What is it like to Work on a Cruise Ship?

It was not exactly as imagined,

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but my office on board was actually quite cozy. Larger, lighter and quieter than some places I have lived.

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Because the ocean offers fewer distractions than land, particularly if you don’t have internet, it’s quite a good place for writing. I did not get tired of the monotonous cruising at all, quite the contrary, I could have continued for months. Except that I couldn’t afford it. And if only there wasn’t so much food. All the time. For free.

But I am happy I didn’t choose to go by submarine.

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For the Fitness Fanatics

Always remember:

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This reminder was photographed on the cruise ship Sovereign, with which I crossed the Atlantic. The reason for the temporary limitation of physical activity was that the jogging route went around deck 7 and was exactly above the suites on deck 6. As this was where I had taken up quarters, I can confirm that the trampling fitness freaks did indeed wake me up.

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Humboldt discovered man-made climate change

When Alexander von Humboldt traveled in Venezuela in 1800, he was told by locals about the rapidly falling water levels of Lake Valencia. He established a theory that connected deforestation, falling water levels and change of (micro-)climate. Expanding on this, he later predicted that man-made interventions would lead to irreversible climate change, limiting the chances of future generations. He was one of the first scientists not only interested in specific plants or animals or limited ecosystems, but who saw a worldwide, interconnected ecosystem with mankind as a (destructive) part of it.

From the very interesting book The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf:

In the midst of the valley and surrounded by mountains was Lake Valencia. About a dozen rocky islands dotted the lake, some large enough to pasture goats and to farm. At sunset thousands of herons, flamingos and wild ducks brought the sky alive as they flew across the lake to roost on the islands. It looked idyllic but, as the locals told Humboldt, the lake’s water levels were falling rapidly. […]

As Humboldt investigated, he concluded that the clearing of the surrounding forests […] had caused the falling water levels. [Planters] had felled trees to clear land, and with it the forest’s undergrowth – moss, brushwood and root systems – had disappeared, leaving the soils beneath exposed to the elements and incapable of water retention. […]

All this was ‘closely connected’, Humboldt concluded, because in the past the forests had shielded the soil from the sun and thereby diminished the evaporation of the moisture. It was here, at Lake Valencia, that Humboldt developed his idea of human-induced climate change. […]

At Lake Valencia, Humboldt began to understand deforestation in a wider context and projected his local analysis forward to warn that the agricultural techniques of his day could have devastating consequences. The action of humankind across the globe, he warned, could affect future generations. What he saw at Lake Valencia, he would see again and again – from Lombardy in Italy to southern Peru, and many decades later in Russia. As Humboldt described how humankind was changing the climate, he unwittingly became the father of the environmental movement.

Humboldt was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate: the trees’ ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect. He also talked about the impact of trees on the climate through the release of oxygen. The effects of the human species’ intervention were already ‘incalculable’, Humboldt insisted, and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world so ‘brutally’. […]

It was all an ecological chain reaction. ‘Everything,’ Humboldt later said, ‘is interaction and reciprocal’. […] Humankind, he warned, had the power to destroy the environment and the consequences could be catastrophic.

From today’s perspective, this is nothing extraordinary, of course. But at the very beginning of the 19th century, this broke with a man-centered view of the world and with the optimistic belief that any human intervention would always bring progress.

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“Why did nobody listen to what I said?”

(Many thanks to my reader Rodrigo Perez Garcia for sending me this fascinating book! If you also want to show your appreciation for my blog, here is my wishlist of books. Thank you!)

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Boris Johnson’s take on Diplomacy

The new UK Foreign Secretary:

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Great Success for Monster Raving Loony Party

Despite promises of everything to anyone without any basis in reality and without any concept for achieving it (much like the Brexit campaigners) the Official Monster Raving Loony Party has so far only had moderate electoral success even in an eccentric country assortment of four countries that are somehow one, but then again are not, like the United Kingdom. (Limited warranty applies to the term “United”.)

The years of floccinaucinihilipilification of this very British tradition by the ungrateful British voters has finally come to an end, albeit without any of these voters having a say in it: Today, Boris Johnson, the biggest monster raving loony still in freedom has been appointed Foreign Secretary.

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Ironically for the Brexit voters who believed they voted for “democracy” and “sovereignty”, the appointment was made by someone who was appointed by someone who came to power 63 years ago by virtue of her father’s death and based on the claim that God once handed a magic sword to one of her ancestors.

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We even used to have a theater.

Lencois in Brazil is a typical town that had a boom (diamonds, in this case) and then a bust. Recently, tourism has revived it a bit. But where diamond miners still cared about music, opera and theater, tourists don’t. And another institution dies.

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Now, only two dogs are giving their interpretation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

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You know you live in a rough neighborhood…

… if your neighbor puts up the horns of a bull next to his gate.

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(Photographed in the very peaceful village of Tiwanaku in Bolivia.)

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