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National Day, Clear Square, EU Flag, FSC, Delayed Vote – December 1 to 9 in Bucharest

On top of what would be the typical Sunday protest, last week people were asked to attend one on Friday as well, since it was Romania’s National Day. The event was called “Romania Is Dying”, which was an admittedly sensationalist title, but the description also listed more general matters, such as healthcare, education and the millions of Romanians who left to work abroad, after all the issues which have been on the agenda of activists and protesters lately. It didn’t include any actual demands though, which was also pointed out by one of the activists I follow.
Adding that lack of demands to the rain that was in the forecast and the fact that the protest was scheduled to start at 6 PM on a Friday, and on the National Day as well, might have resulted in a rather embarrassing turnout, yet the mayor seemed to decide to offer a helping hand by suddenly “inventing” a third Christmas fair, organized in just a few days and intended to take place in Victory Square between December 5 and 17, with the area being blocked for three more days before and after that period for the required work. Since no plans for such a fair had been known before, there had not been such a fair in Victory Square in previous years, the area being poorly suited for such events anyway, and another request for an event of this sort had actually been denied earlier, it’s obvious that the only reason for this was to stop the protests from taking place there these days, since you can’t legally have two such events in the same place. As a result, people had another reason to protest, and December 1 was the last day when they knew they should be able to do so without things getting ugly.
Not that there’s much to be said about what actually took place there that evening, but the estimates of 1500 to 2000 participants that I saw seem fair. A group had brought large letters forming “Romania Moare” (“Romania Is Dying”) and held them up, and there was also a large palm with a message against the fiscal changes, in reply to the Prime Minister’s statement that he didn’t see any complaining about those the week before, when 3000 such palms, albeit of a significantly smaller size and with a message against the changes having to do with the justice system, were ordered and handed out by a group of activists. Otherwise, people were invited to use the sound system installed there to speak, some patriotic songs were played in between such speeches, and a few minutes before 8:30 PM, when most had already left, those remaining were asked to join in the Union Hora. That made the Square clear a bit faster than it would have otherwise, as the circle grew as more dancers joined and those who didn’t care to dance were literally knocked away.
One more thing that happened was that the Christmas lights were turned on, all over the city, at 7:10 PM, and you can see how the area looked in some of the pictures I took. Actually decided to take a few just for the lights just before leaving, giving myself something to do for a few moments longer after being among those knocked away by the dancers. Still wasn’t there when the protest pretty much broke up for good, but didn’t miss that moment by much, the reports I saw stating that the rain got heavier around 8:40 PM and quickly caused just about all those still there at the time to leave.

Unsurprisingly, things got heated the next day, starting in the morning, when workers arrived to start getting the area ready for that additional Christmas fair. Protesters, in numbers varying from dozens to a few hundred over the course of the day, met and tried to stop them, the methods used escalating from attempting to form a human chain around the area or surrounding it with a “barrier” of toilet paper to pushing the fences away and onto the road and dismantling what had already been placed there, apparently in a very orderly manner. Gendarmes stepped in to stop the fences from being moved in a way that would have affected traffic, but neither they nor the security guards stopped those taking things down, and eventually the firm hired to do the work took everything away. Or, more exactly, they took everything except the toilets then, those being removed by Sunday.
One troubling incident took place when a protester asked an old man who was in the area of his opinion about the protests and the man insulted the protesters in reply. What followed after that was obvious harassment, the protester chasing the old man, who had immediately started walking away, and trading insults with him until the old man struck the protester with his backpack, knocking the phone used to film the incident out of his hand and, from what I heard, breaking it. And then the protester attacked the old man, who had blood on his face by the time gendarmes rushed in and immobilized his attacker. As far as I know, the old man refused to press charges, despite having every reason to, since he had been so obviously harassed before things got violent.
There were other incidents as well, a couple of others also being taken away by gendarmes and eventually fined large amounts. Or, more exactly, I’m not sure how the total amount, which was made public, was split among the others, but I know that one woman, one of those who may be seen as one of the leaders of these ongoing Victory Square protests, received a particularly large fine after being dragged away kicking and screaming. It was entirely deserved though, since she got completely hysterical while pushing and shaking the fences and then ended up striking the two gendarmes who were very calmly trying to get her to calm down, and I heard that she spat on at least one too. Sure, she struck them lightly, on their chests or shoulders, and they were more confused than anything else by it, but it counts and worse charges may yet come her way.
The thing is that those who can be said to be leading these ongoing protests have nothing to do with the activists I’ve known all these years, and this was pointed out by some after these events, some of those who do continue to attend at least the bigger protests specifying that they no longer feel that they fit in and are increasingly uncomfortable with where these protests are going. However, their first reaction to Saturday’s events was to openly express support for those who were in the Square at the time, doing so perhaps more firmly and openly than they had supported these protests in quite some time, calling everyone to rush there and help, and then asking for legal and financial aid to be offered to those who were taken away. Obviously, the tone changed once all the facts became known, some openly criticizing those who had turned violent and even those who dismantled things, stating that they will not support anything of the sort, while others took a more nuanced approach.
Still, despite the indefensible behavior of a few and the at least questionable one of others, the result couldn’t be denied, said result being that the mayor announced that the fair will be moved away from Victory Square, and it has since been canceled completely, which was obviously going to happen since the whole point was to block that location. However, the day’s events were used by her, some members of the ruling coalition and the TV stations loyal to them to once again portray protesters as dangerous and call for the gendarmes to get much tougher, aiming harsh accusations at them for not having done so already. As such, I for one am concerned that winning that battle may lead to losing the war, or at least to making future battles a whole lot harder, even more so since new laws for the Police and Gendarmerie are being discussed at this time and they were quite clearly aimed at stopping protests even before such excuses were provided.

Considering all of this, it wasn’t surprising to see significantly fewer people on Sunday than there had been on Friday, the estimates of maybe around 500 that I saw again seeming quite fair. With the Square clear and that fair no longer being an issue, the immediate problem faced by those who were interested in being able to return there during this period no longer existed, then it’s quite obvious that some were put off by the previous day’s events, and then there’s also the fact that the Senate was scheduled to vote on those laws having to do with the justice system during the next few days, so some may have wished to avoid tiring themselves, and maybe also the risk of ending up involved in further incidents, before then.
Under those circumstances, Sunday evening’s protest, again scheduled to start at 6 PM, risked to pretty much die out without even really starting, not being significantly more lively than one of the protests that keep taking place there every evening, being attended by a handful of regulars. However, following Saturday’s events, a large flag of the European Union that’s being taken to the cities where protests are taking place was brought to Bucharest by activists from Galati, whose turn to have it apparently was that day, and this gave people something to do starting at 7:30 PM, when the participants were asked to gather around and hold it. I again left at 8:30 PM, having taken only a handful of pictures that evening, and there weren’t many people still there when I did, but a post I saw later stated that the flag was displayed for about one hour and 20 minutes, so until around 8:50 PM.

While all of this was going on, the group which also handed out those palms didn’t lose sight of their other campaigns either, asking supporters on Saturday to send a message to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in order to persuade them not to reassociate with Holzindustrie Schweighofer, an investigation revealing that the company hadn’t improved its practices. Then, with the FSC’s board of directors meeting Monday and Tuesday to discuss Schweighofer’s situation, representatives of the FSC agreed to meet two representatives of the group on Tuesday, assuring them that the reassociation will not happen soon and the company will need to meet certain sustainability requirements first.

This same group also created a tool to alert those who sign up and inform them how to take quick action when these changes having to do with the justice system will be voted on in the Senate. Since I didn’t sign up, I don’t know what that tool actually did, but I doubt it was necessary, since most groups and activists were watching this matter carefully, as did the USR party, and when these proposals showed up on the schedule, Wednesday, calls to gather at the Parliament came from every direction while USR was using every tool available to them to block or at least delay the vote, including proposing as many amendments as they could come up with, speaking as much as they could get away with, challenging everything that could be challenged, using loudspeakers when they were no longer allowed at the microphone and staging a protest in the Senate.
One problem with these protests taking place that day was that, following the death of Romania’s former king the day before, nearly all groups had initially announced suspending any planned protests for the following period, the ruling coalition also announcing suspending their plans to stage massive support rallies. A few of the Victory Square regulars showed up Tuesday evening as well and there were a few comments criticizing the others’ move, seeing as the vote on those changes was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, but a message signed by many groups asked the ruling coalition to respect this period as well and at least delay any actions which will prompt a response, even Wednesday morning the plan obviously being to keep their word and not organize anything if at all possible.
But, of course, it wasn’t possible, the ruling coalition pushing through with the planned vote and the atmosphere getting increasingly tense over the course of the day, as they kept using whatever tricks they could but were still held back by USR’s determination. Unfortunately, even other opposition parties criticized USR, and let’s not even mention what happened, and what’s been happening since then, at the TV stations loyal to the ruling coalition, which are sadly by far the most viewed ones for news and talk shows. Interestingly, at some point during the day, the proposals temporarily showed up on the Senate’s site as having been approved, the matter officially being dismissed as a software error but plenty having doubts about that.
Still, with people gathering at the Parliament during the evening, estimates placing the maximum at up to 2000 but stating that people kept coming and going, the ruling coalition eventually had to give in and accept delaying the vote until next Tuesday. The cold, the gendarmes and even the late hour had driven most protesters away before that decision became known, but those who were still there at the time waited for the senators to leave, relying on information from USR members to know which gate to wait at and that many will try to leave in their personal cars, things getting even more tense when they were recognized. There was even a moment, when protesters were walking back and forth on a pedestrian crossing from the area and even trying to gather around cars and stop them, when a member of PSD lightly hit two. But the mood obviously changed completely when the members of USR walked out, openly and together, at the end, being met with applause and congratulations and stopping to talk with those who were still there at the time.
All told, seeing as almost all groups, old and new, called people to come to the Parliament that evening, and considering what was proven to be possible so far, the turnout was rather low. Then again, I wasn’t there either, the large number of gendarmes may have scared some away, and their behavior may have caused others to walk away sooner without generating the anger which would have attracted others, as the reports of those who were there state that they seemed mainly concerned with keeping the traffic flowing and otherwise made little sense, spreading protesters one way or the other, sometimes blocking one sidewalk and at other times letting protesters occupy it again, spraying some tear gas at one point but without it seeming to lead to anything else, and, as far as I know, not asking people to show their identification or fining them.

Since then, that idea of suspending protests during this period was abandoned, almost all groups again calling for a massive protest Sunday evening, and plans being made for another one at the Parliament next Tuesday. However, there are also some messages from a few known activists who stress that the “core” of this year’s protests is different from that of those from previous years, that while some of them continue to attend they feel increasingly uncomfortable doing so and can’t identify with the current regulars, and even that the proposed changes may not be that much of a problem and other things should be the focus at the moment.
I for one definitely agree with this part about the focus, at least. As for the changes themselves, I’m not afraid to say that the matter goes over my head, being a long, technical discussion about details having to do with something I’m far from sufficiently knowledgeable about or, frankly, interested in. Many of the activists I know and, at least to a certain extent, trust when it comes to such matters are against these changes, and that includes most of those who are increasingly uncomfortable with the protests themselves, so I can say that I express my support for their opposition, but I don’t have a personal stance and I’m getting quite weary of the whole thing, and also increasingly concerned that other matters are being allowed to slip past us while just about everyone focuses so much on this one issue.
At the moment I’m saying that I’d want to at least have a look tomorrow evening as well, but I’m not even actually sure that I’ll go, much less that I’ll do anything more than wander around quietly for a little while and take a few more pictures, if even that. And I think an increasing number of others are starting to feel the same way, and that some have in fact been feeling this way for quite some time, so maybe it’s time to largely leave the issue to those who oppose these changes while being experts in the field, or at least sufficiently involved, and to USR, who have now actually managed to do what their voters expected and demanded of them, and only bring the matter back to the attention of the people and call for another protest over it when truly necessary.

Written by Cavalary on December 9, 2017 at 11:24 PM in United We Save | 0 Comments

Won a Nice Backpack, Got Silenced on Patook

Should have written another protest report by now, since with the situation developing even as I’m starting to write this, there will be a whole lot to include in a post written even later. But really don’t feel like doing anything today, so in order to at least use such a day with nothing planned to check the week’s first post off the list somehow, I guess I’ll throw a personal update here instead, starting with the two personal matters mentioned as going on at the time at the start of the previous post, without getting into them otherwise then.

The first I was made aware of on October 12, when I received an e-mail informing me that I had won a backpack for filling out a survey on VICE and requesting my full name, address and phone number. Of course, at first I was suspicious, but I did recall filling out such a survey, the e-mail seemed genuine and looking up the sender’s name seemed to confirm her position, even though I couldn’t actually find her listed on any VICE site, so I eventually decided to reply with the required information on October 15, since the e-mail also stated the fact that the deadline was October 16, after which time another winner will be picked.
Now I expected it to take a few weeks, but on November 20, so five full weeks after the deadline, I sent another e-mail to ask what was going on, since I hadn’t even received a reply to confirm that the first one had been received, so I said it was all right if I had been disqualified for some reason or that reply of mine somehow got lost, but I’d at least want to know. And this time I did receive a reply, letting me know that there had been some problems and sending the prize took longer than expected, but it should be sent by the end of the month, making me assume I’ll receive it at some point in December, and probably not in the first part of the month.
That wasn’t the case, however, since Thursday, so on November 30, dad found a notification in the building’s door, letting me know that an attempt had been made to deliver a parcel, without any information regarding what was in it. Now there was a single thing it could have been, but I definitely didn’t expect it so soon and hadn’t been called by the delivery person, so I was very surprised. And then became increasingly anxious when dad said the delivery person should be called to schedule a new delivery date, so anxious that I didn’t even understand what I had read when I looked over that part of the notification myself, missing the fact that the first listed option was to contact head office, the delivery person’s number being listed as another option.
Obviously, I wasn’t going to call myself, and there could be no calling from my number since I last charged that a long time ago and it’s been several months since I’m back to just being able to receive. It may actually be close to the time when I’ll need to charge again so I won’t lose the number, now that I think of it, but while dad insisted that evening, quite angrily actually, to charge it the next day, I managed to convince him otherwise and he called the delivery guy then. However, that didn’t accomplish anything, since the guy just told him he was in his free time and to call back on Monday, since the next day was free, being Romania’s National Day. The fact that dad rather launched into him as soon as he answered for not calling first and just leaving after dropping a notification outside like that might have had something to do with that reaction.
Either way, the delivery guy definitely didn’t wait until Monday, instead trying again Saturday morning, when he got to the apartment door and rang, but both me and dad were sleeping, so he woke us both up but left before dad actually got up to see who it was, leaving another notification, with “call Monday” written on it by hand. And then he didn’t wait for any call Monday either, instead coming even earlier, again waking us both up, since dad works every other night now and we end up sleeping during similar hours at least every other day. But at least Monday dad just jumped out of bed, in pajamas and a bathrobe, and opened the door to receive the parcel, then went back to sleep while I opened it and checked out the prize.
This happened even though I had used the form on the delivery company’s site on Saturday, stating what had happened until then and asking to be told by e-mail whether the delivery can be made Monday after 3 PM, or if not then to be given a rough time for Tuesday, or to be told that I can pick it up from one of their locations, which I found was actually close enough, saying it really would be no problem and it may even be better to do it that way, to spare everyone the frustration and them the repeated pointless effort of trying to deliver with no previous contact. But I guess that wasn’t even read in time, as I only received a reply Tuesday morning, just to say that the parcel with that code had already been delivered and they apologize for any inconvenience.
Admittedly, the lack of contact the first time was the sender’s fault, not theirs, as the number I saw listed had nothing to do with mine, and in fact was not a valid number in Romania, at least as far as I can tell. And what made it even more obvious that there had been problems on the way was an e-mail received from the manufacturer Monday afternoon, so after I had already received the backpack. They knew just who I was, starting by congratulating me for the prize, but then let me know that the delivery company they used, in order to get it to some representative Romania I guess, since this parcel was listed as having been picked up by the company that delivered it to me from Baia Mare, notified them that the recipient’s name and address were incorrect, so they asked me to provide them with the correct information. But, of course, the name and address listed were the correct ones, so I just replied to say that and to let them know that what had somehow been changed from what I had sent VICE had been the phone number. And I guess that settled it, since I received no reply, neither to that nor to the message which I had by then already sent to the person from VICE who had contacted me, to let her know that I had received the prize and also to ask what happened with the phone number.
As for the backpack itself, it sure is nice. And it’s the best choice of color too. But the thing is that it’s far too nice, and I wouldn’t have much to do with one anyway. Definitely far too nice to take it when going to some protest, or when I happen to volunteer somewhere, so I just kept the wallet with the included bag, which are also part of the package and will be very useful when shopping, and gave the backpack to dad… Who also said it’s far too nice for him and put it away, maybe to be used when he’ll go on some trip where it’ll be neither out of place nor in any predictable danger of getting damaged.

Moving on to the other issue, I had been suspecting for quite some time that my messages were no longer getting through on Patook. The current version of my profile is definitely there and the place is aimed at finding friends, not at dating, and it seems to have potential, but the filters are infuriating and I had noticed absolutely no reaction, whether replies or votes, to my posts in discussions for some two months, no messages sent to new people in quite some time showing up as having been read, and also that the couple of ongoing conversations I had on there seemed to die out around mid-October and the messages I sent, much later, asking what was going on didn’t show up as having been read either. So I eventually asked whether the filters had silenced me completely, and the developer said he’ll look into it, but then didn’t get back to me until I actually had it confirmed that my messages weren’t being delivered and sent an e-mail to ask about it as well.
So now I know that I had been sending and posting dozens and dozens of messages into the void there. The developer said it’s been going on for “a few weeks”, but I suspect it’s at least since late October. Either way, his reply said: “There are a few dozen women you talked to who have blocked you and you hit a threshold when the last person you talked to also seemingly blocked you a few weeks ago. I don’t know why they’re blocking you and I’m assuming there’s no flirting going on but maybe you are saying something that’s offending them. Anyway it’s a high block percentage and there’s also a few “rude/aggressive” reports.” Also, though I had told him from the beginning that I kept getting blocked and that’s pretty much expected for me, things between me and the large majority of other people usually getting ugly quickly, and he said at the time that I could get blocked any number of times and it’ll be fine, now he said that this is not a bug in the code, it’s exactly what’s supposed to happen in such cases, so he doesn’t know how to deal with it and is too busy with other things to try to figure something out, the only thing he could try being to manually unblock me, but the system will silence me again as soon as another person blocks me, which is of course likely to happen very quickly.
I sent him two more messages after that, but those aren’t even showing up as read, so I’m not sure whether I ended up blocked from contacting even him or he just didn’t bother to check anymore, knowing what it was about. I guess I’ll see when I’ll next report a bug, since I did that a fair number of times and he was usually quick to react, and I doubt it’ll be that long before I’ll find another, so if there will be no reply to that either, things should be pretty clear. And until then, I guess there’s pretty much no point for me to go there anymore… Which actually had me take another quick look at OKCupid these days, though just to answer some more questions. Sure wouldn’t want to have to use that again, but I’m still absolutely “starved” for a close friend, have been for so many years, and recently I feel a quite desperate need for someone to just talk to at night and I don’t even have that, so I will be getting back to looking for apparently like-minded women somewhere, and if this issue on Patook won’t be sorted out…

Other than that, I did attend Sunday’s protest as well, but not much happened there and not many attended. Estimates I saw were of about 500, which seemed rather fair, but this is just a personal post, so I’ll leave the actual event aside and just say that I got there at 6:25 PM and, as far as I recall, again left around 8:30 PM. In between, I pretty much just wandered around and took a handful of pictures, again only using old batteries. So I may have bought those new ones, but so far I didn’t need them. Remains to be seen what will happen next, however.

As for this week’s run, that was yesterday and the time was a frustrating 48:01, with sector times of 4:21, 5:09, 5:57, 4:26, 5:05, 5:49, 4:31, 5:05, 5:52 and 1:46, making for lap times of 15:27, 15:20 and 15:28. There was little wind and there weren’t many people in the park, but the reported temperature was only around 5°C again, it wasn’t so sunny anymore and in fact it even started raining while I was running. There were clouds, but I didn’t see rain in the forecast, so I was very surprised when I started feeling drops on my face just as I was starting the first lap’s second sector, and after a while it was really raining, making me wonder how I’ll manage until it just suddenly stopped as I was finishing the second lap’s first sector, meaning that I was in the rain for pretty much one whole lap.
Either way, when I started I just meant to get another time under 49 minutes, but when I finished I was very disappointed due to not managing a third one under 48 instead. Anything could have made that difference, not only the places where I know I lost some time, such as when a guy stopped and turned around right in front of me shortly after I started or when I went around some others on the outside, but also when I may have slowed down a tiny bit while taking my left glove off and putting it back on, since I had gloves on but couldn’t have my stopwatch mark sector times like that, and I took it off a few times to wipe my nose better too. Even the mere fact that I had two t-shirts under my shirt may have made that difference, especially since I quickly realized that the second one wasn’t needed.

Written by Cavalary on December 6, 2017 at 11:57 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Protests, Shops, Heavy Things and Getting Stuck in a Toilet

There are a few things going on right now, two being personal matters, one having to do with protests, but they’re not over yet and I just have to post something here now, so I’ll leave them for later. Didn’t sleep much today anyway, after waking up at 8:45 AM to watch the season’s first Formula E race and then being woken up shortly after I had managed to fall asleep again and unable to get back to sleep after that, and tomorrow there’s another protest which I should probably attend, though today’s events make me wonder how that will turn out. Many will be there this evening too, but that’s not for me, all things considered.

Getting back to Sunday, since I tried to avoid mixing things again in the protest report, I didn’t mention then that, since I took the metro, I went to the toilet at Victoriei station and got stuck inside a stall. The door handle was broken but the mechanism apparently still worked, clicking closed as I closed the door behind me, and leaving me trapped inside. I tried to grab the door from above and below, pulling as hard as I could, but all I managed to do was peel off a bit of skin from the palm of my right hand. That’s actually quite troubling, getting injured in the door of a public toilet, but I didn’t even notice right away, being too focused on trying to get out and then needing to shout that I was stuck inside.
What makes things worse is that I could have opened the door myself if I’d have thought about it, but I didn’t, so after someone else who was there asked whether I was serious and then said he will in just a moment when I asked whether he could call someone to help, I saw a key in the hole left by the broken handle. That was too small, so he then asked others whether they had any larger ones, but I didn’t think to use mine even then, though one definitely should have been large enough, instead trying to use the pen I had in my pocket and not managing anything. So I just waited another moment, until someone else offered a larger key, which was used to turn the mechanism and easily open the door. I was obviously both scared by having had to interact and embarrassed by the whole situation, but none of the others there seemed to care, even seeming to largely ignore my thanks, the one who I think opened the door actually going to another stall the instant he saw me step out, so I basically thanked his back.
It was only after that, when I washed my hands, that I noticed the blood. In fact, I’m not sure there was blood right away, but I immediately felt something in that palm that seemed to be hardened skin and I pulled at it, after which there definitely was blood. So no idea whether that was some sort of splinter or a flap of skin which had been cut loose by something or who knows what else, but I just wanted to get out of there, so I didn’t spend too much time washing it in what seemed to be the only working sink in the men’s section. Did wash a bit more in the sink that’s in between, not in any of the sections, and the bleeding seemed to have mostly stopped by then, but there was no soap there and I at least wanted to use some soap, so after going up I made my way to the single public toilet I know of in the Victory Square area, waited since there were a couple of others ahead of me, and then had to go back out after only washing with a bit more water, since there was no soap there either and it even refused to let me use as much water as I wanted, the system not turning it back on after a few jets, no matter how much I held or waved my hands under the sensor. So I only finally used soap when I went to the toilet at the nearby Starbucks, which happened some time later, since I was just getting even more embarrassed by the whole thing and went to hide myself among the protesters who were already there and behind my camera for a while.
Put some medicinal alcohol there when I got back, but that was hours later, and a local infection is not the only concern when it comes to such places. Plus, pretty much anything I do touches that spot and it’s not exactly healing well either. The small area that’s redder and slightly swollen didn’t get bigger, but the dull pain remains, it definitely bothers me when I touch it, and what I took to be a scab may actually be a bit of skin which either was left in the middle, the scratch only tearing away a tiny strip around it, or was somehow newly formed directly in the middle, because the outer edges are being pushed up as the wound is trying to heal and I can’t seem to pick at that bit in the middle, which now forms the bottom of a hole in the skin of my hand, and which is also a rather odd color. Today I even tried to use the tip of a small knife, which I had passed through fire first, to get under it and pull it up, but there seemed to be no way to do it, not without actually pushing the knife into my flesh. So I guess it’s clear that I’ll at least be left with a scar there, but hope it will otherwise heal and it won’t be any worse than that.

Back to Sunday, after a start like that, I was worried about the rest of the evening. However, the protest itself went well, those issues with the mounted gendarmes shortly after the start of the march not affecting me and being over quickly either way, so as time went on I was relaxing… Ending up perhaps a bit too relaxed at one point, when I was on the sidewalk, on a section that has a fence at the edge, and I spotted a sign I wanted to take a picture of, so I went under that fence instead of over it and apparently that caused my little notebook, which was in the pocket of my jacket at the time, to fall out without me noticing it. Fortunately, as soon as I had taken that picture, somebody tapped me on the shoulder and handed it to me, saying he doesn’t know what it is but it fell. Even more fortunately, the metro and bus cards were still in it, but I also had the pencil there and that wasn’t anymore. Yet pretty much as soon as I turned around and started looking for it, someone else said he saw a pencil fall next to the sidewalk too, and it was still there when I made my way back to that spot. So I didn’t lose anything, and found once again that people can be nice and helpful too.

Moving on to Wednesday, I started the day with this week’s run, the time being 48:19, with intermediate times of 4:21, 5:10, 5:55, 4:26, 5:04, 5:53, 4:34, 5:07, 5:59 and 1:50, making for lap times of 15:26, 15:23 and 15:40. It was quite cold, with a reported high around 6°C, so I wore my jacket on the way to and from the park, tying it around my waist while running, but it was sunny and there was little wind, so it was fine otherwise. There will come a time when I’ll need to resort to the same measures as last winter, and when my times will get worse as a result, maybe even before there will be any snow or ice and I highly doubt I’ll even manage to stay under 50 minutes, but that time didn’t come yet.

Though I didn’t actually intend to go even as I was running, I eventually ended up going to buy some things after the run. My parents hadn’t left me anything that day and I could delay getting something for myself for one more day, hoping they’ll leave something by then, but my mother had left a list mentioning a large bag of laundry detergent, fabric softener, 12 liters of sunflower oil and cat food and I thought I could find better offers if I checked the hypermarkets, while dad would have probably just bought from the first one he thought of, possibly using the car and therefore paying for fuel as well. And I did have enough set aside for other things, so assuming that they will cover what I’ll spend and more, I decided to just get it over with, at least for those things, since I still meant to get something for myself the next day.
Grabbed 14 plastic bottles as well, first going to the hypermarket that has that machine, and which doesn’t list their offers anywhere, as I knew some offers for the others. And this time I actually found it working, got it to accept 11 of them and actually used the ticket too, those rejected being two small beer bottles and one normal water bottle which somehow ended up sideways as it was being pulled inside, prompting it to display a message that it was rejected and not counting it even though, after struggling for a while, it did manage to pull it and I heard it being crushed inside. The large wine bottles required a few attempts though, as it initially refused the first one I tried, twice, but then I tried to put another in in yet another way and it worked, so I then just did the same for the other two, as in including that first one.
That done, I went in, got some bread and one other small thing for myself, then checked the prices for the things on the list and found that the detergent and the cat food were cheaper than they should have been in the other places and the oil was cheaper than the cheapest Romanian brand on offer elsewhere, and I always try to avoid imported food if it’s something that can be produced here as well. So I bought all of that, getting the largest bag of detergent, 13 kg, since that offered the best price per kilogram. Then I checked out, at first accidentally giving the cashier only two thirds of the amount and noticing that she seemed ready for an argument when she pointed it out. But it had been just a mistake, so I checked what I had left, apologized and offered the rest.
The problem was that I had only taken one large and sturdy bag, not planning to buy the heavy things in one place like that, so even though they provide that free bus and therefore getting here wasn’t the problem, just getting to the bus was, the handle of the already weakened bag I had used for the plastic bottles breaking after only a few steps. Since I had nowhere else to put the oil, I just tore a hole somewhere lower and getting my hand through there allowed me to walk the rest of the way, though I had to stop a couple of times before getting there, a total of 26 kg being a bit much. It didn’t also allow me to get from where the bus stops here to the door though, even that makeshift “handle” tearing before I even reached the building entrance, so I then walked up the stairs while holding just the other one and the pieces of this one, and then even those tore away completely. But I was only a couple of steps away from the door by then, so I managed.
Once here, I just dropped the things in the kitchen, stuffed the other recyclables in the torn bag, and went back out, heading for a second hypermarket, where I knew the fabric softener should have been cheaper and I had also seen an offer for black radishes ending that day. So I dropped those recyclables off, along with the bag, on the way, then bought those things, some lemons and another small thing for myself, and got back. Unfortunately I saw slightly cheaper lemons the next day, but what’s done is done.

Speaking of the next day, went back Thursday, though I first visited the other nearby hypermarket, which I hadn’t bothered with on Wednesday, because I needed batteries and while I normally really avoid them, batteries are one thing I stick to a store brand for, and that’s theirs. And while the price listed in front of the pack of 12 on the shelf was the one I knew, as I looked around I noticed a price that was almost a quarter lower, listed as being for the same type, placed where the smaller kind were, plus another discounted price listed for the packs of four. Could find only one pack of four left, but I grabbed that and one of 12 and checked them at the nearest scanner, finding that the cheaper price did indeed apply to the pack of 12, and it resulted in a slightly lower price per unit than for the pack of four, so I got it… And also found a couple of small coins on the floor.
But returning to that other hypermarket was quite profitable as well, first because on both days I found a cart left at the entrance of the mall it’s in and I carried it back down, grabbing the coin in each once I set them back in their place. And then I found that the packs of yogurt I was looking for were back on the shelf, after having been gone the previous evening, and the listed price was the same one, so I grabbed one. However, when I scanned it I saw that the price it showed was 0.99 RON higher, so as if somebody had added 0.01 instead of 1.00 to the label, compared to what may have been an earlier price.
Normally I just put back anything I see scanning at a higher price, but I only had yogurt for a few more days and that was the best offer anyway, so I took it and tried to see what will happen, stating that the price was lower on the shelf after the cashier scanned it. She said she just scanned a code, at most she can ask someone to check, so I said I’d want that, she had someone come to cancel the transaction so she’ll be able to keep the line going while I waited, and probably some ten minutes later the employee I had seen in that area came with a bunch of price labels for other things. That struck me as odd, as he could have just grabbed one from the product itself, but when he asked me to confirm how much it had been on the shelf he actually stated a lower price. I corrected him, though not entirely accurately, accidentally saying a price that was exactly 1 RON lower than the scanned one, so 0.01 RON lower than what was listed, but instead he told the cashier to scan the first label he had brought, which was for some sort of processed meat product that was more than 1 RON cheaper than even that, apologizing repeatedly. And when I pointed out that I’ll actually be getting it even cheaper than it says on the shelf, the cashier also said that it was their mistake, so it’s fine.

Little gains overall, and dad probably paid more in addition to what I’d have paid if I’d have bought those things as well on what he got that evening from small stores nearby, but I’ve been a little ant here lately and anything at all is useful, as what he did leave me Thursday just covered for what I had taken from what I had saved, leaving me to manage until the middle of December with less than half of what I planned to spend during this time, that being the difference between that amount and what I spent on what was on that list. With what I already spent for myself now, I hardly have anything left, but I sure don’t want to dig into that amount again, because even the basic version of the plan I have for the end of the year or the start of 2018, depending on the offers I’ll find, requires a fair bit more than what I have now, so I sure won’t be getting anywhere if I remove anything instead of adding. And yes, I really feel filthy for writing all of this about money, considering how much I despise the very concept and wish it’d be done away with!

As for yesterday, a protest was announced for that evening as well, on top of the Sunday one, since December 1 is Romania’s National Day. The event text listed all the issues that have been on the agenda of activists and protesters lately, but also more general matters like healthcare, education and the millions of Romanians who left to work abroad, though it admittedly included no actual demands, which was pointed out by one of the activists I follow. In addition, Bucharest’s mayor had suddenly “invented” a third Christmas fair, organized in just a few days and intended to take place in Victory Square between December 5 and 17, with the area being blocked for three more days before and after that period for the required work. Since no plans for such a fair had been known before, there had not been such a fair in Victory Square in previous years, the area being poorly suited for such events anyway, and another request for an event of this sort had actually been denied earlier, it’s obvious that the only reason for this was to stop the protests from taking place there these days, since you can’t legally have two such events in the same place.
So, even though I really didn’t feel like attending that December 1 protest when it was announced and it was going to rain as well, I ended up going after all. Didn’t even shave, hadn’t since Saturday, and got there over 20 minutes after the announced start time of 6 PM, but I went, and actually stayed until 8:30 PM, by which time most had already left, the reports I found stating that the protest had pretty much ended some ten minutes later. And I also took a bunch of pictures, even though I didn’t exactly mean to do that either, not even after getting there. Just not in the mood for it, plus that it was raining as well, albeit lightly, and I didn’t even have a plastic bag with me to try to cover the camera a bit, so I was concerned for it too. But in the end I broke through that mood just enough while there, and actually even managed to take all those pictures without putting in the new pair of batteries I had taken with me, using just the two used ones that I also had. Or in fact just one, as the first died after just one picture and wouldn’t work again, but the second kept springing back to life as I switched the positions and shook them and blew on them a little whenever the camera told me to change them.

Written by Cavalary on December 2, 2017 at 11:15 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

Activists, NGOs, Unions and Others Against the Government’s Plans – November 26 in Bucharest

Other protests and events took place since the last one I wrote a report for, but I neither attended nor followed closely enough to be able to write anything meaningful about any of those, only glancing at a few things about the short march from the Government to PSD’s headquarters that took place on November 12, when the gendarmes made the protesters stay on the sidewalk, saying they were too few to use the road, even though it seems that traffic was stopped anyway.
So I’ll leave the period in between aside otherwise and get right to what happened on November 26, when dozens of NGOs and civic groups, as well as unions and other organizations, joined the call to oppose the Government and the ruling coalition’s plans to change laws that have to do with the justice system, as well as the changes to the tax system and to the regulations that govern the activity of NGOs, and the troubling rhetoric steering into Anti-Europeanism and possibly also causing some concern for NATO allies. The fact that unions and activists supported each other is particularly notable, as the regular activists tend to deeply distrust union leaders and union members have previously removed such known protesters from their events when they meant to attend in order to show their support, for example when the protest had to do with education or the medical system.

The call was to gather in Victory Square, in front of the Government, from 6 PM, with nothing else listed before noon on the day of the protest itself, when a message appeared with a map of the planned march, going to University Square, then taking a slightly different route from there to Constitution Square in order to get directly to the Ministry of Justice first, only passing through Constitution Square after that in order to reach the Constitutional Court, then going all around to finish the march in front of the Chamber of Deputies entrance without turning around on the spot. At 6.5 km, it was hardly a long march compared to those from 2013, but this year people got used to either stay in one place or march directly from the Government to the Parliament and then stop there, so following a number of complaints the plan was changed on even shorter notice, a new route involving turning around at the Constitutional Court, passing through Constitution Square a second time and getting to the Chamber of Deputies entrance that way being posted less than 30 minutes before 6 PM.
I for one didn’t even notice this change until I checked the event page again now, since I was already on the way at the time, and either way this new plan wasn’t exactly followed either, plus that some continued to complain about the very fact that there was to be a march, wanting to stay in Victory Square instead. In fact, while I was close to the head of the column and didn’t notice this either at the time, I learned when I got back and checked the news that some, around 1000 or even 2000 people according to some reports, chose to remain in Victory Square when the rest started marching. But most, around 10000 people according to reports, began to slowly move around 7:20 PM and at the scheduled time of 7:30 PM the march clearly started.

Unlike three weeks ago, however, that didn’t go smoothly, and protesters and gendarmes share the blame for it. It would have been entirely possible to march on only one side of the road, as it happened then as well, yet the protesters kept trying to push through and block both, while at the same time the gendarmes could have either tried to stop them with only a normal cordon or given up faster when they realized that a significant number of people were determined to get through. But instead the mounted gendarmes were grouped at the front of the column and used to try to hold people to one side of the road, the horses understandably getting agitated and the situation being close to escalating. Worse, one activist who actually works at a horse shelter that she says also cares for some retired horses previously used by the Gendarmerie stated that she only saw one gendarme who handled his horse properly, the actions of the others agitating them even more.
Fortunately, soon enough the gendarmes did realize that nothing good will come of that strategy and all the mounted ones rode away, the others allowing people to use both sides of the road. Personally, I quite like to see the mounted ones around, or more exactly like to see the horses, but once that decision was made to use them to form a cordon and try to hold increasingly angry people back, it was clear that they couldn’t be used anymore that evening, a significant risk of injury for both horses and protesters existing otherwise and such an event being almost certain to lead to the protest turning violent. Also, while I’m not sure they would have managed it without the use of some force, if they really wanted to keep people from blocking both sides of the road, they’d have definitely had a much better chance of doing it by keeping the horses away from the places where people were determined to push through in the first place.

Either way, once that was over, the march continued smoothly, the head of the column reaching Romana Square around 7:50 PM and University Square just before 8:15 PM, the numbers continuing to grow during this time. Estimates were of 25000 to 30000 in the end, some stating that the total was probably around 30000 but the peak maybe around 25000, and it’s not quite clear when that was reached, because there was some confusion even after University Square, and then a whole lot after reaching Constitution Square, so only a few thousand stopped in front of the Ministry of Justice and not that many more eventually, in scattered groups, made their way over to the planned end point, in front of the Chamber of Deputies entrance. But, as I said, things went well until University Square, where there was a stop, people being asked to hold a moment of silence and then sing the anthem, as it usually happens.

It was more than ten minutes before the crowd started moving out of University Square. Some, those who knew the evening’s plan and agreed with it, were trying to go right for a bit in order to get on Victoriei, others even wanted to stay in University Square, some may have just left for good at that point, but eventually people went straight ahead, following the usual route, though the column became quite loose. We got to Unirii Square around 8:40 PM and the head of the column was reaching Constitution Square just before 8:55 PM.
Once there, especially since, just like last time, we actually had to go all around instead of through the Square due to the preparations for the Christmas Fair, I assumed that people were at least going to stop at the Ministry of Justice first, but the large majority turned left instead of right and simply gathered in front of the Parliament, only a pretty small group being gathered with some difficulty in front of the Ministry. And then things got even more confused, with some, which seemed to include those with loudspeakers who had been trying to keep some trace of order until then, heading straight for the Chamber of Deputies entrance, and others going back to the Square, while I heard that some of those who were already there meant to keep going the other way, probably to the Constitutional Court. Since I just briefly went back at that point, to very quickly look for a few more signs to take pictures of before following that first group to the planned ending location, not sure if anyone actually got there, much less if anyone followed the first announced route to go all around.

As I mentioned before, those who reached the Chamber of Deputies entrance did so in scattered groups. In fact, quite a number of those who had stopped in front of the Ministry of Justice and then continued in that direction broke away either to return to Constitution Square or to leave for good before a more determined effort by some of those with loudspeakers managed to pull some more of those stopped in the Square in that direction, and even then a group seemed to just stop there at the intersection. So the protest ended in a rather unfortunate manner, but those who did get to that planned ending location wandered away slowly, so I see reports that there were still 2000 or so there, which seems to be a fair estimate based on what I saw as well, when people were asked to make light with their phones, or whatever other light sources they happened to have, just before 10 PM. Then there was another call to sing the anthem, which pretty much marked the end of the protest, and that was when I left as well, after having wandered away a few minutes earlier to have one last look around the corner and noticing the Square pretty much deserted already.

One last thing I want to mention is that, despite all the confusion and people disagreeing and going in different directions, plus that initial problem with the mounted gendarmes, I actually expected worse, mainly being concerned by all the groups announcing their participation, the unions most of all. But not only that they didn’t try to take control of the protest or otherwise convey the idea that it was organized by them, but I actually didn’t notice any obvious signs that they were even present. I heard of some reports on hostile media sources of people brought from surrounding cities and, if true, they may have been responsible for that, but there couldn’t have been any significant number and, again, they didn’t stand out in any way.
Otherwise, this time I didn’t see any reports of members of PNL participating, which is good. Members of USR were obviously present, but not drawing any attention to themselves, so I for one only noticed some of those I’ve known for years, activists who decided to join the party and definitely still have as much of a right to be there as those who didn’t make that choice, though I heard people mention that they recognized the party’s new president around as well. Former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos was also present, same as three weeks ago, and that once again was controversial, but as long as he just walks calmly somewhere among a large column of people, I for one don’t care, even if the media seeks him out for interviews. The only thing that made me raise an eyebrow was a speech made in Victory Square, before the start of the march, by a journalist I guess known for lashing out at the ruling coalition and claiming to be an activist but largely seen as an example of what’s wrong with journalism, said speech also prompting messages posted by the groups attempting to more or less organize these protests, distancing themselves from him and repeating their request, made before the march as well, to avoid such speeches.

Written by Cavalary on November 28, 2017 at 5:11 PM in United We Save | 0 Comments

Quick Review: A Darkness at Sethanon

After Silverthorn, my expectations for A Darkness at Sethanon may have been quite low, but it hardly seems possible not to be surprised and amazed by it either way. The prologue sets the stage and, while the early chapters otherwise remind of the rather immature heroic fantasy from before and the supposed “surprises” are all too obvious, the story eventually transforms into an epic of great intensity and mind-boggling scope, dealing with the fate of the entire universe, touching upon the concept of other dimensions, and going all the way to the beginning of time and back. The pacing does vary due to the alternating points of view, but overall it becomes more and more alert and new elements, including actual surprises, keep being thrown at the reader as well. It would provide excellent material for a movie, or in fact for a few of them, and some scenes may even require this, being almost too much to be left to the reader’s imagination… Though, at the same time, some may be impossible to properly portray in a mere movie as well.
That said, there are many flaws, starting with an unexpected number of typos, especially considering the fact that the edition I read was printed decades after the initial release, plus that, at least in this edition, there are also two places where the space indicating a new scene is missing and said new scene starts so abruptly that I wonder whether at least its first paragraph may not be missing as well. Yet those are minor matters, far more important being the fact that too much is skipped, too many questions are left unanswered, too many things seem unexplained or to not quite add up not because the author is withholding information for later use, but because he doesn’t know it either. The book is far too short and, while they appear to have greatly improved by the time it was written, the author’s skills not sufficient to do justice to such an audaciously ambitious scope and setting… Then again, I’m not sure that anyone’s could ever be.

Rating: 4/5

Written by Cavalary on November 25, 2017 at 10:08 PM in Books | 0 Comments