Down And Out

I knew that when the Browns decided to start Johnny Manziel, the season was over.  Sure enough, the Browns got crushed by the Bengals today in a game that was never even competitive.  Manziel was predictably awful.

I’m not saying that Johnny Manziel lost the game single-handedly, because he didn’t.  The whole team didn’t show up.  But when you have to change quarterbacks in the middle of what should be a sprint to the playoffs, and you’re going with a raw rookie whose arm strength is questionable and who made most of the great plays in his college career with his legs, you can’t really expect anything good to happen.  Real playoff teams just don’t do that.  Brian Hoyer’s awful play the past few weeks left the Browns coaches with no choice, because you can’t just let games slip through your fingers through offensive ineptitude — but only rabid fans would expect anything good to happen with Manziel making his first start in a crucial divisional match-up with the Browns’ fading playoff hopes on the line.

And so a season that once seemed promising has spiraled downward into a smelly, urine-soaked, rat-infested dumpster.  It’s the unfortunate lot of the Browns fan.  Now let’s turn our attention to the Buckeyes and that tilt against Alabama on January 1.

Out Of The Labor Market

Richard had a really good piece in Friday’s Florida Times-Union about Floridians who have dropped out of the labor force.  It’s an effort to explain, through the unique, personal stories of individuals, an important long-term trend in America:  declining participation in the labor force.

I think it’s a really good — and useful — piece of work because it captures the frustration, depression, and rejection that productive people feel when they lose their jobs and cannot get hired somewhere else, despite making every effort to find a new position with a new employer.  They want to work and know they could make a contribution, but they simply don’t get the opportunity.  You can sense the angst they feel in quotes like this from one woman who has looked high and low for work without success:  “Why is it that after five years of looking, nobody wants me?”  Is it any wonder that so many become discouraged and simply stop looking — or take an early retirement?

Statistics can be useful for some things, but they simply can’t capture the true story of people who are unemployed and unable to find work.  That’s why a story like Richard’s piece is valuable — it brings a big national development down to local, human terms that people can understand.

Cruise Control

IMG_3834Kish and I are back from a seven-day cruise through the islands of the south Caribbean on the Windstar, the flagship of the Windstar Cruise Line.  While we are still experiencing a bit of the adjustment back to solid ground after a week on a ship, it seems like a good time to reflect a bit on taking a cruise — and how it compares to other forms of travel.

First things first:  Windstar is a very good cruise line that covers all of the basics you expect from a cruise — lots of well-prepared food (and interesting food sculpture, too, as shown below), multiple excursion options, friendly cabin attendants and other staffers, an exercise facility, evening entertainment, and good pours from the bartenders.  The Windstar, however, is a much smaller vessel than the massive floating hotels that you find on other cruise lines that carry thousands of passengers; our ship held only about 130. That significant size difference plays out in multiple ways.

IMG_3993Unlike the huge cruise ships, on the Windstar you feel like you are actually on a ship.  On a windy day you feel the roll of the ocean and you acquire your sea legs — which is why we’re still adjusting to dry land today.  When you are walking on deck you need to be ready to grab hold.  I liked that aspect of the experience very much, because I thought it gave me a sense of what it must have been like to travel on smaller sailing ships in days gone by.

Because the ship is smaller, of course, the entertainment choices and bars are fewer, and there is no “Lido deck” where you can get frozen yogurt and ice cream 24 hours a day.  There was a small casino (which we never used), a small plunge pool and hot tub, and a husband and wife duo that covered multiple musical genres in their shows, but no big pool with drinking contests, no comedy club, and no sports bar.  Some people might find the lack of such options a problem; we enjoyed the more intimate setting.

We also liked the fact that the size of the ship allowed the Windstar to visit little islands that a massive cruise liner could never approach — and, even if it could, that would be overrun by the discharge of hundreds of passengers.  Rather than tying up at the cruise ship terminals at the main ports on the bigger islands, the Windstar moored in little harbors next to places that we never would have seen otherwise, like tiny Mayreau and Bequia.  We were looking for some time away from the rat race, and we found it — as well as a chance to enjoy some beautiful sunsets at sea.

One other thing about cruises is worth remembering, and that is the issue of control.  If you are traveling on your own, you are free to come and go as you please and adjust your itinerary if you choose to do so.  That is not an option on a cruise ship.  You select from a menu of excursion options or can wander through port towns, but you have to be back on the ship by a set time.  Certain types of people like the security of that kind of schedule, and others feel that their freedom is constrained by it.  You may not know exactly how you will react until you try it.

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