Here’s to the simple solutions

For the past couple of days, Mail had stopped working. It couldn’t connect to the email servers for some reasons and kept taking my accounts offline. I knew I hadn’t changed any of its settings. In all my years of using a Mac (since 1994), I’d never run into a situation where Mail settings had gotten corrupted, but I was now willing to look into it. I kept looking at all sorts of scenarios and guides online — things such as these (1, 2, 3, 4) — but nothing helped.

Then it occurred to me that three days ago, as I worked late, past midnight, I got the bright idea to switch the firewall level to High from Medium. “Oh, let’s get some extra protection, shall we?” My router is one of these gizmos handed to me by my ISP, it’s a ZTE that came with no printed documentation and barely any online documentation beyond “this is ON button, this is internet port”. So how was I to know that switching it to High would mean all traffic other than port 25 and 80 would be closed off? But that’s what happened. I did it, forgot about it, and when my email stopped working, it took me a couple of days to connect the dots.

I’m writing this down for you because it’s a great reminder that sometimes the simple solutions are the best (and possibly the only) ones. That, plus writing down changes to the internet configs, especially when I’m working late… Sure, I could have taken a dive into deep-level Mail documentation and email servers and the intricacies of setting up IMAP and opened up ports on my firewall and deleted my Mail settings and set up everything again, but all it took was me logging onto the ISP router and switching the firewall back down to Medium. Less than a minute vs. hours and hours of needless work.

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Good to know, right?

A case study of Romania’s healthcare system

Question: what do you do if your child gets sick on a weekend in Romania?
Answer: nothing; not an effing thing, not unless you want to deal with Romania’s state health system.

Sophie got sick over the weekend. We initially thought it was a mild case of heat stroke. Now we think it’s enterocolitis.

We don’t frequent state-run hospitals in Romania, because the doctors and nurses are more often than not undertrained and uncaring unless you bribe them, and the facilities are incredibly dirty and overrun with filthy, smelly “citizens” — you know, the kind of “citizens” who don’t contribute a cent toward the very services they overrun.

When she started to complain of a headache and tummy ache and started to go limp in Ligia’s arms, we panicked. We thought, okay, let’s hop in the car and drive to the private Polisano hospital in Sibiu, which is where we typically go on the rare occasions when we need medical care.

An aside: we don’t go to the state-run hospital in Medias, which is where we live, because it’s packed full of the same medical staff I mentioned above and is also full of the same “citizens” in its waiting rooms. The last and only time we tried using the emergency room at the hospital in Medias, Sophie could have literally died for lack of care and concern on the part of the staff, who were more concerned with the “citizens” than with tax-paying, hard-working people like us. But hey, the SMURD helicopters can fly low right over our houses to ferry the dirty dipshits to the emergency rooms, waking us up and scaring our children at night, because why not, dirty dipshits are more important than tax-paying, law-abiding, decent people.

Back to Polisano. Turned out they were closed on weekends. What kind of a hospital is closed on weekends?! So there were no private, paying alternatives for people like us on a weekend. We were pointed in the direction of the state-run emergency room.

We walked in. It was chock full of dirty, smelly “citizens”, some of them yelling at the nurses. Some dipshit was yelling about suing the hospital, so everyone could hear him. The door to the treatment room got slammed into his face by one of the nurses (good on her). There was grime everywhere in the public areas, even on the walls. There weren’t enough chairs. “People” were standing up, emanating the unmistakable stenches of unwashed sweat, layers of it, that had been alternately drying up and getting wet again on them for days on end. NO way we were staying there. We walked out with nowhere to go.

Thankfully, Sophie started feeling better. We took a walk through Sibiu’s historic district with her. We held her in our arms. When we got back to the car, she started complaining again about aches. We were at a loss, with nowhere to go.

Sophie’s usual pediatrician doesn’t answer her phone on weekends. Most of the doctors in Romania don’t answer their phone on weekends, as if diseases and accidents take a break on the weekends as well. A pediatrician in Medias even yelled at me when I called her on a Saturday, told me not to bother her and go to the emergency room.

I got in touch with my dad, who is a doctor — albeit not a pediatrician, but a psychiatrist and a damn good one if I might add. He lives in another part of the country, so he couldn’t see Sophie personally, but judging from her symptoms, he eliminated heat stroke and pointed us toward the likely possibility of enterocolitis, probably contracted at the kindergarten. We picked up some furazolidone for her from the only pharmacy in town open 24 hours and drove home.

As a last reminder of how shitty the healthcare system is in Romania, the hallway leading up to the pharmacy stank to high heaven of a filthy mix of old perspiration and urine. I complained to the pharmacist, who apologized and said about half an hour before me, a gypsy woman had come in for something and left the pungent odour behind her. The pharmacist had opened all of the windows to air out the stench, but it was stubbornly clinging to the space.

Conclusion: For f***sake, don’t get sick on weekends in Romania. Better yet, just don’t get sick in Romania, period, end of story.

Electricity in Romania

Here’s what I keep saying to every friend and acquaintance who visits my house: you definitely need a voltage stabilizer if you live in Romania.

voltage-stabilizer

Around midnight last night the current started fluctuating wildly. Our UPS units were going crazy, clicking and kicking on and off, trying to contain the power fluctuations and cutoffs. After quickly shutting off all important equipment in the office, I went to see the voltage stabilizer down in the basement. It was going nuts as well trying to keep the current to our house stable, its arms moving quickly back and forth across the copper coils, barely containing the madness. I shut off all current to the house, fearing the stabilizer would burn out.

As I write this, it’s past noon (the following day) and the current still isn’t back on. Oh, it’s been back on and off sporadically, but nothing reliable to speak of. And I found out from one of our neighbors that the scrambling and bungling Electrica (that’s the power company) employees reversed the polarity on one of the phases in the neighborhood, which means they potentially burned out some people’s electrical appliances. As a matter of fact, another neighbor said his heating furnace shorted out and almost caught fire from all the electricity problems during the night.

This is part of the price one pays for living in Romania. It’s a beautiful country, but as they say, caveat emptor.

You may recall unreliable electrical power was partly to blame for a massive data loss that occurred to me a few years ago, before I replaced all wiring and fuses in the house and added the voltage stabilizer. The Drobo units I was using then simply didn’t have the capability to keep the data uncorrupted when experiencing multiple power failures within a short amount of time. They’d simply lose track of some bits, and then the corruption would spread across the drives, eating more and more data, to the point where the Drobo would cease to mount. Nowadays, Drobos come with built-in batteries that allow them to safely complete data operations and shut off in case of a power failure, and they also have some algorithms in place to ensure that data corruption is kept at bay, but it’s hard to trust a device meant to keep your data safe once it’s lost about 20% of your most treasured data, isn’t it?

A few of my latest Instagram posts

Join me on Instagram, won’t you?

The chrysanthemums are still hanging in there in spite of the cold weather. #garden #flowers #winter

A video posted by Raoul Pop (@theraoulpop) on

There's my girl🙂 #cat #love #sasha

A video posted by Raoul Pop (@theraoulpop) on

A tiny Sasha #cat #kitten #cute

A photo posted by Raoul Pop (@theraoulpop) on

First snow of the season in my corner of the world.

A video posted by Raoul Pop (@theraoulpop) on

Trixie #pet #cat

A photo posted by Raoul Pop (@theraoulpop) on

Join me on Instagram, won’t you?

Introducing my Facebook and Instagram pages

If you’re subscribed to my website, you know that you’ll get an email from me whenever I post something new. I know many of you wish I’d post more often, and for those of you that want that, I’d like to introduce you to my Facebook and Instagram pages. I’m quite active on Facebook; I post several times a day to my Facebook page. I’ve just started using Instagram regularly and I post once or twice per day to my Instagram profile.

I post a lot of photographs of homes and gardens, of interior design and I talk about various style issues that pertain to my Elegant Gentleman series of videos and articles. I’m particularly proud of my collection of curated albums of exterior and interior design. It’s definitely worth your while.

So, if you’ve been wanting to see more content from me, please join me on Facebook and/or Instagram! See you there!

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The lure of the West and its subsequent disappointment (for some)

Here’s a thought: the very people who rail the most against the restrictions imposed by the state in autocratic countries, the most vocal opponents of such regimes, the ones who crave an escape to the West, are the ones who fare the worst after emigrating to free, democratic societies such as those in the Western world. You can think of it as an inversely proportional relationship between one’s dislike for a government or a regime and their likelihood of doing well in a freer, Western country that runs on capitalist principles.

They, unlike those who make their own little worlds at home in spite of the surrounding conditions, those who make the best of the situation, these vocal dissidents have let themselves be defined by what they perceive to be the restrictions of those societies. In other worlds, their lives have become dominated by what they criticize; they themselves have become the voice of those restrictions. Their very purpose of being is now defined by those societies: they live to criticize them. Because of this, their transplantation into a Western society would be fruitless. I don’t say this triflingly; I saw this happen first-hand.

These particular people would quickly find the faults in such a society (because they have become wired to do this) and would become dissidents of the West, criticizing the overt commercialism (for example) of such a society. They would find no solace in the freedom offered there and would instead resort to vocal criticism of the faults of that society. They would make poor use of the facilities of that society, they would contribute little or nothing to its betterment, but would instead fill their days with discontented moans. They’d likely pen editorials about the shackles of the West, etc.

If you want immigration success stories, you should look for those who can find the good in any situation, those who in spite of the conditions imposed on them, managed with what they had, provided good lives for themselves and those in their families, and were bright points of light in those autocratic societies. Get those people in the West and they’ll likely do the same, if not more, with the opportunities provided to them in those free societies.

Accountability for Syria

I want to point out a few more things related to my previous post about the Syrian refugees. Things such as the lack of accountability within foreign governments for the actions and strikes they authorized and which have contributed to the severity of the situation in Syria.

Here’s a video put together by Hans Robling that talks about the numbers:

And here’s an article on the need for accountability and responsibility in the actions of those who hold positions of power, with a short quote from it:

In short, the Romans honored the man who held absolutely nothing back — who put all he was as stake in everything he did and said.

Conversely, the man with nothing to lose, who risked nothing in his speech and behavior, was considered to be literally shameless (that is, unable or unwilling to be shamed). A shameless man acted without the check of honor and was thus regarded as contemptible, dangerous, and unworthy of trust. His whole being was considered a vanity; as Roman writer Petronius put it, a man who would not submit himself to test and challenge became nothing more than a “balloon on legs, a walking bladder.”

Finally, here’s a brief timeline that shows the escalation of the conflict. Allied forces condemned Assad, then negotiated with him, then armed and helped the militants, then started bombing them. This horrible flip-flopping and side-switching only made the situation worse and ultimately led to the situation we now see in Syria, with over 12 million people who have been forced to leave their homes by the fighting.

Is it just me, or have the United States been meddling long enough in the Middle East? I’d love to find out at least one instance during the last 60-70 years when their meddling in that region of the world led to something good.

Some may say, but we needed to go in, they were using chemical weapons. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. False flag events have been used before to trigger wars. The main point here is that a stable regime was in place in the country, a regime where most people could live their lives in relative safety. Now, after foreigners meddled there, the country is in shambles and we have seen the uprising of yet another radical terrorist group who’s literally having a blast, killing people and blowing things up left and right.

So I say those countries who’ve meddled directly in Syria should be the ones now responsible for fixing the situation. Instead of the EU having to shoulder the burden of integrating Syrian refugees, the United States and the other countries who triggered this horrible situation in one way or another should do it. It’s high time we instituted a certain level of responsibility in international affairs. If you break it, you fix it.

I don’t want to hear a peep about the chance of putting a “democratic” regime in place in that country. Look how effed up the situation is in Iraq and Afghanistan, where allied coalitions brought “democracy” a few years ago. I mistrust the Arab Spring movement, I’m not so sure it’s genuine. I think it’s orchestrated. It’s time we all realized democracy can’t work everywhere. Some regions of the world are best led autocratically, and as long as most of the people are doing okay, we shouldn’t stick our noses in their business, even if that autocrat doesn’t want to play nice with us.

Right now, what the US and its allies in the strikes on Syria need to realize is that they’ve got a terrorist group on the loose there that they’ve helped arm and strengthen and more to the point, this terrorist group is recruiting new members right from Western Europe, so it’s using Westerners to fight Eastern conflicts. That’s very screwed up and the West is directly or indirectly (depending on how you want to look at it) responsible for it.

Finally, this stupid meddling has displaced over 12 million Syrians from their homes, has exposed them to countless dangers, both in their own countries and abroad, as they try to get to safe places, and has created yet more bad blood between the East and the West. This stuff will haunt us for generations to come, and it’s all thanks to irresponsible politicians who aren’t being held accountable for their actions.