Relax, this won’t affect you, but its interesting none the less. :)

If there has ever been a motif to this blog, it would be the sentiment that J.K. Rowling captures in her Twitter feed. The experience of society for females and males is distinctly different, and that difference is deleterious for the female half of the world. Men like to dance around the fact that they have the world basically arranged and shaped for their benefit. The mask of ‘being a good liberal’ quickly slips though once it has been demonstrated that the female in question has the temerity not to back down and not know her place in society. Then we can see the real society that we live in. Threats to male dominance are quickly acted on and the abuse J.K describes happens.

Yeah, so dudes, if you don’t threaten and demean women, good on ya, cookie achieved. Next big cookie to win is speaking out and telling your mates when they are acting like assholes toward women in society. It’s scary, but worth it if you happen to value those born female.

  The situation in Venezuela is grim.  When conditions take a turn for the worse those on the bottom of the social hierarchy feel it the worse, and of course those are almost always females.  I read in the Globe and Mail about Carmen Tovar and her now deceased daughter Nakarid.

“Carmen Tovar remembers the apologies. The doctors who stood around the body of her 17-year-old daughter Nakarid told her they were so very sorry, but the girl had died, and so had the baby she was trying to deliver. We did all we could, the doctors told Ms. Tovar – we’re terribly sorry.

Nakarid had high blood pressure all through her pregnancy, but the free clinic in their hillside slum on the edge of Caracas had no drugs to treat it, and her mother could not afford the wildly inflated prices in the private pharmacies. When Nakarid’s contractions started, on the night of Dec. 7, Ms. Tovar took her to a nearby maternity clinic, but they were turned away: no beds available there. Same thing at the next clinic. By the time they reached the third, Ms. Tovar, 49, was out of money to pay another taxi, and her daughter was disoriented, dizzy with a shattering headache. Ms. Tovar demanded a bed, and that clinic reluctantly took Nakarid. But she died a few hours after they reached the hospital. The doctors said she had pre-eclampsia; they lacked even a basic intravenous line to treat her.”

Most people in the wealthy parts of North America would have difficulty connecting the idea that becoming pregnant would be death sentence for (some) women.  Maternal mortality rates in Venezuela have significantly increased due to the lack of basic medical services and supplies.

“When Mr. Chavez was first elected, nearly two decades ago, Venezuela had some of the best public health indicators in Latin America. That reflected decades of steady progress: In 1958, at the start of the democratic era, 140 of every 100,000 women died giving birth, but the figure had fallen to 68 women by 1990. When the government finally released 2016 data a few weeks ago, the figure was back up to 112 per 100,000 women. “The health system is so deteriorated that we’re going back in time,” said Rayfael Orihuela, who was the minister responsible for public health in the last government before Mr. Chavez swept to power.

“What do I have when I go to deliver a baby? Only a pair of gloves and maybe a clamp for the cord,” said David Flora, who recently completed a two-year stint as the sole doctor in a referral hospital in Rio Chico, a town three hours’ drive west of Caracas. “If the placenta doesn’t descend, if I need to stop bleeding, if the baby has respiratory distress – I have no way to attend that. I have one bed and a pair of gloves and a line of women waiting at the door to deliver. Women arrive at 40 weeks pregnant with no file, they have had no prenatal care, and I know nothing about them. I don’t even know how many babies are in that belly because they haven’t had an ultrasound. I don’t even have a fetoscope to listen, so I don’t know the size of the pelvis, the size of the baby, if the baby is even alive. If the mother needs a caesarean, she dies.”

AAAAAChilling isn’t it?  If you need a C-section, you’re dead.
AAAAAWhy though?  What is happening in Venezuela?

   “Venezuela is not facing only one crisis but multiple interconnected crises.

  Key among them is the state of the economy. In January 2017, according to estimates by the Finance and Economic Development Commission of the National Assembly (AN), it was predicted that inflation will close this year at 679.73 percent.

  However according to the International Monetary Fund, this year and next year’s projection is even higher. The organisation estimates that inflation will reach 720.5 percent this year, the highest in the Americas, and 2,068.5 percent by 2018.

  However, the economic crisis is hitting Venezuela’s public health system the hardest. In the country’s public hospitals, medicine and equipment are increasingly not available.”

AAAAAOuch.

  “Venezuela depends heavily on its oil. It has the largest oil reserves in the world which, in 2014, had 298 billion barrels of proved oil reserves.Oil revenue has sustained Venezuela’s economy for years. During the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the price of oil reached a historic high of $100 a barrel.  The billions of dollars in revenue were used to finance social programmes and food subsidies.

  But when the price of oil fell, those programmes and subsidies became unsustainable.”

  During the rule of Hugo Chavez, the price of key items, food and medicines were reduced. Products became more affordable but they were below the cost of production.  Private companies were expropriated, and to stop people from changing the national currency into dollars, Chavez restricted the access to dollars and fixed the rate.When it became unprofitable for Venezuelan companies to continue producing their own products, the government decided to import them from abroad, using oil money.  But oil prices have been falling since 2014, which has left the economic system unable to maintain the system of subsidies and price controls that functioned during the oil boom years.

  The inability to pay for imports with bolivares coupled with the decline in oil revenues has led to a shortage of goods.  The state has tried to ration food and set their prices, but the consequence is that products have disappeared from shops and ended up in the black market, overpriced.  As many as 85 of every 100 medicines are missing in the country. Shortages are so extreme that patients sometimes take medicines ill-suited for their conditions, doctors warn.

  Given the long litany of woes, some analysts think there are two options before Maduro’s government: to default on its debt or to stop importing food.”

Add in government corruption and massive inequality and it isn’t a much of a stretch to see Venezuela on the downward spiral toward Failed State status.   Another revolution or return to military dictatorship seems to be in the dark future for Venezuela.  Either option though likely won’t help the poorest of the nation, their misery is guaranteed in the years to come.

[Source: Globe and Mail]

[Source: Al Jazeera 1,2,3]

 

Confused?  So is the rest of the rational world. :)

  Too long it has been, since a gaming post graced DWR.  The Battle Royal first person shooter game PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG), still in early access, has made its way on to my gaming list.

First and foremost, like all early access games, there is a dire need for optimization and stability as frame rate and connectivity to the game servers can sometimes be quite questionable.  When things are going great though, watch out, this is one of the games in which you say to yourself, ‘Okay, just one more before bed…’ and then suddenly it is 4am.

The concept is quite simple.  I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking:

“The game is based on battle royal-style game mods previously developed by Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene for other games, but expanded into one standalone game under Greene’s creative direction. In the game, up to one hundred players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and equipment to kill others while avoiding getting killed themselves. The available safe area of the game’s world decreases in size over a match, directing surviving players into tighter areas and forcing encounters. The last player or team standing wins the round.”

And that’s it.   Throw 100 avatars onto a 8km island and see who comes out the winner.  It is the chaos that comes with each round that brings me, and others back again and again.  What makes the game so darn replayable is a series of risk/reward decisions must be made in every phase of the gaming experience.

Firstly, where does one jump out of the plane?  Choosing a city or hamlet will increase your chances of getting the guns and gear you need to survive but then twelve other people have that exact same idea and are heading to the same area.  So then it becomes a frantic race to see who can arm themselves first and have the advantage over their unarmed opponents, or do you go more out of the way, with less chance of the good loot, but also less people.

Secondly, layer on top of the loot vs people decisions, the geographical considerations involved in having a good run.  The available playing area cordons off after five minutes, what happens is that a large circle appears randomly on the map and after some time an ominous blue forcefield slowly closes around that circle effectively shepherding the players into a new smaller playing area.  Being far away from where the circle is drawn is never a good thing and forces you to make decisions that e often not tactically sound.  Thus, dropping toward the middle of the island is generally a fairly good idea because you will never be too far away from the initial circle boundary.

Thirdly, add to the mix the randomness of the gear available; sometimes you just cannot find a scope, or enough ammunition, or armour and you have to make due with what is available.

Of course, on top of all these points is the fact that you are playing against people who will be as conniving and opportunistic as humanly possible as everyone is trying to win the match.  You can bet your bottom dollar that people are lying in ambush waiting for the likes of unwary players who are not being careful.  Every corner must be checked, wide open spaces avoided, tree lines inspected, ridges surveyed – because the bastards are out there and will unhelpfully remind you of their presence, and your misfortune, with gunfire.

PUBG allows the option of teaming up with either a squad of 2 or 4 people, the new caveat being that rather than dying outright when injured, members of your team can revive you if they get to you before you bleed out.  Thus, more dynamics are added as then people tend to stick together and fight together leading to nasty 4 v 4 firefights and ambushes.

Playing this game has brought back some of the early pulse pounding experiences I’ve had with first person shooters when they first made their appearance on the market.  Running that flag in Soldier of Fortune 2, or being the last team member alive in Counterstrike were all heart rate quickening good times.  PUBG has brought those sorts of experiences back in a new setting that I’m finding most enjoyable.

 

Well, folks let me tell you, listening the the choral finale of Mahler 2 is inspiring, but singing it…  Next level experience.  We had the Calgary Youth Orchestra and 3 other choirs join my choir to tackle this monumental piece.  Every chorister should have the opportunity to sing in this iconic musical experience.

Original German

Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n
Wirst du, Mein Staub,
Nach kurzer Ruh’!
Unsterblich Leben! Unsterblich Leben
wird der dich rief dir geben!

Wieder aufzublüh’n wirst du gesät!
Der Herr der Ernte geht
und sammelt Garben
uns ein, die starben!

—Friedrich Klopstock

O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube:
Es geht dir nichts verloren!
Dein ist, ja dein, was du gesehnt!
Dein, was du geliebt,
Was du gestritten!

O glaube
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!

Was entstanden ist
Das muss vergehen!
Was vergangen, auferstehen!
Hör’ auf zu beben!
Bereite dich zu leben!

O Schmerz! Du Alldurchdringer!
Dir bin ich entrungen!
O Tod! Du Allbezwinger!
Nun bist du bezwungen!

Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,
In heißem Liebesstreben,
Werd’ ich entschweben
Zum Licht, zu dem kein Aug’ gedrungen!

Sterben werd’ ich, um zu leben!
Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n
wirst du, mein Herz, in einem Nu!
Was du geschlagen
zu Gott wird es dich tragen!
—Gustav Mahler

In English

Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you My dust,
After a brief rest!
Immortal life! Immortal life
Will He who called you, give you.

To bloom again were you sown!
The Lord of the harvest goes
And gathers in, like sheaves,
Us together, who died.

—Friedrich Klopstock

O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!

O believe,
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!

What was created
Must perish,
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!

O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You conqueror of all things,
Now, are you conquered!

With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!

Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God shall it carry you!
—Gustav Mahler

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