A “Mini” Update

Hey folks, my apologies for being “out of action” pretty much for the past two weeks. Lots of stuff going on (and still is) but there’s definitely time for a mini-update.

1) Back in June I submitted a super cool version of The Complete Insider’s Guide to Romania to the iTunes bookstore. It has photos and interactive maps and all kinds of cool features and even though it’d be limited to only people with iPads, I was still excited because it’s the guidebook I’ve always wanted to write. With all the maps and cool stuff (like links to real-time information) it’s exactly the book I wish I would’ve had with me all those years ago when I first came here and so I was excited thinking about how someone else in that position (coming here and knowing next to nothing) would be having this on their iPad.

All I can say is that whatever benefits Apple has with their technology and software in other departments, their iBooks program fucking sucks. And this is coming from a guy who owns two different Apple computers and a freaking iPad to boot (and I love those machines).

First of all, as I already wrote about before, the whole submission process is opaque and operates on goofy, retarded websites. Although one piece of mandatory software called iTunes Producer supposedly does a technical check on your book to make sure it matches their requirements, it doesn’t.

So the first time I submitted the book, it got kicked back because some of the pictures were misaligned in portrait mode (as opposed to landscape mode), which I might be willing to accept was my fault for not checking that. But the other “problem” was that two of my chapters had “too many” sections in it, which isn’t discussed anywhere in any of the manuals. So I got a terse, dickhead message telling me about these two things, coldly referring me to specific sections in the manual which, of course, didn’t address the issue at all (about “too many” subheadings).

Whatever. I split the chapters into two and fixed all of the photos and then resubmitted it. Then it got rejected because of “misspellings”. Really? Every Apple computer made in the last 10 years has spellcheck built right into the operating system and on top of that I’m a fucking published writer and sure as hell know how to spell English. So what exactly was misspelled in my book?

Oh right, it’s because the Romanian words in the book trigger their “misspelling” alert. Apparently Apple only tolerates one language per book (and if you speak German, you should see their lengthy rules on Germany orthography that you must follow or else get rejected).

Now I know for sure that a human being hasn’t even looked at my book because they would’ve seen in two seconds that it’s a guidebook about a foreign country and is positively loaded with foreign words. Apple’s iPad bookstore originally started as a way to sell textbooks to students so I’ve got to wonder exactly how in the hell foreign language textbooks make it past the robotic censors.

Either way, I wrote them back, explaining the situation and my book is still sitting in limbo, now a total of 38 days later and the fuckers STILL keep telling me that there are “misspellings” in the book. If you’ve got an iPad and want to read my book then perhaps some time in 2014 you might get your chance. Sigh.

2) Well if you’ve been paying attention, you know by now that my first Kickstarter project didn’t get funded and was thus a “failure”. I do thank the many of you which did pledge money (and because the project didn’t get funded, it didn’t cost anybody any money) as well as who sent me encouraging messages.

Was I down about it? Sure. But I’ve “failed” at hundreds of things over my life. Just last summer I tried to do an internet show called “The Romania Show” (you can see an old episode on Youtube here). Did it gain more than about 10 followers per show? Nope. And then I found out some guy named Banciu was doing the exact same thing on B1TV before me only he was doing it in Romanian and was way better than I was.

Oh well, that’s how it goes. Years ago I was Cold, Drunk, Bleeding and Broke here in Romania and yet obviously I’ve moved on from those days and am doing fine. Of course it sucks when you try to do something and then fail. But what’s important is that you get back up and keep trying.

The only difference between me and (most) Romanians is my attitude. I’ve literally been thrown off of a (real) horse here in Romania and I damn sure got up off of the ground, dusted off my clothes and got back on that fucker. I never learned to ride a horse and the whole reason I was trying to ride horses was to impress a girl and that didn’t work out either but I still have no regrets because I’m a tougher, stronger person for it.

About 99% of the things that I’ve tried in my life have failed or not turned out the way I wanted. Oh well. But guess what? All of the things that have worked out were because I took risks. “On paper” I should’ve never moved to Romania at all and I definitely shouldn’t have quit my good job in America to do it and I sure as hell should’ve never quit my job to write my first book. But guess what? Those things turned out great in the end.

My message therefore is never give up trying to do what you believe in.

PS – some people said the music sucked on the project video. Well there’s such a thing called copyright laws and pretty much any decent song you can think of requires me to pay someone to use it. If the funding had gone through, I would’ve paid for some decent music but the song I used was the best one I could find that didn’t cost me any money. Understand?

3) I’ve now been working on a way to fine tune what I call the Unsleeping Eye, using my beautiful Apple computer to help me process one hell of a lot of video, which is why I actually bought it in the first place.

Here’s a little screenshot (in “reality” it’s much larger and easier to see):


Now I can watch about 11 or 12 different news channels, five or six of which are Romanian, all at the same time. This is on top of all of the other crap I’ve set up over the years (RSS feeds, ngram searches, etc, etc), all of it with an eye towards maximizing information input.

Obviously it’s probably overwhelming for most people to even stare at that screenshot and would give you a headache to even think about watching the pure Babel of 11 or 12 TV shows all blabbering on at the same time in multiple languages but my point here isn’t that I’m recommending anyone else do it.

I’m just letting you know what I’m doing because it gives me a “meta” outlook on things, some of which will be developed later into articles for here and other stuff. But I will say this very quickly – holy shit is Danone spending a ton of money on TV commercials. Actually, so is Vodafone (in multiple countries).

When you’ve got three or four screens simultaneously showing the same Activia commercial, you can see their ad campaign in full swing, something you might not notice if you were only watching one channel. Seriously, turn on any Romanian TV station and I bet within the first commercial break there will be an ad for Activia.

Side, side note: there’s a damn good reason why Danone is marketing Activia and not one of their other shitty products and it’s because Activia is supposed to be consumed daily, every marketer’s dream. That and the profit margin on yogurt is roughly 17%.

Side, side, side note: Avon is probably third after Vodafone with the number of commercials on Romanian TV (featuring three women dancing in their underwear under a shower of confetti).

4) – I’m also working on a new book, which is fiction. I thought it was about done but it turns out that editing a fiction book requires a hell of a lot more work than a non-fiction one. If you’re considering writing a book (which is damn hard) and then editing it yourself, plan on reading and re-reading it about 25 times before you’re done (super hard). Still though, I’m hoping that within a week though it’ll be done and online for sale.

Again, it’s fiction, so that’s something completely new and exciting for me. And in the various formats you’ll be able to read a sample chapter or so free, so you can check it out without risking your money (although as a reminder, all books I’ve ever sold can be returned to where you bought it for a refund). There’s a little action in Romania but it isn’t about Romania or anything.

What I’m REALLY excited about though is that my plan for August is to record this book in an audiobook. Short of turning it into a movie, this is the next coolest thing and I’m excited about it. Gosh though, it really is a heck of a lot of work and takes a LOT of time but it really brings your words to life like nothing else. Can’t wait to see how that turns out in the end!

5) There’s more? Oh yeah. One story I’ve been following is the saga of Omar Hayssam, which deserves its own movie all on its own. I’ll definitely be writing a lengthy article on this when I get time.

Short version though – asshole Syrian gets rich doing shady deals in Romania in the post-Revolution period and ends up being a big donor and friend of the PSD party (esp Nastase) as well as making friends in other parties.

Then he goes and does something truly stupid in 2005, namely get his people to kidnap three Romanian journalists (working in Iraq) for ransom. Hayssam gets arrested for this only to pull a Mihail Boldea and get the fuck out of Romania while his trial was still underway.

If I ever get arrested in Romania I won’t even be worried because it’s obvious that anyone and their brother can leave the country while the stupid, super slow “justice” system apparently always “forgets” to put an alert on the border to keep people from escaping. Mind you, this dick Hayssam was facing terrorism charges for goodness’ sake!

So he bugs out of Romania in 2007 and there’s a “huge” scandal. And then supposedly he’s been in Syria all this time and then gets convicted in absentia in Romania for the terrorism stuff (and he’s still got cases pending for corruption and fraud and all kinds of other malarkey) and even though Romania’s got an extradition treaty with Syria, somehow Hayssam remains in Syria.

Except that last Friday he gets picked up and flown to Romania. Picked up from where? Nobody knows! Basescu won’t say. Ponta won’t say either. Was it from Syria, finally, after all these years? The “Voice of Russia” said he was picked up in Iraq by Romanian secret service officers. Is it true? Nobody knows. Basescu says it was an illegal operation while Ponta said it wasn’t.

Then after Hayssam is flown in, the usual Romanian comical ineptitude happens. He’s in Romanian custody for christ’s sake and then he manages to disappear. Police say they don’t have him. The secret service say they don’t have him. So where is he? Nobody knows but then he turns up in Rahova prison. Whew! But doesn’t he have cancer and is dying from it? Nope, turns out that is wrong too (at least that’s the story this week).

The sad part is the guy is clearly a dick and deserves to go to jail but if the secret police nabbed him illegally somewhere in another country, he might have a case against the Romanian government. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if years later he’s released when the ECHR or some other body determines that the Romanian gov’t fucked up. Christ, you can’t just go into other countries and kidnap people off the street! Even when they are evil terrorist types like Hayssam.

Saddest of all is that not a single journalist in Romania has had the balls to even ask Ponta or Basescu where in the hell Hayssam came from. Rules and laws are so boring, don’t you know.

6) The other domestic case which has been a balls-out circus this past week has been the privatization of CFR Marfa (Romanian railroads freight division).

A few weeks ago, the IMF was inbound and there was a deadline to sell CFR Marfa or else it would fuck up the next “round” of IMF funding. So trusty and loyal Renu Fenechiu, then the dirtiest politician in office, “handled” the privatization of CFR Marfa and supposedly the whole thing was over and done with, with a Romanian company called GFR buying CFR Marfa.

Yippee! Now Romania can get more IMF funding and then the government gets roughly 200 million euros from the sale, which it can then turn around and give directly to the IMF bankers and the people of Romania lose control over their national rail freight system. Everybody wins!

Except then Fenechiu was sacked after being convicted on a case where he defrauded the Romanian government millions of euros (but still gets lauded by every USL politician in sight). So Ponta wants to put in the odious Ovidiu Silaghi in his place. But then Basescu refuses to accept the nomination of Silaghi and says he (Basescu) won’t sign the papers until August 23.

Which means that for the time being, Ponta is the interim Transportation Minister. Why does this matter? Oh right, because it turns out that it’s another CupruMin clusterfuck again, where the “done deal” isn’t actually finalized and over with. So Ponta went on TV and said some grumpy nasty things about Basescu and then kicked the contract over to something called CSAT.

Looks like Basescu is expecting the deal to fail and wants Ponta’s signature on the paperwork (as the Transportation Minister) when it does fail. And Ponta’s trying to get the CSAT to reject the deal so he (Ponta) can escape responsibility. Meanwhile CFR Marfa still needs to be sold (to pay off hte bankers) and then on top of that now it looks like GFR (or more specifically Gruia Stoica, the owner of GFR) has been up to some shady shit and might (or might not – it’s Romanian journalism so you never know) have a corruption charge against him soon (related to other matters).

Again, a typical Romanian clusterfuck but fun to watch, sort of like a crash in the middle of a NASCAR race. Sick but entertaining.

7) Jeez how long is this “mini” update going to be?

Just had to add the one piece of unvarnished good news from this week, which was that the odious dick Sorin Apostu, the former mayor of Cluj, got a “definitive” (meaning real) three and a half years of additional jail time. Yahoo!

I tangled with this moron a couple of years ago and wrote about it publicly at the time right here on this very blog that you’re reading right now. Of course not a single Romanian blogger or person of note ever dared whisper a word against this guy besides me. That is, of course, until he was arrested. Then it was all hands on deck.

Of course there’s a “good” explanation for that. Romanians are all chickenshit of questioning authority. I only get away with it year after year precisely because I do it all in English. I mean everyone knows who I am and where I live (half the TV channels in town have been to my house) so it’s no secret who I am.

What is “secret” however is what I say because nobody here with any power speaks or reads English. Yeah they might speak it a little but they don’t pay any attention to anything that’s not in Romanian. So I can get away with telling the truth only because I do it in English.

If I started writing even half the shit I say in English only in Romanian, believe me, the heat would come down on me. Which of course I’m not afraid of but until I’m a full citizen of this country and not just a guest, I’m not going to do. One call from one of Apostu’s people back in the day and I’m sure I would’ve gotten thrown out of the country on some bullshit legal pretext. Except of course neither Apostu nor any of his people knew what I said precisely of course because it’s always been in English.

Hehe, my little secret. But it sure was fun “dancing on his grave” for ProTV back at the end of 2011 when that arrogant fucker got paraded through the courthouse.

8) Which since this thing is so damn long, fuck it, I’ll add one final section.

Whenever I do finally get my citizenship here, boy watch out because I will cause some trouble. But I don’t mean random chaos like breaking windows or slashing car tires.

What I’ve noticed over the years here in Romania is that bad people have almost free reign to do all kinds of evil shit and all the good people are far too afraid and terrorized to do anything about it. At most there’s some faint hoping that the EU or America will step in and put an end to the worst of the nonsense. But obviously that’s not going to really happen.

Once I can’t get kicked out or have residency statuses revoked and I have all the rights as anyone else here, believe me, I will be out there and I will cause problems. I’ve been here long enough to know what’s going on and I’m old enough and experienced enough that I just don’t give a fuck about being afraid.

My language skills aren’t perfect (as any Romanian reading this will readily attest to hehe) but they’re serviceable. And for now English is my “secret weapon” or shield because it makes 99.9% of what I do invisible to the powers that be. But even with my crappy Romanian language skills, I will be out there and I will be making problems because I’m sick of this country going down the toilet because a few organized thugs want to rob and steal everything that they can.

If democracy and fairness and real justice are going to work, it’s going to have to be messy. And I’m just the person to get in there and get in the mud to make it happen.

Note to my future lawyer recommending that I delete this post – nope, not going to happen. Sorry. The time for 20 Million Snowdrops has to come to an end some time :)


9 – Oops I forgot to mention that because spammers were positively assaulting this blog with bullshit comments, I had to switch it so that you have to have at least one approved comment before your comment shows up.

Which means that if you wrote (or write) a comment and it doesn’t appear right away, be patient. If you’re a human being, I’ll approve it. I have zero interest in censorship – all I’m trying to do is keep the fucking spammers from taking over with their weird crap (like fake lengthy comments about my “trip to San Diego” or whatnot).

10 Just to go ahead and make this an even 10 entries, I’ve noticed that when I post frequently I get fewer visitors to the blog but when I don’t post anything for a few days, the visitor count goes up. Why? I have no earthly idea.

3 thoughts on “A “Mini” Update

  1. “when I don’t post anything for a few days, the visitor count goes up. Why? I have no earthly idea.” If it’s counting the same visitor twice (say unique visitors/day) then it’s easily explained by people wanting to get their fix. Once I get it I won’t return for a few days but when there’s no new content for a week I’ll check aggressively.


  2. Thanks for the update Sam. You are one of the rare sources of Romanian political news I trust and enjoy reading, even if I don’t always agree with the choice of words! But that’s beside the point. Cheers and good luck with the rest!


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