As I stand at the desk and watch the screen of my laptop, 2009 flows in front of my eyes. I do not know how other people feel about this year. I guess many are unhappy, and for a good reason. Personally, after a short retrospective, I feel it was a good year. It could've been better, true, but it was still a good year.

- I visited Poland and Bulgaria (each of them for the very first time, if I do not count the crossing of Bulgaria 10 years ago) and I was delighted by both. It is for the second time in my life that I go abroad twice in one year. Not to mention that the tourist delights came only after the other accomplishments: a tournament in the case of Poland, which we kind of ... unexpectedly won :), and a international conference in Veliko Tarnovo where I was really satisfied with the way things worked out;
- I rad like two dozens of really good books and bought as many. Generally, I actually learned a lot this year - and I do not only mean study;
- I went to lots of good concerts (both classical and modern), like never before. Among them, Tarja Turunen, Nigel Kennedy and even Madrigal;
- I went on with this blog (now in its third year of existence, which is quite nice, and on a quota of almost 200 posts) and got to take part in a few events about blogging - one of them was the very instructive WBF;
- I finally published something of my work, on paper;
- I made my first TV appearance (hopefully, not the last one);
- I lived as much as possible and not simply survived;
- most important, I finished most part of the work on my PhD.

And I am sure I forgot some things.

How could it have been better?

- I could've make a better use of my time;
- I could've finished for good my PhD (still a work in progress at this moment).

As about 2010, I do not want to speak too much, and to spoil the surprise :) But I would be very satisfied to finally finish my studies and to go on publishing on my specialty. Anything else would constitute a bonus.

24 hours from now, I shall be, as I do every time, in the Revolution Plaza - the heart of Bucharest - in the very place that marked 20 years ago the crucial change towards freedom. Not to protest, but to celebrate (btw, I plan to write - in the near future - a series of articles on freedom, on the republic and on the revolution, in the Romanian case, so stay close). You can also join me, as Live revolution will be transmitted live on Pro TV.

I wish you all a happy new year, and I hope 2010 will be better than 2009, for all of us.

See you, next year.




state> good
soundtrack> P. Dinev - Bogoroditse Djevo, Raduisya (Bulgarian Orthodox music)

Caroling season began in Romania on December 6th. It will end before St. John's day, on January 6th. I was only a kid when the public profile of this old habit changed, and the change was tremendous. Immediately after the fall of the dictatorship (and the collapse of the communist media) carols - as well as all the religious marks - came back on TV. Actually, many of the first ever recorded carols I saw were carols recorded during the former regime, for good image in the foreign (capitalist) countries. And when saying this, I imply that the recordings were Madrigal recordings.

In Romania Madrigal is not only a (very good) choir. It is an institution, as it was, for a long time, the best cultural act you could find in the country, and one of the few Romanian choirs you could listen to abroad. Details here.

A week ago (yes, a long time, I know) I had the joy to see and to listen to Madrigal in concert, for the very first time. My joy was greater, for 2 reasons: 1. there were only carols in the concert; 2. many close and good friends were on the stage, as part of the team of the new Madrigal choir (which is still one of the best choirs in Romania), beginning with the conductor - btw, Bogdan, thank you for the invitation! The concert was very nice. I was also lucky enough to get the best seat in the house :)

Unfortunately, I don't have yet a video camera, so I couldn't record anything. But to get an image on Madrigal singing carols, I invite you to go ... back to 1972. And if you are located in Bucharest, Bogdan told me another concert is programmed on Tuesday.



blogging7. What did I get from WBF2009?

I think everybody who participated at the event asks himself this question.

I do not know if the World Blogging Forum brought new things for the A list bloggers invited, but for me it surely did. I was faced for the first time with the whole range of issues concerning blogging, from freedom of expression to monetization, the use of branding and social medias. Thus I came to a better understanding of the strong points and weak points of blogging.

At this point, in my view blogging means different things for people who find themselves in different situations throughout the world (it wasn't like this before the event). In the western world, it represents perhaps a posibility to become noted and eventually to win some money - so monetization and the ethics associated to it are important here. Meanwhile, in other countries throughout the rest of the world, the simple fact of expressing your views on a blog is no less than heroic (and a very good example is Yoanni Sanchez), so freedom is the important subject there - and some associated matters, like the free access to internet.

Unfortunately, the Forum did not discuss very much the last subject - the subject of free access to internet. There were some words of the bloggers from the Caucasus and the presentation of Zhou Shuguang from China - and that was it. While, you know, for me the greatest tragedy in the online world at the moment is that there are countries where there is no access to internet at all. Such is the case of North Korea, and an almost similar situation is that in Cuba. In my view, this is the absolute priority, and it should get much more attention. On the other hand, there is a false normality in countries like China, Russia or Egypt (and the excellent presentation of Wael Abbas addressed specifically this issue of false normality). Our world is definitely not as democratic and free as it should be, and credit for this is due in good measure to ourselves.

It is for all these reasons that I believe regulating blogging is not only very complex, but also extremely difficult. How can we put in the same document rules regarding freedom, free access to internet, but also monetization and its ethics? Don't we speak in this case about issues of different order of importance - or, if you like, different degree of priority?

As for specific points, you may have noticed that a new box appeared on this page immediately after the Forum - the Twitter box. This has a story. I knew about Twitter quite a while ago and I considered it, in the Romanian context, rather a fashion mark than a true social media tool. I still believe this is partially true and can always be true, if Twitter will be used for completely irrelevant topics (like, for instance, you know that you're ugly if....).

However, I had the opportunity to catch in one place Matthias Lufkens, Pedja Puselja from Serbia, and the legendary Ramon Stoppelenburg. Oh, and also Eric Dupin. It was during the dinner at the Carul cu bere restaurant. Very impolitely, I interrupted a discussion about social media and asked them why should I use Twitter. ALL of them were categorical and fast about it: Twitter is the best tool to promote your blog, your views and your ideas. Ramon Stopellenburg even .... twitted about it, asking his followers my question. So, this is it. Topic closed.

I also had a small conversation, during the first day of WBF, with Nadia Dincovici and Petru Terguta about the current situation in (The Republic of) Moldova. They both believed there will be pre-term elections. The events that took place this week (on December 7th, the elections of the president of the Republic of Moldova failed due to Communist opposition) proved they were both right. Well, that means new parliamentary elections in the summer of 2010. I came to believe it is the best solution to the current situation. The funny thing is that the political situation there will be more and more alike to that in Romania, with 3 main political parties - the democrats, the liberals and the liberal-democrats, as the communist will most likely vanish (the process already started, and it will gain speed during the next months).

This is, for the moment, my last post on blogging and the WBF. And I take this oportunity to address you this invitation: feel free to comment any issue concerning blogging on this blog.


melum29. everyone everywhere

Yesterday evening, while reading and typing, I suddenly felt I missed an old song. Not that old, though, but I first listened to it 16 years ago, when I was only a kid with some weird taste in music. So I looked for the tape and I listened to Republic (the album, released in 1993) twice, before going to sleep.

It gives me now, as it gave me then, a feeling of nostalgia and maybe a little melancholy. Also, perhaps, at this moment, a shadow of regret for one of the greatest bands of the '80s and '90s, now history. Le roi est mort, vive le roi! - New Order is dead, long live Bad Lieutenant (!?!??) ...

everyone everywhere, enjoy.



It seems I was not the only one thinking that a comeback of one socialist to the presidency would be bad, as at this hour Mr. Băsescu is credited with 50,37% of the votes and Mr. Geoană with 49,62% by the official count of the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) - with more than 99% of the polls sections considered. So, most probably, Mr. Traian Băsescu is the (old and) new president of Romania.

There are, certainly, two good things about this second round of presidential elections: a very high presence - 58% of the citizens - and the very high number of Romanians established abroad who exercised their right to vote - almost 150,000 people (actually, their votes established the winner). To me, it starts looking like Romania is becoming a democracy. Another thing: there was much manipulation in these elections and, if the win of Mr. Băsescu is true, we have to face the conclusion that manipulation has shown its limits in these elections. That's not so bad, either.

Well, what will follow? Nothing more and nothing less than World War III in the Romanian politics. The socialists and the liberals - hardly hit by this defeat - will do everything in their power to prove that this choice was a mistake (starting at this very moment, with accusations of fraud), whilst the president must be conscious that almost half of the Romanian citizens voted against him, meaning that our society is very divided.

Otherwise, the question of a new valid government able to manage the current economical crisis - a government that we desperately need - is still in suspension, the winter will be very difficult and perhaps social tensions will follow. We need to focus on the economy, but I am afraid we are not that mature yet. I feel that the political show will go on, contrary to our interests, and I expect (anticipated) parliamentary elections in less than one year.

All that being said, I am convinced this result of the elections is for the better.


Veliko Tarnovo - Bulgaria

Bulgaria is about 60 kilometers south from Bucharest, so that makes about one hour of driving. But I traveled by ... train.

Not the best choice, should I say. The train started very slowly (it took about 3 hours to get to the border), then stopped in Ruse and never went further, although my ticket was from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo. No-one bothered to offer me and my companions any explanations, so that is a yellow card to the Bulgarian railways. Add to this the problems we had coming back (like, we took the train from Gorno Orahovitsa, from a station where no-one was able to make some announcements for an international train in English, the train arrived 70 minutes late and stationed on a different line that the one announced on the panel) and that makes for a red card. So, after this experience, I say: do NOT go to Bulgaria by train and do NOT use the trains while in Bulgaria - you can get (unpleasant) surprises. I do not imply it is a rule, but two out of two is more than an accident, so it can happen.

Finally, we got to Veliko Tarnovo by bus. It was not simple to get tickets and the necessary information, as people do not speak foreign languages in a great measure (however, especially young people speak some English - some even do it well - while others manage pretty decently in German; also, I was very pleasantly surprised to see more than one person - including some of the organization stuff - speaking good Romanian).

An hour of delay from the original program and a lot of stress were the result of our journey from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo. The result was however worthy. The city, situated about 190 kilometers south from Bucharest and some 100+ kilometers from the northern border of Bulgaria, is a very pretty one.

I had the opportunity to check on my own skin the changes in the services sphere which took place in Bulgaria during the last years. The four star hotel Panorama, situated in the very center of Veliko Tarnovo, seemed to me by far the best hotel I ever stayed in. A ~30 sqm double room with a huge bathroom, a huge plasma TV set and the best panoramic view on Veliko Tarnovo made me feel hampered. Add to that the silk on the huge bed (it matters when you're like some 184 centimeters tall), the pool free of charge and the panoramic restaurant (benefiting of some good cooking). I inquired about the price for a double room such as mine, and I found out it is 60 euros/day (and 10% cheaper for an online reservation). The only small inconvenience was that wireless internet didn't work in the room, nor did the cable internet, because of a outlet malfunction, so I settled in the lobby bar to check on my mail.

I really enjoyed the restaurants and pubs - nice, cheap (prices at half as compared to Bucharest) and serving good food. Also, the beer was cheap too (for a man, it makes a difference), although not as good as the one available at home, and there was, too, a selection of Bulgarian decent red wines.

Since during the first two days I was busy with the conference (my presentation was programmed on the second day after the arrival) but also tired from the travel and the stress, the first real contact with the city was on Thursday night, together with some colleagues from Cluj. We visited the center of Veliko Tarnovo, walking through the old streets and wandering around the lake and the Asen monument until midnight. The second occasion to visit was on Friday, as we visited one of the oldest churches in Bulgaria - dating from the 13th century AD - and the village of Arbanassi, with some very nice examples of old Bulgarian houses and a wonderfully painted church disguised as a house, built during the Ottoman rule (the Bulgarians were not allowed at the time to build churches).

The last opportunity to visit was on Saturday nights, when our hosts guided the participants to the conference in the cultural/arts center of Veliko Tarnovo and held - especially for us - a cultural program. First, a local choir sang a few songs (some of them religious, some other popular Bulgarian tunes - and I have to say I preferred the interpretation of the last ones), and then a dance ensemble entertained us with popular - and splendid - Bulgarian dances, which I definitely loved.

I have to add that the weather was just perfect. It was warm and sunny - which is not common for Veliko Tarnovo in late November, so I could wear - without any concern - spring clothes.

Generally, my impression in Bulgaria is that the country did not recover yet fully from the Communist period (and even problems generated by the former Ottoman rule are still visible). That translates in poorness, some bad roads (in any case, worst than in Romania, which all Romanians know holds the worst roads in the world - or not?) and grieved people, fighting to survive an endless transition. I also felt sorry for the wonderful hotels and bars, empty because of the crisis, although their offer is fine.

In the end, in place of a conclusion, I put Veliko Tarnovo on the list of places to visit again. It is as close as Prahova Valley (if you live in Bucharest), but much cheaper and, in my view, more civilized. Do not be surprised if I pay it a visit, again, in the near future.


I'll be very short.

I think Corneliu Coposu is spinning in his grave today. What those - who say that they continue his heritage - did is nothing less than a full betrayal. My respect for the local administration of Timisoara vanished for good.

This is unbelievable: