Computer Lessons

January 17, 2009 -

John Heald

Yesterday was not a good day on so many levels… fact…….I pretty sure I was crapped on by Murphy and his laws because honestly…….it was one of the most stressful days I can remember that doesn’t involve Miami Immigration, flying or my hemmeroids flaring up………I am going to tell you all about it but first……..lets talk about Bill and Paul from Microsoft. Apparently they have both given billions to charity which is, of course, wonderful, however as I sit here in the office having just finished Googling their names fro a bit it appears they are miserable sods.

You may find this surprising. I mean, the Bill Gates foundation is the world’s biggest philanthropic organization with an endowment of $29.1 billion. So the man can go to sleep at night knowing his money is bringing health and hope to those less fortunate than himself. Which is everyone.

And it’s not like his generosity has necessitated much in the way of cutbacks at home. He lives in a 66,000-square-foot, $113 million house that is dug into a hill. Inside, the shower curtain is a 4,500 pound slab of Italian marble, the swimming pool is 60 feet long and there are 52 miles of cabling, some of which is used to monitor the wellbeing of his poodle.

What’s more, when he threw a private party the guest list was so important the American government’s department of homeland security imposed an exclusion zone, even going so far as to ban cars from the nearby interstate.

So, you’re thinking, what’s his problem? His guests are happy. His poodle is happy. And since his staff has their own massage room, you can be assured they’re happy too. Yet, the man at the center of all this says he’s not.

I’m not surprised at all. First of all, he has to get up in the morning and think: “Oh no. I’ve still got this face.” And deep down, he’s still a computer geek, which means he has the personality of a frog……….oh and he knows that ever second of every day of every year someone is pressing “control, alt, delete” and calling him a complete and utter bastard as his system eats your files quicker than Paris Hilton’s underwear reaches her ankles on a Saturday night (allegedly.)

This is a problem I’ve found, actually, with many of the very rich passengers I’ve encountered over the years. It’s almost as though they can’t be bothered to be interesting or memorable because what’s the point?

I’m not joking. I had dinner with an uber-rich Australian in the Carnival Legend‘s supper club, midway through his main course, got up and without a word, went to bed. And the longest sentence ever constructed by him was “yes”……………as Basil Fawlty once said, “I look forward to your next syllable with great interest ”

Most of us try to light up a room for two reasons: because it might result in some rumpy pumpy, or it might make us richer. Money and rumpy-pumpy are the twin engines powering everything we do.

But if you’ve got more than a billion in the bank, chances are you can bounce around on top of whatever Russian model takes your fancy from now until the end of time. You don’t need to be funny, or passionate. You just need to yawn, give her something golden, and hey presto, you’ll be playing wheelbarrows until dawn.

And there’s definitely no point talking, or listening, to other men because you’re already much richer than they are and all they want is some of your dosh. And you can’t be bothered with any of that because a six-foot Latvian super model has just walked into the room and you’re thinking of giving her a Fabergé egg . . .

So what about a social life? Well, the recent survey found that six out of 10 people in Britain spoke to five friends or fewer each week. But that one in 25 spoke to no one at all. And I’m betting that all of this last lot were rich.

The fact of the matter is this. It’s very hard to be friends with someone from a different income bracket. You want to go on a four-day cruise on the Carnival Sensation while their vacation is buying a private Bahamian island and filling it with peacocks, caviar and Latvians. You watch Chef Emeril Lagasse on television. They had him round to cook for a private dinner party. And they paid him so much he agreed to serve the food himself. …………………while wearing a pink g-string.

See what I mean. Well, now put yourself in Bill and Paul’s shoes. They are two of the richest man in the world. That means they can’t be friends with anyone ….. certainly not me …………not after yesterday.

So, there I was having completed two hours of slaving over a hot lap top dancer computer writing Friday’s blog. Two hours is about the time it takes for me to plan what I am going to write and what with a few changes here and there plus visits to the toilet it takes a couple of hours to have it ready. The last thing I do is give the blog a title. You see, as I have no real theme until I sit down and write I have to wait until the end to come up with a name for the day’s blog. Now, I have gotten into the habit of pressing save at the end of every paragraph and yesterday was no exception, I had pressed save at least a dozen times and never thought that there would be a problem. Well, it appears that was thought was as ridiculous as including the words airline and food in the same sentence.

Now, I have a lap top dancer computer given to me by Carnival. It’s a Dell and is older than a RCI cruise director’s jokes. I knew I was in trouble when the chap who brought it to me last time I was in Miami also offered me an eight track stereo and a betamax video recorder. Anyway, the Dell is as pointless as Paris Hilton wearing underwear yet I should have used it yesterday because my Sony Vaio and Microsoft Windows suddenly decided to turn into Laurel and Hardy.

Just as I was writing a brilliant and hilarious ending to yesterday’s blog …….OK ……just as I was writing an average ending to yesterday’s blog, my screen went dark and my two hours of writing had been replaced with a Microsoft notice telling me that they had to shut down and did I want to report the problem. Well, at the time I didn’t, I just wanted my blog back. Anyway, the computer told me that it needed to restart …….and so it did.
Now, at this point I was quiet calm and I sat there waiting for that annoying theme to sound as it re-booted……by the way, did you bloggers know that Microsoft employed Brian Eno to write that welcome chime when you turn on your Windows thingy? Why? I know when the sodding thing comes on because when I push the buttons on the keyboard, words appear on the screen. I do not need an audible alert. Nor do I need a car to chirp when I lock it.

Anyway, eventually the screen appeared with all the desk top stuff where it should be ……..except two things… recently downloaded Skype…..and my blog. I searched everywhere for it…….on the desktop, in folders and documents even behind the sofa and in my underwear drawer…….but it had gone. That’s when the swearing started and that’s when I wanted that thing to appear on the screen asking me if I wanted to report the problem. Yes, I did and I wanted the report to be written on my shoe and then personally delivered up Bill and Paul’s arse.

I was so frustrated and so angry. Now, on any other day I would have sworn in Italian …….. “testa de catzu, rumpa rumpa orgatz, minkya,” etc. and then after a cup of monkey tea and a hug from Heidi I would have started ball over again. But I couldn’t. This was because I had booked a table for two at a restaurant so we could have a last romantic meal before I bugger off to Miami………the table was booked for 8 pm and the blog disappeared at 6:45 pm. What was I going to do? I then had a brain wave. Carnival has a 24-hour help desk in Miami manned by brilliant men and women who have saved me and my colleagues on countless occasions and therefore I could e-mail them a red flag disaster help message to see if the file could be rescued.

So, I emailed the help desk this message…………oh, and these are cut and pasted so you can see word for word what was written.

Sorry to bother you. I have just written two hours worth of material for my Carnival blog ( and just before I was ready to send it to Miami for posting a message appeared on the screen telling me Windows had discovered a problem and would need to shut down. So it did. And even though I had saved each piece I had written when the computer restarted the file was gone. I have searched for it but it has gone. Can you help, do you know if it can be saved somewhere else
Many thanks
John Heald
Senior Cruise Director
PS – I am in the UK so I can’t come and see you.

Then, about 10 minutes later I received this message from the IT man with a beard:

This might be due to broken software drivers, problems with USB devices or incorrect power-saving settings. And Windows often reboots because of a system failure. Try right-clicking on My Computer, Properties, Advanced Tab. Under Startup & Recovery, click on Settings, System Failure and uncheck the Automatically Restart box.
Help Desk Manager


His message although I am sure helpful to anyone with half a brain was to me about as helpful as me giving someone advice on dieting.

It was then that I realized…………..I was buggered.

The blog which I had written contained answers to the last batch of “John, please reply” comments and although I was in no doubt that you all could wait another 24 hours for my stupid jokes and silly banter, I didn’t want to keep any of you waiting with the answers to your questions. It was then that I had my second brain wave of the day…….and even though the Help Desk had been as helpful as applying salt to my hemmoroids, I really though this time I had come up with a good one.

I grabbed Heidi who was busy getting ready for our dinner date and told her to bring the flip video camera……..because I was going to make a make a video with the answers to all those questions and a quick hello from me to you all………… I did.

It came out well and we managed to have some fun as well as answering everyone’s concerns about things ranging from a travel agent who refused to book two bloggers on Carnival and a chat about fuel surcharges……………you know what, lets pause a few moments and talk about that. Some of you have noticed that future bookings still have the fuel surcharges on the ticket price from when oil was $56,000,000,000 dollars a drop. Well, those surcharges have been deleted and any charges still showing just means that they have not been yet but will be I promise. It is a large project removing this and the folks in Miami are moving very quickly on this starting with voyages that start now and then working on those for later this year………….but they will all be removed.

Anyway, I finished the video and was very proud. I then called Stephanie to tell her that I wanted to send her this epic and she instructed me to use something called a file sharing thingy. Well………I did…….and after a lot more swearing, this time in Dutch (hotfa doma, kutt, kutting) it would not let me do it. Stephanie then asked me how much the file weighed and of course I had no idea. So under her instructions I right clicked and then told her the file was 618 pounds………….apparently that was too heavy as the file sharing thingy could only except something of 50 pounds or less……….what nonsense was this?……….50 pounds or less…………was this

I couldn’t believe it.

And neither could Heidi who was now dressed and ready to go on our date.

I was buggered……….and so were those waiting for my blog.

And so, we found another site which could take big files and was called “badongo” …….. what a stupid name…………they should call it

Brilliant, so I did the uploading only to discover it would take 12 hours to upload ………… 12 hours?……..I could send a floppy disk using an asthmatic carrier pigeon ………..and it would be there quicker.

So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado and after much swearing…… is the video with all the answers to the latest batch of questions.

Click here for the video

Actually, despite the problems and the amount of money it cost me with the Swear Box………I actually like doing a video with people’s answers on them. Maybe I will do this again next week using Tom’s professional camera and make it like a TV news/chat show…………….mmmmm……….lets see what we can do.

On a totally unrelated note, let’s get ready to rock and roll. Two weeks ago Carnival chartered the ship to our friends from Sixthman for a Rock the Boat cruise featuring the one and only Lynyrd Skynyrd………….here are some photos from that voyage.






So, computers, I can’t live with them and I can’t live without them. It’s nice when they work but we still want to smash Bill Gates’ ugly face in when that stupid paperclip man pops up on our screens to show us how to . . . and then freezes.

Anyway, as you can imagine our romantic dinner was spent venting my frustration at Heidi who sat there taking it all in, calmly, as she always does. I was so mad at the computer and worried about letting the thousands of daily readers down that I remember little about our dinner. I know it was expensive and had one of those Michelin stars. In my experience, a single Michelin star means the owner has been concentrating on the food to the exclusion of everything else. And the food, for me at any rate, is only 10% of the dining experience. Give me a white tablecloth, good company, elegant glasses, no drafts, fun service from waiters who never interrupt anecdotes, clever lighting, and, frankly, I’d be happy with a fried skunk served on a bed of cornflakes.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day when I walked outside at 8 am. The SKY weather lady told us the big freeze here in the UK was over ……so that was me at 8 am ………in a T-shirt and shorts ready to die of hypothermia while scraping six feet of sheet ice from the windscreen of what the people with beards call a polar bear-killing, Arctic-melting, carbon-emitting, greenhouse-creating star-destroyer but you and I know as a Range Rover.

Then as I was reaching over to scrape said ice of the windscreen my blackberry fell out of my pocket and hit the ground as hard as someone who just called Mike Tyson a big ugly girl with no more right to live on God’s earth than the lesser spotted Mongolian bog pig.

Now, if Heidi had been there she would have leapt for joy because as past blogs have told you………….she hates my raspberry with a passion. However, I would be lost without it. I can check prices on the Italian stock exchange, e-mail naked girls in Latvia, watch the BBC news and be reminded not to forget Valentine’s Day.

It is my Filofax, my television, my cinema, my portal to the Internet, my computer, my video camera and my photograph album. Anyway, I panicked, picked up the precious raspberry and checked the e-mail worked, the Filofax worked, the video camera worked and that my naked photo of Nora Titov was still my screensaver…… was.

I then forgot about the incident due to the computer eating my blog. However…… was later that night when I tried to call Stephanie in the office that I realized I had forgotten to test one very important part of my raspberry……….the bloody phone………..which when I called Miami went “shtwang lang. krzzzzz. Hello. Hello, hello”………..I hate technology.

I will write from the plane on Monday so look out for a Raspberry blog late Monday afternoon………or…….the way things have been going….It may be simpler to write you all a letter ……..with a pen.

Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.