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2010/08/27 An Evening With Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd
π 2010-08-27 00:00 in Diving, Public
It was by total dumb luck that Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd was talking at the whale museum on the small island of San Juan between Washington State and Canada where I had flown with our local flight club the previous day (San Juan has a large population of visiting whales and established pods of Orcas).



Paul has been fighting Japanese whalers with other volunteers and the financial backing of the animal planet for which he does a show: Whale Wars. While they've had success fighting the whalers and making it less worthwhile and risky for them to do their so called "research job" (of killing countless whales), the fight is not over.
He also explained that the Japanese are in the business of killing species of tuna and other fish that they overfish and stash as gold reserves in deep freezers so that they can sell the last specimens at super high prices (some blue fin tunas have already gone on the japanese fish market for $250,000 a piece).
Japan has also gotten in trouble after the making of The Cove in Taiji where the local Japanese fisherman would just slaughter dolphins by the hundreds because they didn't want them to eat the remaining fish that they are trying to fish too: in other words they were slaughtering dolphins because they were competition. On top of that, they were also feeding some of those very mercury tainted dolphins to their own school children who were getting mercury poisoning as a result (and they were also selling tainted dolphin meat on markets pretending it was tuna).

Back to whales, he mentioned that whales have much larger brains and neocortexes than we do, and are likely more intelligent than us. From what I had learned earlier about their communication and behaviour on a kayaking and whale watch tour, Orcas were not only highly social, but each pod had their own language, and also a separate language to communicate between different pods. From what I read, there is no conclusive evidence on direct correlation between brain size and raw intelligence, but most people seem to agree that the few mammals with bigger brains than humans are pretty intelligent. Obviously, there is a moral issue with killing mammals that are from fairly to highly intelligent, even if you're not vegan.

Separately, he talked about big oil companies getting away with major spills due to the money trail ending at governments. As a result, he gave examples of them being accomplices and muffling big investigations by the EPA or other organizations where people got away with fines as opposed to jail time for extreme negligence. He did mention, and he is right, that a set of big corporations is definitely more interested in short term profits than big the big picture, be it for oil or overfishing. After all, all they care about is the next quarter's stock price, or making a good profit at the next fish market sale.

To be honest, I don't know the greenpeace folks much, but I always had an opinion of them that some were kind of non very reasonable fanatics. After having listened to Paul's 45mn presentation, I found him to be a quite reasonable guy and found him pretty convincing: most people would have issue killing and eating their cats and dogs, and they should feel the same about at least very intelligent dolphins or even more intelligent whales.
For the record, Paul doesn't think very highly of greenpeace which he left many years ago and is more into fighting any whaling in whichever ways that are still legal.

In the meantime, the more they can stop things like those, or the Danish killing dozens to hundreds of whales every year, "for fun", the better.

2010/08/22 Hospital Prices
π 2010-08-22 00:00 in Osa, Public
After a totally ludicrous $4000 bill the one time I was stupid enough to go to the ER for 4 stitches, a shot, and a few bandaids, I was not optimistic on the hospital bill for my recent surgery.
At hand was: a 5H surgery with related staff and supplies, 1 night in the ICU (which I'm not quite sure I needed since I never was in a critical state, but I suppose better be safe than sorry if money is no issue), and one night in a regular hospital room (all in all I stayed a bit less than 48H).

So, what was the bill? Indeed, it was over $93,000 for just the hospital (my surgeon bills separately, and I may also get a separate anesthesiologist bill and potential lab fees).
While I realize that world class surgeons should get paid for their skill, and hospitals don't run just on good wishes and fresh water, they still cost over 5 times what I'd pay in France for similar service (minus maybe things that would be considered unnecessary).

Now the "fun" part is where the insurance has pre negotiated prices and decides that things are really worth less than what the bill says. From there it goes from $93k to $16k!
Now, $16k is not cheap, but feels not as unreasonable as the first bill. What's disheartening though is that it's likely people without insurance who get billed full price and maybe get a measly 25% discount in the end.
I don't work in a hospital, but I really do wonder how they get to quote such outlandish prices and what happens to people who don't have insurance that will refuse to pay their rate and negotiates the prices way down.

Oh, if you add "supplies", it adds up to $26k billed. I really want to see what supplies I got for $26K worth.
Even over $1650's worth of drugs is steep, but of course that starts with drug companies charging pretty ridiculous prices (which Cigna mostly fully paid).

Anyway, there is a lot of things to fix in the medical industry, but I suppose that's no news to everyone :-(

In the meantime, I can thank Cigna PPO for making this experience mostly a non event financially for me.

2010/08/14 BestOf Old VA Pictures
π 2010-08-14 08:52 by Merlin in Public

I went through my old pictures at VA Linux, and selected a few "best of" category.

It's a good trip in memory lane if you'd like to indulge :)

Beer Bashes:






Funny thing, I still have those two weapons in my cube:


Eh, we actually built and shipped stuff:








Oh yeah, that:














classic T-shirt:




Chris was always meant to be a penguin :)




Walt:


We're not alcoholics :)


IPO:










Can't argue with the logic:




Don Dugger, classic:


San, my man:


Getting hardware from the trash:






Allhands:




Funny slide:


new buildings:


who's the ice cream man?


Xmas:












Jeremy, you make me horny:


Steve, the master cook:


Chris Antilla/and Theresa Marie, Chili Judges:


For those who were there, our scooter and chair race around the track:




(I won the chair race by the way :) )

And in no time, Engineering was let go, Walt doing BBQ for us:


Josh, and his many hawaiin shirts:






We didn't quite come close:


Morale was high:












VA hemoraging staff:






Aaah, Leanne :)




You look good Steve:






Oh man, Brian was stoned big time


Oh, well, maybe it wasn't just him:




Hair to impress:












Jeremy, I think of you at night still, and I wish I didn't :)


Ah, our new CFO, she was cool, I liked her. Too bad she picked the wrong company:


Yes, TM, you look good too :)




Classic Linuxworld:


And that's all folks, fun memories, good times :)

The rest of BestOf is here and all the pictures are there.

2010/08/01 My House is Sold
π 2010-08-01 00:00 in Public
My old house closed last thursday, and Chen-Chen Wu did an awesome job fixing up the house before selling, getting it nice and pretty, and finding the best buyers available and the best price for now.

I met the buyers today (and old retired couple downsizing from Palo Alto and getting cash out) to help them setup the phone lines via the patch panel and their DSL modem (I have DSL freqs split outside and sent in the wiring closet on a special plug, something they'd not have figured out themselves). I also gave them a primer on X10 lighting and programming, and it was a bit more tech than they were used to, but they were happy.

I know I could have kept it as an investment, but that was just more hassle than I was willing to deal with. I have enough other things that can take my time already :)


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