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The Misadventures of Quinxy von Besiex truths, lies, and everything in between

16Nov/130

How can anyone not see that universal health care is inevitable?

Ignoring implementation issues and the specific terms of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I really don't understand how any sensible person can fail to see the logical necessity of having an entire society covered by health care (at least to the level of catastrophic health insurance).  

The simple facts are these:

  • Anyone can become ill.
  • Being ill is expensive, being seriously ill is incomprehensively (life destroyingly) expensive.
  • Many people do not have health insurance.
  • U.S. hospitals are required to provide life-saving health care to people regardless of ability to pay.
  • U.S. hospitals also provide health care with non life-saving conditions who they expect to pay.
  • Until the ACA many people were unable to get insurance or had severely limited policies because of pre-existing conditions (many, if not most, of which were absolutely not a result of poor diet, lifestyle choices).
  • U.S. hospitals cover the cost of non-paying patients by raising costs for paying patients, depressing nurse and doctor pay, and thereby effectively taxing everyone who pays for medical services.
  • People who go bankrupt because of high medical bills cost shift financial burdens to everyone (from unpaid bank/car/school/credit car loans, etc.).
  • Younger people require less health care than older people; but young people (who do not die prematurely) will all to a person become old people.

The system we've had from the eighties until now has been very shoddily constructed.  The concept with any insurance is simple, distribute the risk across the largest pool of relevant people, so that they can all can be protected at a price they can afford.  The issue of what is the relevant pool is certainly up for some discussion.  Those issuing the insurance want to collect enough premiums to cover the risks they are securing (and make a profit), sell as many policies as possible to ensure that their risk is distributed / mitigated and profits maximized, and eliminate as many bad, ongoing risks as possible.  

Unlike any other kind of insurance I can think of (e.g., car insurance, homeowner's insurance, life insurance) , a person need do nothing more than exist in order to potentially require others to pay for expenses (medical in this case) on their behalf.  It makes sense to require owners and operators of cars to have car insurance because they have created a situation in which they are very likely to create potentially catastrophic expenses for themselves and others by the use or misuse of a car.  And while pedestrians who do not own/operate a car can and do cause some car accidents, the events are few enough that society has decided to let that risk be absorbed by drivers, not everyone (in other words, if a pedestrian causes a car accident, the car insurance (depending on policy) would help the driver, and separately sue the pedestrian).  But simply being born is all that is required to potentially cost others in society tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  A baby might be born into the world to parents without insurance and immediately require $200k of life saving care, an uninsured 18 year old might require expensive cancer treatments and have no family support.  

I hear people say, "I'm 23 [or perhaps 53], I'm unlikely to get sick, I don't need health insurance.  I'm self-insuring."  But that is just ignorant, they are not self-insuring.  They have no capacity to cover catastrophic costs.  If that 23 (or 53) year old suddenly finds out they have an aggressive cancer that requires tens or hundreds of thousands in treatment, the odds are extremely high that they will not meet their financial obligations and may escape them through bankruptcy.  We all would pay for that person's decision not to have health insurance, through higher medical costs, through higher bank and credit card costs (if they went bankrupt).  

And if we can acknowledge that everyone needs insurance and should have it throughout their life, then the notion that young people are paying rates higher than the benefits they collectively will receive in the short term, in order to subsidize older people's premiums, becomes somewhat moot.  What does it matter?  They could divide up total lifetime health care premiums by the 77.5 years (or so) we're expected to live and charge that amount to everyone, so it is completely consistent from age 1 to age 77.  But it makes more sense to me to charge less when people are younger and have fewer resources, and more when people are older and are more likely to have more resources.  Further, it makes even more sense to adjust the premiums somewhat so that they do not continue to grow insanely high as you get very old, when people have a fixed income; this requires shifting some of those costs to those who are younger.  I fail to see any ideological, moral, logistical problem with this.  

I cannot imagine anyone suggesting we charge an 80 year old a premium based on their actual one-year likelihood to require major medical help, it would cost them far more than they could afford.  Likewise why would we imagine charging a 23 year old only what he's likely to cost medically in the near term?  Insurance only works as a concept if people are in it for the long haul.

I think Obama has made a mess of the current and critical ACA 2014 debut, between the website failures and the grossly misleading statements about people being able to keep their health care (I am one who was notified that I am losing mine), but I can only still conclude it was the right thing to do and we're long overdue for having it.  If the Republicans wanted a different solution they had decades in power under several Bushes and a Reagan in which to implement something, and they did not; I'm not even aware of any serious, sensible solution they've proposed which acknowledges that everyone must have coverage for all their lives if the system is to work.

Am I missing something?

^ Quinxy

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9Nov/130

My Treadmill Desk: Week 1

treadmill_deskLast week I set up a treadmill desk.  I've gained more pounds than I'd like to admit over the last couple of years, trying to eat my way out of unhappiness, combined with a move that placed me far away from the healthier eating-out food options I used to enjoy (and far closer to the sinister ones).

I had years ago heard about people using treadmill desks and had always meant to give it a try.   As I am at my computer 14 hours a day or so the ability to turn some of that time into a workout was very appealing.  For my recent birthday I bought myself a LifeSpan TR 1200i Folding Treadmill with the goal of using it in a treadmill desk setup.  A few companies now make treadmills specifically for use with a desk, some even include the desk, and LifeSpan does in fact make a treadmill for these purposes, the LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Standing Desk Treadmill (no desk included).  As I compared the features of LifeSpan's desk-flavored treadmill with their regular treadmill I became convinced that I'd be far better off converting their traditional treadmill to desk use.  The non-desk version costs the exact same amount ($999) but includes a number of really powerful features: a) variable incline 0 - 15 degrees), b) pulse rate monitor (in handrails or via chest strap), c) fancier programs (since it uses incline and pulse monitor), and d) it includes running speeds (0.5 - 10 mph, instead of 0.4 - 4 mph). The only feature you seem to lose is some sort of bluetooth ability, which I didn't really investigate.  Otherwise they appear identical in terms of specs.

All I had to do to convert the non-desk version to one I could use with my desk was remove the vertical portion of the treadmill, which involved removing a few bolts and pulling the console's cable out so I could re-run the cable to the console which I had now mounted on my desk with double sided foam tape.  Easy-peasy.  And I bought the chest strap ($40) so I could get constant heart rate monitoring without needing to hold onto hand rails; originally I was going to remount the hand rails to my desk, but the chest strap is a far more elegant solution.

For the desk I use my much loved Ikea Jerker, a design Ikea never should have retired (anyone who wants one and lives near a major metropolitan area can find one on Craigslist for $75 - 100).  I set up a second Ikea Jerker desk to the left of my treadmill desk with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse so when I want to sit in a normal chair I can just work there (using RDP).  The idea was to virtually force myself to use the treadmill desk as I would do almost anything to avoid using this tiny single monitor and less familiar keyboard when I could be using my three monitor setup with my normal keyboard/mouse, but to permit me a fallback when I needed it.  The other side of that is that I actually would rather walk than stand, I find standing less comfortable, so as long as I'm standing, I'm highly likely to walk.

After the first few days I discovered that my fall back desk with tiny monitor really wasn't such a brilliant idea.  I need to be on my computer 14 or so hours every day and it's just never going to be realistic for me to walk all 14 hours.  And since I was just starting back into an exercise routine and needed time for my body to adjust I'm doing about 2 - 3 hours walking a day, and using that tiny little monitor and unfamiliar keyboard just wasn't cutting it, my productivity plummeted.  I would either work slowly or completely avoid doing things on the computer, suddenly wanting to organize, clean things, etc.  I needed another solution...  and this is when I made my treadmill chair!

SONY DSCYears ago I bought a pair of those fantastic aluminum stools that Crate and Barrel was kind enough to knock off.  I bought it for my MAME arcade machine, which is currently in storage.  It was the perfect height to place on top of the treadmill so that I could use my regular setup without standing.  The problem was, I didn't want to damage the treadmill belt, and it seemed inevitable that distributing my weight down to those four thin aluminum legs was a recipe for disaster.  I'm sure the belt would have been fine for a while, but it certainly would have accelerated its deterioration.  But what material would be safe to use against a treadmill belt, to allow me to distribute the weight better?  Wood?  Metal?  Cardboard?  Shoes!  If there's anything that a treadmill was meant to have on it, it's shoes!  So I ran down to Walmart and bought two pairs of fake converse shoes for $12 a pair and made wooden inserts for the shoes onto which I attached the stool legs (via hot glue gun).  And it works perfectly!

Now I can use my treadmill for walking and whenever I need take a break on my treadmill chair.

I've been using the setup for about a week now and I must say I am encouraged. The first couple of days I walked about 2 hours, then I took a day off because my legs were hurting, and the next couple of days I've been doing about 2.5 - 3 hours a day. One issue has been trying to figure out what the right speed is. For the first few days I was at 1.5 mph, then I bumped it up to about 2.0 to 2.5 mph for the last few days, and am finding the speed I can do relates quite a bit to the work I need to do. Trying to operate a mouse with precision in a graphic design package at 2.5 mph isn't something I can yet do. This is where the incline is particularly nice, and why I'm very happy I got a treadmill with incline. If I need to dial down the speed I can always increase the incline to make sure I'm still getting a good workout. Right now to write this I'm doing 1.8 mph and a 5 degree incline, instead of 2.8 mph and a 0 degree incline. The CDC says you need to be going at least 3 mph for a healthy fast walking exercise, but that is still a little beyond my abilities to do while using my computer.

Only time will tell if this is a lasting solution to my problem of being too sedentary.

^ Quinxy

8Nov/130

Sketchup Hanging on Start? Disable OpenGL Acceleration via Registry

My Sketchup 2013 copy suddenly stopped working right. First it would hang if I tried to add a scene, then it just hang and race the processor once it started up. I tried all the latest drivers for my AMD Radeon 7800M, but no change.

I knew I could at least run Sketchup if I could disable the use of OpenGL hardware acceleration.

The registry key that you need to modify is in this registry branch:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SketchUp\SketchUp 2013\Preferences

Modify this registry key:
GfxUseAccelerationOnScreen

And make it now equal to 0 (it's of type REG_DWORD)

Voila!

Sketchup should now start!

Of course it'll perform very poorly if you're working with a big/complex model and you're using "View > Face Style > Shaded" or  "View > Face Style > Shaded with Textures" so remember you can switch to "View > Face Style > Wireframe" when you can get by without seeing the faces and textures because that will still perform very well.

Working without the hardware acceleration is better than not being able to use Sketchup at all.  Not sure if my problem is truly a driver problem as Tremble/Sketchup would have me believe or if it's a bug in Sketchup.

^ Quinxy

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20Jun/131

The N-Word as Used by Whites

wp_paula

Recently celebrity chef Paula Deen was forced to admit she had used the N-word multiple times in the past.  She denied being a racist and seemed to excuse the behavior as  as being done a) a long time ago, b) at least once in reference to an African-American who put a gun to her head in a bank robbery.

Whether it's Mel Gibson hurling abuse at Jewish people, Michael Richards peppering black comedy patrons with the N-word, or Paula Deen venting to her husband about the terror she felt, the explanations given always insist that they would ordinarily never use such language, but that it was a freak event, that they were under extreme provocation, and that, therefore, they are not really racist.  Their position is indefensible.  The insulting words spring to their lips because they are racist, not because the situation inspired the use of those words.

My own interactions with people of color have not always been positive.  I have been a victim of a home robbery committed by an African-American.  And I've been stalked/harassed over months by a separate African-American.  But their skin color was not dominant in my thoughts about why they were a perpetrator and why I was their victim.  One of the perpetrators was a homeless drug addict looking for money for a fix and the other a homeless person with serious mental problems who believed I was living in *his* house.  But never did I find the N-word springing to my lips.  I genuinely cannot imagine why on Earth it would.  I have had ample positive experiences involving people of color that I cannot imagine any provocation sufficient to cause me to reduce an entire diverse race of people down to one ugly, monstrous word.  The N-word couldn't form on my lips because it doesn't ring true in my ears.  If you have ever known one great black person, how could you ever reduce any experience with another black person down to his/her color?

I am a at least a generation removed from most of the celebrities who get caught using the N-word, they grew up in less integrated times, grew up in more (arguably) ignorant times, grew up in more isolated surroundings so perhaps my environment saved me from their thinking.

I surely hold many subtle prejudices which I do not adequately appreciate; I think we humans are almost all of us naturally biased by experience and environment.  But I am thankful that I am not so lost as to find the N-word in my thoughts or speech.

^ Q

Tagged as: 1 Comment
5Jun/130

A Bad Vegetarian’s List of Edible Vegetables

Vibrant Produce

I'm a bad vegetarian.  My diet is somewhat limited by peculiarly specific taste/texture dislikes which exclude most vegetables.

The only ones I can eat are:

  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Black beans
  • Brown beans
  • Corn
  • Lentil
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Soy beans (not a huge fan, but I can eat them)
  • Chick peas (not a huge fan, but I can eat them)
  • Squash (only in soups with lots of bread available)
  • Onions (in small pieces and in certain situations)
  • Peppers  (in small pieces and in certain situations)
  • Tomatoes (in small pieces and in certain situations)
  • Celery (only in soup)
  • Mushrooms (only tiny dried pieces in Stroganoff/etc.)
  • Avocado (only in very small amounts in burritos/etc.)
  • Spinach (only in very small amounts in certain situations)
  • Chives (in small pieces and in certain situations)
  • Parsley (in small pieces and in certain situations)
  • Garlic

That being said, I can eat other vegetables in very limited/special situations, generally involving minute amounts in some foreign food.  For example, I can eat a vegetable fried egg roll as long as I don't dwell on the contents (if I were to open up the egg roll and try to eat it from the plate that would be a great challenge).

I wonder how common peculiar food issues are.

^ Q

31May/130

Cruelly Ephemeral Knowingness

I don't know how to truly cope with the experience of gaining then losing knowledge.  Knowing that I graduated fifteen years ago with a degree in mechanical engineering and now retain at best 5% of that knowledge makes my recent return to school for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) feel frighteningly useless.  I'm slightly accustomed to the month to month ebb and flow of knowledge (like 6 months ago I was on top of C# but now I'm off my game there and now on top of JavaScript), but signing up to devote years studying something only to know you'll forget the vast majority of it soon thereafter (much lost even before you graduate) really troubles me.  Obviously what I need to be convinced of is that, (for example) though my detailed knowledge of engineering and related maths are seemingly gone it could be revived reasonably quickly should the need arise.  And I'm just not entirely convinced of that.  I'm not convinced that it wouldn't make just as much sense to take a Cliff's Notes' version of courses and then be exposed to the details when and if you actually need them in your career.  But, presumably that wouldn't work, you need to temporarily comprehend the details in order to temporarily comprehend the stuff upon which its built which you need so that in the fullness of time you will at least remember those weathered/eroded pillars of learning.  I intellectually accept that most people experience this phenomena, but it feels like such a very personal cruelty, it's hard not to imagine it only happens to me.

^ Quinxy
(Originally in a letter to a friend.)
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29May/136

Rack2-Filer Smart is a Terrible, Awful, No Good Upgrade – Don’t Do It!

See below for details on recent, important update which makes this software almost as good as it used to be!

I've always had a love hate relationship with PFU's (Fujitsu's) Rack2-Filer.  I love that it is a computer-based alternative to a real/non-portable filing cabinet, but I hate that it has always striven to be nothing more than exactly that.  Where other companies might have rethought what it means to store and access virtual documents and delivered a bevvy of features to make that experience brilliant, PFU created a bewilderingly crippled experience almost as bad as real life.  The interface was a virtual cabinet with virtual shelves on which go virtual binders.  They mind-numbingly impose real and hard limits on how many virtual pages you can put in a binder, how many binders go on a shelf, how many shelves go in a cabinet.  Still...  as awful as it is, and it is awful, there is a certain strange, agreeable functionality about it all.

5-28-2013 8-39-54 PM 5-28-2013 8-41-24 PM

PFU recently released Rack2-Filer Smart as a replacement for Rack2-Filer.  I was eager to upgrade because one of the biggest offenses of the older product was its inability to be accessed from other devices, like Android or iOS tablets.  When I saw that Rack2-Filer Smart apps showed up in the app stores and realized you needed to upgrade your desktop client to use it I wanted to upgrade (I also prayed they would improve their software).  Ugh.  Upgrading was not a good decision.

PFU (a Fujitsu company) is just about the most incompetent software company I've ever encountered.  They are mired in stupid.  Whatever they might do right, however many brilliant people they might have, they've got just enough horribly inept and stupid people to ensure that their success will be forever limited.

The first major problem I encountered was that they provided trial links on their site to download and try out the Rack2-Filer Smart software but no buy links.  I even installed the trial thinking it would have buy links.  It did not.  There is no way to buy a downloadable version of their software online, despite them letting you download a trial.  That's pretty stupid.  Then I went searching for a physical version to buy.  As I own the old version and don't want to throw my money away I looked for and found an upgrade version on their and other e-commerce sites.  All "unavailable"/"sold out".  There were no copies to be had anywhere.  Huh?  I could buy they full version but no upgrade version.  I even checked eBay and found nothing.  A week or two later eBay let me know that someone was now selling Rack2-Filer Smart on eBay, and I got a full  (non-upgrade) copy for what seems now the going rate of $59 (presumably a copy included with a Fujitsu scanner sale).

5-28-2013 8-40-46 PM 5-28-2013 8-40-18 PM

And thus began my unpleasant experience with Rack2-Filer Smart...

First the import of my previous libraries failed.  One of the 49 cabinets it was trying to import would fail without any sort of useful message.  It suggested my drive might be full or there were file permission issues.  It took me an hour but by a process of elimination and guesstimation I worked out that it couldn't read it's own damn .ini file format, there was some OCR text in the OCR text section of the .ini that must have been causing some problem.  I removed the OCR section from that .ini and it would now import.  Stupid PFU.

With Rack2-Filer Smart now working the real horror began.  They seem to have rewritten everything, and in their rush to get it out decided to leave out tons of very useful features that people like me surely relied upon.  And, adding insult to injury, they decided to go all skeumorphy  and try and pretty up this pig of a program by slapping some lipstick on it in the form of photo-realistic shelf backgrounds and binder spines.

Here is my list of seriously horrible things they've changed/done in this latest release:

  • No more index sheet as the first page in a binder.  You now need to click to pop-open a list of sections.
  • No more drag and drop re-ordering of divider sections from the aforementioned index sheet, and the aforementioned pop-open list of sections has no drag and drop.  The nearest thing you can do is use the thumbnail view in the pop-open window to select, cut, and paste the items.  Works, but it requires a lot more clicking.  You'll see.  It's awful.
  • When you open the Binder Viewer it isn't maximized by default, and when you maximize it it doesn't bother zooming the display, so you've got your binder and its pages un-readably small on a normal sized modern screen.  No setting to fix this.  Idiotic. It means I have to click maximize and then the fill double-page view buttons every single time I open a binder.
  • Binder tabs are now useless.  The old version was pretty good about letting you see the tabs of adjacent divider sheets.  This new version is horrible, instead of dynamically placing the tabs the new version has only five spots for them, so your view of tabs is perpetually obscured.  And the font size on the tabs is huge so every single tab label is cut off and unreadable.  No settings to alter this.
  • You can't easily flip between sections.  I used to be able to press ctrl+right arrow to jump to the next divider section to the right.  That feature is gone, can't seem to find a replacement key combination.  And because most tabs are hidden behind other tabs you're just screwed and have to use that dumb pop-open list.
  • You can't easily flip between pages.  The old version let you disable the stupid/slow page turning effect.  The new version has no such option.  Pages turn deadly slow even on a super fast computer.
  • No right click context menu to add dividers, delete pages, etc.  One of the most awful changes is the elimination of the right click menu.  You now need to use the stupid left hand control options, which takes five clicks to accomplish what I used to be able to do in one or two.  And you have to memorize which items are behind which side menu icons, this is awful.
  • Main View (Library/etc.) is absurd.  They decided that putting a JPEG of an actual office behind the fake shelf makes for quality software.  It does not.  It's straight out of 1998.  And, again, the window doesn't launch maximized and auto zoom, so it looks like crap and is barely readable, hiding the second level titles because it's so small.
  • Import is flawed (see my comment above)
  • Android / iOS app connection is seriously stupid and un-intuitive.  Any normal human expects the following experience: Go to your tablet, open the app, see the list of libraries, open the one you want, see the cabinets, open the one you want, see the binders, open the one you want.  Browse the binder.  How hard could that be?  This idiotic version works in a completely different way.  You need to be on the desktop computer and mark a binder as "exported" and only then does it run the server required for remote access and you can only access the exported binder.  And when the remote app connects it can only see that exported binder.  Maybe you can export more than one at a time.  I didn't get that impression, but I gave up on the feature pretty quick.  Oh, and it seems to download the entire binder, rather than fetching only what it needs as it needs it, which makes some sense in terms of local performance, but a "streaming"-ish option would have been nice.

I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to work around Rack2-Filer Smart's buggy legacy import and I wasted a lot more time trying to figure out why the Android app wouldn't connect (nothing mentions that the server doesn't run unless a binder is "exported") and how their concept of app-desktop interaction requires this odd "export"-based strategy.

(Now, in the interests of full disclosure there may be some better way to access use this software...  it looks like both app and desktop can sync with Drop Box and Sugar Sync, which may allow you to use it without this export bullsh*t, but as I have neither a Drop Box nor a Sugar Sync account and as I'm pretty fed up with my experience thus far I'll save that investigation for another day.)

PFU sure knows how to make a bad product and that's exactly what they've delivered, a tone def mess that will now makes everything I do with their software take more time and more mouse clicks.  And it's a real pity because with a few dozen (or hundred) additional man hours they could have at least made this product no worse than their last one.

Unless you absolutely, positively must have their crappy version of a tablet connected Rack2-Filer experience I would stay away from this upgrade like the plague.  I pray it matures and they add back all the features/shortcuts they removed.

UPDATE as of 9/9/2013 (version V1.0L20)
Finaly PFU has released an update that has begun to bring previous features back!  The previous updates seemed to be nothing more than bug fixes.

I can joyously report that one of the most glaring omissions, the context menu (or right click menu) has returned!!!  Finally Rack2-Filer Smart is usable again!  It's still not where it was, before their dumb "Smart" update, but I at least now have have reason to hope the rest of the problems will be fixed as well.

Also, another petty but important fix is that the binder window now remembers its previous size and zoom level, meaning you no longer need to enlarge and zoom every single time you open a binder.  Sadly the main window still lacks this memory.

A huge improvement in this update is in the importing of scanned documents.  If you have a binder open and do a scan it will now insert the scanned documents into your current location, a vast improvement over the previous behavior which would tell you to close the binder, at which point it would insert any scanned documents at the front of the binder forcing you to awkwardly move them to their final destination.

I also noticed that page flipping seems faster, but there is still no ability to turn off the stupid page flip effect.  For the love of Pete, guys, please let us skip your stupid page flip animation!

Tabs can now be dragged to be repositioned! Maybe they could previously, but if they could it certainly wasn't obvious (it isn't obvious now, either, but I happened to discover it).

And the software is still lacking vital shortcut keys, no page flipping hotkeys (the old ctrl+right/left arrow IIRC to jump to next divider doesn't work), and ctrl+f doesn't place you in the search box.

Apparently this version also includes some sort of change in binder structure such that your binders are converted once they are opened and saved, and made incompatible with previous versions.  Not a big deal for most people, I'm sure, but something to be aware of if you're syncing data with a slightly older version you can't upgrade (e.g., in a work environment).

All in all a good day for Rack2-Filter Smart, the first day I used it when my mind wasn't filled with cursing and regrets.  Keep the improvements up guys!  Bring back ALL the functionality you took away!

^ Quinxy

27May/130

My Hero #27: John Waters

watersFor some reason I've always loved director/writer John Waters.  His outspokenness, his warmth, his humor, his stories, his loyalty to his native Baltimore, he just seems like he'd be a wonderful guy to have over for dinner.  (I can't say I've ever loved his movies, though; they just didn't feel like my sort of thing, really.)


Here's an interesting video of John Waters speaking on free speech.

^ Quinxy

Filed under: Observation No Comments
22May/130

Hello, Goodbye Lovely Turtle

byebyeturtleHow quickly life can remind you that a day can be a truly miserable thing.  Today mine started with a major fight with my girlfriend, Francine.  In an attempt to escape the poisoned atmosphere of the house we set off on a pleasant but utilitarian outing.  Any facade of pleasantness was instantly destroyed about 45 minutes later when I saw a huge, lovely turtle run over by a truck.

It died because I failed to save it.  I saw the turtle emerging from the tall grass by the side of the road and stopped as quickly as I could, about 80 feet down the road (the speed limit was 45 mph, there was no shoulder, lots of cars behind me, I pulled off into a side road).  I got out and began to go back towards the turtle but in those few moments it had moved far faster than I ever could have imagined and was already a third of the way into the traffic lane.  A large passenger bus saw it but only drifted over the line to avoid running it over directly.  The under draft knocked it along the lane and into the tires of a following pick up.

Life sometimes seems like a collection of utterly meaningless, pointless, forgettable moments punctuated by a few occasionally horrible and some wonderful moments.  I envy the folk who see it as a more uniformly joyous procession.

I'd never seen a turtle so large on the East coast, it was at least 1.5 feet long, surely had lived a long time to get that size, and surely would have lived a longer time still.  I'm not sure what I could have done differently, tried to step into traffic to flag people down, stopped my car in traffic and tried to alert people, I just had no idea there was so little time.  We often imagine there's plenty of time left, to see relatives, to see friends, to be happy, to accomplish great things...  Often there is not.

I cried like a baby on the drive home.  I cried for the turtle.  I cried for the horrendously capricious nature of life and death.  I cried for my impotence; my life these days seems nothing but trying to help others only to witness their fruitless suffering.  And I cried for the fact that I was crying, unable to accept life on its cruelly unacceptable terms.

We humans are sick, sadistic creatures, selectively choosing what and who we care about.  Today I mourned the death of a turtle I didn't know, and cursed the driver of the killing vehicle, but I thought and cared little about the hundreds of mosquitoes, ants, and other bugs I likely killed in the remaining portion of the car ride home; I strongly suspect I killed or wounded two butterflies.  But for some reason that turtle mattered most, that poor, beautiful, stupid, wonderful, turtle.  I am so sorry I failed you.

^ Quinxy

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20May/130

Most Offensively Stupid Movie Ever: Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

So still on my recent 1970s kick beyondI just watched "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979) and I can't recall any story ever told which has as little regard for how humans actually behave.

The film utterly loses me at the start.  The captain of a tug boat (Michael Cane), his first mate, and a girl (Sally Fields) his first mate happened to pick up the night before stumble upon a massive upside down "four star" passenger liner, having seen a coast guard helicopter flying away from it.  Now I cannot imagine any sea faring sort (or any human for that matter) coming upon the massive wreckage of a ship, the sea of debris and bodies that must surround it, and not being emotionally overwhelmed when they consider the hundreds or perhaps thousands who must have lost their lives.  The normal reaction would be to look around the nearby ocean for survivors, for bodies, do something of service.  Instead this crew of three immediately decides that the logical thing would be to climb onto the upturned, sinking ship find a way inside, and loot it for all its worth (sorry, "salvage" it).  Now, being that this is the sequel to "The Poseidon Adventure" and that that movie was a tale of people desperately trying (and many of them failing) to escape the very same sinking ship, it's bizarre to think that these three idiots would be trying to get on board and make their way deep inside an upside down, unfamiliar, still on fire/exploding, ship they know is only minutes to hours from sinking completely.  And sure enough they're not even in the ship five minutes before one of the many ongoing explosions prevent them from escaping the same way they came in.  Rather than immediately try to get out they continue their looting.  Flash forward through all the nonsense of finding some trapped folks they end up saving, including a blind man, a murder mystery, and an ongoing battle with Telly Savalas and his crew who have boarded pretending to be medics but really are there to haul out thousands of pounds of guns and plutonium, and most of Michael Cane's extended crew escape, but he's lost his first mate, and all their loot, save an uncut diamond Sally Fields smuggled out in her belly button.  Oh, and now Sally Fields's and Michael Cane's characters are in love, or lust, or something.  So I guess the death of his first mate was worth it after all, Michael Cane certainly betray any sense that it wasn't.

My beef with the movie is that I can never get past the fact that no three humans on the face of the earth presented with this situation would have done what these three idiots gleefully did.  It simply defies everything I know about people.  Sure, one idiot in any large group might potentially put themselves in harm's way to make a few bucks, but here we're talking about almost absolutely certain death: an unfamiliar, upside down, presumably unlit, debris ridden, fire/smoke/explosion ridden, sinking ship.  And so every minute watching the movie I'm silently cursing these idiots and praying for the justice which would be delivered by their deaths.  At best this is a movie focused on a day in the life of three mental freaks, perhaps a-logical sociopaths or something, at worst it's just an awful, unrealistic movie written/created by people who are a-logical sociopaths and think everyone's depicted behavior is somehow normal or believable.  (And don't get me wrong, even "normal" people are capable of tremendous, horrendous thoughts/actions (the Nazis reminded us of that), but even then the evil callousness develops, grows, becomes believable because it fits into an increasingly awful pattern of thought/behavior. )

Q

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