Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2020

I Read 'The Satanic Verses' So You Don't Have To

Earlier this year I finished reading Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and wrote myself a "little" review on it. When I came up on it again a few days ago it dawned on me that it might be useful to anyone who, like myself, was wondering what all the hubbub was about and is considering picking it up. Don't take this post's title too seriously, any book you want to read you should read, but if you just wanted to know what all the brouhaha was for, back when it was published, then my Rushdian review, below, should help answer the question. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Where do I begin? With the intro, where Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, dropping out of the sky, the lone survivors of the bombing of the hijacked airliner, Bostan , sing a tune - I forgot which -  while free-falling so that they may begin to fly rather than drop like stones into the waters off the English coast; where a lonely old lady with a storied

A Simple Truth: The American Election, Civil War, and How We're Steps Away From World War III

I woke up on Saturday thinking about the US election. These thoughts poked at odd angles inside my head and needed a bit of arranging, so I started writing. The first five points or so were pretty straightforward and mostly based on general consensus, media punditry, and plain old observation. The rest sort of unfolded organically, rolling off of each other in keeping with the theme: The reality of our world's geopolitics in a scenario where the United States withdraws from the international stage to focus on internal strife.  By the time I got to the end I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry. There is, in global conflict - especially the apocalyptical kind - a type of absurdity that is in some ways comical, much in the way Dr. Strangelove was a comedy while accurately reflecting the lunacy that was Cold War MADness.  The below list is hardly detailed. There is much to say for each particular point, but more importantly, there is far more to be said for the roots of this

The Coronavirus Diaries - Freedom Day and Beyond

Freedom Day (F-Day) was officially on Friday, the 15th of May. The term is relative of course, but the knowledge you can leave your house anytime, without a declaration subject to verification by police or military officials, does feel like a type of freedom. I just couldn't take it anymore, the daily number of cases, the deaths, the drama, let alone write about it. I thought it would be interesting to sort of document how it all went down, but after about a couple of weeks all I wanted to do was work, cook, eat, sleep, repeat without thinking of the virus. Incidentally that is exactly what I did, and that wasn't worth writing about either. Still, it was a definite reminder that watching the news is a terrible pastime. Personally I don't believe there was anything resembling a pandemic, at least not in Cluj. But okay, we had to make sure and be 'safe'. I'm sure someday we'll get to a place, as a civilization, where being locked in a cage inside a larger cage

The Coronavirus Diaries - Days 19 to 24

Wednesday - 8 April, 2020 I've lost some steam here, it's not at all surprising though, is it? On one hand, I have plenty of time to write an update a day, but on the other hand I don't want to make this a personal diary where I just talk about how I mowed the lawn, stepped out to the corner store for a liter of milk, or saw somebody other than my wife when I picked up a delivery. Or that I work longer hours now and after hours I share memes on What'sApp. And that I cook all the time. I could probably write a cooking blog now that I cook 3-4 times a week, which is a solid 300-400% increase in cooking output. On Monday I made a rabbit stew, of which there are still two portions left. That rabbit was in the freezer since sometime in the fall, maybe longer. In the meantime the cases are still piling up in Romania, but not in a dramatic Italy or Spain style fashion. The prediction is we're going to see our peak sometime in early May and the current emergency measu

The Coronavirus Diaries - Days 17 & 18

Thursday - 2 April, 2020 Before writing this post I had to spend a bit of time making sense of the timeline in these diary entries. I only wrote on Tuesday what I wanted to write on Monday, and, instead of 31st in the post heading I wrote the 30th, and, because I published it after midnight, the post date reads April 1st.  It was like trying to untangle a set of earphones after stuffing them inside a drawer for a few months. But I think I managed; we are on the second of April in the year 2020, and although we are on the 18th day of the Coronavirus Diaries, I'm including day 17 in the title - for a bit of aesthetic value in the series' continuance. You know one thing that's really flipped on its head since this whole thing started? Weekends. It's still nice to sleep in a bit, that hasn't changed, but since you're not going to do much the weekends can be pretty dull while the weekdays, with work in sixth gear now that productivity has shot up, are the more ev

The Coronavirus Diaries - Days 13 to 16

Tuesday - March 30, 2020 The clocks changed this weekend. Guess what I did? I changed the clocks on the oven and the microwave. Is this schizophrenic behaviour? You bet. But we live in schizophrenic times. Normally a month would go by until I finally took the 30 seconds or so to change the clocks that do not auto-adjust along with the return to summer time, but guess what? I had nothing else to do! I've stopped caring for the past week. Not about life, but about the menace clouding our entire planet. I mean, whatever. We all die, we all die. Again, I haven't given up, but I guess what I'm saying is fatalism isn't the worst  state of mind under the circumstances. And, you know, I kinda like that we're all in it together. It's better to go out all at once than with an audience of people feeling sorry for you. Again, I'm not saying we're doomed and we're all going to die. Really I'm not, it's just my way of thinking about Mr. Covid Virusescu

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 11

Thursday - March 26, 2020 This was the most bunker-like day so far. I haven't heard any news (okay a bit about Romania's Lombardy ) How the doctors were treated like absolute garbage by the hospital administration and the ministry. How None of this is surprising given attitudes, and people are just trying to cover their asses. If it wasn't about the Coronavirus it would just be another day in Romania. But I really don't know about anything else outside the walls of my home. I assume life goes on, I assume the corner store is still there, as are the surrounding buildings, the garages and the cars parked on sidewalks, the graffiti, and, hopefully, the people. For some reason I am imagining we are an extremely special case of obedient citizens who've been shut in for the past several days, but the reality is there are probably plenty of others like us. They see slivers of Cluj through their windows, all of us with our own little vista and that's about all we ha

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 10

Wednesday - March 25, 2020 After yesterday's episode of doom and gloom, here we are once again with the new normal. It has been decreed that the elderly are, in fact, allowed to leave their homes but only for two hours a day between 11AM and 1PM, or, if they are actually employed/working. They do have to fill out a form -as we all do - and so far the situation's been more or less under control. The big story in Romania is obviously the unfolding drama at the Suceava Emergency Hospital where a significant number of the medical staff were infected with the Coronavirus. The other big story is that Romania is now near the 1,000 mark at 906 cases. It's a psychological threshold more than anything but here we are. I've tried to limit my media intake to memes these past couple days because, aside from these restrictive measures, I don't like seeing headlines like, "The Hospital of Horror" while I'm trying to eat dinner, or lunch, or even while ridding

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 9 - The Turning Point

Yesterday I wrote about 'the new normal' - wondered about it, rather. But it turns out that wasn't it and the new normal is something that is evolving and getting worse by the day. While yesterday's updated emergency measures, announced on Saturday, limited movement between the hours of 10 PM and 6 PM we are now, starting at midnight tonight, all quarantined. This means we have to stay indoors except for grocery shopping, urgent medical appointments, going to work, or exercise/walking the dog nearby (and alone). All of this, of course, provided you have filled out/printed a form containing your personal information with your intentions clearly stated. First of all, who the hell has personal printers anymore? The other aspect, which makes these measures sound particularly draconian, is the fact that people over 65 are forbidden from leaving home, period. Now, it sounds sensible to do the social distancing thing and to acknowledge that seniors are more at risk, but in w

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 8

Monday - March 24, 2020 This is the first day I didn't open the death-o-meter as I usually do, staring, alongside countless others from the comfort of our homes, at the morbid numbers on the screen. Which is to say I have no idea how many cases were reported this morning in Romania, but there are, this evening, 576 cases of infection in the country and 7 deaths. The new emergency measures have come into force today and brought along a snowstorm of the kind we haven't seen since January. It is only the third time this winter (if we can still call it that) that it snowed a full day and night. So that took care of the #stayathome challenge, but not for me. I had to run a quick errand across town this evening and drove over wet slush on deserted streets. Given the weather it was not surprising to see few cars on the road, but it was more like 2 am on a weekday rather than a weekday evening. Add to that the patrolling police cars with their flashing lights and it was hard to fo

The Coronavirus Diaries - Days 6&7

Weekend - March, 21-22 Saturday was a bit of a strange one. Romania announced new emergency measures: The closure of malls and dentists (except for emergency procedures), a curfew (10pm - 6am), and no gatherings larger than 3 people (not including those who live together). It's only a matter of time until a more severe and all encompassing lockdown is decreed. Romania wouldn't be able to face a hospitalization situation similar to Italy's though in Bucharest they've built two military field hospitals in preparation for a worst-case scenario. My wife said, "imagine there's an earthquake in Bucharest now?" Then it happened in Croatia. Luckily it wasn't massive, but calamities in times like these are that much more calamitous. Took another off road tour on the hills. It was windy and with the haze in the air  over Cluj provided the dystopian cityscape that angsty American teenagers can only dream of. The shameful amounts of garbage strewn all over fit

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 5

Friday - March 20, 2020 What is there to say today? Romania up to 308 cases/ no deaths /31 recoveries. Meanwhile, I'm starting to think/see that the economic fallout could have more serious consequences than the virus itself. It is contagious? Does it kill? Would we all rather avoid it? Yes, categorically. But Italy is becoming to look like an outlier as far as the mortality rate - the only number people truly care about. Let's look at the numbers for the five most afflicted countries. China: 80,977 cases / 3249 deaths / 71,158 recoveries = 4.01% mortality rate and an 87% recovery rate. Italy: 47,021 cases / 4,032 deaths / 5129 recoveries = 8.57% mortality rate and a 10% recovery rate. Spain: 20,412 cases / 1,044 deaths/ 1,588 recoveries = 5.11% mortality rate and a 7.77% recovery rate Germany: 19,844 cases / 58 deaths / 180 recoveries = 0.29% mortality rate and a 0.90% recovery rate. Iran: 19,644 cases/ 1,433 deaths/ 6,745 recoveries = 7.29% mortality rate and

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 4

Thursday,  March 19, 2020 After a hypochondria-fueled evening my chest pains have cleared and things seem a bit more rosy. Probably has something to do with avoiding the news and the deathcounter  for most of the day. I did notice that Romania's stats are still looking pretty good. 260 cases in the morning and 277 tonight. Best of all, no deaths and we're also putting up some solid recovery numbers (25). I did watch one video though, and also read one article , which I am sharing here. I can't help thinking that there is something in the data that we might be missing - like another data set. I also can't help but think that whether we are missing anything or not, we are certainly diving into this panic without very many good answers - or even good questions. Either way, I am not saying 'carry on as always', but I am definitely saying, don't panic . It just never helps. I have no idea if there were any dramatic stories in Romania today, though my wife c

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 3

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 246 cases this morning, 260 to close out the day, 0 deaths, which is certainly a good thing and, truly, the only metric that matters. If literally nobody had died, nobody would care. We've also surpassed 200k cases worldwide. The numbers seem very large, however, when put into the context as bare numbers, they are minuscule against a total of seven billion humans, as are the nearly 9,000 deaths, tragic though they are. Think about this: in only three months in 2014, at the peak of the civil war in Syria, 20,000 civilians were killed. Regular people, men, women, children wiped out. Thousands each and every month. Even this year, in January and February, almost 3,000 people died in the same conflict. I had no idea. And I don't mean to divert the discussion, I understand the nuance of context, but if danger is danger and death is death (which is exactly what is is to the dead), we could all be doing much worse. This is worth remembering and being gra

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 2 - March 17, 2020

Romania announced 49 new cases today and we end the day with 217 official cases.  It's been the largest upsurge so far. Loverboy, the public service retiree with the mistress, is said to be responsible for a total of 52 infections (20+ today, all who work at the hospital) following his romantic getaway in Israel. Needless to say, when he's all better he will be charged with whatever 'endangering public health' translates into. However, I can't help but imagine him laid out in his hospital bed while nurses make a point of telling him just what he's done and what they think of him. "Asa domnule, ati mai infectat cativa astazi, bravo." There were also reports about an infected patient who took off his mask and spit at nurses and medical staff in a Bucharest hospital. He, too, will be charged when he's all mended - rumors were circulating that it might be the one and same Loverboy, but I'm just not willing to believe that.  In fact, the whole

The Coronavirus Diaries - Day 1 - March 16, 2020

A few days ago Romania seemed almost immune to the ravages of the Corona virus. While cases piled up in Italy, Western Europe, and Iran, there were fewer than 20 in all of Romania, until a week ago, after which the numbers began to surge in earnest. Today we were at 158 cases in the morning and we're at 168 tonight. Say what you will (it's benign, it's deadly) but one thing is certain, the Coronavirus spreads very quickly. This, coupled with the stories out of Italy is what sends people in a panic to buy up all the toilet paper. Luckily this has not been much of an issue in Romania - panic shopping is moderate at best - but we're already seeing a decrease in traffic, empty streets, and, the biggest shocker of all, personal space in line-ups. Since our family is doing the #stayinghome challenge and since whatever the outcome, this will all go down in history, I want to start a diary of sorts. Just to write about daily life in Romania, as I see and hear it, during these

Romanian Rural Traditions In English

There is a village in Romania known for its cabbage. Well, not just cabbage; it's also known for pickles and pickling related activities of all types. When you drive through it on the main road, usually during a trip between Suceava to Radauti , you'll see small wooden stands in front of peoples homes. On these there is always an assortment of colourful jars with various types of pickles: cucumbers, peppers, green tomatoes, mixed varieties, and, of course, cabbage. Cabbage which comes either in the form of sauerkraut with carrots and cumin seeds, or by whole head - just perfect for sarmale .  If you're lucky enough to pass through during the harvesting season late in the summer, you'll see carts and trailers loaded sky-high with cabbage, more cabbage than you've ever seen in your life. It's kinda their thing, and it seems it's always been. Romanians take it seriously, too, nobody argues when you say the best pickles and the best cabbage in Romania comes f