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Sunday, December 29, 2013

GoodBye 2013! Hello Hope!

Here's hoping 2014 is less complicated than 2013, but with lots of choices as suggested by the HOKUSAI 2014 Calender!

We have not had a year that the general population was sorry to see pass into history for a very long time. When we said goodbye to 2007, little did we know that would become one of the good ole years of our lives. Of course we accept that life is subject to cycles, the ups and the downs, but this down has lasted so long, and will likely last for so much longer that it has become the new norm. That is not good.

Still, all things are comparative, and our own depression has to be properly set alongside what our parents have suffered through in their time. I have learned that life will hand us disappointments whether we are ready to accept them or not. We just have to learn to take them on board with more grace.

It is usual at this time of year to look back over the past twelve months and to review the things that have happened. All of the major stories are well known and are thoroughly depressing so I would rather not go over all that again, except for one thing: that is the matter of the most powerful typhoon/hurricane ever that struck the unfortunate people of the Phillippines. I refer to this because as a part of global warming I believe that we shall see ever more destructive events around the world, including parts of the world that normally is not affected by storms of this sort. See, more bad news!

For my family 2013 did bring forth one significantly good development: our son had met a young woman whom he finally deemed to be of sufficient quality to introduce her to us. Our feeling is that his choice is well grounded and that we are impressed by his common sense, especially when it comes to love. I think she is a keeper and we are very happy for them both.

We have now all but covered the complete cycle with our new son who arrived in 1990. I was fifty at the time and I was criticized for becoming a father at such a late stage in my life. It was said that I would leave him far too soon for him to have come to know me, but as things have turned out he only now needs to marry and present us a grandchild to finish the cycle. (Where did the time go?)

As we begin to close the door on 2013 we look forward to 2014 with some degree of trepidation. There are no signs that even suggest that the new year will bring us happiness and economic growth, but that need not stop us from thinking positively and hoping that the year will be an improvement over the outgoing one. Some things will happen naturally, such as growing older. I like to think that we also grow wiser, but that won't help us much if we lose our ability to remember what it was that we learned.

Why does life have to be so complicated?

Happy New Year!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Speaking about South Africa

Frederick DeKlerk-Man of V ision

In 1986 I was working as an acountant/manager of reinsurance companies. Consequently my books could only close after inspection by an independent auditor. A young curly haired blonde man walked into my office and announced that his name was Brum, and that he was there to audit one of the companies. "Hold on!" said I, "you're South African aren't you?" He confirmed that he was and I saw red. We got off on the wrong foot, and I asked him why the hell he thought I would consent to work with him?

His answer changed everything and gave me an insight into white South Africa that was very enlightening. "Perhaps if I explain that I have escaped from S.A. you might see things in a different light." This is a long story that I must condense by saying that he told me that as a young graduate from formal studies he was conscripted into the Defence Force and was made to bear a whip and oppress the blacks with gusto, whether he was in agreement or not. The problem with totalatarian systems such as that in S.A. at the time, to be white was to be on the side of the National Party, and any show of reticence was viewed as possible treason.

He said that he was aware that many people who lived well on the backs of the blacks would talk among themselves in whispers about how wrong it all was. Even to get out by leaving was seen as letting the side down. In his case he was in Bermuda as part of his international training, but hell would have to freeze over before he went back.

Now fast forward a couple of years and along came F.W. DeKlerk who could see a bloodbath coming that would even embarrass South Africa's enablers, such as The United States of America under President Ronald Reagan, and Britain under Margaret Thatcher, both of whom described Nelson Mandela as that terrorist! There was no doubt that South African forces would win but there would be so many bodies to bury that the world likely would ostracize S.A. even further.

He concluded that the policy of apartheid was wrong and was leading the country in the wrong direction. He came to the obvious conclusion that something had to be done to turn things around. He set about to convince his party that a very radical move must be made, and as we now know, he was successful. How did he do that?

Most people are unaware that the talks between the ANC and the government took place in Bermuda under complete secrecy that even the media observed. Officials flew in and out and no-one uttered a word in public. However, after Mr Mandela's release Mr DeKlerk did come back to visit to thank the Bermuda government and the people of the country for our hospitality and cooperation. It was while he was going walk-about with a friend of mine that I bumped into him on the street.

Normally, that would have been a real surprise that would leave the average person speechless, but I had mused to myself that if I ever got the chance to meet him I would express certain specific thoughts to him. I did just that while thanking him for releasing Mr Mandela, and I also expressed my wonderment at his superb salesmanship. Perhaps, now that he had so much time on his hands he might like to sell life insurance for me?

His words to me will linger in my memory perhaps for all time: "Convincing the people of my party, overall, was much easier than perhaps I could imagine."  Those words underscored what the auditor had told me a few years earlier.This was exactly what they had been hoping for.

As if more proof was needed it was abundantly provided following President Mandela's death when all people came together to give thanks to a man sent from Heaven as a modern day saviour.

President F.W. DeKlerk deserves nothing less!


Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, December 15, 2013

WoW !!! What a Splendid way to say "Goodbye until we meet again."

Well Done! Oh Good, Valiant, Visionary, Peacemaker and Unifier!

The end has come to signify all formal responses to the death of President Mandela after ten days of observerances. The outpourings have been so immense that even for those people right there I doubt if they were able to take it all in.

I think it was all fitting and appropriate that such a larger than life man be honoured to the outer extent of human endeavour. Never before have I seen the passing of a man, or woman, be the opportunity that so clearly defined his entire life's work. Mr Mandela was born into apartheid, and he hated the system more than anything. His life's work was to overcome racial hatred. He was firmly against white oppression and black domination.

You would have to be very sincere to convince the children that are called the "born frees" that there was once laws in South Africa against whites and blacks inter-mingling, but there it was,  everywhere you looked, blacks and whites, and people of every ethnicity together, grieving over the natural passing of the father of modern South Africa, living proof that his struggle was for all the people.

In a perverse kind of way it could be argued that his life was perfect. A child from rural Africa, untainted by city ways was able to see not only the difference between right and wrong, but was also sufficiently moved to actually do what had to be done to fix the problem. He took the pain of indignation and insult, and he had the good sense to know that the best way to take revenge on the enemy is to do a far better job than they in making the world a better place for all. This he did, leaving the whole world wanting for more.

It is natural that the body wears out and the end of the individual's life here on earth comes to an end. However, it need not mean that the individual's spirit dies. It think that the spirit is eternal and recycable. Mr Mandela received his spirit from one of his ancesters, and he has passed his to another. He now becomes An Elder in Perpetuity. He will be found in every history book about South Africa and readers will be consulting his wisdom 5,000 years from now.

So, yes the time came when he needed to lie his burden down and to receive a well earned rest. He was accorded appropriate respect and dignity, and his mortal remains lie in what must surely be the most beautiful hills of Africa.

Anyone who can command the respect of such a diverse cross-section of the world's people when the end comes can be truly said to have lived a life well worth living.

"Well Done thou true and faithful Servant." Now, Rest in Peace and Love!"

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Saturday, December 7, 2013

President Mandela is Dead! Long Live President Mandela!

Mr. Troublemaker!
The Great Unifier

At birth, the parents of Mr. Mandela gave him a name in the tribal language that I can neither spell nor pronounce, that translates into English as Troublemaker. An arrogant white man who had the same problem as I do, arbitrarially  changed his name to Nelson Mandela. However, his parents were right, because throughout his life whenever he confronted inequality, injustice and unfairness there would be trouble.

We have now come to the end of President Mandela's life, a time for reflection to review his life that was well worth living, and to ask ourselves how did his life impact upon our own? This is truly a huge subject that can occupy volumes, but it is the classic story of good triumphs over evil. Mr. Mandela was David, and his Golith was the National Government of South Africa. They left their homes in Holland and Britain and entered the home of Mr. Mandela and poisioned South Africa and did unspeakable things to the natives.

As  is widely known Mr. Mandela was sent to prison for at least 27 years of his life just because he made trouble by objecting to such treatment. However, Divine Guidence directed the hand of the judge not to put him to death because it was absolutely necessary that he be spared to rise from prisioner 46664 to become President of the country and The Great Unifier that he was.

He was born into an evil system of apartheid. So was I. We were forever told that we were worthless, and that we were unable to achieve anything of value. But Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of U.S. President Roosevelt declared that no one can make you believe that you are inferior without your personal cooperation. Mr. Mandela apparently believed that; I believe it, and obviously so does President Obama.

The world is challenged to find adequate superlatives to describe what we feel in our hearts. I think that Archbishop Desmond Tutu perhaps said it best: Nelson Mandela was like a diamond, almost flawless. Now we find ourselves treating him as delicately. He would not have wanted that. His sense of humour would have us sing and dance and celebrate the fact that we spent time together and we achieved something substantial along the way.

I personally love his humour:
 Upon meeting Queen Elizabeth II, it is reported that he walked up to her and exclaimed, Ah, Elizabeth, you are looking wonderful. You've lost weight! He insisted on addressing her by her first name. His advisors suggested he should be more formal as she is a very formal person. Supposedly he replied: Why? She calls me Nelson.

In a conversation with a music producer he is reported to have said that music is so important as a way to reach young people. They listen to music. They don't listen to old men and politicians, and I am both of those things.

When he became aware of the worldwide campaign to free Nelson Mandela, he replied, but my first name is not free.

Many people now speak of the great loss of this wonderful man, and truly the world has been a better place with him within it. However, I say that so long as we live by his ideals he will live on. He, will never die!

Archbishop Tutu asked, now what will happen that our father, the father of modern day South Africa, has passed on? The sun will rise just as before, but as usual it is up to each individual to do his best to make the world a better place, day by day. And if we do that, no matter where in the world we are, we honour his life, his struggle, and all his suffering.

Mala Yousafzai, a young woman whom I believe is the new Mandala, described him as an icon of equality and love! I think she's right.

President Obama said that President Mandela now belongs to the Ages. We love him so much, but it is time to love him enough to let go.

Rest in Peace!

1918-2013
95 years

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Life and Death of Canal NOU! (Canal 9)




In 1989, the autonamous government of the Community of Valencia established the broadcasting station of Radio Television de Valencia, (RTVV), popularly known as Canal Nou, (Canal 9). There were three television channels, Canal 9, Punto Dos, (.2) and Canal 24, a continuous news channel broadcasting in thirty minute loops. In addition to that there was the popular radio channel, and all broadcasted in the local language of valenciano.

It was a very popular creation and served the people well and was well received, even by the Socialist opposition as the station was created by the Party Popular, (the PP) even though that political party unashamedly used the station as its mouthpiece, hardly giving the opposition a look in.

When we first came to Valencia it was the channel of choice from which to learn this strange dialect of spanish that is sufficiently different from castillian to be a seperate language, in my opinion. Our son tuned in every saturday morning to watch Babala, with Maria Abradela, and in the process he learned a good deal of valenciano. For me, I watched the evening news and got my information particularly about events taking place closest to me, although even to today I am having to join up pictures with audio and assume I have got it right.

So, what went wrong with Canal 9? As with so many things that involve politics, simply put corruption took over and the rot set in. The broadcasting company allegedly became the dumping ground for influencial politicians to get their relatives and friends jobs, and as a result the burden on the broadcaster became ever more impossible to bear. At one point the company had very nearly two thousand people on its payroll. By comparison, the national broadcaster RTVE had only a fraction of staff. Something was terribly wrong.

Enter Alberto Fabra as presidential successor of the entire community following Francisco Camps, and President Fabra sees his mandate to turn around the state of being of the economy of Valencia and to turn over a new leaf in the way that things have been done in the past.

Consequently, his edict to the television station was that it materially reduce its staff and run itself properly, or close. All sorts of moves were undertaken in defiance but simply put the station could not be continued as it had been, and so, the order was given and voted on by the Valencia parliament, and in a midnight move, agents of the government had to push past guards put in place to stop them to pull the plug. Now, the station is silent. It has been one of the saddest things to watch, although no sadder than the closure of any business with the impact upon staff. In this case the step by step process has been so public. The news has been mostly about the doom overshadowing the station, with a lot of clips from past events to remind viewers and listeners of how important the station has been to our lives.

Ironically, just before the storm broke the news channel completely revamped its image, having dumped some popular personnel such as newsreaders and on-air sports personalities. We can only imagine how those people are feeling today.

I believe that we have not seen the last of broadcasting from Canal 9, although when it returns, and I'm sure it will as a private business that will closely watch its bottom line, it will be called something else. The former company that has debts, some say, over a billion euros can sell the premises and the rights and equipment, and even the goodwill, and from those proceeds they can pay perhaps one penny in the euro to creditors. Valencia will see the return of something, although we do not know what.

This is a classical when we say, Stay Tuned! For everybody who has been so badly hurt as a result of the corrupt interference of unnamed culprits in the past, I say that is a complete shame and is so sad. However, it is a lesson that we had all better learn and apply across the board.

 Corruption has a price that has to be paid in the end, and no-one is ever happy when the bill comes!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Trial of the late News of the World

The be hoisted on one's own Petard: To be self affected by one's own schemes as used against others.

I was not a reader of The News of the World. I picked up a copy many years ago because of the headline, and having leafed through the entire paper I was left so disgusted that I determined there and then that I would not support it. I never bought another copy, nor did I ever read anything from it.

So, you could say that I am not a friend of that particular publication, nor of sensationalist publications generally. It seemed to me from my one and only reading that the policy of the paper was to dig the dirt and to serve it up in the most sensational manner. If lives were ruined partially through their involvement in getting the news out, I suppose, so be it. The trouble with that approach is that it becomes necessary to reach ever further to create more sensational headlines, and that has led to the situation as it appears today.

It is a flaw in the nature of we humans that when information comes to us in the form of gossip that it is all that more delicious, so it was especially stunning at the very start to have the allegation that one married lady editor had been involved in a long standing love affair with another editor, although to me I was not surprised. When she was first shown I thought what a beautiful and ravishing woman. I felt fairly certain that she was the object of someone's desire, although the man she is said to have held as her lover was not my suspect.

As the daily unfolding of allegations and information takes place, I imagine the former subscribers to the paper are locked into the trial as though it were a soap opera. I don't have any sympathy for those charged, and were it not such a serious matter I might think it entertainment.

There are some fundamentals that should be borne in mind: the reason that press freedom is so important is to allow it to expose to public scrutiny the workings of government and major corporations. Without the searchlight of the press, people might be tempted to do all sorts of things harmful to the public. Consequently, to have the press and government enjoying close social relationships is inherently wrong, or to have the expectation of going from the press into a high class government job has the wrong ring to it.

The News of the World pandered to our more base and salacious instincts, and so it was all about the money rather than anything noble, such as integrity. In my view the world is a better place without that publication, and would be even better off without the whole genre.

Copyright (c)  2013   Eugene Carmichael 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The shoes of an Aid Worker

Typhoon Huiyan- Utter devastation!

For more than one week I have been following news from the Phillippines concerning the approach of Mega-Typhoon Huiyan, its landfall and the aftermath. It has been a depressing week for news as we  had a typhoon hit Somalia as well, the on-going crisis in Syria, and several other depressing news events around the world.

CNN has devoted a massive amount of air time to bringing the viewer up to the minute reporting. I'm not quite sure that this is really necessary in so far as the average viewer is concerned, but it does help in raising funds to help survivors to rebuild.

I was thinking about crisis of this sort from the viewpoint of the aid worker organisation. Something along the scale of Huiyan happens and volunteers leave their own comfort zone to journey into the depths of hell where death, injury, destruction, and extreme discomfort await.

The truth is that many people will have survived the winds and waters of the event itself, only to die from a lack of clean drinking water and food in the days that follow. Firstly, organisations have to load up supplies and manpower and fly out to the affected area, if they can, assuming they can actually land. Making airports secure for landings and takeoff is the first priority. Then relief supplies can actually land.

Next comes distribution, but there are no clear roads and all facilities on land have been compromised. The slow process begins of opening roads, most likely by hand. All those supplies have to be offloaded and stored, but are there any buildings still standing that will serve that purpose? It simply takes time when time is priceless!

Meantime, all around are the dead people and animals, decomposing and generating a sickening smell. In my opinion, even more sickening are the comments of the reporters that go something like this: "It's been two days and no aid has reached the people who need it most. They are without power, running clean water; shelter and food!"  Or, " vital supplies are stacked up at the airport but are not being distributed!"  At least one set of comments of this ilk was made by an announcer from his well lit and warm and dry studio in London.  It's one thing to state the facts, but when your voice suggests actual criticism that someone is not doing enough, for the aid workers themselves they must feel like strangling the speaker.

The fact remains that whether we were living in the lap of luxury or very basic, when something like this happens we are scared and nervous and anxious to be returned to something close to what we had before the event. If our lives are threatened by the things we have to go without we can easily slip into desperation.

The Aid organisations will always be doing their very best to bring relief, and need the support and encouragement of the world that was lucky enough to have escaped the disaster.

They don't need criticism. Anyone who feels the need to criticize is always welcome to do better!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan. The Most Perfect Storm since Creation!

The view from The International Space Station

This storm formed in the south Pacific Ocean, but had it formed in the Atlantic Ocean it would have covered the distance from Canada down to Florida, and its effects would have been felt both along the eastern shores of America and Canada and western Europe at the same time. The world has not seen a storm this big and fercious since the world was created.

It slammed into the Phillippines during the week of November 4th to 10th, with sustained winds of 315 kph. To try and imagine what that was like, go and stand next to the rail lines in Japan when the bullet train goes by at 300 kph. However, the storm experience lasted for hours.

Wind gusts were felt of 380 kph, at least that is what is estimated because the wind gauges broke. I have lived through many a storm, the worst being a class 3.(Storms are graded up to class 5. That will have to change because this one was off the grid.) When you get wind gusts, even in such low class storms as I have experienced the sound is like BAM! BOOM!  Even an athesist is likely to shout: "JESUS CHRIST! WHAT WAS THAT!"

The only fortunate thing was that the storm was moving forward at 47 kph, but even then, it is so huge that it has taken days to pass.  Early on we were told that 100 people were confirmed dead, but that figure rose to 1,200, and now it has jumped to 10,000, but be warned, there will be more to be counted, to the extent that the world may never know the full extent of loss of life.

Why did this happen, and what does it mean for the future of other countries?

This is most probably an effect of Global Warming, with warmer oceans fuelling the growth and power of storms. The logic makes perfect sense. If I were a constant traveller on the Space Station I would have seen earth's population continously grow to the seven billion mark, and along with that I would have seen more of the earth's resources used to serve mankind. I would have seen whole swathes of forest felled, and the forests are earth's lungs. I would have noted the impact of rising greenhouse gases on the planet; I would have seen the melting icecaps everytime I passed over, and that would not be good news at all.

We seem to expect that as a result of people living longer the population will stand at ten billion in the foreseeable future, but that will not be sustainable. Even seven billion is far too many, so the earth is pushing back.

The Phillippines is situated in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific. It occupies 300,000 square kilometres, comprised of 7,107 islands. It is home to 98 million peace loving residents. It is also one of the most unlucky places in the world. It sits right in the Typhoon corridor, and this year alone it has had to contend with damage from other typhoons and an earthquake.  So, those poor people did not need to receive the distinction of being struck by the largest storm on the planet..ever! (The other country in contention for most unlucky is Haiti.)

Mother Nature is pushing back against the tide of ever growing people by periodically culling the species. It may be done through hurricanes/typhoons or tsunamis, or other natural forces. Previously, mankind controlled itself through wars, but although we have come very close to wiping the planet clean of life forms, other than cockroaches, we have found the reserve not to do that. We now have a determined group that insists on killing people who are only going about their business while shopping or eating or working, but that is not fast enough.

I get it! I understand that life on earth, and earth itself is all about a very delicate balance, and anything that disturb's that balance has to be redressed in some way. You may not wish to recognize  CONTROL as God, or Bhudda, The Phrophet, or by any of the well known names, but we live in such chaos that is too perfect for there not to be CONTROL.

At least we are living with climate change, and that is caused to a very large degree by our own needs to exist. The least we can do is plant a tree to offset those that are being taken down. The Canopy Project wants to plant an initial 10 million trees. Google them and join in and do your part to repair the damage of your own carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, I truly fear that there will be more super storms to come with more culling of the species. Not a happy thought!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Bird in the House.....

..is Not worth two in the bush.

Birds have wandered into our house before this Sardinian Warbler came to call, but usually they find their own way out again without my help. However, this little fella was having a very difficult time. It came in through the kitchen window and continously flew from one end of the kitchen to the other, getting more stressed because it could not find the opening to freedom. With the help of the scoop net from the pool I tried my best to guide it, but it always flew around the net.

Its problem was that it insisted on flying only along the ceiling. If only I could have got it to drop down a foot  it would have had a straight shot out the window. Given my best intentions I could see I was stressing  it even further. One last try and if I had no good luck I would leave it for the time being. Lo and Behold, it actually did leave the kitchen, but only to enter the living/dining room, a much larger room to move around. Oh bugger, thought I. Just leave it and let it rest and settle down. I opened all the windows and the doors, but that brought Blanca, our cat inside. She, of course, lost her mind and started jumping up and climbing up, so out she went before our precious things on shelves were broken.

When my wife came home we tried ushering the bird out by using a sheet to act as a guide, but he, or she was having none of that. Finally we went on with our routines and as night fell we resigned ourselves to having a bird as an overnight visitor. The cat was not well pleased as she had to be fed outside.

As the morning arrived and my wife went about her business of preparing to go to work the bird flew around, but it was obvious she was in trouble. When I came out the bird was nowhere to be seen. Either she had escaped or died and fallen behind the bookcase. Either way, the drama was over, so I let the cat in for her breakfast. Unfortunately she went straight to the bird's hiding place in the chimney and caught the bird and ate it, all before I even realised what was happening.

A stunning end, and not at all the one I had wished for.
Poor birdy!


Copyright (c) 2013    Eugene Carmichael 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An increasingly rare sight

All dressed up with no place to go!

My son is 23 years of age. When I was his age I had married and we had two children and I was seperated. To my parents that was a real disgrace because in those days when someone in the family divorced or seperated it brought real shame upon the entire family. No longer, as it is so common. That is part of the problem, because in the United States just about every one in two first-time marriages end in divorce, and for second marriages the figure is two out of every three.

With advancements to the status of women and their independence they are not generally disposed towards patience. The least little thing and they are off with the statement, "well, if that's how you feel!" Everything that has been built up in that marriage usually goes to the woman, so, of course, men have become fed up. Men are simply staying away from marriage since the whole institution seems to be doomed.

The other reason that couples around the world are not entering into formal committments is one of the depressed economy. Young men, in particular are finding it very tough going to simply get a job, any job, let alone a career of their choice. To take on the challenge of starting a family is unthinkable. This all leads to the Disestablishment of marriage.

Sociologist, Phillip Cohen of The University of Maryland notes that in 1920, ninety-two of every 1000 single women married at an early age. In 2012 that figure had dropped to only 31. Of those who are getting married the average age for women is now 27, and for men it is 29. These averages are the highest for 100 years. However, there is a rising trend in that a third of women who are well over 30 wait to marry, and that figure is 40% for men. 
The move away from marriage has been a very quiet trend. I noticed that it was happening in my own extended family and those of friends. However, it does seem to be mutual as young women are in no more of a rush to the altar than young men.

A great many people refuse to believe that there is any such thing as evolution, but when it is happening in front of one's own eyes it may be difficult to deny.

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kicking da Can

Thirteen and Sixteen Days of October
Playing with this thing!
 
October is my birth month, (October 1st), so I really wish that people would stop playing games in my month that threaten to end the world.
 
In 1962, Russia went head-to-head against America over the Cuban Missile Crisis where even a mistake could have unleashed both countries missiles against the other. Had that happened we would have gone the way of the dinosaurs, leaving the earth to the cockroaches. Humanity was supposed to have learned lessons from that event. Clearly we didn't learn anything, or if we did we have forgotten.
 
I strongly recommend that if you were born in 1963, or anytime since, to study the events of October 16th through October 28th, 1962. You will see for yourself just how dubious the very possibility of your birth was, all due to bad decisions, stupid pride, and obstinacy, among other deadly sins.
 
The Sixteen Days of October, 2013 resulted in the shutdown of the federal government, again, due to political bickering in America. This has become an annual event, but is no way to run any government, let alone the United States government. This year the crisis was given a new dimension: the country was held hostage by a small number of madmen who took the country to the brink of technical bankruptcy by refusing to increase the debt ceiling. Were that to have happened the ramifications would have gone round the world like a nuclear blast.
 
All that because a few lawmakers are pissed off over Obama Care, which exists in law, and has even been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Those people are still vexed. They have tried to repeal the law more than forty times, and most people see that the issue has not been resolved, it has simply been "kicked down the road." This has become the most over used phrase in modern times, and the most hated.
 
However, there is a good use that phrase can be put to and it is this: the final solution to the problems of Congress would be to Kick the collective Cans of the lawmakers down the road, and out into the political wilderness where they belong. The mid-term elections are coming, and whether the voter is Republican or Democrat, if they elect these same reckless, irresponsible people back into office, then America you will continue to get what you deserve.
 
Unfortunately the rest of the world will be negatively affected.  We have already heard the call for a de-Americanized world. Perhaps it is worth remembering the roll call of previous countries that were world super powers in their day: Greece, Rome, Great Britain. No one gets to be Number One forever, so perhaps what we are seeing is the fall of the United States as world leader.
 
When that happens we will also remember what set the rot in!
 
 
Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael 
 
 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Malala Yousafzal

The most Beautiful Girl in the World
She is beautiful both inside and out!
(Accepting The Sarharov Prize for the promotion of Human Rights)

Just the sound of her name makes me feel so good. It is just so amazing that this very young person has exploded onto the world, with the help of Mr. Taliband man. It is no coincidence that she was not killed. She is here to make a difference, and that is so obvious. By sticking a gun in someone's face and firing, if you don't kill them, that is because you cannot kill them.

Mr. Taliband man, you say you will try again. It is possible that you might shut down her body, but you have already given flight to her thoughts and her cause, so, unless you want to  increase her stature I suggest you leave her alone. Instead, listen to what she is saying.

Malala considered the life that people around her thought was adequate for her. She searched but could not find an element of humanity or respect in that life, if it was to be imposed on her. She may decide to do the things they say she should, but that has to be her choice. She simply wants to be considered a human being. When a male is born he is automactically considered a full human being. In too many societies girls are so devalued that many are drowned at birth, as though they were unwanted kittens.

Malala spoke out to her audience that she considered was the taliban in the Swat Valley. She could not have known that her views would resonate around the world. To one degree or another her views are valid among kings and princesses, as well as the common man. No one is exempt.  No country is exempt. Her message is as valid in the United States, Canada, China, Russia, England, Europe, Asia, Australia, and every country in between. Respect for women through education; respect for women through acceptance of their abilities and talent; and respect for women because they are simply human beings in the same sense that males are.

It's a simple message. One that every person who is at least reasonable can accept.That is evidenced by the invitations she has accepted, including one from the President of The United States of America. I can only hope that after the formal meeting she had some quality time with the president's daughters.

Lately, a massive number of people signed a petition to suggest that she be awarded The Nobel prize. She wasn't, and that is as it should have been, in my opinion, and that of Malala herself. She is not out to win prizes of that sort, although the $1.2 million would have been nice. She just received the Sarharov Prize, which is the top award for Human Rights promotion. That was very good and a significant encouragement for her to continue when she grows tired. She will win the Nobel Prize if allowed to continue to press her crusade because she will make such a difference.

The taliban think that girls don't need to be educated because their place is in the kitchen and in the bedroom. We hear that even today in our Western societies. Education will cause girls to want more, and to challenge the men. Well, they are absolutely right. Behind every strong man, there is an even stronger woman, driving him on to be the best that he can be. Many men who have succeeded in reaching the heights, to their absolute delight made it because they had a strong woman upon whom to lean. As well, a strong educated woman can possibly make for an even better leader than a man, as has been seen.

Some men are afraid of strong women. So, avoid them and leave them to strong men. Not every woman will be strong and demanding. The point is that in a society where everybody has access to education the society will be able to offer choices. It will also offer opportunity for growth. A society without educated women and men is a restricted place. There is no expectation that anyone will soar overhead from such a place, yet Malala is one such person who, on her own, with a father who clearly thinks outside the envelope, is a most unlikely modern day saviour.

Yes, Malala, you are so right. Every girl has the right to a solid education so that she can make her own choices and contribution to the wellbeing of our world. However, somehow I think that your greatest legacy will be the education of those who now stand in your way, including the taliban itself.

May you be safe and stay focused. You have been sent from Heaven to lead the world higher to the next level. There is no stopping an idea whose time has come. You are the chosen messenger and all the reasonable people of the world are with you!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

American Party Political System to be Scrapped!

The U.S. federal Government has been shut down....Again!

The game of Party Politics is supposed to be played like cricket. When one side is at play, (in power), the other side is supposed to be fielding in an attempt to knock the other side out. However, that side is fully enagaged in the process and does cooperate in the interest of the game. For politics read "The Nation" in place of the game. For it to be said that the government has shut down is nothing new. It appears that ever since November of 2010 the government has not been functioning.

President Obama came into power with Democritic majorities in both the House and the Senate. He used that political surplus to introduce health care reform, a subject no other president had seriously confronted. That would be his defining legacy to the nation if he could get it passed into law, which he did over amazing objections from people who will come to find it a godsend when their own priviledged position changed.

In countries that have political party systems the survival of the party comes to supercede the good of the country and its people. An attitude of "My party, right or wrong," becomes the norm, and common sense is the victim.  In America there are really only two types of people; the Republicans and the Democrats. If one of each should agree on anything, such as the fact that the sun is shining brightly with no clouds to obscure it, that would be newsworthy.

It appears that American political opinion has become extreme, and the Republicans have ceased to cooperate with the president, just because he is a Democrat. Whatever he proposes, even if it was something the Republicans originally though of, they say no!
  
Of course, the Democrats will remember when next the president of the day is a Republican. Two can play that game, but in the meantime China is rising and America is falling. I think that in order to arrest the decline the first thing that America needs to do is get rid of the very thing that is contributing to its problems to the greatest degree. Get rid of party politics and try making the representative beholden to the voter who puts him in the House. Now, those very same people can give him an earful, but he stills votes the party line.

Whether we are talking America, or Britain, or Australia or whereever, party politics is the poison that makes the patient sick. Get rid of it and get back to basics.

Make the headline above, "American Party Political system Scrapped," a reality. Do it now!

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Religious Faith of Atheism

What is the best way to get to the mountain top?

Religious faith is all about striving to get to the mountain top, and believing that your particular denomination has the true map to get you there. They are all climbing the same mountain but the routes they take have them approaching the journey from all sides of the mountain. There are two types of people who don't bother to make the trip because they believe that there's no there, there. They are:

The A-theist

The atheist totally rejects the belief that there is a Deity, or dieties. Their belief runs counter to the Theist who acepts that there is at least one deity.

The Agnostic

The agnostic takes the view that the truth value in certain claims, such as claims about the existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims, are currently unknown. In other words they are waiting for irrefutable proof to convince them.

I am aware I have opened the book of a very huge subject indeed, so I will stick my neck out just a tiny bit to express my own opinion. I do not intend to change any one's thinking, in fact I hope my opinion doesn't make the slighest difference in the thought process of atheists. I have been simply mulling around in my mind the question of whether atheism made any sense to which I could adhere.

I have tried several religious denominations but I always found that things went on in the House of the Lord that were so hypocritical that I walked away from them and simply gave up. Had I become an atheist? Well, no, as I observe the world around me what I see is perfectly organised chaos at work. Wonderful and horrible things happen, and there are explanations that apply to both. As examples, the first thing we see is that the system of life and environment is all a delicate balance. We have beauty balanced by ugly; kindness balanced by unkindness; gentleness offset by cruelity.

The list goes on and on and on, including the fact that when tragedies occur where massive loss of human life happens, that is a culling of the species. Our world can only support a limited number of humans and animals. We humans have found ways to live longer through improving health measures, but that places additional strain on the planet. We talk about the day when the earth's population of humans will reach 10 billion. Perhaps this is an unsustainable number, so like rabbits and rats and other creatures that we humans have culled, we too will face a time when we will undergo  a severe reduction in our specie. 
Who, or what is responsible for the administration of the Universe? If not a deity then it all has to be happening through randomness. The complexity of the construction of the human being and the mechanism through which our bodies, and more importantly our minds work would have had to evolve entirely on its own and would have had to replicate itself throughout all humankind without any help. Is this possible?

Why are we humans not all the same? Why do we speak different languages, and why is there such a difference between how men and women think and perceive things? I think we are given these differences as a challenge to communicate successfully in spite of the chasms between us, and also our differences make life interesting.

So far, I have only dealt with the relatively uncomplicated world of human beings. At least we are all one specie. The animal kingdom is so very different where some walk on all fours, some fly, some swim, and some do all of the above.

If I were an atheist, when standing back and taking in the wonder of the universe, what would I rely on to sustain my belief that there is no deity in control? I cannot think of one thing. Well then, since there is a God what gender do we ascribe? Why not both, or none? 

I read a book in which a child asked his mother, what colour is God? His mother replied that God is the colour of water.

That is good enough for me!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Oprah Winfrey Incident

The amazing Ms "O"

So, the story goes that O was travelling in Europe and stopped in a boutigue shop selling handbags that  employed as a sales assistant, someone who, we hope, learned a valuable lesson.  O appeared to be just another American visitor with none of the trappings to make her stand out. She noticed one of the handbags was being displayed in a locked cabinet. It took her fancy, so she asked the sales lady to bring it forth for inspection. The bag cost $38,000. The lady decided that it was too exxpensive for any black person to afford so she would not even bother to go through the process of fetching it as requested.

O was bemused: She had been racially profiled; and secondly she had met someone on the planet who didn't recognize her. Even before she had left the city the whole world came to know about the incident, which had led to the store owner apologizing, the country's chief minister apologizing, and even O herself apologizing as it was not her intent to make such a big deal of it. She simply hoped that sales people everywhere would learn a lesson from the incident and to not make assumptions in the future.

O is entirely correct about that!

Many wealthy people live their wealth in every way, and when they are in your presence you know that here is a really rich person. Others, mainly old money, who have been through that phase and have learned that it can be both dangerous and a nuisance when people know what you have, changed their approach and are selective about living their riches. I came to know a billonaire over many years, and I got to know his habits. He generally dressed down when simply going out and about his daily routine, and even though we were living on a small island, the man in the street would just pass him by as though he were invisible.

He lost his wife due to illness, and that put him in an impossible position. He couldn't just hope to meet someone who might fall in love with him just based on his personality. Women all over the world were perfectly aware that he was lonely and that gave him nightmares.

Other rich people might walk into any store looking as though they could really use a good meal and a bath. This is a security measure that allows them to slip around under the radar without a contingent of bodyguards. The one thing they have in common are charge cards with  high limits. In the case of O, if she wished she could have bought about 75,000 of those bags at $38,000 each. In the event she didn't buy the bag, which is justifiable punishment for those involved.

So, the moral of the story is: sales assistants, all you need do is follow through on your customer's request. If you are asked to show a particular piece of merchandise, just do it! You may not have any idea  who you are dealing with.

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael
  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Are you a nervous airline traveller?

One of the safest forms of travel

This week I was ready to comment on The Oprah Winfrey Incident, but I made the mistake of finally getting around to watching "Flight", starring Denzel Washington. If you are a nervous airline traveller perhaps it would be a good idea to give this film a miss.

"Flight" is the new "Jaws." Both are made for entertainment and mega profits, and as films go it is a far cry away from a documentary. I do not wish to spoil it for you, so I will only say that its main focus is the alcoholic pilot. There have been very rare cases of pilots who have been escorted out of the cockpit because their crew members deemed them unfit for service, as was the case of a Quantas pilot in Sydney, Australia.

Everyday we place our lives in the hands of professionals, who, if they are impaired in their ability to perform could actually kill us. Here in Spain we have suffered two train wrecks due to excessive speed over the posted limits. The general perception is that these were most probably due to human error. There have been bus mishaps, and taxis are constantly under scruitny. Long distance truckers who are delivering on tight schedules are a nightmare; and hospitals are scary places because they bring together both high stress and a plentiful supply of drugs to escape into.

In the United States, Pres. Reagan signed an Executive Order on September 15, 1986 directing that all federal agencies establish testing protocols especially for safety-sensitive employees. This extends across a very wide band of activity, but especially focuses on the aviation industry. With respect to pilots there is an on-going random drug/alcohol testing program, and because of this the character portrayed by Denzel Washington could not exist. In fact, self preservation limits undisciplined behaviour to a rare few. Positive results only appear so rarely that the cost for each is about $45,000.

Not only are pilots examined but also those people we never see or even think about who are equally responsible for our safety are caught in the net of examinations, such as the service and maintenance crew, and that means the mechanics and air traffic controllers.  Air travel in the United States has become safer than ever, starting with vetting the passengers through to everyone who is involved in flight. The chances that a pilot or cabin crew member could sign on while evidently drunk or high on drugs is minimised by the fact that person would endanger their fellow staff.

So, if you are a person flying in the United States you could watch that film and take it simply as entertainment, although I certainly hope no company makes the mistake of showing it as the in-flight movie.

But!

I have only dealt with flying within the U.S. National carriers around the world operate under a variety of rules when it comes to control of pilots and service personnel, so the truth is that we take much more of a gamble overseas. It is quite amazing that there are not a constant flow of air tragedies, given the absence of U.S. strict controls, so apparently self-preservation  is working although we know in our hearts there are people who are doing irresponsible things.

I wish I had not seen "Flight!"

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What is the Essence of Mankind?

Humankind: What is their Essence?
What is Essence: The most basic feature or element.

I found myself wondering what was the answer to this question, so I put it to the Internet, and what I have found is that this is perhaps one of those very huge questions with probably no wrong answers. I found a lot of answers from a group of students who had the question for an exam. They offered such noble traits as honesty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, faithfulness, diligence, belief in God, among others.

I am not helping matters because I have come up with my own answer, that will only serve to further muddy the waters, but before I get to that, here are some thoughts from famous people on the topic:

Aristotle: The energy of the mind is the essence of life:
Julius Caesar: It is better to create than to learn: Creating is the essence of life.
George Orwell: The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.
Baruch Spinoza: Desire is the very essence of man.
Kathy Bates: I want to be dignified by my own essence.
And,
Tina Turner asks: I want to know what the difference between the essence of a man, and a woman is?

Good question Tina, and I will say that I don't think there is a difference, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, who is mankind? In the Big Picture, we are simply another specie, but we think very highly of ourselves. We have been capable of amazing things over the years, some good, some definately horrible. We have the power to think and to reason and to know the difference between right and wrong. We have become masters of our domain, but other species are perhaps just as brilliant. Consider the birds and the fish, two species upon which we have designed solutions to our own problems. However, in communications both of these are light years ahead of ourselves.

We do have the same thing in common with fish and birds, and that is our first order of business is the procreation of life. This is a built-in instinct, and if it were not so powerful I doubt that men and women would be able to cooperate on anything, so vastly different are our points of view on just about everything.

As males, we are driven to create and to solve, but there is always somebody for whom we dedicate our lives...somebody to whom we can say, " I did it for you, and the children."  Even in same sex relationships the essence remains alive. We all know that two men or two women can never bring forth a new life from their own bodies, but that does nothing to diminish their need to fulfill their essence.

So, before we get to all the great achievements of humankind, I believe that our basic order of business is to ensure the survival of the specie...the human specie.

It may be correct and acceptable to say that getting laid is a kind of social duty, so get busy!



Copyright (c) 2013    Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Visitors and the Tomatina

La Tomatina-This is both fun and cathartic

It's wonderful to have visitors at any time during the year. The effect on the host family is to reanimate our lives so that we do things and see things through the eyes of our visitors. When our visitors are fun loving and easy going, that is a bonus.

We live very close to the town of Buñol, home of the world famous Tomatina. We have personally been there and done that more than a few times, although for many of the town's locals they never get enough of it. We saw Kevin and Heather on our visit to England and we talked excitedly about their upcoming visit to Valencia. Time has a way of fleeting, so before we knew it, they were here and ready to go.

This year marked the first time that some control, and common sense was added to the original Tomatina program that has run for many years. The event is staged along a narrow street that is one-way. Normally, it can accommodate cars only, but massive trucks need to travel along the route bringing in 130,000 kilos of ripe tomatoes while the road was filled with people. This year entrance was strictly limited to 20,000 people, instead of the record 40,000 + who attended last year in the same space.

I constantly marvel over the fact that no-one has been killed beneath the wheels of the trucks, or at least I don't think anyone has been lost that way. I really don't know how anyone could tell as blood and tomato sauce are the same colour.

Apparently it was a grand success with 15,000 people paying a 10 euro entrance fee, plus another 5,000 tickets issued to locals without charge. Men were much better behaved this year and our visitors really enjoyed themselves. The organizors were happy to report no untoward incidents.

In spite of the continuing crisis every town has presented its fiestas this summer. There has been several things to attend every day, but without visitors we most probably would have ignored all the many events because we have been there and got the tee-shirt. However, when sharing events with people who are seeing them for the first time it's as though we too are seeing them as never before.

We took Kevin and Heather off the plane and straight to a long procession parading handheld fireworks that discharged fire and smoke and explosions. That was the prelude to what would become a street war between the many combatants that was to have started at 1:30 am, and would go through till the sun arose. That night, around 1am the heavens opened and poured the heaviest rains we've seen for a very long time. Kevin and Heather's first night ended in flooding in their apartment. However, I believe the fight did go on.

Since then we did many things between the rain showers and between siestas, and both they and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire ten days of their visit. We have been very lucky to have had a fabulous Summer, between our own visit to England for the family reunion, and Elizabeth's visit to us, (my wife's sister) who had a ten day road trip with my wife, and Kev and Heather's ten day adventure.

I have previously written a couple of blogs about family and the importance of close relationships. That is a continuing story that seems to become more important the older one gets.



Two very happy people who have been at the sauce - the tomato sauce!
Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael

  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Edward Snowden

Whistleblower or Traitor?

That is a question entirely between Ed Snowden and the government of The United States of America.

He has not been charged with anything as yet, so we do not know what the justice department is thinking. In the case of Bradley Manning, the officer who was charged with releasing classified information to Wikileaks, he was charged with, among other things, Aiding the Enemy, i.e. an act of a  traitor, but he was not convicted of that offence. (He was convicted of other charges and sentenced to serve 35 years in a military brig.) American opinion seems to be divided over what Snowden did, so for the time being I will go with the label of whistleblower.

He signed an agreement that he would never reveal any information that had to do with his work.  When we sign such agreements we know that to do otherwise is to expect sanctions, and in the case of the government, those sanctions will be severe. Therefore, to break our agreement is not something we would do lightly. Snowden was apparently so moved by what he was engaged in, and thought that in modern day America the program was such a repugnent thing that his government was engaged in as a secret activity, that he felt the American public should know it was happening. He seems to have been especially concerned about how the program could be manipulated to frame anyone at will.

The main question in my mind is whether whistleblowing should be a protected activity, or not?  I think it all comes down to this: if a person steps out into the public spotlight to divulge information that is clearly in the public interest, and particularly if there is an absence of a personal vendetta, then that person should be protected, and indeed, he or she should perhaps be encouraged.

My reasoning is that without the person who is responding to his conscience , all manner of harmful activity against the public interest could go on behind closed doors with impunity. "If good men do nothing, evil is free to flourish!" With that in mind perhaps the public should press our governments to protect the genuine whistleblower, because the other thing we must bear in mind is that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," and that is not in our interest.

Personally, I have my reservations about the sense of responsibility in the activities of Wikileaks. The exposure of classified information has been so widespread in scope that the effect and the importance of the said exposure has not been reasonably considered. The net effect is that Julian Assange has locked himself up in a small building in England.
The ultimate irony is that Edward Snowden, champion of the people's right to know has gone to live in Russia, the country that wrote the book on the people's right not to know.

Next time, Mr. Snowden, make your announcement from within a country more palatable to you who will give you sanctuary.

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Growing old is Ugly! (Michael Jackson)

Two elderly people enjoying a moment of peace.

Mr Jackson and I are agreed that this is one of the rare joys of becoming old. You can take the time to smell the roses, but other than that, bascially, growing old sucks!

So, being Michael Jackson he decided to check out at the age of 50, which is when we start the long downward slide of the second half of our life. They all said he was weird, but I don't think so.

As young people, especially when we are in the prime of our lives, how proud we are of our bodies. We celebrate our magnificence, sometimes privately, and sometimes we seek to share our temple with all who will accept us. Some develop themselves as body builders and compete with others. Many  find their way onto the silver screen; and many others go absolutely naked, including those in the porno game. Whatever, we are right to appreciate what splendid examples of humans we are, while we are at our best, because it will not last forever.

If we are lucky, the degeneration is a slow process.  You know it has started when you find yourself going to more funerals than weddings. You know you're getting old when your back goes out more than you do. All your memories of significant events took place double-digit years ago, and many of those start with 3?, or 4', or worse, 5'.

My saddest moment of realisation that I was getting old was seeing more of my hair on my comb than on my head. I have to confess that I went through some serious angst during that period. I also came to realise that God is a woman, because no man would do that to another man. We do all kinds of other horrible things to one another, but we wouldn't pull out another man's hair.

When things stop working as well as they did in our youth it's time to panic. First the memory starts slipping, which is not always a bad thing; and then the hearing starts failing. The funny thing about that is in our minds the problem is not us, it's you lot who bloody mumble and speak so softly. How's a fella supposed to hear you? Speak up!

Failing eyesight is scary! Then you are given the big lie. It's only cataracts. We will cut those away and you will be as good as new.  Ya, Right!

Eventually comes the Change of Life for women when they have used up all their eggs. Now, the only reason to have sex is for love and recreation, but what do they do? They can't be bothered, or now is a good time to go and become the bride of Christ. If we are lucky, husband's supply of testestorone will run out about the same time, leaving him holding his dick and wondering what he is supposed to do with it. His memory will have gone, so that won't help him.

That's the way its been for centuries, but science steps in and offers creams and lotions and viagra and the couple can continue to have fun times, if they can remember what that's about; and if that wasn't enough, now scientists, due to significant breakthroughs in the field of stem cell research are suggesting that you really don't have to die from old age after all as it seems possible to simply regrow all those aging cells to allow us to live forever. Well, that nice, but after a couple hundred years everything will get a bit boring, don't you think?
It is a fact that we are living longer, and we are enjoying better quality lives. There was a time when the Queen sent a note of congratulations on your 100th birthday, and you were always in bed to receive it. These days people have got to go find you to tell you there's a message for you.

The past 75 + years have been intensely interesting for anyone who has lived through them and is still alive and kicking. It has been anything but boring and change continues to come down like the falling rain. So, yes, we might want to complain about the aches and pains and restrictions of growing old, but there are so many interesting things as well to make it worthwhile.

Now, I must excuse myself while I go and learn this new fangled thing that allows me to do countless things while holding it in my hand. Apparently I can also send and receive telephone calls. Amazing!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Your Family; My Family

Family: More important than all the wealth in the World!

At the heart of every individual is family.  At one extreme is the family unit that is fully functional and loving, and at the other is the non-functional family at war. Both extremes, and those in the middle are still family that represent the beginning and the end.

I have been priviledged to attend a family reunion on my wife's side which was a loving event. As reunions go, this was a small scale affair, but that gave everyone a chance to interact and to grow a little closer. For many of us it was a welcome opportunity to meet again after many years had passed. The last time I had seen some of the young people they were mere babies, but now they are young adults who have embarked on their career paths.

The meeting took place in Cornwall, England during a period that England was experiencing a heat wave. It was wonderful to see the country actually having a Summer, but just to remind us that we were in England some days were very rainy and quite chilly. However, on the main day of our reunion the weather was perfect for sitting in the garden in a circle and getting caught up with developments.

As is always the case with events of this sort, there was the inner family and those of us who were the fringe as the spouses. However, as spouses we were not made to feel any less welcome. It was good to be able to observe from a little distance the inner family bring together relevant facts about those who had gone on before, and a visit to the local church and cementary was obligatory. One of the highlights was the chance meeting between one of our elders and a woman he had not seen for 70 years. Magic!

The idea behind the family reunion at this time was that it should have happened without the need for someone to get married, or to die. Well, a  respected and distinguished member of the family did come to the end of her life anyway, and at the end of the reunion we said our goodbyes to Barbara Wills, (October 14, 1923-23 July, 2013).

Although I never did meet her in person, I obtained a really good impression of her life. Apart from being a mother and grandmother and a significant cog in the famly wheel, she was a person who contributed to the world in a way that ensures her legacy will live on. She was an artist who committed her view of the world to canvas. Her paintings can be found around the world, and she cared about people in third world countries. She was a firm believer in the U.K. charity, "Send a Cow" that can be found at www.sendacow.org.uk.
Barbara Wills lived a life that was indeed well lived and one that touched people in a delicate way that softened the heart. She even managed to have that effect on people she did not actually have a face to face with. Her funeral would have been a very sad affair were it not for the fact that her life was cause for such celebration.

The reunion was wonderful, and in the process Lorna and I met with many of her friends. I often think that we should make it a point to visit Bermuda and England at least once a year to keep abreast of events and to touch base with friends and family. Time moves entirely too quickly and we lose touch with those who are important to our own lives. Before we know it, life comes to an end, and of course, we are not living a rehearsal.

Live life now, for as someone once said, Yesterday is a cancelled cheque, tomorrow is a promissory note, and today is the here and now. That is why it's called The Present.

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Family

This could be me with all my wonderful "children."

I have just completed reading Mario Puzo's "The Family," a wonderfully written story about Pope Alexander VI, also known as Rodrigo Borgia, and his relationship with all his children. (That's right, you read that correctly.)

I think it wouldn't matter what your religious beliefs were, you could become totally mesmerized in this story and the times in which it was written.

It was during one of those current moments, between getting into bed and falling asleep when your mind wanders that I thought about this unconventional pope, and how much he enjoyed his personal family, and it occurred to me that after all these years I have not once been disappointed by any one member of my children. I think that is an absolutely brilliant thing to be able to say.

I am father to three offspring. From my marriage to Violeta, (the singer), there was born to us two daughters. This was during a time when, as parents our maximum life expectancy was quite short. Mine was set at a maximum of age 47. It was also a very peculiar time because most families hoped that you had boys, so that if  by some strange stroke of fate you lived to become an old person, you could hope that your son(s) would take care of you.

I do not recall even once wishing one of my daughters was a boy. In terms of each of my daughters distinguishing themselves, they have both done an excellent job of making the most of their lives. They are fully accomplished professionals in their fields, and that allows me to look upon what they have achieved to date with great pride. As icing on the cake, I have three grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Very impressive indeed!

The bad news is that Violeta died at the age of 42, much, much too soon. However, her own legacy is well documented and distinguished, and is partly recorded on a CD called "My Shining Hour."

At the age of 50, when I thought I was out of the business of new fathering, along came my newest addition in the form of a son. Times had changed for the better because I was over the cutoff point of age 47, so you could say that together with Lorna, we celebrated by making a new start. Becoming a father at that age is probably not recommended because no one has any idea how life will turn out. However, in my case it literally has been a new life experience for me. With a boy, anything can happen, but my son has turned out to have his head well fastened on to his shoulders. It also helps that he is handsome and that he has grown very tall. There are people here in Spain who think he has something to add to fashion modelling, and he is planning on an outdoor sporting career.

Parents are pre-destined to disappoint their children as there are so very many ways in which we do this. We cannot have enough time to spend with them and earn a living for us all. We can never do things fast enough for them, nor can we ever have enough money to suit their every need, nor perhaps should we. And then, sometimes we make mistakes that we wish we didn't, and sometimes our children get hurt by those mistakes.

I am so happy that I can say that the way things have turned out we are all well balanced and we are on solid ground, and that we are a solid family.  We all seem to be in a place that makes us happy and content, and that feels really good for me to be able to say. Yes, we are lucky, but love and good decision making has brought us to this point.

You know what? Life is gooooooooooood!

Picture of a slightly over weight happy guy!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The untimely death of Trayvon Martin

This is a picture of a young man, Trayvon Martin, who by all things that are right, should be alive and well today.

One night in 2012, Trayvon was walking home, and 70 yards from his door he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a man who was dedicated to protecting the residents, including Trayvon, of the neighbourhood. Zimmerman was found Not  Guilty under Florida State's "Stand your Ground Law."

I believe that both the Neighbourhood Watch idea, and the "Stand Your Ground" law are fundamentally good. This law is designed to assist you in a case of a fight or flight situation, where you choose to fight. The problem with it is that it requires at least one independent witness to say who the aggressor was. In the case before us, only two people were involved, and one is dead.

Only Zimmerman can tell us a version of what happened, but the reason so many people are angry is that he just isn't believed, nor does his story ring true, but no-one is able to prove otherwise.

However, there are some facts upon which we can rely: the Neighbourhood Watch program, as the name implies, is someting that allows the ordinary citizen to use our eyes and ears only, to assist law enforcement. It does not give the citizen any special powers at all. So, if a person is detected in the process of committing a crime and the citizen phsyically detains that person, the citizen may be charged with assault and false arrest.

Trayvon was returning to the home in which he was staying when Zimmerman intercepted him. Had Zimmerman simply observed Trayvon without approaching him or saying anything to him, Trayvon would have been alive today and we would have nothing to talk about.

That, in my opinion, is the key.

Consider what happened to me, a black man, in a community in Spain.

I had an invitation to meet with a woman at her home in the community of Quesada. I arrived and was in the process of looking for her house when I was confronted by two men, and suddenly ten more men arrived, surrounding me. One man, took me by the upper left arm in a very tight grip.

They asked, sarcastically, if they could help me. I said I was an invited guest of the occupant of house number 28B, "Who are you?" "I just told you, I'm an invited guest, but I don't mind adding that I'm a reporter, and I'm very uncomfortable to be jacked up by you guys who seem like a lynch mob. What's more, this idiot who is holding my arm is assaulting me. Take your bloody hands off me!"

Everybody took a major step backwards. The unspoken question was, "What have we done?"

Whenever people come together and form some sort of private grouping, the stranger is always unwelcome. In that neighbourhood, which was all-white and mostly British, I, as a black man was seen as a very unwelcome intruder and the attitude was to give me a very rough heave-ho. But, I was a reporter with a legitimate reason for being there, and they, the neighbourhood watch group had interferred and asaulted me. I could have brought the entire group to court, but instead I sat them down and gave them a stern lecture.

In my own country I was the person who had successfully introduced Neighbourhood Watch, and with strict guidelines, there never has been an incident that has caused complaint or death to someone.

George Zimmerman is the son of a magistrate, and apparently had an ambition to one day become a judgeun. He considered that he was a good guy. It is not normal for a person to go on patrol around the neighbourhood. Residents simply go about their normal everyday business, but simply keeping a heightened awareness of activities around them. In this regard Zimmerman, acting as a patrolman, was a zealot.

George Zimmerman, who natural justice demands should suffer an appropriate penalty for causing the death of Trayvon Martin. Perhaps the jury were correct in not having found him guilty because they would have had to introduce suppositions in place of direct evidence. Juries are not supposed to do that. However, Trayvon Martin had a right to be in that neighbourhood, and he should not have been shot by a guy from the neighbourhood watch.

The irony is that a man who was a wanna-be cop and ultimately, a judge, has unnecessarily
ended the life of a young man, as well as his own future. This is such a sad case that cries out to us all to think before we act.
This story is to be continued.

Stay tuned!

Copyright (c) 2013    Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"So pleased to meet you!"

"It's a pleasure to meet you!"
Really?

Meeting people is an essential part of our personal growth. We always offer expressions such as those above, and others in a similar manner, but the truth is that when we are meeting someone we cannot have any real idea of how things will turn out between us. News reports are complete with stories where a meeting that took place did not turn out well, such as murder, manslaughter, fraud, acts of vengance, lawsuits, divorce, etc, etc.

Notes from my own files where I was on the losing side include the following: Once, when I was visiting New York City, I stopped in at a local bar and there I met a lady who was on her own. She told me that she lived alone, having been divorced and was bored just sitting on her own in her home which was just around the corner.

As we talked I noticed in my peripheral vision three men sitting at a table who seemed to be taking an interest in our conversation. I sort of wondered why my lady had not been talking to them when I came in. I suddenly had a thought that I should check to see whether my lady had an Adam's apple. I noticed that I was unable to actually see the spot because of her hair and the manner in which her hands always blocked my view, or that she always lowered her head.

I enjoyed my chat with the lady but I took my leave of her before finding myself in bed with a man in disguise. That I would not have been pleased about at all.

A short while ago I wrote about my visit to an exhibition of pornography in Valencia. There was a black young woman who did a pole dance that started as a strip tease but became a full nude dance. The stage was elevated and as she went through her routine I noticed that she was medium of build with moderately wide shoulders. Her arms were nice and long with perfect piano hands. Her breasts were large but super taught with no sag or movements. Presumably they were assisted by some form of super silicon.

Her belly button was an "innie" and her stomach was absolutely flat and her buttocks were generous and perfectly sculpted. The lady evidently spent her time at the gym in keeping in perfect shape. Her legs were perfectly porportioned and shaped beautifully all the way down to her feet, which were squeezed into her Jimmie Choo's.

I was standing off to the side where the steps were, so when she descended I moved closer and congratulated her. There I was, fully clothed having a short conversation with a totally nude woman. Her hair was  only hers because she had purchased it; her use of facial makeup was minimal and she fabulously beautiful with the most kiss-able lips.

Had I met this woman some place else, and if I didn't already have a happy and contented situation I would have wanted to have grown to know her better. I would also have been very proud to have been seen in her company.

Can you imagine my reaction when the truth was revealed?

Life is like that in so many ways that things are not what they seem. Perhaps we could all use my mantra, which is to accept life's disappointments with more grace.

There are only three things that are absolutely certain in life:  Death, taxes, and disappointments!

Copyright (c) 2013    Eugene Carmichael