Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

Campaign

Posted by Andy Hockley on 4 January, 2007

I wish to campaign for an end to PDF links on the Internet. Or at least that all PDF links should be clearly marked as such so that you don’t have to open them. Adobe Acrobat is such a bloody temperamental programme that seems to freeze up the computer in one of every 4 tries. As you may have guessed I’ve just lost a long blog post that I was in the middle of when I inadvertently opened a PDF file in another window. I hate it. Stupid bloody programme. Christ I’m furious.

I’ve discovered that “PDF” stands for “Portable Document Format”. That’s to distinguish PDF documents from all those other non-portable documents. Like stuff carved into rocks 4000 years ago, then. Another reason to hate it – a stupid “branded” name that essentially means nothing.

Posted in rants | 2 Comments »

Fall Back

Posted by Andy Hockley on 30 October, 2006

I hate it when the clocks go back. Not the act of putting them back so much, or the day itself (though I also reject this weird conceptual argument that it “gives you an extra hour in bed” – how? It’s a Sunday. Unless you attend a 8 am mass, you really don’t get an extra hour in bed, since you have no reason to get up early anyway).

It’s the fact that subsequent to this chronometric retrogression, the evenings, which previously were gently “drawing in”, in one fell swoop vanish entirely from the daylit schedule. It sucks. I understand that this year the US hasn’t gone back at the same time as Europe (or even Canada), because Congress has voted in something called the “Halloween Act” so that kids can trick or treat in more daylight. Seriously, I’m not making that up.

It also, of course, heralds winter, and round these parts winter is a long tiring slog. According to the news yesterday, winter is coming. I couldn’t work out when it was coming, but presumably it is soon, since the news that winter is coming sometime is not really news at all.

Anyway, it’s half term and we are off to the in-laws for a week, and I will therefore be offline. Enjoy halloween, the day of the dead and whatever other events come up this week.

Posted in news, rants | 5 Comments »

Fall Back

Posted by Andy Hockley on 30 October, 2006

I hate it when the clocks go back. Not the act of putting them back so much, or the day itself (though I also reject this weird conceptual argument that it “gives you an extra hour in bed” – how? It’s a Sunday. Unless you attend a 8 am mass, you really don’t get an extra hour in bed, since you have no reason to get up early anyway).

It’s the fact that subsequent to this chronometric retrogression, the evenings, which previously were gently “drawing in”, in one fell swoop vanish entirely from the daylit schedule. It sucks. I understand that this year the US hasn’t gone back at the same time as Europe (or even Canada), because Congress has voted in something called the “Halloween Act” so that kids can trick or treat in more daylight. Seriously, I’m not making that up.

It also, of course, heralds winter, and round these parts winter is a long tiring slog. According to the news yesterday, winter is coming. I couldn’t work out when it was coming, but presumably it is soon, since the news that winter is coming sometime is not really news at all.

Anyway, it’s half term and we are off to the in-laws for a week, and I will therefore be offline. Enjoy halloween, the day of the dead and whatever other events come up this week.

Posted in news, rants | 5 Comments »

In praise of the Hummer

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 October, 2006

When I lived in the US I had a policy that every time I saw a Hummer I would perform the universal gesture of “you are a wanker” at the car (and hopefully the driver – though since they have tinted windows, I was never sure). I’m actually not sure that the “You are a wanker” gesture is that universal actually, which may have saved me from some angry Hummer drivers shouting at me or attempting to run me over. (In case you, too, are unfamiliar with it, place an imaginary small apple in your right hand, and don’t clutch it too tightly. Then with palm and thumb upwards, wave the hand desultorily back and forth in the direction of the object or person being addressed. Know the one?)A Hummer, yesterday

A Hummer, by the way, is this very big car that only the terminally inadequate drive. It makes your average Toyota Landcruiser or Ferrari Testarossa look restrained and subdued choices. They do something like 3 inches to the gallon too (for everyone else, that translates as approximately 10cm per 3 litres). They scream “Look at me! I don’t give a shit about anything or anybody” from the top of their huge ostentatious metal lungs. I hate them.

But someone once pointed out to me that they do have a positive element to them. It works like this: In life, in general, it is possible to divide people into the categories of wanker and non-wanker. At a rough estimate, I believe about 6% of humanity fall into the wanker category. However, at first glance it is impossible to tell a wanker from a non-wanker, and a person’s wanker rating is only discernable through prolonged exposure. Thus if you discover that somebody is a wanker, you have already wasted at least a minute or two of your life getting to know the aforementioned wanker. Some wankers are obviously easier to spot than others, but it’s still a waste of a (very small, admittedly) portion of your life. To hear some people tell it, one can actually be married to someone for 15 years before you find out.

This is where the Hummer comes in. It instantly identifies the driver as being among the 6%, thus saving you time, energy, and (possibly) embarrassment. There are extremely few things in life that have the same instant usefulness. Member of the Hummer driving demographicSomebody reading “The Daily Express”? Maybe they picked it up n the train, after someone dropped it, and are just quickly scanning it. Maybe they are doing some research on racist scummery in the English press. Someone who goes fox-hunting, certainly, but you don’t see people walking around town in their hunt outfits. The point is you can’t be absolutely sure. Driving a Hummer, however, is cast iron. Even if it’s not theirs and they borrowed it from a friend – it still means they have a friend who has a Hummer. Do you see how fantastically useful they are? It’s like the wanker community are now allowed to wear a big flashing neon sign on their heads saying “I am a Wanker. Avoid me” – and being wankers, they actually go ahead and do it.

I’m not sure if Romania has anything similar to the Hummer as a badge of wankerdom. Possibly driving a car with Bucharest plates, but that would place everybody from that city with a driving licence in the wanker category, which can’t be correct, even if at least 50% of such drivers do seem to be dangerously out of control psychos. Voting for PRM, obviously, but the disadvantage of the secret ballot is that you can’t be sure who did vote for them. I have seen one or two of those Porsche Cayennes around, and they seem like the new Hummer in the regard.

Posted in rants | 4 Comments »

In praise of the Hummer

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 October, 2006

When I lived in the US I had a policy that every time I saw a Hummer I would perform the universal gesture of “you are a wanker” at the car (and hopefully the driver – though since they have tinted windows, I was never sure). I’m actually not sure that the “You are a wanker” gesture is that universal actually, which may have saved me from some angry Hummer drivers shouting at me or attempting to run me over. (In case you, too, are unfamiliar with it, place an imaginary small apple in your right hand, and don’t clutch it too tightly. Then with palm and thumb upwards, wave the hand desultorily back and forth in the direction of the object or person being addressed. Know the one?)A Hummer, yesterday

A Hummer, by the way, is this very big car that only the terminally inadequate drive. It makes your average Toyota Landcruiser or Ferrari Testarossa look restrained and subdued choices. They do something like 3 inches to the gallon too (for everyone else, that translates as approximately 10cm per 3 litres). They scream “Look at me! I don’t give a shit about anything or anybody” from the top of their huge ostentatious metal lungs. I hate them.

But someone once pointed out to me that they do have a positive element to them. It works like this: In life, in general, it is possible to divide people into the categories of wanker and non-wanker. At a rough estimate, I believe about 6% of humanity fall into the wanker category. However, at first glance it is impossible to tell a wanker from a non-wanker, and a person’s wanker rating is only discernable through prolonged exposure. Thus if you discover that somebody is a wanker, you have already wasted at least a minute or two of your life getting to know the aforementioned wanker. Some wankers are obviously easier to spot than others, but it’s still a waste of a (very small, admittedly) portion of your life. To hear some people tell it, one can actually be married to someone for 15 years before you find out.

This is where the Hummer comes in. It instantly identifies the driver as being among the 6%, thus saving you time, energy, and (possibly) embarrassment. There are extremely few things in life that have the same instant usefulness. Member of the Hummer driving demographicSomebody reading “The Daily Express”? Maybe they picked it up n the train, after someone dropped it, and are just quickly scanning it. Maybe they are doing some research on racist scummery in the English press. Someone who goes fox-hunting, certainly, but you don’t see people walking around town in their hunt outfits. The point is you can’t be absolutely sure. Driving a Hummer, however, is cast iron. Even if it’s not theirs and they borrowed it from a friend – it still means they have a friend who has a Hummer. Do you see how fantastically useful they are? It’s like the wanker community are now allowed to wear a big flashing neon sign on their heads saying “I am a Wanker. Avoid me” – and being wankers, they actually go ahead and do it.

I’m not sure if Romania has anything similar to the Hummer as a badge of wankerdom. Possibly driving a car with Bucharest plates, but that would place everybody from that city with a driving licence in the wanker category, which can’t be correct, even if at least 50% of such drivers do seem to be dangerously out of control psychos. Voting for PRM, obviously, but the disadvantage of the secret ballot is that you can’t be sure who did vote for them. I have seen one or two of those Porsche Cayennes around, and they seem like the new Hummer in the regard.

Posted in rants | 3 Comments »

In the Lebanon

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 August, 2006

One of the biggest problems with being stuck at Milan airport for a while, was being able to take a while reading English newspapers and learning of the ridiculous and sick position taken by my government over the possibility of a ceasefire in the Lebanon war. Something along the lines of “There’s no point having a ceasefire now as it may only last a week and we need to find a comprehensive peace agreement”. Are they really that stupid or just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes? The whole point of a ceasefire is to stop innocent people being killed, maimed, and left homeless. You do that, and then you start to look for an agreement that is workable. Even if a ceasefire does only last a week, at least that’s a week in which no people are dying. For christ’s sake. But no, they just give everyone a green light to keep on killing as many people as they can (and given the disparity of deaths on both sides of the border it looks once again like Arab lives are basically worthless in Blair’s view.) I am more and more convinced that this bastard needs to be taken to the Hague as soon as possible and be tried for his war crimes.

It’s rare that I get this angry over something, but god almighty. How many people have you killed today Blair? Do you ever sleep? Or do you wake up in a sweat dreaming about swimming in the blood of children? I bet you don’t because you’re a wild eyed ideologue who really believes that killing Arabs is a necessary step toward the new world order.

And now, finally, the UN are debating a ceasefire resolution that will allow Israel to continue attacking people as long as they do it “defensively”. Since they claim that everything they do, from the daily brutality of the occupation to various invasions of Lebanon is “defensive”, this doesn’t sound like it’s much of a solution. And our glorious leader thinks he can now act to get a solution for the Palestinians – since he’s said this from day one, and has come no closer than he was then, I find it hard to imagine. And how he expects to be taken seriously by the Palestinian side, now he’s nailed his colours firmly to the side of Israel-can-do-what-it-likes-whenever-it-wants-and-be-applauded-for-it, is anyone’s guess. I despair. Every week I have to remind myself of how bad Thatcher was in order to have something to compare him with, but I’m reaching the point where I think he’s even worse than her. And that takes some bloody doing.

Posted in intercultural communication, news, rants, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

In the Lebanon

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 August, 2006

One of the biggest problems with being stuck at Milan airport for a while, was being able to take a while reading English newspapers and learning of the ridiculous and sick position taken by my government over the possibility of a ceasefire in the Lebanon war. Something along the lines of “There’s no point having a ceasefire now as it may only last a week and we need to find a comprehensive peace agreement”. Are they really that stupid or just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes? The whole point of a ceasefire is to stop innocent people being killed, maimed, and left homeless. You do that, and then you start to look for an agreement that is workable. Even if a ceasefire does only last a week, at least that’s a week in which no people are dying. For christ’s sake. But no, they just give everyone a green light to keep on killing as many people as they can (and given the disparity of deaths on both sides of the border it looks once again like Arab lives are basically worthless in Blair’s view.) I am more and more convinced that this bastard needs to be taken to the Hague as soon as possible and be tried for his war crimes.

It’s rare that I get this angry over something, but god almighty. How many people have you killed today Blair? Do you ever sleep? Or do you wake up in a sweat dreaming about swimming in the blood of children? I bet you don’t because you’re a wild eyed ideologue who really believes that killing Arabs is a necessary step toward the new world order.

And now, finally, the UN are debating a ceasefire resolution that will allow Israel to continue attacking people as long as they do it “defensively”. Since they claim that everything they do, from the daily brutality of the occupation to various invasions of Lebanon is “defensive”, this doesn’t sound like it’s much of a solution. And our glorious leader thinks he can now act to get a solution for the Palestinians – since he’s said this from day one, and has come no closer than he was then, I find it hard to imagine. And how he expects to be taken seriously by the Palestinian side, now he’s nailed his colours firmly to the side of Israel-can-do-what-it-likes-whenever-it-wants-and-be-applauded-for-it, is anyone’s guess. I despair. Every week I have to remind myself of how bad Thatcher was in order to have something to compare him with, but I’m reaching the point where I think he’s even worse than her. And that takes some bloody doing.

Posted in intercultural communication, news, rants, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

Why I hate Sibiu: Advice for tourists.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 13 June, 2006

I hate Sibiu. It’s officially my least favourite place in Transylvania, and possibly Romania. This is not because it is ugly – it is in fact very beautiful (or it will be when they finish messing with it).

There are 4 very good reasons to hate it:

1. It is constantly under construction. Because next year it is the European Capital of Culture it is just always being dug up. The main square Piata Mare has now been more or less finished (last year it was a total state), aside from a few buildings that are still being done up. The nearby Piata Mica, on the other hand, was a mess last year and is still a total mess now. Streets are closed, staircases blocked off, there is mud and sand and rubble everywhere. I’ll be shocked if it is done by the turn of the year.

2. Connected to the above, it is a pain in the arse to drive in. There are no signs, roads are constantly being closed or blocked off, road junctions are chaotic, and basically getting from A to B can take you months.

3. It is by far and away the most expensive city in Transylvania. I suspect this is in preparation for next year when presumably the tourists are expected to flood in. “Why wait, fleece them now”, seems to be the motto.

4. I got ripped off at a change place. This actually is quite important for people visiting Romania to know so I’ll put in a few tag phrases in the hope that gogglers might find this info. Advice for tourists in Romania. Warning regarding money exchange in Romania. So, in Romania there are two places in which you can change money – the banks and these little change offices. The banks are pretty good, but it can take a lot of queueing and there is a bit more form filling involved in changing money there. The change places are quick easy and you usually get a similar rate to the banks. So many people use them (me included). In Csikszereda, and everywhere else I’ve done it, I have never had a problem and have found the system fairly easy and unstressful. However in Sibiu (and I have since learned that this practice is becoming more widespread) I was the victim of a scam. Outside the change office is a big notice with the exchange rate. In Romanian and English it says the rate at which they buy Euros/Dollars/Pounds/Forints etc and the rate at which they sell those currencies. All quite normal. However, look closely. There may also be a third column, or some smallprint which tells you a third rate. This one is not translated into any language other than Romanian. If that column says “Valute” on it, it is the rate at which they will exchange cash. The big-print rate is the travellers cheque rate and that only. Needless to say, the smallprint rate is terrible, and although there’ll be a big sign saying “No Commission” you will be screwed. Big time. Be careful. If in doubt, change at a bank. They at least have to abide by a code of practice and will not try and screw you. I’m mad at myself for being scammed, and mad at the bloke who scammed me, but I know now it is becoming increasingly common in Romania to try and trick tourists this way. Don’t make the mistake I did.

Posted in rants, transylvania, travel | 7 Comments »

Why I hate Sibiu: Advice for tourists.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 13 June, 2006

I hate Sibiu. It’s officially my least favourite place in Transylvania, and possibly Romania. This is not because it is ugly – it is in fact very beautiful (or it will be when they finish messing with it).

There are 4 very good reasons to hate it:

1. It is constantly under construction. Because next year it is the European Capital of Culture it is just always being dug up. The main square Piata Mare has now been more or less finished (last year it was a total state), aside from a few buildings that are still being done up. The nearby Piata Mica, on the other hand, was a mess last year and is still a total mess now. Streets are closed, staircases blocked off, there is mud and sand and rubble everywhere. I’ll be shocked if it is done by the turn of the year.

2. Connected to the above, it is a pain in the arse to drive in. There are no signs, roads are constantly being closed or blocked off, road junctions are chaotic, and basically getting from A to B can take you months.

3. It is by far and away the most expensive city in Transylvania. I suspect this is in preparation for next year when presumably the tourists are expected to flood in. “Why wait, fleece them now”, seems to be the motto.

4. I got ripped off at a change place. This actually is quite important for people visiting Romania to know so I’ll put in a few tag phrases in the hope that gogglers might find this info. Advice for tourists in Romania. Warning regarding money exchange in Romania. So, in Romania there are two places in which you can change money – the banks and these little change offices. The banks are pretty good, but it can take a lot of queueing and there is a bit more form filling involved in changing money there. The change places are quick easy and you usually get a similar rate to the banks. So many people use them (me included). In Csikszereda, and everywhere else I’ve done it, I have never had a problem and have found the system fairly easy and unstressful. However in Sibiu (and I have since learned that this practice is becoming more widespread) I was the victim of a scam. Outside the change office is a big notice with the exchange rate. In Romanian and English it says the rate at which they buy Euros/Dollars/Pounds/Forints etc and the rate at which they sell those currencies. All quite normal. However, look closely. There may also be a third column, or some smallprint which tells you a third rate. This one is not translated into any language other than Romanian. If that column says “Valute” on it, it is the rate at which they will exchange cash. The big-print rate is the travellers cheque rate and that only. Needless to say, the smallprint rate is terrible, and although there’ll be a big sign saying “No Commission” you will be screwed. Big time. Be careful. If in doubt, change at a bank. They at least have to abide by a code of practice and will not try and screw you. I’m mad at myself for being scammed, and mad at the bloke who scammed me, but I know now it is becoming increasingly common in Romania to try and trick tourists this way. Don’t make the mistake I did.

Posted in rants, transylvania, travel | 7 Comments »

Unjustice

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 June, 2006

On Monday I had my first contact with a Romanian lorry. Shortly afterwards I had my first contact with Romanian justice. I use the last word there in the loosest possible sense. So loose in fact, that it is actually more or less antonymical.

What happened is this: I was driving a rented car with my parents as passengers down from Brasov towards the touristed village of Bran. We drove through the village itself, noting the castle for which the village gets its fame, and all the pensions and trappings of the tourist village. Having entered the next village, Moeciu, we decided that we should turn round and head back into the village where we were intending to spend the night. I saw a driveway on the left, checked behind me, and ahead, indicated left, checked again (nothing was ahead, and there was a lorry about 50m behind me), and turned into the driveway. Just as I was halfway in, there was a huge bang and a judder. At first I thought I’d hit a pothole or something, but then quickly realized that I had been hit by something. That something was the lorry I had noticed behind me when I’d started to turn. It was a bloody massive long lorry, carrying nothing, so it was going very quickly (as Romanian lorries are wont to do), and it had just clipped the very back corner of the car, smashing the lights and damaging the bumper.

This was obviously something of a shock, and it took me a while to work out what to do next. The other driver stopped and came over and remonstrated with me – presumably for something to do, since it was clear to me even in my semi-daze at that point that he was at fault, and it is even clearer to me now that he was. (Basically, I can surmise that he thought he could get round behind me, wasn’t really concentrating, and didn’t bother to slow down in the pouring rain, and maybe I went slower than he thought I would). I called home to ask Erika what to do now and then the woman from the car hire company, who was very helpful. Having been told that I’d need to go to the police with the other driver, we eventually tired of waiting for them to show up and drove down to the village police station. This was locked up with a note on the door giving a number to call. We called, and eventually about 20 minutes later, the village cop drew up and opened the door, ushering us both inside. He didn’t look that happy at having had his evening interrupted, and then when he realized that I was a foreigner and didn’t speak Romanian his mood darkened even further. I’d been told by this time that the process would involve him taking our statements and then deciding who had the fault in the incident. Already I could sense that this process was unlikely to be based on extraneous stuff like facts and that I could be onto a loser.

I called Erika again and asked her to speak to him for me. When he asked her where she was and she said Miercurea Ciuc, I could see his face getting even more thunderous – maybe because she was too far away to come down and translate, but more likely, I suspect, because she was clearly a Hungarian*. He wouldn’t let her act as translator over the phone, so we had to find someone – the car hire woman’s brother who was in the area came down to help out. Adding another 15 minutes or so on to the time of the report and more importantly on to the policeman’s dinner time. In the meantime, the lorry driver gave his version of events – a laughable tale, given the evidence. When I heard him tell the cop that he was already passing me when I started to trun, I had to step in, and in my terribly broken Romanian started illustrating how ridiculous this story was. I even drew a picture of what it have looked like were his version true – ending with the made up phrase – Acum sunt moarta (an attempt at “Now I’m dead”) – illustrated with a theatrical imaginary knife drawn across my throat.

Eventually my translator arrived and I told my side, while the cop also filled in a report – now I know that he was actually making out his version of events – before I’d even given mine. At the time I thought he was just doing some more paperwork. Sign here and here the lorry driver was asked, and then me too. Only then did I realize that what he had actually written down was that I was the driver at fault. I protested again, but he had already made his mind up – and since I was exhausted and somewhat drained from the whole process, and since he had fined me 250,000 Lei (approx 5 GBP / 7.5 Euros) I didn’t have the energy to make too much of a big deal out of it.

Now, however, I am furious. Yes, we were incredibly lucky, in that if the lorry had hit anywhere further up the car we could have been killed, but in fact it was the other guy’s fault. My crime was to be a foreigner. The police officer at Moeciu is a xenophobe and I have no problem accusing him as being such publicly (not that he’ll ever read this of course). The whole thing is a joke. He even looked at the damage on the car so he knows full well who was at fault, yet he gave me the ticket. It’s fucked up. (There is of course one other possible explanation as to why he gave me the ticket and not the other guy, but I am pretty sure that no money changed hands, so I am not prepared to make that kind of accusation. Not sure whether corruption or rampant xenophobia is the worse accusation, but anyway).

So, I’m pissed off. Pissed off at the village policemen who decided to wield his power so unjustly. Pissed off at being found to be at fault when I so plainly wasn’t. And pissed off that this kind of thing goes on all the time, all over the world, and that I just see it once in a blue moon. If I were black, this would no doubt just be another day dealing with authority.

So, in closing, I’d like to give a hearty middle finger salute to Police Office Bigot in Moeciu, and hope that one day he gets his comeuppance.

Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that we’re all fine, and there were no injuries, and the only thing wounded was my sense of fair play.

(*Obviously I have no evidence for this but subsequent events have convinced me that it is more than likely. He’s probably the kind of guy who votes for Vadim Tudor, and thinks Gigi Becali is a nice bloke who’s got his priorities right. Tosser.)

Posted in rants, romania, travel, xenophobia | 6 Comments »