16 September, 2010

Not Dead Yet...

...but something far worse: gainfully employed. Sort of. The "employed" part is a certainty, as that giant sucking sound you hear is all of my hitherto weekday leisure (read: blog-writing) time being transformed into respectable office productivity.  The "gainful" part remains to be seen, but not in a nail-biting "have I just hooked up with another carpetbagger who will flee the country with my final four months of salary?" way. It'll be good for my portfolio, to be sure.  As for paying my bills? We'll see, but this funny plastic Romanian cash has a nasty habit of running away screaming in terror when it sees what I expect of it.

Anyway, I'm once again firmly mired in "Not enough hours in the day"-Land. And like advertsing in a budget crisis, blogging is the first thing to go in a time crisis. Still, the lack of access to a keyboard and hours at the same time hasn't stopped the blogging in my head (where the resident little voices have been quite helpful in this regard, actually). And I've got a great piece planned that actually benefits from a delay, allowing all the media hype and scandal dust to settle and reveal (hopefully) the facts of the case. And I firmly promise to firmly consider firmly thinking about firmly sitting down to type it, firmly. Any day now. Real soon.

Your teaser: It Began With a Leaf...

10 July, 2010

First Decade for the First Born!

Happy Birthday to elder spawn Kenny Jr., joining the ranks of the double digits. I hope you're doing better than great, and I hope breaking radio silence against Mom's wishes doesn't do too much damage. But 10 is a big milestone and even without communication, I can still use a calendar for pete's sake.  Have a great day, little man!

24 June, 2010

A Day of Double Definitions

I respect Dan Diaconescu for one thing only; the man is living his dream and that is rare. Having decided he has important things to say to the world, he bought himself a TV station and is now doing just that. In person, all day, every day. And there my respect ends with a resounding thud. DD is a self-aggrandizing publicity whore who makes Jerry Springer look classy. He is the proletariat's Barnum's retarded younger brother, and he'd have it no other way. Whatever's on the opposide side of the spectrum from "intellectual," 10 steps beyond that lies our man Dan. But he knows where the audience is and how to capture them. The lower the viewers' I.Q., the more they love him, so you can guess he pretty much owns the country in that regard. I'm not going to editorialize much more because I begrudge him the free publicity, except to wonder if anyone's really fooled by that ridiculous fake grey hair. No, I'm not going to run his photo here; you can look him up if you really want to know. Because if you really want to know, I really don't want to know.

Anyway, he was just arrested, ostensibly for blackmailing the mayor of someplace too small to be even called a village.  If the latter paid a sum, the former wouldn't run a scandalous report on his show. And therein we have our first double definition: "beguile." It means "to charm or divert," which we already knew is DD 2 a T. But it also means "to influence by trickery," which, we now also know, applies to Danny Boy. And initially, the arrest had me saying "good on ya, Karma!" He had it coming to him, he's bad news in general - a personality cult as undeserved as it is misused. The police station where he landed was besieged by a mob of sobbing, screaming (and probably largely unemployed) fans who probably hadn't a single soul among them who could tell you the square root of one. In their defense, though, if given enough typewriters and time, they would probably produce a Shakespeare play. DD instinctively found the news cameras and proclaimed the conspiracy against his innocent self. And I had to admit he wasn't 100% wrong.

Not about his innocence, of course, that's clearly non-existent. But the conspiracy part bears some examination. With all of the absolute corruption and insanity running rampant throughout Romania's core structure, DD blackmailing the mayor of some flyspeck commune is law enforcement's top priority?  Thanks to criminals, premeditated and negligent, reaching to the country's top seats, Romania, already one of the poorest countries in the EU, is now additionally on the verge of financial and accompanying social collapse. This is mainly due to "austerity measures" which take income away only from those who didn't cause the crisis and who can't afford to pay for it.  Meanwhile there's a known embezzler running free who reportedly owes the state 600 million Euro, a prostitute running free who owes 22,000 Euro, Mafia and black marketeers whose crimes and debts are known and documented, and rampant nepotism in state-run venues which pay millions of the public's Euro to politicians' useless relatives in criminally-overpaid positions, often custom-invented. At the same time, said politicians fill the news by accusing their opponents of stealing, in that time-honored Communist tradition: accuse others of crimes loudly enough that nobody notices you've hypocritically commited those same crimes first.  Oh, and lest we forget; the State's approval, without public knowledge or input, to start treating Romania's crops with a BASF fungicide, of which the effects on humans are unknown except to cause cancer. By any comparison, Dan the TV Weasel is harmless. But he's the one in jail, isn't he?

So, we come to the other Double Definition of the Day: "arrest." It means "to take into custody," which is of course what happened to Danny.  It also means "to slow down or stop," as in the progress of something.  Ironically, the agency that performs the first definition, also completely fits the latter. Beyond a certain threshold, that is.  If you want to be a criminal in Romania, your danger of being caught doesn't lay with how much you steal or how you steal it, but rather with the power of your influence. The worst criminal officials or businessmen really need to know only one guy to keep them out of jail, don't they?  Dan, on the other hand, knows millions of people, and they all know him.  But they're mainly blue-collar (if that) vidiots who couldn't possibly help him out of a bind, so into the joint he goes.  If you're Romanian law enforcement looking to justify your job and keep your worthless butt out of the press for another year, who are you going after; the silent criminal who can have your family killed with one phone call; or the loud high-profile punk who couldn't arrange a prank phone call?

Imagine the progess in all areas if the powers of prosecution spent less time arresting (slowing down the process) and more time arresting (taking criminals into custody)? Given the unlikelihood of this, the question becomes, who arrests the arrestors?

That's enough wordplay for today, I need a rest.

07 June, 2010

Damp and Fishy-Smelling Heads Prevail...

Did you read about the scientists who researched what it would take to freeze Lake Erie solid?  The reason for this is that Lake Erie was calculated to be the amount of ice needed to cool down what has been one of the more unfortunate and embarrassing battles known to the planet. Well, make that to the country. Would you believe around town?  Okay, okay... at least to my devoted readers. Both of you know what I'm talking about... me and the ex.

After what has now become years of saber-rattling, accusations, and other paths to Mutually Assured Destruction, the latter-day Gorbachev and Reagan have finally taken steps to bury the 57-megaton missile hatchet for the sake of a peaceful family, if not world. (Cold War metaphors end here, I promise.)

No small part of arriving at this conclusion is that today is my birthday (slipped that in pretty smoothly, eh?) and such a day compels you to contemplate where your life is going. To this end I hereby endeavor to clean up my act, starting with this blog. There is so much stupidity and surrealism out there for me to write about without bringing my own family issues into it.  I offer my sincerest apologies for subjecting you to my dirty laundry, and with luck (or a U.N. peacekeeping task force, whichever comes first (wow, promise broken in less than one paragraph, a new record)), it shall not appear again. 

As we all know, it takes two to refuse to tango. But a first step is still crucial, whether you're dancing or not.

25 May, 2010

No Omment...

Photos of TV screen during commercial for upcoming Aerosmith Tour in Bucharest:

Official Aerosmith Tour Poster:

And the comment which is not being made is that someone was paid for this while i'm still looking for work...

18 May, 2010

He Who Lives By the Pixel...

Within the past few years, Bucharest has become overrun with "video billboards." Because regular billboards in the town, which cover not only all streets but all buildings over 5 floors as well, had become so invasive and ubiquitous that motorists had inevitably become numb to them (okay, you caught me; Bucharest motorists are generally numb to everything), advertisers and the elected criminals they pay off decided to take things to the next level.  Result: billboard-sized video screens; some erected on poles, some attached to buildings, frequently apartment blocs, thus blocking the windows of several flats at a time. Glaringly bright at all hours, literally blindingly so at night, often outshining all traffic lights in the immediate vicinity. To say nothing of the folks whose homes (specifically, bedroom windows) face opposite these monsters... but since I just said something, I suppose it's too late to say nothing.

Respite, however brief, comes from an unlikely source: Bill Gates.  It seems these billboards largely run the Microsoft Windows operating system, and you'll be happy to know that it performs as solid and dependably in the commercial world as it does on your own PC. But what, on your laptop, is an inexcusable negligent glitch, is, on these obnoxious paragons to advertising technology, a refreshing karmic hoist on their own petards.

You can see how bright these atrocities are, from the first photo showing it clearly visible in direct sunlight, to the last photo which shows how, at night, nothing near the screen is remotely visible. So the only consolation is moments like these, when their money and energy is clearly wasted, however briefly.

Less poetic or justice-y, but to a tech geek like me, still entertaining, are other examples of Windows faceplants in professional venues.  You wouldn't explicitly wish these people harm from their glitches, but you might take comfort in knowing your Blue Screen of Death has plenty of company in high places.

The internal "Info Channel" that the Cable TV company reserves on your service. This has happened since cable's earliest days.  I remember seeing similar Commodore Amiga error messages in the 90s.

The Departures Screens of Milan Airport. All of them. Ouch!

An ATM. Of course, the Windows glitch didn't cause money to fly out.

Ain't technology wonderful?

17 May, 2010

Asshole Parker of the Day

Jonathan Scheele, former EU ambassador to Romania says he cannot accept Romanians' "tendency of doing everything in the last moment - and not always completing what they have to do."

I mention this because the topic of today's photo - handicap access - falls squarely under this concern.  When I first arrived here in 2003, the worst handicap officially acknowledged in Romania was having to watch football sober. Since then, newer constructions (largely foreign owned) have sought to remedy this.  Ikea just outside town has a full row of at least 20 marked handicapped parking spots, among a few other notable examples. But in a rare native effort, BCR Bank on Unirii Blvd has a snazzy new wheelchair ramp. Not bad for about two decades later than the rest of the world.
So where does "not always completing" come in?  Like virtually everything involving legal provision in Romania (such as handicap access), enforcement to deter violations is nowhere to be found. Do I really need to mention that the handicap parking spots at Ikea are the very first ones to fill up in the morning, and with nary a limp visible among any driver or passenger? Ikea also has parking spots marked specifically for pregnant women, and apparently it's fine to park there if you simply have enough of a beer gut to look pregnant. In my country, his car gets towed for this. Here, he calls you stupid for not thinking of taking the spot before him.
But handicap parking spot abuse is as common as dust in this town, and not blogworthy even by my very low standards. No, the slimebag in these photos hits a new low: blocking the wheelchair ramp, of all things. And not just parking across it, but actually driving up  into it!
This goes beyond inconvenience, and straight into safety hazard. Certainly it's illegal, but that and 16 RON will get you a coffee at the local Starbucks.  For clarity: coffee at the local Starbucks costs 16 RON regardless... my point is that if you shout "criminal!" around here, at most someone might reply "Gesundheit." For civic duty to be ignored by this populace is a given. For it to be actively flouted takes a new depth of asshole. Hey, welcome to my town.


But a bit of backstory may be needed here. Disregarding, for the moment, those silly World Health studies which prove all blog writers worldwide to be fetishists for pink-haired preteens, I was almost entirely made aware of "Lazy Town" because a local newspaper includes a DVD of episodes each week and my kid's watching them.  It's apparently a popular Iceland export, just above Bjork but below volcanic ash. I was actually made aware of the "Stephanie" doll (excuse me, Poseable Action Figure!) by a professional acquaintance who was pleased as punch to have found it for her young daughter... an avowed "Hannah Montana" fan.

Now honestly, could I look straight into the eye of this joyful nigh-unto-tears woman, bouncing-off-the-walls bursting with pride at her accomplishment and anticipation of her daughter's reaction, and tell her she'd bought the wrong thing?

Now honestly, could I look you straight into the eye and say if I did or not?

Hell yes I did. Choosing to hear it from me or from her daughter? No-brainer. I know how kids work. Hell hath no fury like a child who receives the wrong color Power Ranger. Remember "Addams Family Values" where the girl killed her parents for their birthday gift of Malibu Barbie when she'd wanted Ballerina Barbie? "Fiction," you decry? "Non-parent," I rejoin. So, while many lives were spared this day, it's not the point of my story.

Hannah and Stephanie; Separated at Birth?
Maybe around the bangs I can see it, but sure as shootin' your 6-year-old won't.

Turning over the package in my hand (I specify again, "turning over," not "fondling" so no paedo jokes, okay? If you're a regular reader you know my thing is rechargeable flashlights), I discovered this inexpensive Asian import's entertainment value went, as it stereotypically does, far beyond its intent once linguistics are factored in.  It is at this point beyond which words will fail me so we'll just finish with the photos...

"Latest with most the gift of vogue! The best choice with the best gift"
"best product comes from this product to rank first a"

Next time you get the urge to complain about your odds with the lottery, just try to fathom the odds of a country with over 1.3 billion people in it and apparently not one English proofreader...

The Day I Have to Hunt for Material Is The Day...Ah, Forget It, It'll Never Happen.

It's true... writing this blog is so easy, it's a wonder I'm not getting a salary. Isn't that how it works? The less hard you work, the more someone's likely paying you to do it? Well, even so, I'm open-minded enough to admit there are jobs out there still even cushier (certainly better paying) than writing this blog.  One that comes immediately to mind is "Romanian Copyright Auditor."

Yep, this fell into my lap like most of it does. The good news is: copyright infringement in Romania is apparently widespread enough to finally attract the attention of high-ranking politicians.  The bad news is, they're joining in on it!

For your viewing pleasure: presidential candidate Eduard Manole's campaign poster. Note the clever hammer logo at the bottom.

This logo is all over his website as well.  Too bad it was all over Pink Floyd's rock album "The Wall" in 1979, and even moreso in the 1982 movie adaptation.
Manole's 2009 campaign, as best as I could translate, included a desire to "undo 20 years of damage." I suppose only here would plagiarism not fall into that category.

In truth, plagiarism and politics are apparently not such strange bedfellows. Globally prominent figures from Vladimir Putin to Joe Biden have these proud credentials under their belts. My favorite, which I distinctly remember seeing on the news years ago but can't find reference to at the moment, was a US candidate whose speech was lifted directly from the script of the 1993 film "Dave."  But this is my point. It was in the news. Just as Putin and Biden and all the others were in the news. Their flimflams got the exposure and resulting derision they deserved. But in my too-long-to-be-called-anything-other-than-adopted homeland, it seems the hammers (of justice; smooth metaphor insert, eh?) will not soon batter down any doors.

12 May, 2010

No Comment

Tag on a pair of jeans at the local hypermarket:

"Working of a ging to us in order to run"

Somebody remind me again what my 810 Verbal SAT's gotten me?

Take Your Karma Where You Can Get It

Driving down a narrow street during rush hour, stuck in the usual long line of cars.  Invariably, one or more hotshots don't feel like waiting. Since traffic laws don't apply to them, of course, they have no problem breaking formation and scooting along the wrong side of the road to get around everyone else and pull to the front of the queue.  This puts them sticking out into the intersection to obstruct cross traffic, but again, laws are for suckers.

Naturally, expecting the police to be around to handle any of this is a fool's dream, but even justice can't be denied forever and once in a tremendous while the idiot gets his. In this case, our idiot did his thing, scuttering down the wrong side of the road to get past us lawful losers. But at the very last second, an oncoming car turned the corner right in front of him. Gee, didn't plan on THAT, didya?

Normally when this happens, the scofflaw manages to frighten or bully the lawful oncoming motorist off to the side, usually onto the sidewalk, so he may continue on his lawless way.  But in this case, either the road was too narrow to detour or else our lawful motorist had (dare I say it?) a spine, and stood his ground.  Scofflaw had no choice but to throw it in reverse and back all the way up the street, garnering well-deserved waves and comments from his would-be victims along the way, ultimately taking his place at the end of the long line of cars, much further back than if he had simply held his proper place in the queue.

We didn't see him try again, so nobody knows if he'd learned his lesson and stayed in line, or found a new and exciting way to break traffic laws to get ahead elsewhere. But for one minute of one day of the normally miserable existence that is Bucharest, life was good. You learn to cling to these moments like drops of water in the desert.

11 May, 2010

Totally Obvious Statistics, Gotta Love 'Em!

Maybe you know of the urban legend Office Memo from Human Resources which reads "Stop taking fake Sick Days to extend your weekends. We found that 40% of all Sick Days are taken on Fridays and Mondays."  If you don't get the humor, know that in a standard 5-day work week, each day represents 20% of the week. So any two days of the week would represent 40%, not just Fridays and Mondays. I'm really sad that I had to explain that, but then it's well-known that I'll do anything for readers.

Anyway, it happens in real life too. A recent article in the Bucharest Herald proclaimed "Office sex: Women get involved in love affairs with bosses, men with employees."

Ummm... Duhhh?

Okay, making the narrow-minded, unfair, chauvinistic (yep, welcome to my blog!) but likely all-too-realistic assumption that the majority of the affairs in question are standard 1 male + 1 female, let's analyze:

Women tend to have affairs with bosses, assumed (sexually, not professionally) to be men. Men tend to have affairs with employees, assumed (sexually, not professionally) to be women. Therefore, this statement says "Employees have affairs with bosses, but hold onto your hats, bosses have affairs with employees!"

Now, this time, say it with me.  "Duhhh...!"  Both sides of that statement may well describe the same couple!

This article bothers me for two reasons. First, because someone's actually getting paid to print this circular tripe. Well, no, it's because someone got paid to research this circular tripe. No, truth be told it's because I lost nine seconds from my life which I'll never get back, by reading this circular tripe. Well, whatever, it all falls under the first reason, which pales in comparison to the second, more important reason this article bothers me: I'm self-employed! :-(

29 April, 2010

Uncharitable Observation Of The Day

Actually, this happened a long time ago, but I thought I lost the photos, and just found them, and needed to post something before April ends.  Those are all the reasons for this post, and not a good one among them.  But here it is anyway.

It was November 2008, and two things happened that, while separately probably really good things, thrown together just meant trouble. First, I was gainfully employed. Second, some woman ran for political office.

Being gainfully employed meant a period in my life where I would actually get off my ass from in front of the PC, and get in the car and drive to a job.  Where I would sit on my ass in front of the PC.  But I digress. The feminine political aspirant meant a period where her face was on billboards every 30 meters along every major road in Sector 1.  You can see where this is going, can't you? Yep, I drove to work through Sector 1.  Usually not fully awake, not ready for the day, and certainly not ready for this woman's face 6 meters high hammering me every 18 seconds of travel.  There was just a "GAAH!" sort of shock every time, which I couldn't explain for the longest time.  Until one day I left for work later in the morning, and with my wits finally about me, finally made the connection:

Call me a jerk if you need to, but honest to God this is what I was reminded of every time I saw her. I couldn't help it.  She could be the sweetest thing, I don't know. If she is, though, I'd like to think she'd go about her campaign image a bit differently...

In retrospect, compared to the subsequent Presidential campaigns, ever setting new records in slander, disrespect and abuse, this lady was completely harmless. I should at least find out if she ever got elected to anything or not. And it could always have been worse... Heath Ledger, anyone?

28 March, 2010

No Comment

Packaging from the squeeze-bulb lens cleaner I bought for my camera.

Okay, this may not be as obvious as "Monutain Bike," because it's grammar more than spelling. Suffice it to say you hope to blow dust and dirt off of your camera lens, rather than onto them...

"Knock It Off" Revisited

Ever since I can remember, when you wanted a permanent-ink marker, you could never go wrong with a "Sharpie." Nowadays, "Sharpie" has attained the elevated status of those brand names that are used interchangably with the products' generic term. You wipe off your fingerprints with a Kleenex, not a tissue. You make a Xerox of your offshore bank statements, not a photocopy.  They call your automatic rifle an AK-47 even if it's actually a P-90 or an Uzi. And when you need to cross out sensitive phrases on your court-ordered documents, who shouts "Anybody have a non-toxic fine-point permanent-ink marker on them?" Nobody; it's "gimme a Sharpie!"

Well, once again my eyes have been opened by traveling beyond my homeland and its oppressively stodgy regulations about silly little nothings like taking someone else's work and claiming it as your own. Oh, you know what?  I'm not going to do this any justice with my writing, just look for yourself:
You already know that trademark theft is one of my pet peeves, but this goes far beyond that, firmly into the realm of outright consumer fraud.  I've used this thing on many, many pies, both homemade and store-bought, and not a single one of them showed any subsequent increase in its reflective properties. Consumers and pastries everywhere, beware!

License Tag of the Day

Sorry for the bad photo, camera phone at night in moving car. Don't worry; as far as you know, I wasn't the one driving. Anyway, to all appearances this was a brand-new car, or at least a very clean and cared-for car. So, what is the solution for an absent license tag for such a beauty? For starters, no recycling an old tag by painting over the old numbers. Very inelegant for this classy machine. Needless to say the common cardboard or provincial duct tape fake plate solution is out as well.  Nope, this number is painted directly onto the car. Much more sensible and stylish... in whatever alternate reality this person lives...

26 March, 2010

Parking Pay Machine With An Attitude

I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it. But last night, after a press event at the Intercontinental (not to be confused with the adult undergarment expo at the Incontinental), the crowd of dozens descended en masse to the parking garage equipped with one solitary automatic pay machine. A marvel of technology, really... it allows over twice as many people to wait for less than half the speed of the older, outmoded human-style cashier.  The main problem is that it has to give change.  Taking these lemons and making lemonade, the machine we encountered last night apparently employed some sort of Artificial Intelligence to ensure that its interaction with humans, while unable to be accelerated, would at least be entertaining.

Standing in line behind 7 or 8 other people, we had ample time to watch the thing in action. Normally the charge for parking would be 4.50 or 8.50 and people would slip in a 5.00 or 10.00 note.  The machine could and did spit out 1.00 notes in return, and .50 coins. It did this for the first 6 people, slowly but not maddeningly so.  To be fair, the slowness of the machine was easily matched by the time wasted by the idiots who consistently waited until they arrived at the machine, slipped in their card, and read the amount due before it occurred to them to even reach into their pockets or purses for the cash. But I digress.

Customer #7 arrived at the machine with a 50.00 note.  Possibly he had nothing else, but since the uncharitable view is always more amusing, I think he was simply flaunting his wealth, or appearance thereof, by implying he had plenty of money, of which this was the smallest he would deign to carry.

Apparently the parking machine took this view as well, because of the 40.00 or 45.00 due back to the guy, it paid all of it in .50 coins. No bills at all, just 80 or more coins clinking out at the agonizing rate of about 2 seconds per coin.  We stood there for almost 3 minutes in Carbon Monoxide Hell waiting for Moneybags to get his change. Even so, the chuckles up and down the ever-growing queue voted this the second most entertaining event of the whole evening. The first being of course, guest singer Paula Seling, whose amazing voice defies physics.  Not because of its range, which is quite admirable, but because I don't see how she could draw in enough breath to sing while wearing that very tight red... but I digress again. Definitely. Ahem.

Finally our guy ambles away, pockets bulging and clinking.  Just about the same time I speculated aloud that the machine must have run out of bills, the lady in front of us slipped in a 10.00 bill and got 2 singles back out of the slot.

WTF?!? This machine had a definite attitude.  It was as Romanian as any human clerk, attendant or secretary.  It was king of it's own tiny realm, it held the only solution to your needs, you had no choice but to deal with it on its terms. So damn if it wasn't going to enjoy its moment of power over you by being as capricious and uncooperative as possible, in direct proportion to your intolerance for it. The average Joe may squeak by with a minor delay.  But Mr. Pretense is going to be taken down a peg, have no doubt.

I had no doubt, and I wasn't giving it the opportunity.  We put in exact change.  Now it was the machine's turn to say "WTF?!?" After which we could clearly perceive it also humming angrily, "How am I supposed to cause any trouble with this? It's not fair! Come back here, you!" But by that time we had run halfway to the car, safely out of range of the EMP that the machine must surely have beamed after us in spite, trying to short out our mobile phones...
Beauty and the Beast
But if anyone else ever calls her "Beast," I'll kill them!

Can One Flashlight Make You Go Blind?

In the USA you have Harriet Carter. In Romania we have D-Mail. Well, D-Mail is actually Italian in origin, but the neat thing about the EU is that something from one member state often winds up in the others sooner or later.  Especially if it's debt, and especially if you're Greece. But I digress.

Spotted in this month's catalog: a hand-operated flashlight. Not just hand-held; hand-operated.  Meaning no batteries, built-in generator, yada yada. Nothing new here, except instead of squeezing a trigger to create the power, or turning a crank, THIS flashlight appears to "get its charge" from the application of a previously-thought-to-be-highly-private maneuver. In simpler language, folks, you wank it.

Okay, I'm pulling your leg. Upon reading the Romanian description to the best of my ability, you actually charge the flashlight by shaking it, not spanking it. It moves with your hand, not against it. The motion apparently oscillates a tube-shaped coil thingy over a cylindrical magnet thingy, if the photo (and my infantile grasp of electromechanics) is any indication. But come on, people, look at this again!

If that isn't the spitting image of what no Catholic male would ever do, then I don't know what is. I'm wondering if this thing has an "anti-slip" housing to maintain sturdy grip even after hair growth.  

The trouble of course stems from ill-applied motion blurring, because while you want to show how to shake the flashlight, you don't want to blur the product itself beyond recognition. Result: most of the flashlight isn't motion-blurred but all of the hand is, tricking the casual observer that the hand is moving but the flashlight is not.  Religious upbringing notwithstanding, medical studies prove that this procedure gets results out of other things besides flashlights too.

Maybe this is an early April Fool's joke from those wacky D-Mail folks, because this item seems doomed from the start.  Once you eliminate the potential buyers who aren't perverts and therefore wouldn't touch this thing with a 3.048-meter pole, and then the potential buyers who are perverts but would rather others didn't know they are perverts and therefore also wouldn't touch this thing with a 3.048-meter pole, all you have left are the few of us people who are perverts and don't care who knows it.  And they like it dark.

25 March, 2010

Sooner or Vader, The 501st Comes to Romania

Backstory: The 501st is, as they say, "The World's Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization." "Imperial" refers to the "bad (or soon-to-be-bad) guys" in the Star Wars universe - Stormtroopers, Clone Troopers, Biker Scouts, vehicle pilots, military personnel, Bounty Hunters (as employed by The Empire), et. al. and of course the top dogs, Sith Lords such as Darth Vader and the Emperor. Being not only a geek but a Star Wars geek, I joined the 501st years ago, specifically the Southern California Garrison by reason of living, as I did at the time, in Southern California.  When I moved to Romania it was assumed I'd carry the flag of the 501st onward to the Balkans. My first meeting with "Outpost Romania" was quick and efficient.  I met the commander, the officers, the technicians, heck, even the janitor and cook all at once. By looking in the mirror. Yes, folks, I wasn't in Outpost Romania, I was Outpost Romania, alpha to omega, a lone soldier in a country with, probably, better things to do with their time and money than dress up as Star Wars characters. Not that I could blame them... after all, the 501st does require a level of geekiness, leisure time, and (most importantly) disposable income - with which the locals are still just becoming reacquainted after their long history of repression. Heck, I'm not even acquainted with (2 out of 3 of) these things anymore. So, after a few years on the back of the shelf, my 501st activity recently picked up in an unexpected way...

From: Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 4:23 PM
To: ken@hprops.com
Cc: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Subject: Star Wars:The Clone Wars, 2nd series - Romanian release

Dear Mr. Huegel,

As you might already know, the Lucasfilm superproduction Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a huge success amongst young Star Wars fans and we are now preparing to launch the 2nd series on Cartoon Network in Romania.

We would love to see the Romanian journalists become more familiarized with the Star Wars universe, therefore we were thinking you might like to help us delivering the press releases to a couple of journalists, dressed in your Star Wars costume.
How could I refuse?

From:  Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 12:00 PM
To: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Cc: ken@hprops.com; Varadi, Adrienn
Subject: SWCW - succesful press packs delivery in Bucharest

Hello Mary,

I am writing to express my gratitude for the help we received in Romania in delivering the SWCW press packs. As you recommended, we got in touch with Ken Huegel (cc), a great 501st fan and an enormous help for us.

Together we managed to deliver press packs to 11 of the most important press partners in one day. The visits we made at the offices of newspapers, magazines, TV guides and web portals were really successful, and you can find some images attached. We can expect a wonderful coverage at the launch of the new series and a constant coverage for the weekly new episodes.

Once again thank you very much!
From: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 5:16 PM
To: Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Subject: RE: SWCW - succesful press packs delivery in Bucharest

Wonderful! Thank you for the great pictures. It looks like the event was a great success, and Ken looks awesome.

Mary F.
Senior Events Lead
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Sometimes it's good to be bad.  In costume, that is.

UPDATE: Here is how the event was reported by one of the press houses we visited.  It is a typically semi-good-natured poke at SF geeks by those who consider themselves less or differently geeky. But don't they say that bad publicity better than none? :-)

09 March, 2010

Art Imitates Life: or Happy Non-Moving Moving Day!

One thing I feel strongly these days is that I'm doing an awful lot of work to stay in one place.  Professionally, and especially financially, it feels like I spend my days crisscrossing the city to meetings and appointments (usually with my poor masochistic accountant), generating or alternately digesting mounds of paperwork, and magically, at the same time, also chained to my PC for hours at a time, frantically working on what-have-you because it's due/overdue/broken/etc. And yet, I've got zip to show for it. No mighty professional website, no lucrative movie props/costumes business, no bank account with more than two digits in the balance. I suppose, after watching one colleague after another lose their job or even their company in these horrible times, I'm still considered a lucky one. But it's all relative. Case in point: I'm actually here to announce just such a non-event, and this time it's a good thing!

As you read this, take a look up at your browser's address bar.  Gone is "volguus.blogspot.com!" In researching my aforementioned pro website, I discovered a lesser-known feature of Blogger.  You can attach your blog to a subdomain of an existing website if you have one.  And I have not one, but two! So, in keeping with my work style, I spent the entire afternoon figuring out how to do this move, and the end result is something you probably wouldn't have even noticed if I didn't just tell you a minute ago. Running to stay in the same place, see?  But like I said, this time it's okay because it appeals to my fundamental fondness for elegance (if not simplicity) in all things.  I have a personal website, I have a personal blog, now they are in the same place.  Hmm, so maybe that can be considered progress after all.  OMG, did I actually just move FORWARD with something?  I'd better check for bruising!

Oh, by the way, this blog move represents more a triumph of technology rather than content.  Which means if you're now curious to see what the rest of "huegel.com" is about, don't be. Please. I'm begging you! It hasn't been touched since around 2003, if memory serves.  Connecting the blog to it could conceivably be incentive to start cleaning up the embarassingly-ancient rest of the site, but not today. It was a proof-of-concept, to see if the blog and site could be linked seamlessly. It'll be even worse when I get my professional blog attached to my professional site.  And I'm NOT telling you THAT address yet!

12 February, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mihaela

As I may have mentioned before, my memory is not my most reliable asset.  So when my Outlook calendar popped up a reminder that today is Mihaela's Birthday, it was as much a surprise to me as anyone else.  In my usual attention to detail, no last name or other clue accompanied the alert.  I know a few Mihaelas but no way of figuring out which one is having a birthday.  So this is the best I can do. Happy Birthday, Mihaela - wherever and whoever you are!  And if I'm still using Outlook by then, expect just as heartfelt and personal wishes next year as well!

UPDATE: Problem solved! "Mihaela" is an entry I made into my cellphone's Contacts, sans last name because I didn't know it at the time. Compounded by this is the peculiar behavior of my cellphone, wherein it automatically inserts today's date as the Birthday when you enter a Contact, and saves it as such unless you tell it not to.  All of which means that I simply entered Mihaela into my Contacts on 12 February, probably last year, and forgot to change the default date-saving silliness. From there the misinformation was sent to my Outlook calendar when I synchronized my phone to my PC.  Ain't technology grand?  And Mihaela, can you ever forgive me for playing such a cruel game with your heart?

08 February, 2010

How Often Do You Get to Say This?

Happy 100th Birthday, Dad. Raise a glass, he wouldn't have cared if he didn't know ya.

07 February, 2010

Infringe Benefits: "Copyright" is One Word, Not Two

Keeping, as I have always had, a few toes in the warm waters of advertising, I appreciate a good brand identity. Since I've lived in Bucharest, I've seen several others who apparently feel the same.  Because they seem to have no problem ripping off someone else's long-established logo and slapping it on their own venue. And the legal powers that be seem to have no problem letting this happen sans enforcement of any kind.  Let's run through a few shameless simulacra, shall we?

Legend has it that Burger King, a recent arrival on the Romanian fast food scene, actually had a try of it years ago before my time here.  It failed (it may not even have been a sanctioned franchise, which, given the tendencies here, seems quite likely), and the Obor eatery remained in business under a new name, Ines Burger, complete with an astoundingly original and innovative logo.
I went only once, and while I'm not a fan of BK (at least as much as I am of McD), this wasn't even up to BK quality.  Ines apparently closed down at roughly the same time legitimate BK franchises opened up around town. Coincidence, I'm sure, but at this writing the empty establishment still stands, logo flapping in the breeze.

I've only driven past this eatery on Pache Protopopescu (say THAT 3 times fast!) but I'm impressed how a touch of graphics warping in Powerpoint or maybe (a bootleg of) Photoshop is enough to create an "original" logo:
Wow, a gun in place of the "r!" How cool is that?!? Nobody else has thought of that before, certainly not at like HBO or anything.  Jeez, not even the font has been changed. Just squashed a bit in the middle is all. And accounting for exposure in the photo, I'd wager not even the COLOR has been altered.

I feel a little guilty here because I like this place, but crime is crime. Once upon a time Bucharest had an awesome Mexican restaurant named Amigos.  Then there was a management dispute, then some of the owners broke away to start another Mexican restaurant. It's only semi-awesome now but still quite good.  What's most awesome of all is their new name and logo, which, of course, is only by the sheerest of coincidences reminiscent of the well-known Stateside chain of the same name and logo. Go for the margaritas, stay for the litigation.

As a US expat, I've met my share of fellow countrymen who have come to Romania in search of the quick exploitive buck and who don't mind taking a few shortcuts to get there.  This popular rock and roll club is one such example, as I know the owner well enough to suspect that he would never been this successful in any country where he might have had to actually work for it. When this club was in the planning stage, I asked what he planned to name it. 
He said "Coyote Ugly," clearly attempting to cash in on the popular film of the same name. I pointed out the obvious copyright problems with that and the shrug I got in reply could have choked a horse.  But apparently some of my concern was taken to heart... only some.  The name was slightly changed, but the titular mascot is none other than the roadrunner-fixated Warner Bros. cartoon character, Wile E.  If the likeness was even considered for being licensed for this venue, I'll go out and buy a hat, and then eat it.

Has EU membership softened this craze and compelled Romania to start maybe policing this egregious trend just a little? Nope, not a single bit. In fact, it's getting worse.  The latest example is no less than a new nationwide television station called Vox News. While they maintain the name is derived from "Vox Populi," any Statesider (at the very least) will instantly hear the derivation from Rupert Murdoch's self-proclaimed "most powerful name in news."

If the virtually-identical-sounding names don't clue you in, how about the absolutely-identical matching letters and colors? This goes beyond a one-off club or eatery, it's a national TV network for crying out loud.  And everyone's okay with this?  Granted, on a personal note, I'd probably just as soon see the actual self-serving ultra-right-wing-biased Fox take a nosedive as much as any cheap Romanian knock-off, but we're talking principle here.  Wonder how long until Vox trots out a Bogdan O'Reilly or Ann Coulterescu...

There are endless more smallish examples to be found in and out of Bucharest, mostly mom and/or pop kiosks who download a Disney character from the Internet and paste their SRL name over it.  But I'm talking about the heavy hitters, who clearly depend on flouting copyright law to establish their identity.  You can talk about oriental Gucci knockoffs, but for some of Balkan's Bogus Best, you need only look up or down the street... or hell, now just turn on your TV.

06 February, 2010

From the Vault: Airport Taxis

Ken H. Posted Jul 2, 2008 4:06 PM
Post #: 146

Airport taxis are a great source of entertainment when properly used. Not that I'm complaining at all, but since I'm (so far) blissfully free of telemarketers in his country, I sometimes long for obnoxious but harmless aggressive solicitors of legally-dubious services on whom to take out my frustration. I specify "harmless," because two species who would otherwise fall into the category, i.e. hookers and stoplight windshield washers, can indeed be provoked to to the point of violence. Pirate cabbies seem to be a calmer lot, perhaps because their business success depends on making as little of an impression on you as possible. They would rather you not remember their faces for possible future identification, so unlike the beggars, washers and other solicitors about town, they don't waste time with you once you say "no," instead moving quickly onto the next victim.

This means that you can derive a kind of satisfying enjoyment by insulting their intelligence as much as they insult yours. Have some witty responses ready when your next Otopeni pirate cabbie approaches you, eyes darting for any nearby proper authority, offering his furtive, "Taxi, meester*?":

  • "Good idea after that bumpy flight. I don't want to throw up in my own car.
  • "No thanks, I only want the slowest and most expensive ride into town!"
  • (only works if you and cabbie are both disheveled and unshaven males)"Only if I can ride up front with you, handsome." (caress his cheek with finger)

Of course, no guarantees that their answers won't backfire on you (like #3 saying "sure!"), but that's half the fun!

My favorite so far was the cabbie who flashed his genuine imitation Taxi Driver ID card (complete with taped-on photo and "Taxi Driver" written impressively above the crossed out "Universitatea din Bucuresti - Janitor") and said "See? I not with Mafia!"

I got in his face and with all the wiseguy accent I could muster, rumbled "Well I AM, you got a f***in' problem wid dat?" Again, this is a highly-tailored response as I can, with little effort, closely resemble a 2-meter tall semi-shaved ape from Jersey. Mostly because I AM a 2-meter tall semi-shaved ape from Jersey. Your results may vary and I encourage you to find your own tactics that best suit your gender, physical stature, personality, and maturity.

So now you know how to make your travel into Bucharest just a bit more entertaining. Give it a try!

- K -

*You will be called "Meester," regardless of gender and/or age.

05 February, 2010

From the Vault: Exact Change in Romanian Shops

Context: Expat Forum thread:
"If I had the right change or something smaller I WOULD HAVE GIVEN YOU IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!"
by Harold Sacks
Posted Aug 3, 2009 6:54 PM

Sorry, about that. Had to get it off my chest.

I sometimes just want to ask them if they know why they are called "Cashiers" but i expect it would fall on deaf ears.

Ken H. Posted Aug 21, 2009 4:30 PM
Post #: 191

In case you think the "happy medium" is to give coinage so you get back an even note, forget it!

There's a small sweets store next to the office where we all run for life support during the long afternoons. The last time I went for my choc- er, nutrition fix, the bill came to 4.60 lei. The smallest bill I had was a 10 but I did have coins so I gave her 10.60 so I'd get a clean 6.00 back.

She stared at the money on the counter for a full 7 seconds. Doesn't sound like a long time? Just now, count it off to yourself and imagine that's how long someone is staring motionless with a line of customers waiting. Immediately after that I swear I heard a sound like a cross between a truck trying to shift without the clutch and the old teletype-style computer sound effect from the first Star Trek series. The cashier started blinking more and more rapidly and sweat started trickling, then pouring.

When I saw the first wisps of smoke coming from her eye sockets, I shouted "Everybody DUCK!" When I realized half the crowd hadn't moved and the other half was now frantically scanning for quacking waterfowl, I remembered where I was and this time shouted "JOS!" We hit the ground just as her head exploded. A wad of gum, launched in mid-chew, shattered a bottle of Alexandrion behind the register. One earring was later discovered firmly embedded in the far wall. There was far less gore than expected but the metallic odor of helium was almost overwhelming.

The commotion was so great, that the manager in the back office actually TURNED HIS HEAD AWAY from "Dan Diaconescu Direct." Peering through the doorway at the carnage, he sighed deeply and unfolded himself. Stalking to the register, he saw my payment on the counter and immediately nodded with understanding. Popping the cash drawer, he slapped down 6 lei with all the contempt he could muster. Then he grabbed a mop and shooshed us all out the door. When it slammed shut, he turned the sign to "Inchis" and, muttering all the while, unveiled a second sign, well-worn but still legible: "Angajam Personal."

I have since learned to maintain my desk with a stash of sweets brought from home.

- K -

Ken H. Posted Aug 25, 2009 11:32 PM
Post #: 196

In case it wasn't obvious, I did indulge in a bit of creative license in my account of events.

It was actually a bottle of Murfatlar behind the register.

03 February, 2010

From the Vault: "Lemon" in Romanian - A Sour Subject

Ken H. Posted May 22, 2008 11:38 AM

"Lamaie" contains both of the Romanian vowel sounds that don't exist in English (except for a brief period a few hours after Mexican food). The closest approximation that an English speaker can manage, changes the word from describing "small yellow sour fruit" into a vulgar term for fellatio. You can observe the correct spelling of the latter, spraypainted on the nearest building, wall or overpass, most often coupled with the name of a football team. The closest the two concepts ever come to being similar is if someone tells you to "suck a lemon."

I'm pretty sure "getting the expat to say 'lamaie'" is a rite of initiation to every new arrival, akin to fraternity hazing or snipe hunting. I also suspect it has significant potential for the canny expat as a pick-up line, but only under a very narrow range of circumstances.

From the Vault: He Said, She Said, It Said

Ken H. Posted Apr 25, 2008 11:39 AM

Oy, for someone who communicates in English as well as I thought I did, my recently-started Romanian lessons are a real eye-opener! It's my own fault, really... I could have just gone into "parrot mode" and simply learned to echo what I was tought to say and when to say it. Instead, I took advantage of my teacher's patience and umpteen linguistics degrees and decided I wanted to know why I was saying something, not just what I was saying.

So the first thing I learned, was not only how little I had known about the technical structure of my own mother tongue, but that the little bit I did know, would largely need to be unlearned.

How humbling it is for a 42-year old guy who prides himself on his language skills to be stopped flat by terms like "fricative," "gerund," and "nominal declension." It's like driving the finest car without an inkling of what's going on under the hood. It may help to know that I've always needed to know the "how" and "why" of things where most normal folks are quite happy with just "what." Well, finally this need has come back to bite me in the butt - big time.

Because no sooner did I find out how little I knew about English, than I learned it would not serve me very much, beyond mental conversion purposes, in learning Romanian.

One word: "gender."

This simple concept alone will probably keep me from ever learning Romanian (or any other "foreign" language). Until someone can satisfactorily explain to me not only how inanimate objects can be "masculine" or "feminine" but why they don't even follow any rules of logic within their own context... like how a book might be "female" but the paper inside it is "male." Oh, better yet, how so many items are "male" in the singular and "female" in plural... and those items are called "Neutral!"

Seriously, if ANYONE can give me the smallest clue of how or why this concept exists, I'll nominate you for sainthood. If I had a dollar for everyone who just said "Uh, it just IS," I could afford to go back to California and the problem would be academic. :) I can't believe we can explain the thermonuclear reaction in stars but NOT why a book or stone must be assigned genitalia. One thing you should all know about me by now is that I'm a pretty smart fellow - I could probably understand any reasonable answer I'd get. It's just that nobody is giving it. Not even my own learned instructor is up to this task. I feel like I'm asking for proof of the fourth dimension or something!

Ohhhh, this went off into another rant. Makes it a good blog candidate! :)

- K -
[This actually received a nice reply, included here for fairness. Ed.]

A former member Posted Apr 25, 2008 12:08 PM

The gender thing is grounded in the Latin roots of the language, and I believe it originates in some - now arcane - Aristotelic attempt at "categorizing" the world . A simple rule of thumb (for Romanian) is, if a noun, in the singular, ends in an A, it's likely feminine; if in a consonant or a U, likely masculine. The few that end in E can be either (as well as fem. plural); almost no noun ends in O; and those that end in I are mostly in the plural.

So: NOUN + ENDS IN A = m/p feminine; I - check context, it's m/p masc plural; E- ask a friend; ANYTHING ELSE - take your bet on masc.

...and no, silly, it's not genitals, it's ethereal attributes...

From the Vault: Rimshot, Please

Ken H. Posted Mar 18, 2008 10:19 AM

Something protesty was supposedly going on at Piata Victoriei on Monday because I was given a detour to commute to the office. Never followed up on why, because it was just another bloodthirsty crowd. Oh, I meant the commute, not the protest.

- K -

02 February, 2010

From the Vault: "Mr. Helpful" strikes again!

A former member Posted May 27, 2008 6:44 PM

I am an Architect from India relocating (within a month) to Bucharest on a contract of one year . I need to know everything there is to know about the place, the good , the bad and also the ugly. Please kindly take away a few precious moments to help me out.

Ken H. Posted May 27, 2008 11:25 PM

Architecture in Bucharest is the second best planned agency in the city, just after traffic control. Why, with the right bribes to the right ministries, you can build anything you damn well please, without the need for all that tedious research into the impact against public utilities or parking, let alone anything as intangible as quality-of-life. Will the land under the outgoing 1-floor house support the incoming 30-floor office? Will you sever the neighborhood's underground water and electric conduits to dig your foundation? Will the adjacent homes ever see sunshine again? What will 60 new offices do to the parking demand in the vicinity? Who knows? Who cares? Try it and find out! By the time anyone complains, the money's long paid and the addresses long changed.

"No, really, domnule, self-collapsing ceilings are the latest trend! Easy cleaning, and you should get to know your neighbors better, anyway!"

Your average new office building designed for 200 or more people usually contains underground parking for 8 cars, (if by "car" you mean "Vespa") and enough pressure for heat and water to reach nearly halfway up the building! Will your toilet actually empty when you flush it? It's nearly the same odds as Las Vegas, but without all those nasty free drinks and naked showgirls. So come on down and jump in, why let all the local designers have all the fun?

01 February, 2010

From the Vault: Advice to potential Bucharest immigrant

Matt Posted Mar 11, 2008 8:22 PM

Hi All,
Currently in the US, I have a job offer in Bucharest. Any answer to below are appreciated.

How big is the expat community in Bucharest?
How are the gyms and nightlife?
How big is the city?

Ken H. Posted Mar 11, 2008 11:10

Hi, Matt -

For a take-no-prisoners accurate description of Bucharest and its offerings, you could do much worse than "Bucharest In Your Pocket." It is almost like an anti-tourist guide, being written with much information which is more helpful to the poor suck- errr, distiguished expatriates who make Bucharest their home. It tells you what is truly worthwhile in this city and pulls no punches about what isn't. I am a big fan of the print version! It should answer most or all of your questions in a realistic, non "sponsored by Ministry of Tourism" way. But in the interests of instant gratification, my answers to your questions, off the top of my head are:

How big is the expat community in Bucharest?
Surprisingly big. Not without its share of near-criminal carpetbaggers who come here simply to grab what they can and run. Having said that, most are decent people and a very good representation are right here on this forum.

How are the gyms and nightlife?
Gyms are few and expensive. Very of both. I probably shouldn't speculate on this but I will anyway. Let's just say Bucharest doesn't share the US' 65% overweight rate. :) Therefore I submit that the few full-service gyms are targeted mainly to foreigners and under the assumption that their wallets need to lose weight as much as the rest of them.

Nightlife? Don't ask me... mine consists mainly of stalking online forums like this one. :) Once again, BIYP to the rescue!

How big is the city?
I suppose you could get the geographical statistics from Wikipedia, but an answer which probably more suits your intention for asking is:

Imagine your foot is a size 12. Now imagine your shoe is a size 8. This will give you a functional, if not scientific, insight into the look and feel of daily Bucharest. The concept of "personal space" is completely unknown, and if you're in line somewhere and NOT tightly compressed between an unwashed laborer and a clueless geriatric, well you're just being downright antisocial. Rumor has it the current "baby boom" in Bucharest originated largely in the queues at the Carrefour checkout.

Romania's capital has its many good points, but I grew up spoiled by New York and Los Angeles suburbs. That said, with a bit of tolerance, open-mind, thickish skin and spirit of adventure, you could do a LOT worse than Bucharest. Lacking the aforementioned qualities, you'll still do quite well if you're merely a cynic like myself - this place is a wet dream for that!

So in summary: it's probably best to ignore everything I just said and wait for Jackie or Stefan [Forum moderators, Ed.] to answer you usefully. It's also probably best if I stop logging on here sober, but again I digress!

Best of luck to you whatever your decision!

- Ken -

25 January, 2010

New Low: Blog "Clip Show!"

Subsequent to this blog entry, you will find several "retro" entries entitled "From the Vault." These are actually old posts I wrote in a few user forums I infect frequent, dating back months or even years. But before they fell off the date stack there, I thought they'd fit right in here, and as a bonus, save me having to think up new material for awhile.

15 January, 2010

Apologies for the Delay

One of the things that makes this Blog so fun (and relatively easy) to write is my photographic memory.  Literally. I keep my cameraphone at the constant ready, collecting visual non-sequiturs during my daily travels, which are the memory cues to the blog entry I've planned around them. Much of my rants could so easily be dismissed as biased by surliness, if not as outright fiction, without a photo to prove I can't make this stuff up. Since my internal, organic memory is a baby step away from "completely worthless," I've come to depend on my camera to serve as my memory.  Hence, I have a "photographic memory." Hey, it impresses the girls when I say this and technically, I'm not lying.  But I digress.

It doesn't come without a price, as with most things. In this case, it was a one-two punch of both my cameraphone and my laptop deciding to fail competely within a week of each other.  Of course, I diligently backup my phone to my laptop.  So when on holiday my LG Renoir suddenly rebooted, in my hand as I watched, back to factory defaults with nary a contact, sms, or photo to be found, I was annoyed but not overly, since all but the most recent photos were safely stored on my laptop, along with all the other stuff.

My bad for not restoring it the second I got home.  This gave my laptop a few days to run its automatic background defragment (Thanks, Vista!). Unfortunately, it does NOT first run a disk check for corruption, and since something had indeed slipped a cluster or index entry, defragmenting a corrupted disk is akin to ...well, doing something horribly destructive to your disk which kills it in the same way, but with less wait and effort, than defragmenting it when it's corrupted.

Upon reboot, oh, gee, NOW Vista wants to run the disk check. Thanks heaps. Oh, look, "operating system not found," what a surprise.

Of course, I dlilgently backup my laptop to an external USB drive.  That is, at least the My Documents folder where all my personal data is.  Um, except for the folder directly off C:\ where I store my cameraphone photos and videos. Yeah, that. Adding insult to injury is that my sms and contact databases were quite snugly backed up inside My Documents.  Just not the multimedia. And for the geeks in the room, data recovery programs didn't do much because the good data had been overwritten with bad data, thanks to the defrag.

Well, in the grand scheme of things, no great loss.  I remember some of the photos I took for blog purposes, such as my Asshole Driver entry of the Maxi Taxi with no brake lights. At all. Great fun to drive behind.  Or the driver who absolutely needed to get past the traffic on DN1 at the underpass construction, and drove the car at a 45-degree angle by having the left wheels UP ON the center divider.  All I remember is thinking of Shrek III where he says "Well, SOMEBODY better be dying!"  And the photo of the Voluntari lady politician campaign poster where she bore a stunning resemblance to Jack Nicholson's "Joker" in the first Batman movie. All gone, and not worth the thousand words each that the photos would tell.

So we're starting off fresh and with a smarter data backup plan to boot!  In the meantime, I'm hunting down some of my old posts on a few expat forums, from before this blog existed but which are definitely made of the same stuff and thus deserve a home here. Hey, it's (probably) new to you...