Wednesday, July 1, 2015
The Middle East Conflict Updated
I have updated my article, The Middle East Conflict, http://thepurplemuse.com/id4.html,
after reading Ari Shavit's New York Times bestselling 2013 book, My Promised Land - The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.
The book is extremely well written and explains how the state of Israel developed from its Zionists roots through its 1948
War of Independence to the current day. The book addresses the evolution of Zionism over more than a century since it
has changed direction many times due to world events. Shavit directly addresses Israel's Palestinian and Arab conflicts and pulls no punches in describing Israel's misdeeds.
Shavit also explains the complexity of Israel's society today and its significant problem in governing itself.
I have been fortunate to visit Israel twice on cruise ships in past five years
for a total of five days. I have seen some of the areas that Shavit discusses in his book and discussed some of my thoughts
about my visits on this blog.
expect there to be any long term political solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel was initially created
by war, expanded by war, and maintained by war and the threat of war. If you care about the Israel - Palestinian conflict
or the long term future of the state of Israel I suggest you read My Promised Land.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Check out my new article, Singularity, http://thepurplemuse.com/id60.html, which was inspired when I was reading Stephen Hawking's bestselling book, A Brief History of Time. I believe
it is very important for all of us to keep learning as we get older. If you didn't read this book when it was originally
published in 1988 you might want to try it now, if you like a combination of theoretical physics, history of science and philosophy.
Are you a Singularity?
Monday, June 1, 2015
Unfinished Business at the Giza Plateau
I have visited the Giza Plateau near Cairo, Egypt twice in my
life, both visits were part of one day stops by cruise ships at the port of Alexandria followed by two to three hour bus rides
to the greater Cairo area. We only had a couple of hours on each trip to absorb the visual impact and aura of the Sphinx,
the pyramids and the other ancient structures at Giza. I have read a number of books that discuss the history of Giza
and ancient Egyptian culture. The history of Egypt is intriguing and I am always on the look-out for new books with
additional insight on Giza. Recently I bought Secret Chamber Revisited - The Quest for Lost Knowledge of Ancient
Egypt by Robert Bauval, a well known author of books about ancient Egypt.
Secret Chambers was originally published in 1999. Revisited
was published in 2014 and is a major update to Bauval's original book. Most of the book is a discussion of the individuals
and organizations that have been exploring the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu) during the past 200 years with
an emphasis on the exploration activities of the past 25 years. You would think that Egyptologists, geologists and all
of the super educated people that claim to be experts in this area would have fully explored and evaluated every inch of the
these ancient structures and every crack or line or object found inside or outside. It appears that this is not the
Did you know there is a wooden
rod in the northern shaft of the Queen's Chamber of the Great Pyramid that has likely been in place since the pyramids were
constructed? The rod hasn't been removed or sampled so that carbon dating can be done. The carbon dating of the
rod could verify the age of the Great Pyramid or provide a surprising date, older or newer, that could lead to a different
perspective on its history.
the Egyptian authorities want to improve the world's understanding of the history of the Great Pyramid the Giza Plateau? The
wooden rod is just one of the discrepancies that Bauval describes in the publics understanding of the Giza Plateau. Bauval
describes an incredible series of events involving the Egyptian authorities, Edgar Cayce believers, a variety of TV production
groups, alternative history advocates and ancient history explorers that are intertwined in a crazy series of events that
have occurred over the past 25 years. Money, power, and religion have provided motivation for events that are hard to
comprehend by someone that simply wants to discover the truth about the Giza Plateau.
Bauval was been involved in many of these events in one way or another. He does
a very good job of explaining what has happened in his book. If you follow Graham Hancock on Facebook in recent months,
you would know that Zahi Hawass, well known Egyptologist, has a major problem with Bauval's work. Most likely because
Bauval has exposed that Egyptian government management of the Giza Plateau over the past 25 years has been very questionable.
After reading Secret Chamber Revisited it is absolutely clear that there is unfinished business at the Giza
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Yesterday my wife and I decided to take a partial day trip to
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, roughly a one hour drive from our home. It was a hot and muggy day in the Washington,
DC area yesterday but we decided we needed an outing and were willing to brave the heat and humidity. Even though I
have lived in this area for more than four decades I had never visited Harpers Ferry. It turned out to be a very interesting
The National Park Service is
doing a great job of presenting the different facets of Harpers Ferry history to the public. This very small town is
located where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet. The states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia come together
at the river banks. We walked from West Virginia to Maryland and back over one of the bridges. The history of
the town involves George Washington deciding to build a US armory at Harpers Ferry, the operation of factories where innovations
were developed that helped spark the industrial revolution, includes the role of the Armory in the Lewis and Clark expedition,
the fight for civil rights for African-Americans highlighted by the rebellion led by John Brown and civil war battles led
by famous generals. There were two other elements of Harpers Ferry history that were extremely interesting to me.
The first of the two elements relates to Harpers Ferry's role as a transportation
center during the early development stage of our nation. On the Virginia and West Virginia side of the rivers the Baltimore
and Ohio (B&O) Railroad was developed in direct competition with the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal. The remnants
of multiple eras of train tracks and railroad river bridges are in full view of the observer. As economic circumstances
changed the railroads were rerouted and expanded to meet the need. The Park Service has maps of the how the railroads
were routed through the area during the Civil War. There are remains of other tracks and bridges from later eras. You
can see how the railroad infrastructure changed over a span of 150 years by walking around the town and observation points.
One can also get a picture of the competition between canals and railroads that existed in that period. In addition
to the C&O Canal there is also a Shenandoah Canal that was part of the local transportation infrastructure. One
of the lessons of Harpers Ferry is one of long term competition between infrastructure investments. In this case the
railroads won and the canals lost, but even in losing the canals developed a market share of hauling certain commodities through
the area, until floods created so much damage to the canals that they weren't worth repairing and putting back into service.
The second of the two elements relates
to the disappearance of infrastructure over time. The Battle of Harpers Ferry took place in 1862. Much of the
Armory and many of the surrounding buildings were destroyed in the battle. During the past 150 years part of the site
has been built over by the railroads to support developing economic needs. Some of the structure that survived the battle
has been removed for safety reasons or salvage. Natural disasters (floods in this case) have destroyed some of the old
infrastructure and nature has covered most of the old foundations. Archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of
many of the original Armory buildings but left them underground to protect them. This has all happened over only 150
years. When we travel to other parts of the world and see infrastructure remains that are 500, 1000 or almost 5000 years
old we should be amazed that there is anything left for us to see.
Harpers Ferry is a very interesting place. It is worth visiting if you are ever in the
Washington DC area or its western suburbs.
Monday, May 18, 2015
It's the Viking way!
You may have noticed a section of this website titled, Cruising Around the World - One Culture at a Time, http://thepurplemuse.com/id35.html. My wife and I have taken a number of cruises on four different cruise lines and literally cruised completely around
the world. We are currently scheduled to spend three weeks cruising in the North and Baltic Seas this summer.
My wife follows the happenings in the cruise industry via http://www.cruisecritic.com/community/?src=nav. The Forums provide great information from fellow cruisers on future, current and past cruises on a wide range of subject
Currently, we have friends sailing on the Viking Star, http://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/ships/viking-star/index.html. The Viking Star is the
lead ship of the Viking Star class of cruise ships, and the first ocean going ship operated by Viking Ocean Cruises, a division
of Viking Cruises. Our friends boarded the ship in Istanbul about five weeks ago for a 50 day European cruise.
They knew they would be on the inaugural cruise of a brand new ocean going ship owned by a company that
previously operated river cruises in in Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt. They expected to encounter some issues in the
early days of the cruise that would be quickly resolved. They expected an experienced cruise company that prides
itself on its reputation for good service to meet their expectations over the 50 days of the cruise. Unfortunately,
they expected wrong!
My wife has been following the commentary from our friends and other
cruisers that signed up for the first 50 days on www.cruisecritic.com. We have also received emails from our friends with more details on the issues and problems
they have encountered. Viking Ocean Cruises was not prepared to operate the Viking Star on the day the ship
left Istanbul at a level of service that meets the most basic expectations of very experienced cruisers like our
friends and many of the others that signed up for the first 50 days. The management response to many of the issues
that have been identified has been laughable. To be fair the reports we are getting advise us that the overall
level of service is improving but there continue to be problems that shouldn't occur. Viking launched this service when
they weren't ready for it. They didn't go through the normal shake-down process that major cruise lines use for new
ships. It is also clear that many of the crew were inexperienced in ocean cruising and/or received poor management direction.
The level of dissatisfaction among the 50 day cruisers continues to build since the company is unable or unwilling
to fix all of its problems. The cruisers have even developed a slogan for describing the company response,
or lack thereof, to its issues - It's the Viking way!
How would you feel if you received a written invitation from the cruise line to a special dinner
celebrating the christening of the Viking Star in Bergen, Norway on May 17? You would probably be very happy to accept,
get dressed up for a formal dinner and show up on time at the meeting location on the ship and be ready to board a bus
to the dinner location. How would you feel, after waiting an hour or so at the meeting location, to listen to the cruise
director make an announcement to all of the 50 day cruisers that they are no longer invited to dinner! The dinner invitation
was rescinded! And no explanation was provided as to what happened! This happened to our friends and the other
50 day cruisers yesterday! Unbelievable, but unfortunately very true. How could any company screw up this badly? Is
Viking trying to set a record for angriest cruise customers based purely on service failures and inept management?
This story is absolutely true.
It is very clear that Viking's senior management
is not a customer friendly group. They have been working hard to market the Viking Star and sister ships to follow.
However, as word of their service failures becomes known through the cruise community I believe they will have a tough time
achieving their business plan objectives. People willing to pay a premium for a great cruise experience will not put
up with continuing service problems. Viking needs to get its act together quickly. Otherwise, "its the Viking
way" will be come the global standard in the ocean cruise industry for low quality premium service.