Immigration officers at 07:30 and be ready to board my bus to the Game Reserve, everything stopped cold.
Captain Filip is on the horn apologizing for the Pilot’s helicopter being a little late, additionally, that the Immigration Officers were a going to be little late, and he also stated that, ‘what can you do, this is South Africa?’ My read on all of this not a fault of Azamara's…so be calm, get in the line and relax. Many of my fellow passengers followed a different thought, and after a few abrupt words to line jumpers here and there we all left 1.5 hours later than expected.
My tour consisted of a two-hour air-conditioned bus ride to the Game Reserve, a two hour 4X4 (ten-seater) ride through 230,000 acres of mountainous waist-high grassy land with indigenous trees and plants to munch on - for the animals of course, and a two hour ride back. We saw White and Black Rhinos (they are the same greyish colour depending on the soil and water in their habitat), gigantic Cape Buffalo about the same colour as the Rhinos, Wharthogs slopping in a water hole’s mud and, two different breeds of Antelope and lots of birds, some of which eat the parasites right off the Rhinos’s backs. Others saw Zebra, but no one mentioned Giraffe, Lion or Elephant to make up the Big Five. 
Terryl did not wish to do this tour because she’s done it before on real Safaris that went on for weeks. 
My guide was a rather muscled young woman with eyes like a Hawk after having done this work for 17 years. She’d quietly yell out ‘Wharthogs at ten o’clock.’ Quietly because she didn’t want to spook the animals or us in the back seats. This reserve is not a zoo; everything is all about nature, predators and prey, water and food and seasonal mating. I have photographs shot over and around the shoulders of fellow passengers, but with the right cropping I may have some good stuff to show you.
We arrived back on the ship at 15:30 (1.5 hours later than planned), and for any who were hungry the main Dining Room had remained open.
 My mud-covered Wharthog buddy



January 17, 2020

Last night after an evening meal Terryl and I found a front row seat in the Cabaret to hear an Aussie play a Guitar and a Didgeridoo, both instruments backed up by Igor’s five-piece orchestra. Bruce Mathiske’s music was marvellous, however I was pooped from those six hours doing the Game Reserve and couldn’t wait to get back to our room and hit the sack.
Today we have docked in Durban, one of South Africa’s largest cities. We hopped on the Shuttle Bus to a centre complete with the usual shopping, and things like sea world and other family amusements all reasonably close to one of their dozen coastal beaches. Our idea was to use a local bus for a three hour tour of the city, but after a half hour taxi ride getting to the bus we decided to nix it and return to the ship. Around 15:00 three monkeys climbed the ropes and boarded the Azamara Quest and went straight for the Navigational Deck and take control, to no avail. These little guys are a common sight in and around Durban.
At 19:00 tonight we will be on an Azamara sponsored complimentary tour to Durban’s Cultural Centre for cocktails, a Zulu original dance exhibition, a few nice words by Captain Filip and Cruise Entertainment Director Ernest, and then the half hour ride back to the ship. At 22:00 The Quest leaves for Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
For several reasons upon visiting the venue for the Zulu presentation the decision was made to host the event on board. It was a smash hit. The dancers and music makers were incredible as they moved about and thumped hell out of a dozen drums. Along the way, delightful young girls painted warrior-like images on faces of willing passengers: me included. I have a close-up of my mug which just might be my top personal photo for 2020. And then I thought you would prefer to see Alina.
Alina a wonderful bartender from Odessa
Big Red from Chicago was fun too


January 18, 2020

Today is a sea day where there will be a lecture ‘Rounding The Cape’ at 14:00 and another appearance by Bruce Mathiske who we hope will be playing his own guitar and didgeridoo at his 20:15 performance. On my last post I failed to mention that his instruments did not catch up to his flight, and that he borrowed a guitar from Igor’s trumpet player, and, found a Didgeridoo in Azamara’s music vault. Of all the good luck, his instruments have been found and are being shipped to Cape Town just like the rest of us.
This afternoon at 14:00 we’ll have a lecture on Port Elizabeth and Cape Town provided by Chuck Richardson who, in forty-five minutes gives only the broadest strokes of their history with some present day evolvement as two of South Africa’s major cities.
“In 1814 the British take over peacefully, and the Dutch were rounded up and sent out of Cape Town to go east in Africa where the Xhosa, principally Indigenous lived. The British demand that Dutch is not to be spoken. Gold and Diamonds were the drawing card to South Africa. Cecil Rhodes organized De Beers in 1830 and pulled three tons of Diamonds (equal to 14.5 million carats) out of one mine in 1873.
The most famous present day African is Nelson Mandela who had been a terrorist, was jailed and finally released February 3, 1990 to spearhead anti-apartheid protests and in two years apartheid was eliminated by the African National Congress (ANC) and took power. Life is so much better today where Port Elizabeth’s population is 1.3 million, with whites at 9% of the population. Still, half of the total population lives on $5 per day.
Cape Town’s folded mountains, Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Signal Hill, and Lions Head highlight its unique topography. During Britain’s hey day in Cape Town the Indigenous were allowed to own a total of 7% of the land. I’ll close with these comments: South African penguin are unlike Antarctica’s and are declining in numbers, Right Whale can be seen, Ostrich are common, Architecture is of course principally British and Dutch, Stellenbosch makes great wine and the waterfront is a safe place to be.
I’ll find out about one of my primaries when we get there: that’s golf of course.

January 19, 2020

Last night our friendly Aussie Bruce Mathiske played brilliantly, and during a pause in his music he alluded to several conversations he’d had around the ship. Wouldn’t you know he was asked why he only wore socks, without shoes, while he played. “It’s because I didn’t want my constant toe tapping to be heard by my listeners.” Makes sense to me.
Azamara displayed a chocolate fountain, a dragon sculpture in chocolate  with trays and trays of chocolate goodies for everyone as they left the Theatre.
Today we are in Port Elizabeth and docked. We decided to take the shuttle to its drop off point and see the sights. Frankly, it disappointed us: their were few people there and the crafts and art didn’t do it either. The WiFi was terrific and I cleaned up a lot of business on the computer, at which point we left and returned to the ship. Of all the warnings we have heard, there have been no incidences, until today. Two of our acquaintances, while walking down a street where met by a Security-dressed person who told them he had free tickets for them. He asked them to follow him, they did and when they arrived at an ATM two additional persons arrived on the scene and told them to insert their card and to do the obvious…both of these older people starting screaming and successfully ran away from these crooks. We’re told that Cape Town is much better than the other South African cities that we have visited. Let’s hope their recommendation holds water.
Tonight another party called ‘The White Night Party’ begins right after ‘The White Night Buffet’ at 20:00. Clearly, everyone is asked to come in White Clothing. I’ve got a long sleeve silky white tee shirt which will fit right in.


January 20, 2020

Last night the aforementioned White Night Party rocked. First, a fabulous meal, second, 12 locals dressed in Native Costumes sang and danced up a storm, and then the Entertainment Team took over with two hours of red hot music that were meant to dance too. They were terrific, the energy they have and with most of us dressed in something white amidst floating white balloons the night flew by as the seas bounced us around even more than the music.
This morning had to come, we are sailing around The Cape of Good Hope in choppy waters, all having been forecast with a recommendation to take the patch that helps with sea sickness. Terryl was talked into taking one - I didn’t think I would need it, and so far so good.
We’ll be packing up tonight, and when morning comes we’ll leave the ship and taxi to Mount Sierra Apartments in Cape Town. I hope we like it.


Saturday, 11 January 2020

January 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 220 Tanzania to Maputo

January 11, 2020

After last night’s Ribeye Steak grilled perfectly in the Patio dining area, two Vodkas with a splash of triple sec and lime juice in the Den we hit the sack. 
And this may hold some interest for you: I used the ship’s ATM yesterday to acquire USA Dollars for various reasons. The bills popped out as usual. Late last night I was informed that my USA Visa card had been shut down by RBC. Azamara asked if I would call the Bank in the morning and sort it out. A call to the number on the back of the card put me in conversation with a person in one minute, who, after a few introductory questions, determined that the ATM transaction in Zanzibar, Tanzania was suspect (perhaps by an automated process). Within a few minutes the card was reactivated. This is not meant to be an advertisement for RBC…only that I read it as a positive attribute for the protection of my credit when abroad. I also learned, coincidentally, while reading Matt Ridley’s book, The Rational Optimist is and I quote: ‘Whereas it takes a handful of steps to set up a business in America or Europe, that to do the same in Tanzania would take 379 days and cost $5,606. Worse, to have a normal business career in Tanzania for fifty years you would have to spend more than a thousand days in government offices petitioning for permits of one kind or another and spending $180,000 on them. Little wonder that a staggering 98% of Tanzanian businesses are extralegal.”
This morning we decided to relax on board, read more of Ridley, and enjoy a luncheon BBQ by the pool and make ready to sail toward Maputo, Mozambique at 17:00 with all systems go.

January 12, 2020

Another beautiful morning awaits us, then a surprise, Captain Filip announces ‘whales off the Port Side’ and passengers and crew head for the sighting. Terryl saw them but I didn’t.
Last night a very funny Comedian/Magician entertained a packed house while using several passengers’ necks to insert swords and other instruments to regale his audience. One of the necks belonged to an Aussie and the other to a Teacher who corrected his ‘Barbara and I’ to Barbara and me’ and got a great laugh for her work.
We are at sea all day and have selected a few items of interest to attend: a lecture on Maputo, Mozambique; a Jump, Jive and Swing brand new group of singers and dancers; a Wild Jewels enrichment seminar supporting foundation benefitting Kenya’s young people; and finally an Opening Night Party at 22:30, all of which will be time well spent.

January 13, 2020

We have some information and history of Maputo, Mozambique (the Capital of a Healing Nation) to share. We dock there on January 15, 2020. Let’s start with the population of 1.1 million with an area surrounding at 14 million. The current President is Filip Jacinto Nyusi elected in 2015, with their last President Samora Machel dieing in a plane crash in 1986 that appeared to be caused by opposing political views coming from South Africa.
In 1974 a military coup had overthrown the Portuguese dictatorship of Marcelo Caetano to achieve Independence - which they were not ready for - and in two years there was a civil war in which 1 million people died. Frelimo forces ran the show with the backing of the Soviet Union with a peace agreement during the fall of the Soviet Union. Today the country has evolved into a more Democratic-Socialist process of government.
Back in 1791 the Portuguese took control with a rather superior attitude over the Indigenous who were forced to live outside the city in a slum named Mafala. The governing Portuguese built a state-of-the-art Railroad system and Station (in Maputo) in 1916. [Take note that poorer countries lack quality, and have fewer Railroad Systems in the world according to 2020 statistics.]
Gustave Eiffel, designed and built all Tin and Steel houses here - can one only image how hot they would be under the sun’s heat.
Perhaps Jose Craverinha (1922 - 2003) is their hero who was a great athlete in his day, as well as the poet of Mozambique.
All land is the property of the state; one can own the building but not the land it sits on. And of course this hinders investment and promotes a lack of building maintenance with the state taking the building when the lease expires. All of this has made Mozambique into the second poorest country in the world; corruption is rampant, and slums and dumps are significant in Maputo.
Lastly, when the Cyclones hit the flooding is severe without the necessary infrastructure, but still, there is the odd Luxury Hotel peaking out of all of this.
Today is another sea day, however, Azamara has put on a display of Procedures, Processes, and day-to-day activities in all departments, all miniaturized throughout the Theatre this morning. Very interesting, indeed.

January 14, 2020

Last evening was a major treat for Terryl and me; the invitation to dine with Captain Filip and his wife Nicola was formalized and in our mailbox asking us to meet with his four additional guests in the Mosaic Cafe at 18:15 for a little sparkling wine and our first toast. The Captain and his wife look like they just stepped out of movie scene; he is as handsome at 6’5” with a neatly trimmed black beard and black uniform as she is stunning in a beautiful one piece white snuggly fitted jumpsuit and long blonde hair. The evening was wonderful, the food and wines were superb, all served in Discoveries Dining Room with flawless grace by attentive staff over a period of three hours when we made our final toast to our fellow travellers, and to Azamara for the honour bestowed on each of us.
The Five of Us together at another function on the Pool Deck
Today is another sea day before we arrive in Maputo, however, a medical emergency for one of the passengers was announced, and that we would be upping our speed to get additional medical attention in Maputo.
Furthermore with our current information - as well as new particulars not to be written here - we have decided to stay on board when we arrive in Maputo. Several days ago we had applied for Visas at a cost of $50 each to travel in Maputo and other parts of Mozambique. I doubt that we will get a refund; they need the money more than we do.
We’ll learn a little more about Durban, South Africa this afternoon, and this evening there is another swanky dinner for all of the guests hosted by The Officers of the Azamara Quest.

January 15, 2020

And another major treat for Terryl and me; last night we were guests of The Ship’s Officers and dined in Discoveries Dining Room with Adele who has worked his way into a management position with Azamara Cruise Lines.  He’s a  fascinating man whose birthplace was Casablanca - (the movie with Bogart and Bergman) - that brings in the tourists with Rick’s Place and other establishments almost as famous. Adele is a talker and five years away from retirement; he had plenty to say on every question, but especially on the one that asked, ‘When on the tour of the inside’s working departments, do you see the living quarters?’ His answer was quick and decisive - No, and for all the right reasons such as privacy for people who are front and centre for most of the day and night. Again, the food and wines were superb and delivered flawlessly by Tin, a skilled waiter just like Adele once was, and has trained Tin to be.
We are docked at Maputo, Mozambique this morning with Visas paid through the ship’s internal system, however we’ve decided not to go ashore for the eight hours we are here. Maputo does not have a good reputation. There is more corruption, crime, uncleanliness and other undesirable traits explicitly expressed by several authorities on board. So the plan is to get a full tank of gas and get on our way at 15:00 and boot it to Richards Bay in South Africa. We will sail right under a massive bridge built by the Chinese not so long ago.

Monday, 6 January 2020

January 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 2020 Seychelles to East African Coast

January 6, 2020

Azamara Quest left Mahé Island with a bang last night; they did it with a huge party that began with a fabulous Buffet dinner on the Pool Deck complete with local musicians and dancers that performed well into the night. Everyone seemed to be dancing except Terryl and me: we were bushed from the tour we had throughout Mahé and hit the sack by 22:00.
Today, once again the sun rose in a majestic sky with billowing clouds overlaying the island of Praslin, and we were on the tender by 10:00 sharp. After a fifteen minute 100 passenger tender ride and an Azamara arranged air conditioned bus (the temperature had to be 88 degrees F) for another 15 minutes we were on the pristine beach that put our Maché Beach into second place. At this time I cannot include photographs of sights we have seen, sensational water colours from beach sand, turquoise water, slowly developing light to darker blues that melt against the tropical skies of this Paradise. But in time both of my Apple devices will simultaneously have my photos magically jump via the cloud from camera to Mac (where I am right now). Suffice it to say that Praslin Island deserves the excellent beach resort reputation it has, and by us, one that it truly deserves. This beach had it all including shade, and no one pushing drinks down your throats either.


We will begin sailing towards the second stop on the African Continent at 15:00 today. The weather promises to co-operate with no Cyclones or Tectonic Shifts in the forecast.

January 7, 2020

‘Big Red’ Meghan Murphy was on our tender yesterday afternoon - and on stage last night in a heavily sequin red dress belting out show tunes made famous by Ethel Merman and Barbara Streisand. When we spoke with her on the tender I asked, ‘are you the advertised entertainer tonight?’ She is a Chicago native traveling the Cruise circuit and loving it; however, getting to Seychelles by air had her missing connections here and there, and this time one of them lost her luggage. Her show stuff is never checked in, just like our medicine, and she was able to perform last night, and did it beautifully.
This morning we are on course 240 SW ploughing through smooth seas for the entire day with a few appointments, one being at 14:00 for Chuck Richardson’s Lecture Destination, Dar es Salaam which is our first stop in Tanzania, and another in the Cabaret Lounge at 20:15 with Stephen Millett and his song stylings. The rest of the day will be spent r.w.e.d. Reading Writing Eating Drinking and a little gym work for me.
Dar es Salaam is a translation of Cosmopolitan House of Peace where 4.4 million people live. For interests sake Lagos has 21 million and Cairo has 20.1 million as the largest cities in Africa. The Germans invested in this land through a company called German East African Company only to lose it to the British after WW1. The British used Indian labour at low low labour costs and over time the Indians have become affluent in this city of Dar es Salaam. The politics at one time leaned toward socialism but since the 1980’s Capitalism has directed their lives. 61% are Christians and 41% are Muslims. The language is Swahili spoken by 350 million with dozens of dialects trailing behind. John Magufuli is their President and is up for reelection in 2020 with a platform on anti-corruption and anti-family planning.
China has been their largest trading partner for the last three years because they want their rare minerals to make computers. Pretty smart those Chinese eh?
All the above is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson who said, “He who receives and idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine.” And of course, Mr. Chuck Richardson who is paid by Azamara to travel the world talking about what he has learned just for people like you and me.


January 8, 2020

We met Ron and Bonnie from Vancouver Island last night, actually we had met on December 28, 2019 at the Spa’s draw for free services during this voyage. Bonnie’s name had been drawn one minute after she left for the rest room. ‘You must be here to win’ was their reply, so I said she was just here a minute ago and I think she should have it, don’t you? They gave it to Ron and he remembered me which led to a lively conversation about our lives and country.
A fascinating rainbow circled the sun yesterday afternoon for an hour or more, and Captain Filip, during his daily ship’s status report, spoke of the process of water forming into crystals circling the sun to create such a magnificent image a few degrees south of the Equator.
Today, we continue sailing to Dar es Salaam under cloudy skies and continuing warm air over smooth seas.
At 14:00 Chuck Richardson lectured on Zanzibar a semi autonomous part of Tanzania with Stone Town forming the other part. And yes the tectonic plates were at work 14 million years ago to split it off the mainland and form the islands. Stone Town attracts the tourists, possibly because it was a big part of the Slave Trade operation where these poor native souls where made to march carrying Ivory Tusks and other items from their homelands where all would be sold including themselves in the city of Stone Town. Oddly enough the greatest slave trader was an Indigenous native named Tippu Tip (1832 to 1905) who owned the most slaves. Today an Anglican Church is also built on the sight of The Slave Memorial in Stone Town.
Freddie Mercury of Queen was born in Zanzibar in 1946 and the city has appropriate places acknowledging his life, where Swahili is spoken, child mortality rate is 21% and life expectancy is 57 years. Take note of the spikes on some of the ancient large doors; they’re there to stop the Elephants from crashing into and knocking the doors down.

January 9, 2020

We are in the city of Dar es Salaam, home of 4.4 million people, docked, breakfasted, down the gangplank, and on a complimentary bus to the swanky Hyatt Regency Hotel by 10:00. This is our meeting place for Azamara’s passengers who are on their own (without an Azamara sponsored tour) in Dar es Salaam. After a little discussion with an attendant who fronted a taxi system we were on our way to Tinga Tinga Indigenous Art Centre about a thirty minute drive revealing some of city centre, the shore line with its huge sand bar, apartment buildings with laundry drying in the 85 degree Equatorial sun, and all in an air-conditioned cab for ten dollars per person including an hour’s wait and the drive back to the Hyatt.
Every Artisan we met and spoke with was courteous and politely invited us to view their art, take photos of their art, and, if were wished to include their faces in our photographs. The art was poignantly African: large and small, framed or rolled, sculpted or painted, but most of all, impressive and artistic. Facebook will see several pieces on a post later today. Unfortunately we couldn’t purchase a piece or two due to our lack of their currency, or the exact amount in USA dollars for which there was no change available from these charming, industrious and friendly people. For us we met only delightful and courteous artists who live for their work. But of course Trade and Barter are in play and important to their wellbeing. Perhaps our next stop in Tanzania will have us prepared to purchase and bring something home.

Adam and wife are happy and congenial Tanzanians 

The Ladies carry the load

He has two eyes, the artist knows best


January 10, 2020

Early in the morning several little boats manned by Zanzibar’s young people buzz by our ship waving in a welcoming way: this was a nice start to our two days in Zanzibar and Stone Town. We enjoyed a quick breakfast and off the ship we go to ride the complimentary bus into Stone Town where the usual characters are waiting to offer tours to the high points of interest for $20 dollars. Again we decide to hoof it just a hundred yards to, guess what, more locally made paintings, sculptures and the like that tourists need to see, and then bring home the stuff. We passed the Tembo Hotel and decided to enter the lobby and pass through to the beach where guests were swimming, sunning and generally enjoying the scenery and the hotel’s amenities. Along the shoreline about twenty yards in we found lounge chairs, tables and chairs, and benches under massive trees with huge leaves which, in a matter of minutes, protected us from the rain that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Terryl was invited to join a young man who was waiting for his parents and a planned tour. He was a lawyer who studied at the University of Toronto and lives in Vancouver. A delightful person who was eager to know more about us and why we were in Zanzibar. His mother had lived here; she and her family were revisiting for the first time in over 40 years.
The temperature was in the high 80’s, and with sweat dripping off my nose Terryl suggested we return to the ship and take another run at Stone Town tomorrow. But for today, we passed and photographed Freddie Mercury’s home (of Queen fame), and visited numerous craft shops, dropped into a small  bank to break a few larger dollar amounts into smaller ones, and really enjoyed talking and joking with Stone Town’s citizens. And we’ll take a little taxi for the big tour as planned for tomorrow.
Both Stone Town and Zanzibar are semi autonomous cities in Tanzania with Stone Town being the early home of The Slave Trade out of Africa. Back then an Indigenous character named Tippu Tip (1832 - 1905) owned and sold more of these poor souls than anyone. We were also told that Swahili is spoken here, and to never eat their street food.

Here's Freddie on the front wall of his home

It must be Monday, the laundry is out and drying in Zanzibar




Coronavirus disease, COVID-19 on March 12, 2020, and more on March 20

Human civilization has evolved one tragedy after another throughout its history. It has found our current status following wars, xenophobia...