It's been a very hot weekend in Bucharest.
Temperatures topped out at 38, but most of Friday and Saturday, they were hovering in the 30s. (For Americans: it was in the 90s, with a peak around 100.) That wasn't so bad, but the humidity... well. I went for a short walk on Saturday afternoon, and the streets were empty of pedestrians. Even the vicious dog who lives down Strada Brasilia, who snarls and lunges whenever I pass, didn't budge from under its car. I came home after half an hour and my t-shirt was drenched in sweat.
Sunday evening, the heat broke with a sudden unexpected cloudburst. It started as a sunshower, drops of rain from a clear sky. Then some clouds moved in, and it began to just pour -- fat raindrops spattering down, the pavement dancing. I took shelter under a balcony. Cars started honking their horns. Some people ran for cover, but others were hopping around yelling, or just standing with arms outstretched and faces turned up.
Afterwards it was still humid, but cooler, and when the sun went down the night was almost tolerable.
Random note: Bucharest has a climate rather like the US Midwest. I spent three years in central Illinois, and this is pretty familiar. But expat friends from Europe and (especially) Britain seem to find it pretty savagely extreme.
It's not getting much better.
The physical symptoms have disappeared, but my attention span is still down. Sleep cycle seems to be less disrupted, but that's probably just because the wife and children are out of town. Still suffering from mild aphasia, forgetfulness, and slight but noticeable sluggishness.
This is a bit worrying. We're talking coffee here, not heroin or methamphetamine. Surely I should be feeling more normal by now.
A possible clue: drinking herb tea seems to help a little. But only a little; and I dislike pretty much all of the sorts of herb tea that are available around here.
At this point I'm going for a month. One more week. After that... I don't know.
Who was Iuliu Maniu, and why should anyone care.
First the "who". He was a prominent Romanian politician between the wars. Born in Transylvania, under Austro-Hungarian rule. Educated by Jesuits. Became an activist for Romanian rights -- back in those days, before 1918, Romanians were an oppressed majority in Transylvania. Then after the First World War, he got active in politics in the new Greater Romania, as head of the Peasants Party.
Blah blah, so what. Okay, some interesting things about Maniu.
Brooklyn has stoop sales. Some explanation.
A 'stoop' is what New Yorkers call the assemblage of front steps leading to the front door of the row houses called 'brownstones'. Brownstones can range in quality from luxurious to tenement. Perhaps you remember the Guns 'n Roses song, "Mr. Brownstone"? That was the tenement kind.
The word 'stoop' comes from the Dutch, one of the last remnants of the old patroon and Knickerbocker era of the city. Old New York was once Nieuw Amsterdam.
Anyway. My neighborhood has brownstones ranging from 'renovated beyond the dreams of yuppie avarice' to 'hey, we get by, whaddaya'. But what they all have in common are stoop sales. Especially on a nice summer's day.
Sometimes Friday is Miscellaneous Links Day.
Songmeanings.net, where you can finally discover what the hell the lyrics of your favorite pop song meant. (Or, more likely, didn't.)
Some disturbing subway art from Seoul, Korea. Did you know that Koreans don't much like Japanese? Okay, did you realize just how much?
And speaking of Japan: I like sushi. And I like chocolate and cookies. But I'm not sure I can support this. (Claudia and I sometimes call this the Caligula Principle: don't combine urges.)
No list of links is complete without the latest from Rathergood. Warning: they like the moon.
What would your Pope name be? Find out at the Pope Name Generator.
Finally, I've been posting over at A Fistful of Euros. Here are my last two posts, on Albania and on Balkan elections generally.
Enjoy your weekend.
So there's this block.
A "block", in Eastern Europe, is what Americans call an apartment building. ("Block", to Americans, is a measure of urban distance. It has no meaning in most European cities. Another story.) "Block" sounds rather ugly to an American ear, but it's too often appropriate... most Communist-era apartment buildings are, indeed, pretty unattractive.
We live in an older neighborhood of prewar houses set on tree-lined streets. Before the Commmunist takeover this was the edge of town, a comfortable area for Bucharest's doctors and lawyers. Most of the houses got nationalized under Communism; today, most of them are suffering from decades of deferred maintenance. The streets are potholed and the sidewalks so crumbled as to be almost impossible to navigate with a stroller. Still, it's a very nice neighborhood, and we've been very happy in our house.
I quit coffee two weeks ago Tuesday.
Some of you may recall that the first week of July was a little distracting for us: sick kids, sleepless nights, barf. Well, what with the general fatigue and misery, I figured it would be a good time to go off coffee.
This made sense at the time, I swear. More broadly, I try to spend a few weeks away from caffeine every few years, just to show that I'm not completely addicted. Although, of course, I so totally am.
The headaches and whatnot passed almost unnoticed in the first few days... when both your small children are sick and so are you, another headache isn't going to be that big a deal. So that part worked, I guess. But the psychological and social effects -- the forgetfulness, shortened attention span, mild aphasia, and such -- have persisted. (As have the cravings. I have sensual, almost lustful thoughts about a leisurely cup in my favorite coffee shop.)
Go back to caffeine now? Or tolerate another couple of weeks of this, in the hope that it will get better?
In a mathematical competition 6 problems were posed to the contestants. Each pair of problems was solved by more than two-fifths of the contestants. Nobody solved all 6 problems. Show that there were at least 2 contestants who each solved exactly 5 problems.
Give yourself four hours and thirty minutes.
Incidentally, Romania won four gold medals, a silver, and a bronze at the Olympiad out of her six contestants.
They're all high school students.
That's a government that seems like it's falling, but just as it's about to hit the ground... boing!
Yesterday, PM Tariceanu announced that he wasn't going to resign after all. He says that the recent floods have placed the country in such a state of crisis that it would be irresponsible for him to step down now.
This is... half true. The floods are a big, serious issue. 10,000 people homeless from flooding, in a country the size of Romania, is a lot. And it makes sense for Tariceanu to stay on for a bit. On the other hand, he's using this as an excuse to have *no* elections this year, which is a bit much... the elections were tentatively scheduled for November, and the flood crisis should be well past by then.
Sometimes, you find jewels in unexpected places. On BBC last night, I ran across something really cool. The site is called BookCrossing and it's a book-share meme, but one with a twist.
n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
So, you read a book, you register with the site, register your book (you get a unique tracking number for it), and then you leave the book somewhere to be found. You can go hunting for books that have been released in your neighborhood, you can see who picked up your book, track its progress around the world... if it ever gets that far. Chances are, someone picks it up who doesn't care a dime about the concept. But, never mind. I think it rocks. Gives good karma, too.
There is a book floating around in Bucharest, and if you're in the US or Germany, there are loads of them everywhere. 12 alone in Brooklyn! Carlos? What are you doing today?
There's an ancient white Cadillac hearse/station wagon/ambulance parked in front of my building, complete with siren and curtained back seat/corpse depository/mobile emergency room unit. It's owned by a local animal control firm which uses it to advertise their trapping services (and to cart away the remains, I suppose). We're talking large mammals here, animals that one could theoretically use for their fur, like bears or Dalmatians. Not Mr. Mouse nor Ms. Roach.
It's so cool! If there's ever another coyote outbreak in Brooklyn, I know where to go.
The best part are the bumper stickers. But they will have to wait for the digital camera.
There is massive flooding all across Romania this week.
"Massive" here means thousands of houses destroyed and nearly 10,000 people turned into flood refugees, with ~$1 billion of damage. Five provinces have declared a state of emergency. Last time I checked, there were eight people dead and five missing, but those numbers are sure to increase.
Most of the flooding seems to be around the arc of the Carpathians. Bucharest has barely been affected. (Though I did notice that the little Dumbovitsa river, the one that runs through a concrete chute downtown, was at an all-time high.) This makes me wonder if deforestation may have played a role; a lot of trees have been cut down in Romania in the last 10 years. But that's just a guess.
It doesn't seem to have made the news outside Romania too much.
A new apartment! A new high-speed Internet connection! A spare room for guests! Already filled with books!
So I brought eight bookcases via the F train to the new place. Due to the local topography of subway stops, that was two flights of stairs up to the subway -- yes, up; it's an elevated train at that part of its run -- then two flights of stairs out of the subway, and then three more flights to the fourth floor, using the American numbering.
Seven were pine, one was oak. A Brooklyn guy on one of the runs asked me what was up with the bookcase. I said I was moving. "You been doing that all day?" I nodded. He was bemused. "That's keeping it real."
(Note to self: next time, renew your driver's license before the move.)
I am thinking dinner party.
Claudia still has an ugly cough, but otherwise everyone seems to be getting better.
The boys are mostly sleeping through the night (though David wakes up at 6:00 sharp every morning), and I feel so okay that I actually went for a run yesterday. So, maybe we'll start posting again. (Or maybe everyone will fall sick again as soon as I hit "Post", so let's not count those chickens.)
In other news... there isn't much other news. It's been grey and cool and rainy here the last couple of days. Very unusual for Romania in July. The Romanian government has been dithering about whether to commit suicide or not. (Yes, really. Long story, and I'll try to post about it soon.) I have to go to the US Embassy for a presentation later today, so I must remember to shine my shoes.
Oh: Romania's GDP growth for 2005 is predicted to hit 5.5%. A bit more on that below the fold for the economy wonks out there.
This post is about exactly what the title says. It has nothing to do with Romania, travel, politics, poetry, love, or indeed anything pleasant or fun. You might want to go away now and read something else.
Birthdays combined with coughing and vomiting will make you sleepy. It will then happen that you fall asleep in odd positions. And then your cruel parents come and flash bright lights at you. What's the deal, really?
And yes, the pyjamas are seasonally incorrect. So what?
Everybody is sick.
Alan is vomiting up everything we give him. We're trying to keep him hydrated, and he seems to be in good spirits, but he's such a skinny little kid that he has no reserves. So we worry.
Claudia seems to have been hit with the same virus the boys had over the weekend: fever, cough. She's not suffering as much as they did (yet), but it's definitely slowing her down.
I've got some incredibly persistent stomach bug. For the hell of it, I went off coffee on Tuesday. The reasoning here was that the misery of caffeine withdrawal would go unnoticed in the general fatigue and wretchedness. Oddly, this seems to be working, though I do get the cravings. If "cravings" is adequate to cover 'every cell in my body SCREAMING for coffee, every half hour or so.'
Not very entertaining, I know.
Let's see. On the plus side, I'm just finishing the second book of Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy. This is a thinly fictionalized autobiography of Manning herself as a young, newly married Englishwoman living in Bucharest in 1939-40.
The Balkan Trilogy is one of those works that everyone recommends but nobody seems to have actually read. I was expecting it to be mediocre, and so have been pleasantly surprised. It's well written, and has a lot of fascinating glimpses of prewar Romania. Liking it so far, and will blog about it when finished.
Romania's government is still collapsed, though the Ministers won't officially leave office until next week.
There's a girl in my office who loves Nirvana. Loves it. "Come As You Are" is playing as I write this. She plays that album every afternoon around this time. And that's fine, because there's a lot of really horrible pop music here in Romania, and we got a double dose of it at the seashore (where it was basically the five hit pop songs of summer '05 played over and over again).
Romania's government just collapsed.
Short version: Romania's Constitutional Court rejected a package of laws that the government had passed earlier this year, including a law on judicial reform that is viewed as vital for Romania's accession to the EU at the end of next year.
Prime Minister Tariceanu (who has only been in office for a little over six months, remember) had said that if the Court rejected the law, he'd resign. It wasn't widely expected that this would happen. But it did, and so Tariceanu has resigned. And when a Romanian Prime Minister resigns, he takes his government with him.
What next? Well, President Basescu gets to appoint a new Prime Minister, who in turn can appoint new Ministers. (And he might just appoint all the same people to their jobs, for a minimum of fuss.) But Parliament has to approve his selection. (1) Parliament is on summer holiday now, and (2) Basescu's Liberal-Democrat-Hungarian-Conservative coalition has only a fragile majority, and (3) Basescu might prefer that Parliament reject his nominee, in order to trigger new elections.
More on this as the situation develops.
David is two today. No cake picture as of yet (it's still early and he actually only ate the silver pearls off the cake), but two pix of the man himself with selected presents. Isn't he adorable? Of course, I may be slightly biased.
Happy birthday, my little sunshine. Get well, grow, be happy, and never lose your incredible smile.
(No. It's not a gun. It's a toy drill. That's way cooler, anyway.)
Well. It's a scary story. Don't read it if you're pregnant. Or, maybe, you should, if you're pregnant and living in Romania. Also, you should not read this if you are squicky about a woman's inner workings. You are warned.
In order not to jinx things, we haven't announced to you guys yet that I'm pregnant again. After Benjamin, it was a scary thing to do. Months of anxiety and endless hours of worry. I can not - did not - count the times I ran to the clinic to see the heartbeat of the baby. The weeks just wouldn't pass.
But, somehow, we got over the dreaded milestone of 18 weeks, and things seemed to be fine. Baby was kicking and growing and turned out to be another boy (the fourth one, really, what are the chances of that?), and we were happy to hear that he was fine and healthy and all his chromosomes were accounted for.
Everything went off like in a textbook pregnancy.
Next stop: the big 20-week-ultrasound for physical anomalies. If you know us, it won't come as a surprise that we were a little late with that, at the end of the 23rd week. Unfortunately, this was also the week when Doug was in the States on a business trip. It couldn't be helped, though, and I promised to send him a picture of the baby as soon as I got home from the scan. We didn't really expect any problems -- I had been feeling fine, just gained way too much weight but that was due to potato chips and ice cream, not to gestational diabetes or similar.
It's been a rough time but we came out on the other side, a bit worse for the wear but alive. We had a very nasty shock two weeks back which had me emergency airlifted to a German hospital -- and which subsequently turned out to be a "beginner's mistake" of the Romanian doctor I had been seeing. I might blog about it some day.
Doug was traveling for a week, our nanny got sick and quit - and came back. It was the end of the school year and we just spent some days on the beach at the Black Sea coast, where the boys promptly got sick. The nature of the illness was that first one boy, then the other, coughed himself awake every hour, on the hour, all night long. Eventually the combination of sleeplessness and stress combined with too much sun to make Doug sick, and he ended up in bed with chills and fever, unable to so much as put his socks on.
It's been rough going, as I said, but we're back and we seem to be basically OK and slowly things should get back to normal.
Someday, perhaps, the blogroll at Halfway down the Danube will merge Making Light and Electrolite, adjust the URL for Brad DeLong's semi-daily weblog, and link Tacitus to a "Living With Depression" site. (Hint: the current dosage ain't working, man.) In the meantime, here are two additions to my secret blogroll:
Stay Free! Magazine has a blog, and the editrix, Carrie McLaren, is way cool. If you like weird advertising stuff or my obscure Brooklyn anecdotes, you'll like this.
Totalitarianism Today is Alina Stefanescu's blog: US Supreme Court decisions, Romanian politics, words D.H. Lawrence overused, and a lot of poetry. (No, Bad Mama, I am not obsessed with her photo. OK, maybe a little.)
Maybe there will be some non-Carlos content here in the future! One can hope. But I will be away for a bit, celebrating the Fourth of July in the traditional manner of my people: eating grilled meat and blowing things up. Be well.