Photographed on a hike from Targu Mures to Miercurea Nirajului in Romania.

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Ambulance on Sark

Sark, one of the Channel Islands, doesn’t have cars. People move around mostly on bicycle. There are also some horse-drawn carriages and a few tractors, mainly to pick up supplies from the harbour. There are so few people that license plates don’t display numbers, but the names of the owners, like “James” or “Andrew”.

And then there is this tractor to transport sick people in emergencies:

doctor tractorI did not fall sick or break my leg while on Sark.

Posted in Health, Photography, Sark, Technology, Travel | Tagged , | 2 Comments

After the Revolution

This afternoon I had a brief exchange with a friend about the long-term effects of the Romanian revolution, probably the most bad-ass revolution of all the 1989 revolutions.

As you can see from the following excerpt, I was much more positive in my assessment, stressing the progress that has been made in Romania. But I do quite frequently hear dissatisfaction, particularly with the lack of criminal convictions of those responsible for the killing of protesters during the revolution as well as for the Ceaușescu dictatorship in general, but also with the political system, the media and the way parties work.

Romanian revolution unfinishedI think this level of criticism and skepticism is healthy and useful, although, as I point out in the conversation above, I find it natural that a revolution runs out of steam once the primary objectives have been achieved. It’s much harder to explain why people should take to the street about changing the law of admitting new parties than it is to motivate people to rise up against a regime that leaves them hungry, cold and destitute.

Coincidentally, later today I was reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s Shah of Shahs, a most insightful book about the revolution in Iran in 1979 (yes, that’s the kind of book I read for fun), and came across the following passage:

“When thinking about the fall of any dictatorship, one should have no illusions that the whole system comes to an end like a bad dream with that fall. The physical existence of the system does indeed cease. But its psychological and social results live on for years, and even survive in the form of subconsciously continued behavior. A dictatorship that destroys the intelligentsia and culture leaves behind itself an empty, sour field on which the tree of thought won’t grow quickly. It is not always the best people who emerge from hiding, from the corners and cracks of that farmed-out field, but often those who have proven themselves strongest, not always those who will create new values but rather those whose thick skin and internal resilience have ensured their survival. In such circumstances history begins to turn in a tragic, vicious circle from which it can sometimes take a whole epoch to break free.”

I am curious to hear from my Romanian readers, particularly those who remember the time of the revolution, what you think about this.

Posted in Books, History, Iran, Philosophy, Politics, Romania | Tagged | 7 Comments

Why I don’t reply to your messages

My non-responsiveness to messages, e-mails and other forms of communication seems to have reached a new level. Or has anyone else received this warning from Facebook, saying that people “may be wondering why” I “haven’t responded to messages in a while”?

Facebook turn off messagesWell, I don’t want you all wondering about me for the rest of your life, so I’ll explain it here, once and for all.

I could give all kinds of reasons, explaining that I was too busy because:

  • I was reading a book.

    Don't disturb!

    Don’t disturb!

  • I was eating.
  • I was looking for bears.
  • I was sleeping.
  • I was out running.
  • I was on a long hike.
  • I am writing a book.
  • I didn’t have internet.
  • I was in hand-to-hand combat with an assassin who was after my life.
  • I am in the process of moving.
  • I was on a romantic date.
  • I lost my computer.

But I won’t.

Because it’s none of your business. I don’t owe an explanation to anyone about what I do with my time. It’s my life. Nobody is entitled to my time or attention.

Please don’t take it personally if I never reply to your e-mail! I don’t make a decision not to reply to you specifically. I receive so many messages every day that I wouldn’t even find the time to read them all without ruining my life. So, if I haven’t responded, chances are I haven’t even read your e-mail or message. Maybe I will. One day. When I’ll be sick and tied to a hospital bed. But actually, even then I hope that someone will bring me books which are more interesting than the 2,350th request for my opinion on a legal problem.

On the other hand, don’t give up hope. Sometimes I reply after months or years (some of you will be dead by the time you hear from me). I just don’t see the urgency in most of your communication, so don’t freak out if you haven’t heard from me by next morning. The only matters which are truly urgent are those that involve dying people (and I am not a doctor, so I can’t help) and ongoing revolutions (the latter are very interesting to me, so please put “ongoing revolution” in your subject line if you happen to be in the process of overthrowing your government).

I understand that it’s probably important to you what you e-mail about. But unless you have reason to assume that it’s more important to me than all the other exciting and rewarding things I could do with my life, don’t disturb. Thank you. If you think that what you have to say is of general importance, then write a book or a blog. This way, people can choose to read it or not.

Talking about books and blogs, maybe it will discourage you from e-mailing me if you know that I will publish some of the silliest or most annoying e-mails I receive. You don’t want to be among those, do you?

Now to the upside of this restrictive policy: If you do get a reply from me, you know that you are one of the lucky few.

I liked the time of letters. If someone had to get paper and ink and sit down for an hour and then buy stamps and take it to the post office, there was a natural barrier against spam and thoughtless communication. Maybe there should be a fee for each e-mail or message that people send, possibly with exceptions for pre-approved friends. See, these are the kind of good ideas when you don’t allow others to distract you. I am off to the Patent Office…

bookworm dont disturb

This could be me.

Posted in Life, Philosophy, Technology, Time | Tagged | 1 Comment

How to become a Millionaire

I don’t know why so many people are obsessed with becoming millionaires – or of those who already are, with becoming billionaires. I don’t get the point of collecting more wealth than you can spend.

But oddly enough, without striving for it, I have developed a fool-proof plan to become a millionaire. As I am rather opposed to material wealth, I am not going to implement it myself, but I will generously share it with all of you. But be warned that becoming a millionaire will not make you happy! – I can see you don’t believe me…

So here’s the 5-step plan:

  1. You need an initial investment of around 999$(US). If you don’t have that, you’ll have to work for a month or sell your car.
  2. Buy a ticket to Vietnam. Depending from where you start, this will cost you between 100$ and 900$. 
  3. After you arrive, you buy a can of Coke or a banana and pay with a 50$-note.
  4. You will get a bit more than 1,000,000 Vietnamese dong in return. Plus the Coke or the banana, of course.
  5. Now you are happy because you are a millionaire.

Vietnamese Dong currency

In step 6, you will realize what a silly, shallow and pointless goal you had set yourself. Depending on your personal level of wisdom, the time between step 5 and step 6 may vary from 30 seconds to 30 years. The same applies to the time that is required to recognize the deeper meaning behind this article. Some will die without getting it.

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Paragliding above the Pyramid

paraglider chickPhotographed tonight in Targu Mures, Romania.

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Public Horses

In addition to the perfectly developed bus and train network in Romania, in the summer months you can also opt for public horses.


Right outside of most towns (in the photo: Targu Mures) grazing horses are on stand-by. If you need to go to the next town and you don’t want to walk the whole day, you take a blanket, pull it over the nag, ask a passing hobo to help you mount the horse, and off you go!

In the next town, you park the horse on a lush meadow where it will fill itself up and wait for the next passenger. If you want to experience the Wild West in Europe, you need to travel or ride east.

Posted in Photography, Romania, Travel | Tagged , | 5 Comments