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Quick Review: The Way of Kings

This is a masterpiece of worldbuilding, proving Sanderson a grandmaster. Elements can be seen in his other works, possibly tried, experimented with, but here they all come together to create a complete world, different from what the reader would be familiar with. Philosophy, religion, ethics and, perhaps most of all, prejudice are also tackled. That requires many explanations, and they are provided, piece by piece, layer by layer, like in Shallan’s drawings, each passing adding more detail, showing rather than telling. The explanations follow the action, are part of it, and even the occasional piece that would elsewhere be seen as an information dump avoids that fate here. Even the slow pace, required for such an endeavor, actually serves to emphasize the thrilling moments even more, not that I saw any risk of getting bored either way. If anything, I just wanted to spend more time reading each day, and now I’m itching to move on to Words of Radiance.
Not that The Way of Kings is perfect, of course. While Sanderson makes this work surprisingly well and the characters themselves are, usually, worth supporting and cheering for, there are too few of them for an epic fantasy on such a scale, and Kaladin is quite clearly the main focus while some of the others get too little space, which also restricts the number of locations and events that can actually be presented. And leaving Dalinar’s arc completely out of part three, considering how it ended in part two, is an odd choice. But perhaps the one truly notable problem is that at times the reactions of others seem delayed, even time itself seems to stand still, to allow the arcs of the lead characters to follow a plan, including events being seen through certain eyes. And, to add an editing issue, details are hard to notice in the included sketches in the mass market paperback edition, and the handwriting is next to unreadable. But having such sketches included in such an edition at all is unusual in itself, and they do help with a few mental images even so.

Rating: 5/5

Written by Cavalary on February 23, 2020 at 5:43 PM in Books | 0 Comments

Clean Air Protest, Starting to Prepare for the Half Marathon, Catching Something

Writing this in pieces again, and off-line, and a bigger problem is that I might have caught something, so I should probably spend more time in bed instead of doing this. Did stay there for over three and a half hours Tuesday evening, since I also felt like I had a bit of a fever, on top of my throat being sore, which could have been caused by the previous day’s run. I’m also increasingly concerned that I’m developing some allergies, possibly to something I come in contact with in here, since my nose is better when I’m outside. Wondering if it’s simply dust, and Tuesday evening I also cleaned my room a little, but I don’t think that even that plus the run would explain having some crap to cough up as well starting the next day. Everything else was better Wednesday and Thursday though, yesterday there was less crap but I felt tired and weak, and today things seem quite fine from all points of view, so I also stopped taking what I had been taking these days, sticking to natural remedies but nevertheless taking some things. I sure hope I’ll be fine from now on and that this won’t mess up my running schedule, since said schedule includes a half marathon distance the week after the next.

Since I mentioned running, last week’s run was on February 13, and the time was 47:44.76, with sector times of 4:22.89, 5:01 (5:00.67), 5:48.36, 4:30 (4:29.42), 4:57 (4:56.74), 5:47.88, 4:32 (maybe 4:31.46), maybe 5:05.29, 5:53.03 and 1:49.02, making for lap times of 15:11.92, 15:14.04 and 15:30 (15:29.78). Couldn’t remember the exact time after sector one of lap three and only realized that I probably didn’t even really look at the hundredths as I was getting under the bridge, at the end of the next sector, and it was too dark there to look then, and right at that moment I couldn’t even remember what to press to get some light on my stopwatch, not that it’d have helped much. Seem to remember a four for tenths and something made me assume that it was 42, so I based the exact times for those two sectors on that, but I’m uncertain even of the tenths. But they’re poor times, so it doesn’t matter.
Got up at 2 PM, when it was quite windy, but the forecast was saying that it’ll get better after 5 PM, so I decided to stick to the plan, especially since it was unlikely to get better over the next few days. Had the usual stuff plus pumpkin, and honeycomb as something sweet, and went out at 4:40 PM, wearing the running shirt, with just the running t-shirt underneath, and the new tights, plus the jacket for the walk. The reported temperature was 10-11°C when I left and it was sunny, so in itself that would have allowed me to run wearing just the t-shirt, but the wind changed things, and I was also going to run until sunset, with the temperature likely to drop to about 6-7°C by then.
At least the wind did die down after a while, though the gusts in some parts of sector two and at least the first half of that long left turn in sector three kept being a problem, even if less of one on laps two and three. On lap one, the wind during the first part of that long turn almost made me feel like I wasn’t going anywhere. Other than that, there were some people, but only requiring weaving, going the long way around and calculating paths, without creating real roadblocks. Interestingly, while I expected the park to get more crowded later, it seemed the worst on lap one and sector one of lap two, getting better after that. Was worried about my pace all along, only taking it a bit easier on sector one of lap two, after pushing on sector three of lap one, but after that I just gave everything, even if I risked getting tired later and failing to stay under 48 minutes after all. But it worked out in the end, even if it was the slowest time over ten kilometers since November 7, and that one was also the only slower one since summer.
As for the tights, they did feel quite nice, in fact at times causing me to check that I was actually wearing something, since it felt like I didn’t have anything at least on my lower legs. A problem is getting them on and off, the lack of a zipper making it hard for the heel to pass, so they’ll likely get damaged in time because of that. And another thing is that the little inside pocket meant for keys means you need to dig inside after getting out and before getting back in. But those things aren’t relevant while running, so they seem like a good choice from that point of view, and they were quite cheap, after all.

This week’s run was Monday, and I went for 16 kilometers, since I can say I started preparing for the half marathon. Meant to get up when I woke up at 1:40 PM, but crawled back under the blanket, thinking I’ll just stay there a little longer, and I’m quite sure I fell asleep again before the alarm rang, at 2 PM. So I got up then and left a few minutes after 4 PM. It was warm and sunny, with a reported temperature around 14°C at that time, the various sources I checked strangely listing anything between 12°C and 17°C. That obviously meant I ran with just the t-shirt on and an undershirt under it, and of course the tights, and didn’t even take the jacket for the walk, so it was a bit chilly on the way back, the temperature dropping by then, but it’d have been pointless to carry it all that way only for those few minutes. As for what I had, the usual stuff plus almonds and pumpkin, and two of those oat biscuits with jam as something sweet.
The primary target was only 1:18, thinking to try for 1:17 if after lap two it’ll look like I’ll manage it, but I actually ended up with a time of 1:16:17, with sector times of 4:23, 5:05, 5:48, 4:20, 4:58, 5:44, 4:26, 5:01, 5:48, 4:28, 5:04, 5:51, 4:29, 5:00 and 5:52, making for lap times of 15:16, 15:02, 15:15, 15:23 and 15:21, again making a point of not even trying to memorize exact times. Meant to just stay under 15:20 on lap one, and had to push on sector three to manage that, after being rather slow on the first two sectors, but then lap two went well, and after lap three I started thinking of 1:16:30, so I pushed on lap four and got the time I wanted to feel quite safe, despite getting rather tired at that point. The thing is that I think I could have continued to a half marathon distance and get a new record, but that wasn’t the plan and it’d have gotten dark as well, so now it remains to be seen what I’ll manage the week after the next, assuming I’ll even be able to run then.
Something felt odd on my left leg as I started running, possibly the sock not being arranged properly under the tights, or the tights not sitting well over the sock, and I rather hopped around a few times, trying to fix that, so I lost a bit of time on the first sector because of that. And those movements likely caused my left hip to bother me early on as well, and while it got better after a while, on sector three of lap three I noticed that pretty much every joint, with the exception of my right ankle, had started giving me some warnings, though most also got better after a while. Otherwise, there was some wind, not too bad but enough to be a bit of an issue in some places, and mainly on that long left turn. And there were also a fair number of people, and on top of needing to weave and go the long way around, there were two more notable issues on sector one of lap three, first ending up doing the funny dance for a moment, when two women were coming towards me while looking at the lake and the reaction one had when she noticed me as I got close caused that, and then actually needing to stop for a moment and get around a roadblock formed by a group that seemed to think that they owned the path. Bumped into them on sector one of laps four and five too, but the path was wider there and I could get through more easily. Other than that, did feel that nail jabbing the toe next to it again, and saw some blood there after I got back, but not too much and I couldn’t even see any on the sock this time around.

Only timed the squats on February 15, 2:13, and 16, 2:15. And another thing that happened twice during this period was Arcabit Antivirus messing up in that same manner, so I had to reboot to fix it. I wonder if it has to do with having little free RAM at the time of an update, since I thought I saw a pattern, but I don’t care to test it, and I’m thinking that just getting through this month with it may be more trouble than it’s worth anyway. Doing a quick scan after that second failure also caused Comodo Firewall to be busy for a while, granting permissions for access to quite a number of other system files, so I wonder what it did there. But this trial will expire in a few days, so next week I’ll need to restore from that backup, hoping it’ll work without problems, and then see what to do next.

Getting back to the beginning of the period covered by this post, February 10 was the day of deliveries. The guy bringing me back my phone woke me up when he called at 12:30 PM, saying he’ll be here in ten to 15 minutes but only coming after half an hour. Saw a call and three messages on the phone, so I guess they tested it, not that such a test is relevant when the problem seems to appear entirely randomly and may take weeks to reappear, even if at other times it affects it as soon as it’s turned on. But the bigger problem with that test of theirs is that the most recent message was incomplete, so something was wrong as they finished testing, even if what was missing was the end of the message, while when I ended up receiving incomplete messages instead of losing them completely it was the beginning that was missing. But it’s been working so far, so it remains to be seen what will happen next.
After that, that delivery from Carrefour should have arrived between 3 PM and 5 PM, but the guy only called at 4:50 PM and got here 20 minutes later. And then he did ask whether I wanted to give him the bag back, but I was moving to check that the right kind of cat food was in there at that time, so I understood his question as referring to what I was doing at that moment, saying that I was just looking, and he understood my answer as the final one and left. And the bags say to give them back on the bottom, and I remember reading something about them asking for that, albeit leaving it as the customer’s choice in the end, in order to reduce waste, and I did mean to give the bag back for that reason, but I just got confused, had to interact with someone and my brain just wanted to get rid of him as fast as possible, so when he turned to leave I locked the door and then needed a moment to be able to think again, at which point it was a done deal.

Next comes February 14, and I already wrote about the events I attended, so I won’t repeat those details here, but there are plenty of personal things to add that aren’t included in that post, starting with the fact that the alarm woke me up at 11:30 AM and I left a bit after 1:15 PM, again not taking any camera, since I didn’t intend to take any pictures. Did mean to take the mask from the previous march for clean air, but forgot, remembering it just after getting outside and deciding not to get back for it. Sort of considered taking the gloves as well and forgot those too, and obviously didn’t get back for them either. Then, as already stated, I reached the event in Cismigiu Park just before the announced start time of 2 PM, couldn’t get myself to fill one of those few remaining pledges before others did, was really put off by how “fluffy” the whole thing was and hesitantly followed the crowd at an increasing distance until they gathered in a circle close to the main entrance, when I rejoined the others who were hanging back. Then I followed them to the City Hall across the road and, despite not joining those sitting in a circle and singing there either, I stood around until just after 3:30 PM, being among the last of those outside that circle to leave, after just about all reporters and most other older adults.
Walked to Unirii from there, just managing to reach a toilet in that shopping center before pissing myself, then went to that Carrefour, checking some prices and wasting some more time inside, without buying anything at the time. Got back out when I thought they should be arriving in that area for the actual march, but didn’t remember the exact location listed, so I first looked in front of that shopping center, walking to the other side and then back, then crossed to and through the park, at which point I saw a Police car with the lights flashing on the other side, assuming that it was there for the march, which assumption was proven correct after I went that way and soon saw a few cars of the Gendarmerie next to it, and then heard the protesters across the road and recognized a few others who had left before me earlier going that way as well. Finally reached the group a few minutes after 5 PM and pretty much stood around, only weakly chanting a few times, until the march started, though I joined in the chanting a little more as we marched.
Shortly after we reached the Ministry, a woman I vaguely recognized from other protests asked me to take a picture of her, but wanted it in good light and with some sign visible behind her, so after I agreed she asked me to come with her until she found a spot she liked, then fumbled with her phone for a while, as it seemed set to record video and she seemed to be really rushing and failing to change that. I guess the reason for the rush became obvious pretty much the instant she handed me the phone, since it turned itself off and when I showed her that she seemed to have expected it, so I guess the battery was very low. At that point, she asked me to take the picture with my phone and then e-mail it to her, but I said my phone’s just a regular phone, which isn’t exactly accurate but it’s definitely not one that can take a picture after dark, and she walked away. After that, I stood in the crowd gathered around the representative who came out to speak to us, obviously not asking anything and making room for those who wanted to and the reporters, but otherwise staying close enough to listen. After he stepped away from that group and spent some more time answering some other questions some participants had, I alternated a few times between checking out what was happening in the main group and what was being discussed there.
Pretty much as soon as the end was called, at 7 PM, I left, walking to Izvor and taking the metro to the bigger Carrefour, peeing again and then buying quite a few things. It’s a good thing I had my backpack as well, to split the weight, as I first walked to that Kaufland as well, getting two packs of rice from there, and then took the metro back, and even just walking back here from the station wasn’t the easiest thing when I was carrying a good 20 kg, not counting clothes and the stuff in my pockets. Was back at 9:15 PM.

The next day dad pointed out that we were running out of one kind of cat food, so Sunday I left at 3 PM, taking the recyclables out as well, walked to one of those smaller pharmacies with low prices to get another nose spray… And then just missed the free bus to the Auchan at Vitan. Looked for it at the intersection where the park entrance is, since I reached it around the right time for it, but didn’t see it when I looked and didn’t check again when the light turned green, seeing it drive right past me as I crossed. Tried to run after it and would have caught it if it’d have stopped there, but it didn’t, nobody wanting to get off and nobody who was already waiting waving for it, so I missed it. That made me decide to have a look through that Carrefour first, just checking prices… And then I missed the free bus again when I got back out. Wondered which way to cross when I reached the intersection at the farmers’ market, looked, didn’t see it coming, so decided to give up on that idea and wait to cross straight ahead first, only to see it drive past me as I did so, meaning that if I’d have rushed to get across the road before that light turned red and I’d have seen it coming, I’d have likely had a chance to catch it there.
After walking the rest of the way, I got that cat food and some other stuff, but couldn’t find those packs of two yogurts of a certain good kind at the price of one that the site stated should have still been available at that location. Wanted to get some of those for this period, it was an obvious choice at that price, but as it was, just got another pack of that cheap kind… And then again just missed the free bus, rushing to get out a minute before it should have left but not seeing it even on the street, so it either left a few minutes early or didn’t come at all at that time. But at least there’s that other one, leaving ten minutes later and getting me to that intersection at the park entrance, so I took that one… And a few minutes later received an SMS from dad, asking me to buy one more thing if I still could. Obviously couldn’t anymore, so I just got back at 5:10 PM, finding dad struggling with some things and having forgotten the small kettle on the stove while doing so, having burned it as a result. He said we’ll throw it away, and I guess it couldn’t be completely saved anymore, with all that stuff burned so badly in it, but I nevertheless tried to get the worst of it off before putting it away and ended up scratching a finger in that stuff as I did so.

As for Tuesday, went out just before 2:15 PM, this time walking to Cora, after just happening to check their site and seeing some things I wanted. Also took the smaller plastic bottles, remembering that the machine there still listed the old reward and that I actually heard that amount being announced as the reward at the other location, but I don’t know whether that only applies to that other location or the announcement just hadn’t been changed since the rewards were reduced, because at this one the rewards are these lower ones, a sheet of paper stuck to the machine stating that, though the large text remains as it was. Worse, the machine “saw” seven of the 29 as glass, therefore giving no reward at all for them. Don’t know whether it identified what bottles they actually were and that was the way it was programmed to react when it was something it couldn’t actually accept or it took a while to actually get going properly, since it seemed to have a hard time pulling in the bottles at first, rejecting them completely the first few times, since one side of the system pulling them in wouldn’t move, but most of those bottles might well have been rejected if somebody’d have actually checked them directly, so I wasn’t too bothered and just got a few things and walked back, getting here just before 4:55 PM. Wasn’t feeling well at all by that point, but nevertheless, as I already mentioned, cleaned my room a little as well before crawling in bed and deciding to pretty much take the rest of the week to recover from whatever I had caught, hoping it’ll be enough.

Written by Cavalary on February 22, 2020 at 6:41 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Views on Population Following Greece’s Awful "Baby Bonus" Decision

After the dreadful “baby bonus” decision in Greece, The Guardian asked for views regarding population, and since that’s the topic I have the strongest views on, I of course couldn’t pass on that, and this post will be based on what I sent. Won’t be anything new, of course, as the only new element is that some more time passed without anything being done to solve the world’s worst problem, and in fact with efforts made in precisely the opposite direction, as you can see in the situation mentioned above, which is just one of many. But if I wrote something, I might as well post here as well, with various clarifications and additions, since now that I look over it again, I see that quite a number are needed…

Overpopulation is the world’s worst problem, the other major environmental and social ones being in good part its effects. As such, while obviously not sufficient on its own, solving it is necessary in order to solve any of those other problems. Sure, consumption patterns are also a major aspect, but on the one hand the impact is more and more global, and on the other, that only means that, perhaps contrary to what tends to be assumed when one expresses such a view, the crisis is much more immediate in wealthier areas, where the individual footprint is greater, even if the local population is currently slowly decreasing. The areas that have a huge and still rapidly increasing population tend to be poorer, with a much lower individual footprint, so the problem there is that the standard of living can’t increase sustainably without the population decreasing, but elsewhere the problem is that it can’t be maintained at anything even approaching the current levels with the current population. Of course, there are ways to greatly mitigate the effects of overpopulation, and more and more need to be implemented at least temporarily even if we would finally start tackling this problem with the unwavering determination required, but without greatly reducing the population, any other measures can only delay the inevitable at an ever increasing cost, and with ever more restrictions in ever more areas of one’s life, implemented just to avoid one particular one.
Now, population can obviously decrease either by increasing mortality or by reducing natality. The first method is fast, the second is slow, especially if we, as we must, continue to improve access to resources and services and the development of medicine that prevents and actually cures ailments, resulting in better health and longer life. But I do believe we can agree that killing someone who is alive and does not wish for death, or allowing them to die due to lack of access to necessary resources or services, which is in fact what we’re doing for the large majority of the world, is a bad thing. Which means we are left with this second, much slower, option, which therefore needs to be implemented all the faster and more harshly. For that matter, goals to stabilize population might have had some merit if implemented worldwide around the middle of the last century at the latest, while restrictions on how many children can be born and who can have them most likely stopped being sufficient shortly after the start of this century. At this point, the population is so far above any sustainable level and the damage done to the environment so great that, if we are to still have any chance to solve the problem in time without needing to resort to increasing mortality, I firmly believe a complete, worldwide moratorium on having children for a full generation, 25 or 30 years, is the minimum required. And it’s not like there wouldn’t be enough people still of a fertile age after that period that even a small fraction of them having one child would be more than enough to ensure not only that humanity won’t go extinct, but that it’ll likely continue to have a much larger population than pretty much any other reasonably large animal on this planet… Though I do hope that said other species would also greatly improve by then if we’d do this.

However, instead of those necessary measures, what we get are these pronatalist policies that are nothing less than heralds of doom. They are signs, even clearer than, for example, the continued developments and subsidies for fossil fuels or the overall drive for economic growth, clearly specified as an important reason behind the decision made in Greece as well, of explicitly choosing to sacrifice the world, life, the future on the altar of continued growth. We desperately need to reduce our environmental impact, consumption, production, and obviously population, but our society continues to function as an ancient empire which can’t sustain itself unless it constantly grows, drawing in new resources and workers as it exhausts what’s available in its territory, and collapsing once it’s no longer able to do so. And now the empire we live in is global, has taken over and drained the entire planet, with nowhere left to expand to unless we start exploiting and settling other celestial bodies, which some are actually striving to do, and no hope for the vast majority of the people, other species and current ecosystem of this planet unless all of this gets turned around, unless the fundamental ways in which human society is built and functions undergo radical changes.
Of course, that process needs to affect each element, but when it comes to population in particular, reducing it would allow the overall footprint of humanity to be reduced while increasing individual standard of living and freedom of choice in all but one aspect. And by doing it in this manner, by literally banning births, immediately and for as long as necessary, we may just avoid the need to increase mortality in order to sufficiently reduce the population before it’ll be too late for those alive today, and for the other species that we currently share, or should be sharing, this world with. It’d allow us to focus on real development instead of constantly needing to mitigate the effects of the problem we ourselves create through our very existence. It’d offer the time needed to reset many systems that our society relies on, the most obvious example being the educational one. It’d force society to value those who are here now, care for them and respect them, knowing they’re not immediately replaceable with, for example, cheap and desperate workers and less discriminating consumers. And it’d force those of us who are already here to assume the responsibility of fixing this world’s and this society’s problems, without that false belief that has caused so much harm, that perhaps our children and grandchildren will.
If and when that will happen, if and when we will create a world that’s as wonderful, for all people as well as the other species we share, or should be sharing, it with, as our level of knowledge and development actually allows, maybe there will be a good reason to have said children and grandchildren, to create a new generation to live in and experience it. Until then, there’s no possible rational justification to have or support having children, and an ever greater number of irrefutable reasons not to. Not that people are likely to respond to that in any way, whether we’re talking about those at the top, who benefit from the status quo and may just have the power and the wealth required to escape the worst effects of the disaster we’re causing for a long time to come, or the masses, who tend to just follow the norms and not think things through, and who aren’t usually rational when they make important decisions, or even those who claim to, and perhaps on some level actually do, care and analyze more thoroughly, as those, if they dare to approach such unpopular topics at all, tend to limit themselves to some “nice”, feelgood measures that are vastly insufficient at this point. I mean, we also won’t completely stop using fossil fuels and end deforestation, industrial agriculture, planned obsolescence and all the other things needed to solve the climate crisis and environmental problems in general, and those are easier than this… But a step would be to at least admit that it should happen, for whatever it’s worth.

Written by Cavalary on February 16, 2020 at 8:02 PM in Overpopulation | 0 Comments

Lack of Reaction, Health Care and Air Pollution – February 4 and 14 in Bucharest

There were various other reactions, comments and on-line actions during this period, as well as in the days preceding the protest at the Ministry of Health, but I’ll just focus on the protests on February 4 and 14, though I only attended the latter. Still, I should at least briefly mention that, apparently on January 30, Declic received what was marked as a final cease and desist notice from FSC, being told they’ll be sued unless they stop using an “automated script” to flood their inbox, after their campaign asking members to send them messages asking for an update about the status of HS Timber, formerly Holzindustrie Schweighofer. They revealed this after a week, asking members how to respond, and then asked for messages to be posted or sent to prove that the senders were real people and not scripts. As a result of that, there was another reply from FSC, pointing to the relevant page and confirming that Holzindustrie Schweighofer remains disassociated, but also stating that the messages received had all been from Declic’s “noreply” address, not the individual e-mail addresses of the senders, which does make their reaction entirely reasonable, and I wonder whether there had been some bug or flaw in Declic’s system.

Now that I mentioned that, I can’t fail to also mention another far more important thing that happened during this period, which is the fact that the Government passed no less than 25 emergency ordinances on February 4, making the announcements after midnight, when the marathon session ended. So it was another case of “at night, like thieves” and the “old guard” reacted to it, but it’s not just that there was a lack of a mass reaction, but in fact those complaining were attacked by many, including plenty of the newer activists. There was an article explaining why, stating that the critical mass driving the large protests taking place in recent years was made up of the urban middle class, or those who wrongly think they are or even simply aspire to be in it, and those value brutal neoliberalism, individualism, making it supposedly on your own in a society ruled by the free market. Some even openly support PNL, and many support USR, which is now clearly even worse from those points of view, and they firmly oppose not just PSD, but what they believe it stands for, anyone less fortunate, less able to make it under those circumstances, older, less formally educated, with health problems, working for or receiving support from the state, and anyone who’s poorer in general, as that’s seen to be the individual’s fault. Not that PSD actually stands for those, of course, but that critical mass exists only when it comes to attacking PSD, not reacting when their opponents do the same things they lashed out against them for, and also actually pushing back against any efforts to support those categories of people, so the “old guard” and any actual leftists once again find themselves alone.

On the evening of February 4, starting at 6 PM, so actually during that marathon session mentioned above, a protest took place at the Ministry of Health. I meant to attend, but eventually didn’t, and saw that only about 50 or 60 people were present, though the event was at least mentioned by a few news sources. The reason for the protest was one of those ordinances being discussed, and approved, allowing private clinics the same access to funding as state hospitals in pretty much every way. There was a risk that said private clinics will be able to also charge their patients additional amounts, on top of the amount received from the state, but that element was eliminated for the moment, though as of next year they’ll be able to do so for anything that they also receive state funding for, so PNL only pushed the measure back until after the elections.
This obviously creates a competition between state and private clinics for funds that are already vastly insufficient, and also encourages the many doctors that practice in both to direct patients to the private clinic, causing the state hospitals, which are the only ones where health services can even in theory be guaranteed for all, to be even more starved of resources, and likely even personnel, as more are likely to decide to just work for the private clinics as a result, being able to argue that patients have the same access to the services there as well. But, of course, nothing is guaranteed if it’s offered by the private sector, and as of next year those services will almost certainly carry additional charges, so what’s presented as a measure supposedly meant to give people freedom of choice and improve conditions due to the competition will obviously in fact lead to the large majority, those who won’t be able to afford those charges, being forced to rely on state hospitals that will be even more underfunded and understaffed.

Moving on to yesterday, a protest demanding measures to be taken against air pollution took place. There was something else taking place earlier as well, the vote for this year’s budget being scheduled for the morning and some asking for support against the plans to build an incinerator, but I don’t know how many answered that call or what else happened then, other than the fact that said plans were unfortunately approved. What I do know is that this protest I’ll write about below was supported by several organizations, but this time around Fridays for Future Romania notified the authorities of it and attempted to have the route of the march approved. However, offering the usual excuse that another protest was taking place there at the same time, even though this notification had been submitted well in advance, the starting location was moved from the city hall to Unirii Square, greatly reducing the length and visibility of the march, and obviously also attempting to ensure that those in the city hall won’t be “bothered” by our demands. Not that there actually was anything else taking place there at that time, of course, but even if that’d have been the case, the starting location could have been moved only across the road, to Cismigiu Park, with the route still passing by the city hall, going past an entrance that was different from the one the other protest was supposedly taking place at.
But those from Fridays for Future Romania did try to get around that, announcing another event, from 2 PM, right at the other end of Cismigiu Park. The message mentioned rehearsals starting at 1:30 PM, but otherwise few details were provided, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the idea of a promise to protect nature, state that we are part of it, admit responsibility for the extinction of other species, global warming and pollution and the need for action, and that we must unite with nature and support each other was definitely something I wanted to get behind, so I went there as well, reaching the location just before 2 PM… And ending up disappointed at best, if not quite bothered, by what ended up happening at least until they actually got to the city hall. Once there, they actually found a great way to be able to stick around without guards or gendarmes being able to do much of anything against them, but what happened in the park was a poor choice in my opinion.
Those who were there when I arrived had apparently already filled the pledges, which seemed to ask each participant to name a plant or animal species and state their name, pledging to learn from and about it, see it and all others as brothers and sisters and tell them that they’re not alone anymore. That was pretty good and I’d have wanted to fill one as well, but only a few were left when I got there and they were filled before I could work up the courage to take one, so I was left wondering how else to participate for a few moments, and then quickly deciding that I wasn’t going to take part in what ended up being some “hippie” pseudo-spiritual “ritual”. Those who had arrived early had been given wreaths and they were wearing them on their heads, there were drums and a few other such instruments, and a guy started chanting and asking the others to do the same and step in a certain way, saying that all should maintain that rhythm in order to reach a divine state, enter another dimension and other stuff like that. It all just reminded me of the term “fluffy bunnies” and, viewing it as a Neopagan, it occurred to me that, if I wouldn’t be so agnostic, I might have even been somewhat offended.
They left that starting location at 2:05 PM, chanting and drumming while walking through the park, and I hesitantly followed a short distance behind them, wondering what was going to happen next. Then, when they climbed up to the top of the mound, I first walked past it, then returned and climbed up another path, passing through them and then going back down behind them. It seemed that, other than the guy leading and those playing instruments, it was mainly just the teenagers, those who were probably there for a “school strike”, who were going along with it, the few older participants and the reporters also hanging back, looking rather confused, amused or both. But I didn’t even care to just hang back anymore, so when they left again I went in another direction for a bit, then headed for the main exit on what I guess was a parallel route, occasionally hearing or seeing them even though they were quite some distance away.
I returned among those who were hanging back when the participants were in a circle, on the grass, close to that exit. Some guards came to talk to them, but eventually they were allowed to continue the “ritual”, which went along those same lines with the exception of a moment when a guy spoke for a little while, saying some things that were actually relevant, having to do with environmentalism. I stepped closer then, and so did most of the others, but the “leader” pretty much cut him off after a few moments, returning to his “ritual” and driving those of us hanging back away again as a result. It was funny when a reporter who had just arrived watched with confusion for a moment and then told another one that she had been sent there for a protest against the mayor and didn’t know what she was looking at and what to do with it.
A bit before 2:55 PM, after the “ritual” was apparently completed, we left the park, the main group needing five minutes to cross the road and get to the city hall, the crossing being a short distance away and needing to wait for the light to turn green, though some reporters and a few others just crossed directly, when there was no traffic. Of course, a guy met us there and started arguing that we couldn’t stay in that spot, at one point saying that there can’t be any event taking place there because people are working in that building and they can’t be bothered by the noise, though I’d assume that the whole point of a protest is to “bother” those it’s aimed at. I’d also assume that the other protest which was supposedly taking place there, the one listed as the official reason why the march couldn’t start from there, would have also “bothered”, but I guess that by that point even the authorities had given up pretending that said other protest actually existed.
That discussion went on for a few minutes, and the reporters also took some interviews there, but then, at 3:10 PM, a woman I have seen before, possibly one of those who can be said to have been the organizers, and whom I had noticed walking away at some point before the end of the “ritual” and not getting involved in those discussions with that guy either, quickly got the others to follow her to a side entrance and started tuning her guitar as others sat around in a circle and displayed some banners and signs, making sure not to block the entrance. Then a guy asked what those working inside would like to listen to on Valentine’s Day, and since the answer coming from the other participants was love songs, she sat down and started singing one, the others joining in. And they continued in that manner, with her finishing one song and suggesting another, asking whether people knew it and singing it if enough seemed to say so. That left that guy and the few gendarmes who had gathered there unsure how to react, since at that point they were dealing with a “cultural” event whose organizers had also specifically taken care not to block access, so they had no legal basis to stop it. Still, they seemed to be discussing it, and as the reporters and most adults peeled away one by one, a Gendarmerie van pulled in. I didn’t see anything indicating that there were problems, but just then, after the end a song, those gathered in that circle started chanting a slogan and, since I was already thinking of walking away anyway, I did so, just after 3:30 PM. I was among the last ones left outside that circle anyway, and walking away just then also meant I passed by a few gendarmes just when one of them was telling the others, who seemed pretty much at a loss, that he knew what to say to them, before they started walking towards that group.
I rejoined the group just after 5 PM, finding them at the starting location of the march. Others who had walked away were also returning around the same time, and others arrived there directly, so at that point there were about 50 or 60, and by the time the march started, at 5:45 PM, I counted about 110, that number continuing to increase over the course of the march, reaching just about 150 when I counted again, when we reached the Ministry of Environment, a bit after 6:10 PM. Still, and despite the fair amount of media attention, the numbers were low, so it was no surprise that we marched on the sidewalk after all, even though it had been stated that we’ll be marching on the street, on one lane. But at least it wasn’t another silent march, as there was plenty of chanting on the way, and there were a couple of nice chants against using cars, one of them having apparently been created by someone just that day and becoming the evening’s favorite. On the other hand, and despite the other organizations that were involved and present at that point, you can unfortunately still recognize the protests led by Fridays for Future here by the fact that they continue to “import” the “standard” English slogans and texts without adapting them, some of them being forced translations and one slogan being chanted in English directly, which didn’t strike me as a good idea for a protest taking place here.
Once at the Ministry, someone came out to talk to us, and the organizers had already been informed that this was going to happen. And the guy started by saying that he agreed with us, was on our side, was glad that such events are taking place, and later extended an open invitation, saying that at any point, between 7 AM and 11 PM, we’re welcome to come to the Ministry to discuss our concerns, without scheduling events or letting the press know. In fact, he seemed to have a problem with the press, and refused to answer reporters, sticking to talking to the participants, but his attitude in that discussion was one I can’t find a problem with. He did rather tend to blow off those who approached him aggressively, but as long as he was approached calmly, he really seemed to try to answer every question, even staying for quite some time after walking away from the main group to continue talking to a few others who had some more questions, some of them dealing with other matters.
He eventually walked back inside a bit before 7 PM, when the protest was scheduled to end, and the organizers took care to stick to that schedule, fitting the last two things they wanted to do into those last few minutes. One of those things was to light 62 candles and hold 62 seconds of silence for the 62 people who die on an average day in Romania because of air pollution, though if you go with the numbers they were quoting, 23000 per year, that actually makes for 63 per day, and in other places I saw much higher numbers anyway. The other thing was to quickly repeat that chant in English, which those from Fridays for Future seem really fond of, one more time. Then the end was called, pretty much exactly at 7 PM, and those who had stayed until then, since plenty had walked away earlier, scattered. Some of those who had been more aggressive in their approach, including those who had organized the previous marches for clean air, were voicing their displeasure at the outcome and the attitude of the representative who had talked to us, but I disagree with them, at least when it comes to the attitude. What, if any, the practical outcome will be remains to be seen, of course, and one of the main demands, and chants, was to stop talking and start acting, after all.

Written by Cavalary on February 15, 2020 at 10:18 PM in United We Save | 0 Comments

Running Tights and 2020’s First Sunday Update

Timed the squats today, 2:13, but otherwise I just caught up with reading, after being unable to do so yesterday, even ending up finishing a chapter on the toilet, before taking a bath at night, to only end up some 30 pages short. No idea how many years it’s been since I read a book in the bathroom, probably over a decade… But now I have to write this as well, even if I’ll end up with a Sunday update, the first one this year. Sort of considered trying to add another quick “New Finds” post, but there’s no way to do that off-line, as I’m writing this.

Friday I posted the previous post after waking up to pee, quickly connecting in order to do so since dad wasn’t here, then got back to bed and minutes later, while I was still awake, finally got a call from Carrefour, being told that a technical problem caused that part of my order to not be taken into the system and it’ll be entered then if I’ll accept to reschedule the delivery. So I did so, saying I’ll keep the hours and asking for the day, being told that in that case it’ll be Monday. Then I confirmed that it’ll be that cat food that will be delivered and can only hope that will actually happen, even though the site still says it’s not in stock anymore. Realized after the end of the conversation that I should have asked if they’ll be able to deliver before Monday if I’d change the time slot, but it was too late to do anything about it then.
The problem was that the little food of a similar but much more expensive kind dad had purchased had finished and he insisted to still have enough to fill all three bowls instead of letting Liza just eat it and combining what was left first in two and then in one, so we needed more before Monday and I meant to go look for some that day, even if it was certain to be a fair bit more expensive, if I’d have even found that specific kind at all, since I’m not seeing it on any of the sites anymore. But he bought a little more of that more expensive kind from that nearby pet shop he gets that from, bringing it when he finally got back, at 5:20 PM, after telling me the day before that he’ll be back between 3 PM and 4 PM and then sending me an SMS at 4:15 PM saying he’ll be here in 30 minutes…
Still, I wanted to go out, looking to grab a few other things as well but mainly to at least get a little taste of this winter weather we finally got, and use the opportunity to test the new jacket and gloves as well. So I left at 5:40 PM, also taking the book with me, though I only read a couple of pages on the metro on the way back, and then a few more before exiting the metro station, to at least finish a section of a chapter. Did mean to go to another part of the city at first, and that’d have given me much more time, but it was getting late already, so when I got to the metro station I decided to just get on the first one that will come and decide where to go based on that, getting off at Obor as a result and meaning to go to the Carrefour and Kaufland from there.
Well, that actually proved to be a very good thing, since I saw the Decathlon in that mall, which I didn’t remember was there, and had a look at running tights, finding a model that seemed somewhat acceptable and trying on a pair. Couldn’t buy it then, since I hadn’t taken more money with me after dad brought that cat food and I knew I wouldn’t have to look for some as well, so I just tried on the S and not the M as well, but I kept it in mind and, after considering rushing back to get the money to buy it that evening after all, decided to leave it for the next day and just have a look through that Carrefour, as originally planned. Didn’t find anything there though, so I then went to that Kaufland as well, finding 500 g packs of that kind of coffee dad wanted for just a little more than that 250 g one had been, so I got two of those and some other things, including a few small beets that seemed to be discounted for the evening, and which scanned for even less than that when I made my way to the self-checkout, making it look like they really wanted to get rid of that stock that evening. Got back around 8:50 PM.

Yesterday I woke up to pee at 8:45 AM and decided to stay up, despite being really sleepy. Had seen some running tights that seemed better at another Decathlon location, in a part of the city I had never been to as far as I recall, the site saying that it was the only location in Bucharest that still had any, so I wanted to get there early and try those as well, leaving at 10:25 AM as a result. Had my running pants on, so it’ll be easier to take them off and put them back on, and so it’ll be less of a problem if I’ll get mud on them, which did happen. However, I ended up only trying things on once, after getting back to Obor, and getting back five and a half hours after leaving with the model I had seen there the previous evening after all, albeit in size M and not the S I had tried on then.
At least I walked for a while in that beautiful winter weather we had yesterday, and the much longer time spent on the metro in order to get to and back from that other part of the city meant I could read a fair bit, though obviously not enough, and otherwise the trip was pointless, likely only greatly increasing the risk of again failing to avoid the flu at the start of the year, and I’m actually a bit worried about some things I’m starting to feel this evening. But I guess I at least visited another part of the city, and actually managed to not get lost, being confused for a moment after exiting the metro station but figuring out which way I needed to go and getting to that mall without any wrong turns on the way.
Once there, however, I couldn’t find those running tights I was looking for on my own and the machine that was in front of that area wouldn’t let me check the stock again, saying the service was unavailable when I tried. So I went up the escalators and looked around there as well, then checked on one of the machines from that area, seeing that those two pairs in size S were still listed as being in stock, and those were the only option, since there were no M ones. But, seeing as I couldn’t find them myself, I asked an employee, and she called the guy who handled that section, but after checking on his tablet, asking me to follow him back down and searching through things himself, he was unable to find them either. He then went away for a few minutes, asking me to wait for him, but only came back with a different model, saying that they were similar and the closest thing he could find. So I took them, saying I’ll try them on and decide, but didn’t even do so, noticing just as I was about to do so that they only had one tiny pocket, smaller than the one those I had seen at Obor had, and the reason I was uncertain about those was that I’ll need to carry more things than I can fit in there at least during the marathon. Still, going to that area meant I also saw the piles of clothes left in the baskets for stuff that’s tried on and not taken back yet, so I spent quite some time searching for the model I wanted there as well, before returning to a small section that employee had searched and which I had missed at first… And ending up finding those two pairs on my own. However, one look was enough to tell me I didn’t want to bother trying them on either, since they were clearly designed for cold weather and therefore not something I’ll be using for the actual races, and their three pockets were all tiny and without zippers, meaning that the one larger pocket with a zipper that the other model had was still closer to what I wanted, even if not enough.
I should have been able to buy that model from there as well, and they had plenty of pairs, but the listed price was higher than the one I had seen at Obor. Maybe it’d have scanned for less, since the employee had pointed out that a lot of prices had just changed the day before and they hadn’t had time to replace all the labels, so prices may well be lower than the listed ones, but the listed price matched the one on the site and I couldn’t find any way to scan a label to check, those machines not reacting to holding a product next to one, even though there’s a big message saying to do so for more information. So I decided not to risk it and just left, which led to an odd moment when the alarm at the exit sounded a few seconds after I walked past it, so clearly for someone else, but the guard called me back and asked what I had in a pocket that some labels were sticking out of. And when I pulled out my gloves he grabbed them and passed them through the sensors before handing them back to me, making me wonder how much of an idiot did he think I was, to steal something and shove the product, with labels sticking out, just in my open pockets, when I had three more visible pockets with the zipper closed and two large inner pockets, which were actually full, one of them with the book and the other with bags and that old backpack.
Either way, as I already said, I then went back to Obor and still found those running tights there. They weren’t sort of hidden away behind the others anymore, as I had placed them the previous evening, but there were two in size S and two in size M, and one S had the zipper open, which was how I had left the one I had tried on, so it was probably the same one. Still, I took all four and tried them on, just in case there were differences between those with the same listed size as well, and also in case I’ll find a problem with one of those of the size I’ll decide on, and eventually decided on an M, the S seeming a bit tight after all. I guess being tight is rather the point, but they have a cord to tie, so it shouldn’t be a problem and I preferred to be on the safe side, also in case they’ll shrink after being washed. Did feel a bit awkward after being done, since I had spent too much time in there and didn’t want to stay even longer, so I left without putting the other three pairs back on the hangers and an employee quickly came to do so as soon as I came out of there just carrying them on my arm, before I could have a chance to hang them on my own. Told him I meant to do that, but he said it’s all right and got to work, then handed them to another employee to put back as I was looking over the pair I had chosen one more time.
After that, I decided to not even have another look through that Carrefour, but did go back to that Kaufland, for some more carrots and black radishes… And I again had an older woman stand right next to me as I was using the self-checkout, trying to “help” me before the employee came as the machine said the carrots were the wrong product after I placed them on the scales, rushing me, even selecting things herself on the screen when I again got too confused because of her presence to even remember how to pay. Did mean to say that I’m using those machines just to minimize my interaction with people, but obviously couldn’t manage even that. But at least I got out of there with the stuff, and put it all in the backpack, with the running tights on top of the bags with the vegetables.
On the way back, I noticed that stuffing the book in there had already caused that inner pocket of the jacket to start tearing. It was obvious the inner pockets were very flimsy and not really intended to be used, and definitely not for things that can barely fit in them and are relatively heavy for their size as well, but I didn’t think they’ll literally tear right away. Still, it’s something that can be fixed, and I guess that fragile mesh that’s there can even be replaced with something sturdier at some later point, so I don’t care too much. Other than that, only checked when I was back at the metro and noticed that dad had sent me an SMS asking if I could buy peas so he’ll be able to cook something for me, but it’s not like I can’t fix myself something out of what we already have, and did so yesterday, and I didn’t want to go back for that, plus that I thought I’ll find cheaper peas elsewhere anyway, some other day.

I guess that’s it for now, and I also just about caught up with reading, so I’ll be making myself mamaliga again tonight and then I’ll see how I’ll feel over the next few days. Did consider running tomorrow, to try those tights as well, and get the week’s run out of the way before it’ll get worse if I did catch something, but there will probably be ice, mud or both, and at the moment the forecast is for good weather for running on Friday and a little more wind but otherwise still all right on Thursday, so I’m going to wait, even if there’s a protest Friday evening that I’m thinking of attending, assuming I won’t be feeling sick. Something also caught in my back again earlier, as I got up after reading in bed, and while at the moment it doesn’t seem bad, it’s another reason to want to take it easy for now.

Written by Cavalary on February 9, 2020 at 10:54 PM in Personal | 0 Comments