So we wanted to drive the A-2 highway this weekend.
You have to understand: Romania, a country half the size of France, only has about 200 km (120 miles) of highway. Half of that is the "Pitesti Autostrada", the A-1, which goes from Bucharest west for about 100 km/60 miles to the nondescript small city of Pitesti. (It was built by Ceausescu in the 1970s because the country's first car factory was near Pitesti, and he wanted a highway from the factory to the capital. The other 100 km consists of various odds and ends scattered around the country -- a few miles here, a few miles there.
Otherwise, if you're driving around Romania, you're driving on two-lane country roads.
Until about two weeks ago, that is. That's when we read in the news that 55 km (~35 miles) of the new A-2 highway had been completed.
HDTD reader Pax has kindly alerted us that today is Danube Day. How could we overlook that! He's also directed us to a very cool link about the Danube which is very worth checking out. Quote the site about the events in Romania:
What will happen in Romania?
Danube Day in Romania is a day of national celebration, with festivities in every major town along the Danube. National television will be covering the events, encouraging everyone to join in the fun and appreciate the importance of a healthy Danube.
A symbolic torch and special Danube Day message will be transported by boat from Orsova, the start of the Romanian Danube (24 June) to the Black Sea at Sulina (29 June), signifying the immense value of the Danube to the people of Romania.
I'm sorry that we missed this, being two hours' drive away from the river.
BTW, last weekend, we traveled all the way down the Danube but that blog entry is still in the making. Now we do have the ambition to visit the source of the Danube in Donaueschingen, as well as the two little rivers that really make the Danube, the Brigach and the Breg. One day.
This is a sweet pie. Thus, this is a disturbing pie, since it is also a bean pie. Yet it is a multicultural pie. American cowboys, Black Muslims, and diners in Chinese McDonald's restaurants have all eaten the bean pie with gusto and with pleasure. Sweet, disturbing, multicultural; sounds good to me. So let's go.
Boris Tadic won the Presidential election in Serbia yesterday.
You may recall that Tadic was running against Nikolic of the Radical Party. Nikolic came alarmingly close -- the final vote was about 54% - 46%. That's worrying. Still, when the dust had settled Tadic was the clear victor.
So what next? Nothing much -- and that's a good thing. Tadic has said that he doesn't plan to call elections any time soon, which means he won't upset the oh-so-delicate Parliamentary balance.
Still, his party -- the Democrats -- are still out of power. So Serbia is in the odd position of being governed by a coalition of three parties, while a fourth party (the Socialists) is out of government but gives them tacit support, a fifth party (the Democrats) is out of government but holds the Presidency, and the largest single party of all -- the Radicals -- has no say in government at all.
You may have wondered about our silence. Well, the simple truth is that we were at the beach for the weekend. We drove out to Mamaia, where we ran into friends and spent the days on the beach and at the pool. It was marvelous.
Only Alan destested it all. Sometime last week, or maybe the week before that, my little fearless water rat turned into a water-detesting land dweller. He hated the sea (all those waves, and this water didn't have an ending to it!), he hated the beach (the little shells were poking his feet), he hated the pool ("Don't like it, Daddy, don't like it!). He loved playing around the pool, though, and quickly amassed a group of loyal followers (i.e. little boys of five, six years) who helped him climb on and off the walls. Then he disappeared for a scary couple of minutes and was found outside the pool area, swinging the gates to and fro. But he frequently demanded that we go "home!".
Well. On a brighter note, David just loved all of it. The pool, the sea, the beach. He was busy eating sand and shells and destroying the sand castles I built for him.
I'm glad one of my sons had a great time.
Also I was in St. Louis, Missouri, attending a wedding.
Geh' aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud
In dieser schnen Sommerzeit
An deines Gottes Gaben;
Schau an der schnen Grtenzier
Und siehe, wie sie mir und dir
Sich ausgeschmücket haben.
Die Bume stehen voller Laub,
Das Erdreich decket seinen Staub
Mit einem grünen Kleide;
Narzissus und die Tulipan,
Die ziehen sich viel schner an
Als Salomonis Seide.
Die Lerche schwingt sich in die Luft,
Das Tublein fleugt aus seiner Kluft
Und macht sich in die Wlder;
Die hochbegabte Nachtigall
Ergtzt und füllt mit ihrem Schall
Berg, Hügel, Tal und Felder.
Ich selber kann und mag nicht ruhn;
Des groen Gottes groes Tun
Erweckt mir alle Sinnen;
Ich singe mit, wenn alles singt,
Und lasse, was dem Hchsten klingt,
Aus meinem Herzen rinnen.
A beautiful sunny day for a beautiful sunny bride. Congratulations, Chriscinda and Fabian!
Apparently I have taken over this blog by default. Excellent.
I recently attended into the publishing event of the year. Yes, that's right: the release party for my friends Joe Garden and Mike Loew's new book, Citizen You! (Exclamation point theirs.) No, it's not my biography. It's possibly the only pro-Bush book the traitorous left-wing American publisher The New Press has ever printed (no doubt to position themselves for their inevitable treason trials), but it was definitely an event. Honest cold American Budweiser was served, with tiny pigs-in-a-blanket sausages bearing tiny American flags, and even the walls of The New Press's offices were covered in patriotic red, white, and blue bunting! As Joe remarked to me, it was a wonder that it didn't all spontaneously combust.
In honor of the event, Joe was wearing one of his Killdozer T-shirts, the one with the big hammer and sickle on it. Killdozer is the best Communist Wisconsin band named after a Theodore Sturgeon short story ever. Mike, like myself, had a new haircut, but his was far more dramatic. I got to shake Doug Henwood's hand, which means that I now have cell samples by which I could either clone him, or engineer a plague targeted at his genome specifically. Or both! There were real live evil America-hating Hollywood people there too, as well as some of the Billionaires for Bush. And, you know, the usual gang of weirdosfromWisconsin. Just good stuff.
"She also began to bake a lot of pies. She made dried apple pie and raisin pie. She had mincemeat she'd put up and was saving for Christmas but she opened those jars. When she ran out of those, she made mock apple pie out of crushed crackers or red bean pie. She made vinegar pie." -- Carol Emshwiller, Ledoyt.
The following recipe is taken from Carol Emshwiller's unconventional Western novel, Ledoyt. Unfortunately, I think it has a tragic flaw. (The recipe, not the book, which is excellent.)
The Legionnaire has stopped talking.
He says he's sick and exhausted. After prison doctors examined him, his trial was adjourned until July 12. This is rather a long adjournment, and cynical observers are already noting that it will be safely past next week's runoff election for Serbia's Presidency.
On the plus side, Prime Minister Kostunica -- after several days of agonizing over it -- issued a statement supporting Democrat Boris Tadic against Radical Tomislav Nikolic.
Not easy for Kostunica. He's a proud man, and he felt the humiliating defeat of "his" candidate keenly. And he loathes the Democrats; he thinks they're corrupt, and also that they were trying to harass and persecute him personally, especially in the last year or so of their administration. His party helped bring them down in a crushing defeat just six months ago. But now he has to support a Democrat to become Serbia's President -- head of state and so his nominal superior.
Personally, I wasn't sure he'd be able to bring himself to do it. It's really gratifying to see that he came around so quickly.
Rival candidate Bogoljub Karic -- who scored a surprisingly high third place in the presidential run, and who seems to want to be Serbia's Silvio Berlusconi -- also came around to endorsing Tadic. Since Karic got nearly half a million votes, nearly 20%, this is also a great help. So at this point I'm going to live a little dangerously and predict a Tadic win.
Meanwhile: eighty per cent of students at Belgrade University would leave Serbia if they could, according to the results of an opinion poll published by Belgrade daily Politika.
My osteopath has told me a wild story today. She's a member of MISA, the Romanian yoga movement "Miscarea de Integrare Siprituala n Absolut" (Movement for the Spiritual Integration in the Absolute). She was very shaken and upset. Apparently the police has launched a nation-wide crack down on the highly criminal and subversive subjects known as "yogis". We all know how dangerous yoga practitioners are, don't we?
Sources on the internet are readily available, like here and here, but I found this a very moving, albeit difficult to read document. Wizards? In this day and age?
My osteopath warned me not to tell anybody that I am practising yoga. It could be "dangerous". Her praxis has been searched and the police questioned the neighbors whether they'd noticed any sex orgies in her rooms. Good for her that the neighbors were outraged by this slander.
She also gave me a movie CD with footage of the police raids -- chilling documents indeed.
MISA has protested in Brussels against this treatment. We can only hope that the EU listens and acts. I have small hope of that but we'll see.
On Tuesday, there is a big protest planned downtown. I will try to be there and let you know how things go.
I find this whole story so absurd.
My god-daughter Catie had her casts removed yesterday! She's had them on since she was six weeks old, to help correct the development of her feet and hips. Yes, she is wiggling her toes again. Yay!
Well, anyway. To someone who grew up on tales of heroic surgeries (i.e., me), it was surprising to learn that the casting method used with Catie is not only as good as corrective surgery on a clubbed foot, but in fact is significantly superior.
My favorite weekly German newspaper, Die Zeit, has a very fun riddle section. This includes one of the best crosswords, Time-style, some logic questions, and the island riddle by Rafi Reiser. I love the island riddle. So much so, that I decided to bring the island riddle to the English speaking part of the world -- well, at least to the part that reads our blog. If you guys like it, I'll make it a regular contribution.
The following is a cryptic description of an island somewhere on this lovely planet. The clues will provide you with the right answer, and there is also a map of the island which might help you a bit.
Die Zeit comes out on Thursdays and this riddle came out last week. Tomorrow, the new edition will supply the answer. I think I got the right solution, but who knows? Anyway, guess away and have fun:
(Caveat: The English sounds strange because I stuck as closely to the German original as possible, which also has a strange ring to it. It's part of the riddle, so to speak.)
I decided to divide the pie into sixths, to eliminate any psychological barriers a more dyadic approach (eighths, fourths, halves) might have created. The pre-fab crust, I am ashamed to say, was not a success. It was unable to bear the sheer mass of the pie. Both spoon and fork were necessary in extracting the first slice out.
But the first taste, ah. Soft and sweet and silky, like the hair of a lover brushing one's forehead in the morning. The natural warmth of the brown sugar and the creaminess of the butter combined into a greater whole. Even my coffee seems pallid in comparison.
The pie is half gone now.
A few days ago, a commentor asked what the differences were between Romania's major parties.
The short answer is: not much.
Oh, there are differences. But the three major parties -- PSD, the Democrats, and the Liberals -- all seem to be rather similar. They're all more about personalities and factions than ideology. They all have a lot of very turbulent internal politics. In practice (as opposed to what they publicly say) they're all rather interventionist with regard to the economy, moderately nationalist, and not overly worried about things like press freedom and due process. They've all made European integration a top priority. And they're all top-heavy with former Communists.
Still, there are some real differences. So let's take a look at some of the parties in a little detail.
For this first post, I want to look at a party that isn't one of the major parties, but that I find interesting anyway: the Humanist Party of Romania, or PUR.
So it's a cool June here in NYC, and the social life has picked up a bit: Rififi, Sin- (the new one), Azkaban; soon Imelda, Truck Turner, and then to the Jersey Shore to assist Dave and Leah with their grand experiment of kosher smoked barbecue. I'm a little nervous, since I come from the heartland of treyf itself, but I think I have come up with some suitable side dishes for the upcoming carnifest. The following ain't one of them.
I'm married to an American and my kids are half Americans (OK, a quarter, really -- they have more passports than some small countries issue). Needless to say that I love them dearly. My in-laws are Americans, my best friend is American... one cannot say that my sentiments are anti-American. Right? Still, some of the things that are going on in the US these days scare the living daylights out of me.
When Bush was made President in 2000, despite having fewer votes than Al Gore, the budget of the Pentagon amounted to 280.8 billion dollars. In 2001, the budget was raised by 8.8% to 305.4 billion, in 2002 by 12.4% to 343.2 billion and in 2003 by 15.4% to 396.1 billion US dollars.
The raise from 2002 to 2003 was 53 billion dollars. This raise alone is more than any other country in the world spends on its military (with the possible exception of Russia).
The budget in 2003 of 396.1 billion dollars is more then 26 times as much as of all the axis of evil nations taken together -- Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Lybia, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
If we move to the States in a couple of years, will there be any schools left? Roads? Public transportation? Libraries?
The Presidential election in Serbia is over, and the winners are...
...as expected: Nikolic of the Radical Party, and Boris Tadic of the Democrats.
Not all the votes have been counted, but it looks like Nikolic will get about 32% of the vote, to Tadic's 27%. An independent "clean government" candidate came in third. Dragan Marsicanin, the selected candidate of the ruling coalition, finished a humiliating fourth place, with around 19%.
So now what?
It's cherry season here in Romania.
The cherries come in two sorts: ciresi ("chiresh") and visine ("veesee neh"). Ciresi are sweet, visine are sour. They're both wonderful.
In fact, Romanian fruits generally are wonderful. Crisp watermelons. Strawberries that are almost painfully sweet. Peaches that are fat, tender, and literally bursting with juice.
Unfortunately, they're also very seasonal. Enjoy them now, because in a few weeks they'll disappear, and then you won't see them again until next year. But even this adds an edge to the appreciation, and gives us something to look forward to. (Raspberry season! Almost here!)
As for the cherries: Romanians consider them a little expensive: 80 to 100,000 lei/kg for ciresi, maybe 50-70,000 for visine. For American readers, that's about $1.30/lb for the sweet cherries, $0.90/lb. for the sour. This doesn't seem unreasonable to us, and we've been buying a kilo every second day or so. It's amazingly easy to just sit with a bowl of them and eat them like popcorn.
We'll probably get sick of them right around the time they disappear anyway. So that works.
Linguistic note: Most of the European words for "cherry" come from the Turkish. The Slavs, though, use a different word -- vishnya. No idea where it comes from. But the Romanians use both the Turkish/European word and the Slavic one -- one for sweet cherries, the other for sour. I find that neat.
I got spit on by a gypsy girl today.
So far, I've never had any problems with the gypsy beggars or with any other beggar. They ask, sometimes they get something, sometimes they don't, but they almost always remain polite and friendly.
I have "my" beggars who I give money. The man with the club foot in front of the church. The old lady at the NIC supermarket. The gyspy woman with her little boy at Piata Dorobanti. The old couple at the bakery.
Today I drove past the Unirea shopping center, heading northwards back home. I waited at a red light and this gypsy girl of about 16 or 17 came to my window. I had the window rolled down partially and that was a mistake. (No, the doors were locked.) She asked for money, my wallet was on the back seat, the lights were changing, I said something to her like "no, gotto go" and she... spat directly in my face.
I had an astonishingly violent reaction. Apart from the yuck factor and the feeling of utter humiliation, I was so mad. She was lucky that I was forced by traffic to drive on (and she knew that, of course). I was so angry, I might have run after her and hurt her. I'm not a violent person, I don't think. But this was utterly maddening.
I had revenge fantasies all the drive home. I still do (so don't give that beggar girl at the Unirea crossing any money, OK?).
I guess she was frustrated and unhappy. Begging is not an easy lifestyle. Who knows what else was going on in her life and there was this foreign bitch who was too arrogant to give her 500 lei. It's one way to see it. But this kind of behavior is not a way to ensure future income, says cynical me.
Anyway. Hope your day was better.
Serbia's holds their Presidential election this weekend. As I noted a few weeks back, this is a very interesting race.
Right now the frontrunner is still Tomislav Nikolic of the Radical Party. There's a recent interview with Nikolic in English available on the "B92"site. I don't think either interviewer or subject come off with flying colors, but it's interesting.
(There are some local references that might be confusing. Like, the bit about "rusty spoons"? That's referring to when Radical Party leader Seselj, now on trial for war crimes in the Hague, once said that he would gouge out Croat eyes with a rusty spoon. So what Nikolic is saying here is, ah gee, not that old chestnut again.)
If the polls are correct, Nikolic will win, but won't get 50%. That means he'll go to a runoff in two weeks against the next-highest vote getter -- probably Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party. Nikolic would probably lose a runoff if the other parties united. But will they? It won't be easy, especially if the other candidate is Tadic -- his Democrats were the dominant party in the last government, and a lot of people are still carrying grudges.
Meanwhile, gang boss, paramilitary leader, secret police chief and accused Presidential assassin Milorad "Legija" Ulemek appeared in court in Belgrade yesterday.
Legija refused to make any statement. Interestingly, he said that he was keeping quiet because of the election. He refused to go into detail, saying only that he didn't want to have an influence on the outcome. "Elections are more important, the country has been without a president for four years," said Legija. "I don’t want to help anyone."
He also said he did not want to be "anyone’s political prostitute".
This has, of course, only fueled the already red-hot speculation that Legija might implicate senior politicians in the assassination.
On a more cheerful note, there's this. I think this is a great idea, and I hope it gets picked up by other countries. "Hi, I'm Vice-President Richard Cheney. Can I get your bag?"
Football and extreme politics seem to go hand in hand around the world.
For instance, take a look at Juan Posadas. A player for the Argentine team La Plata Estudientes in the 1930s, Posadas moved gracefully into the splintered world of post-Trotsky Latin American leftist politics, where, as time went on, his positions became stranger and stranger. Preemptive nuclear war, a solid Soviet first strike, a good thing! "After the destruction commences, the masses are going to emerge in all countries – in a short time, in a few hours." But then our socialist space brothers will save us. "Capitalism doesn’t interest the UFO pilots, which is why they do not return." In the meantime, though, we should make our peace with our aqueous cousins, the dolphins. So far, his ideas have come to not very much. After all, you can't have socialism on just one planet.
Then there's David Icke. Once a goalkeeper for Coventry City, and later a sportscaster, Icke declared himself the Son of God in 1991 on British television and has never looked back. Although his beliefs have changed through the years, at present David Icke believes... well, he believes the lizard people are secretly in control of the Earth. In disguise, of course.
As far as X-Files conspiracy theories go in the US, there's Marshall Faulk, who thinks the Moon landings were a hoax. It stands to reason, he opined in a Playboy interview. After all, the flag was waving, but there's no air on the Moon. So far as I know, Faulk harbors no political ambitions. Yet.
On the other hand, there's Jack Kemp. Once quarterback for the Buffalo Bills -- the position of QB is a little difficult to explain to people only familiar with soccer, but Kemp was a star -- he parlayed that into a political career, trying (and failing) to reach the golden ring of the American presidency. I say 'golden', because Jack Kemp has been a strong advocate of returning to the monetary gold standard. You know, using the stuff in deluxe tooth fillings for money. This would (experts aver) have an effect on the American economy somewhere between abolishing the SEC and collectivizing the farms, although some Texans seem to like it.
On the other other hand, there's Paul Robeson. All-American at Rutgers, he quit a career in the law, became a radical actor and singer, and engaged in heavy petting with Stalin. You can hear him sing the Soviet national anthem (with English lyrics) here, about halfway down the page. (Look for the picture of Uncle Joe.) He had a hell of a voice, though. Much better than Kemp's.
You'll notice the absence of overt blood-and-soil tendencies among my American selections. It's not that they don't exist in American football, but professional football in the US has made a virtue of its racial and ethnic inclusiveness. So you get strange bits of rhetoric like the following, taken from a speech given by the great defensive end Reggie White to the Wisconsin state legislature:
When you look at the black race, black people are very gifted in what we call worship and celebration. A lot of us like to dance, and if you go to black churches, you see people jumping up and down, because they really get into it.
White people were blessed with the gift of structure and organization. You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature and you know how to tap into money pretty much better than a lot of people do around the world.
Hispanics are gifted in family structure. You can see a Hispanic person and they can put 20 or 30 people in one home. They were gifted in the family structure.
When you look at the Asians, the Asian is very gifted in creation, creativity and inventions. If you go to Japan or any Asian country, they can turn a television into a watch. They're very creative. And you look at the Indians, they have been very gifted in the spirituality.
When you put all of that together, guess what it makes. It forms a complete image of God. God made us different because he was trying to create himself.
The relentless drum-beat of good economic news continues.
In the first quarter of 2004, Romania's economy grew at an annualized rate of -- wait for it -- 6.1%.
The growth was led by the industrial sector (which grew at 6.6%) and construction (7.2%). The service sector grew by 5.7% and agriculture by 5.4%... slow compared to the rest of the economy, but still not bad.
Inflation is continuing to fall smoothly, down from 14% in December to about 12% now, and on schedule to hit 9% by the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, real wages suddenly surged in the first quarter. After growing only sluggishly (like 1%-2% per year) for the last three years, they suddenly rose at an adjusted rate of nearly 10% after inflation.
The foreign trade deficit is still big and still growing -- but the rate of growth dropped sharply; if it continues to drop, then the deficit will stabilize this summer and then start to shrink before the end of the year. (The main cause of this seems to have been a sharp rise in commodity prices, especially things like aluminum, cement and steel -- all major Romanian exports.)
Foreign direct investment -- both greenfields and equity purchases -- is up by about a third since last year. It's still pathetically low compared to FDI in, say, Hungary, but it's expected to double in the next two to three years.
The leu is stable. Tax revenues are up. The government is projected to run another fiscal deficit this year, as usual... but the surge in revenues means that the deficit will fall to 2.1% of GDP, down from the originally predicted 3.0%. In theory, this means that Romania might see a balanced budget by 2007.
I have some thoughts on all this, but I'm going to save them for a later post. Just now I want to put the question to our readers:
Is this for real? And, if it is, how long can it go on?
So the local elections are over.
"Local" here means for mayors, city and communal councils, and county councils. There are 265 cities in Romania, each with a mayor and a city council. Then, outside the cities, there are about 2700 "communes" -- rural political divisions consisting of several villages. Each commune has a mayor and a council too.
Then, at the regional level, the whole country is divided into 41 counties, or judets. Each judet elects its own county council. However, the judets differ from the cities and the communes in one key respect. The chief executive of a judet -- the prefect -- is not elected. Instead, he's appointed by the government in Bucharest.
To give a crude analogy for our American readers: it's as if the 50 states had their own legislatures, but the state Governors were appointed from Washington by the President.
This system has some interesting effects on Romanian politics.
I've been having a tough time getting my thoughts on Bucharest in order. A little unnerving. When that happens, I usually go for a walk.
My neighborhood in Brooklyn, like many in this city, has its contingent of beggars: the very polite woman with the large dog who waits by the subway entrance and always calls me 'sweetheart'; the bearded, tipsy guy with the odd hat (and wasn't he wearing a tam last time?) sometimes swaying drunk by noon; the stocky guy whose story has progressed over the years -- out of work, has to feed a daughter, just got work but doesn't have enough money, just got work and doesn't need money, medical problems, AIDS medications not working (he was quite alarmingly gaunt at this point) -- and now, weight back up, he just asks. Then there's Grant. I like Grant. Grant had his fifteen minutes of fame a few years back. There was even a Law and Order episode, sort of. Grant likes Aerosmith, and always asks me how I enjoyed whatever holiday has just passed. He's been in the neighborhood for years. The begging is recent.
Anyway. I'm walking past the only grocery in the neighborhood that stocks the beer of my people, and then only occasionally, dammit. That corner has a regular, a tall guy with a horsey face who knows the names of hundreds of pedestrians, makes small talk. By the evening rush, he has enough money for Chinese takeout, most nights.
So he spots me. I do stick out, even in Brooklyn. "Hey! How are you! Haven't seen you around in a while."
"Well, you know, been out of town..." Man, I feel awkward in these situations.
"Oh, where you been?"
"Romania?" He looks puzzled, but just for a second. "That's where they got that Cho-chess-koo guy, right?"
"Well, they did..."
"What's it like?"
So I told him.
Every parent of a two-year-old can tell you that they are a species completely unrelated to human beings. They try to kill themselves constantly, and if they're not busy playing with scissors, carpet knifes, vacuum cleaners, and hammers, they love to take things apart.
Yesterday, Alan experimented with my kitchen timer. It's an electrical kitchen timer, precise, runs up to 24 hours, I love it. First, the tried to pry the lid off and the little buttons out, and when he didn't succeed, he put the timer into the microwave and turned it on. (Oh, don't ask why he was able to access the microwave.) The timer... well, it must have been very quick; I don't think it had time to feel any pain. The microwave, I'm happy to report, survived.
Today, Alan had an even better idea. While I was in the kitchen, he pulled a chair up to the alarm system control box in the living room and started punching random numbers. We don't have a panic button and the only way to set the thing off is to arm it with the right code and then disarm it with the wrong code.
Alan, being a two-year-old, managed this within three minutes. The alarm went off howling. It's a loud siren. It's supposed to alert the entire neighborhood and I can tell you, it did its job fabulously.
Or so it seems. We had local elections yesterday and I found the run for mayor of Bucharest rather interesting. It's a tale of true Romanian politics.
In a bid to govern Bucharest for the first time in 12 years, the Social Democratic Party put 45-year-old Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana forward for mayor. A former ambassador to the United States, he is seen as more reform-minded than others in his party, and popular among younger people.
But critics say Geoana's diplomatic skills won't translate well into the rough-and-tumble job of running Bucharest, a dusty Balkan capital with potholed roads and no running water in some areas.
It's Pop Quiz Friday here on Halfway Down the Danube, a new feature I am inaugurating in a hopel/e/s/s/ful attempt to get more comments on (and links to) this blog.
Today's question: from the following quote, can you identify the Balkan dictator this person is talking about? NB: one culturally specific word has been changed. No fair using Google.
You know, when Doug and Claudia asked me to guest on this blog, I was kind of bemused. I really had no idea what I should write about. I mean, it's Halfway down the Danube. It has a theme. Its readers expect erudite articles on Romanian monetary policy, not some guy in Brooklyn rambling about the punk rock episode of Quincy, or wondering when the Kool-Aidguy started wearing pants.
But finally, here's a question that's topical for this blog: female pop stars from the former Yugoslavia... why haven't they taken over the world? I mean, Ceca. Severina. Well, that's two, but do you really need more? Okay, I'll throw in the back-up dancers from Bosnia-Hercegovina's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.
I swear, if Laibach was a girl band, we'd all be speaking German today.
Claudia had to go to Germany for a couple of days, for family reasons.
She took Alan with her, because she didn't want to leave both kids behind, and because Alan has the huge happy crazy wild love affair with his grandmother, and she with him. David stayed behind with me, because flying with a toddler and a baby is a PITA.
Well, the "couple of days" ended up being, like, ten days -- things got a bit complicated up there.
So Claude and I have both been single parents. (Single parents. Single parents. How do they do it? How?)
David and I have been two guys together. We lie on the living room carpet watch the Discovery Channel and eat cereal mixed with yogurt. Actually, we've been having a pretty good time.
Well, except that David got sick -- dry cough and a fever. Nothing too bad, I don't think -- on the whole he's been a pretty sturdy little guy -- but it had us both up a couple of nights. (He seems to be on the mend now, cross fingers.)
So, the time for blogging, she has been lacking a little.
But we haven't gone away. Well, yes, Claudia has, but not away. And she should be back this weekend.
Meanwhile... thanks for your patience.