Kevin Spacey and Servant Leadership

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Recently I discovered House of Cards and am thoroughly enjoying plowing through the first three seasons. Initially seeing how Francis Underwood and the surrounding characters manipulated each other, constantly seeking ways to increase power, was almost intoxicating. Could I do that? Would I want to do that? Why not do that? It seemed possible, and Underwood’s confessions to the viewer of his mistakes and weaknesses made it human. However, by the end of season 1 the political manipulation between characters took its toll quickly and slipped from intoxicating toward revolting. How could people treat each other that way?

Kevin Spacey: “When you act or direct you have a responsibility to bring the right energy to create something with the group. I was fortunate to have mentors who were great examples, not because they sat me down and gave me lessons but because of how they behaved”

Therefore, it’s with trepidation that I read the March 2016 Harvard Business Review interview of Kevin Spacey on its last page. The fact that I associate him so closely with the negative traits of his Underwood character is a true testament to his acting ability.

I’m currently halfway through the class of 2016 Leadership Tomorrow class which is probably why I quickly gravitated to questions about leadership. Spacey says, “I was fortunate to have mentors who were great examples, not because they sat me down and gave me lessons but because of how they behaved.” This quote stems from his answer about to why he spent 10 years as the director of the Old Vic theater in London.

Later he says, “It’s incredible to help [young actors] find self-esteem, voice, and collaborative skills.”

Leadership Tomorrow uses two primary texts, “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner and “The Servant as Leader” by Robert K. Greenleaf. Spacey’s above quotes are excellent examples of some of the leadership traits espoused by these two great books.

From “The Leadership Challenge”

Spacey points out that when leading, behavior is more important than lessons. This demonstrates Kouzes and Posner’s first practice, Model the Way. Leaders must ensure they know their own voice before they can affirm shared values. Once they grasp their voice they are set to set the example by their actions. If the voice is truly there, this should come naturally. Spacey is lucky to have had mentors do this for him, and he’s an inspiration for passing what he’s learned forward by modeling the way himself.

From “The Servant as Leader”

The servant-leader is servant first. This requires a natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then, and only then, through conscious choice, does one aspire to lead. As the Old Vic director, Spacey served his students by helping them find their voice and self-esteem. He served by wanting and trying to bring the necessary energy to his group while aspiring for a mutual, shared vision.

Kevin Spacey: “I wanted to make sure we built a theater company solidly so that when I left, it would continue”

The interview’s final question is about how House of Cards is made. I am intrigued to learn that it’s a highly collaborative process with a creative team. Spacey, who is one of the show’s Executive Producers, says, “It’s all about making the best show we can. It’s not ‘What’s good for me?’ It’s ‘What’s good for us?'” In other words, it’s not about what the leader can do to further his or her best interest (take that Francis Underwood), but rather how the leader inspires to help a team reach their mutually shared vision.

Homage to Wired’s Colophon of Yore

old wired magazine spines
Wired spines

One of my favorite things about old Wired magazines is the details in the Colophon section in the back that listed everything used to put the magazine out. Details included hardware, software, typography, networking, paper type, and my favorite, “the music that helped to get this magazine out”. I randomly pulled the January 1994 issue from a collection of old Wired magazines, which interestingly has the following tagline on its cover, “Forget Hillary. The real revolution in health care is on p. 108“, and found the following list.

  • Redd Kross – Phaseshifter
  • Artificial Intelligence Wax Trax compiliation
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire – I Am
  • Frank Sinatra – Duets
  • John Lee Hooker – The Real Folk Blues
  • Rise Robots Rise – Spawn
  • Sarah McLaughlin – Posession
  • Bill Laswell – Divianation ambient dub volume 1
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra – Early Ellington 1927 – 1934
  • Heavenly – P.U.N.K. Girl
  • Dead Can Dance – Into the Labyrinth
  • Swervedriver – Mezcal Head
  • No Alternative – Red Hot compilation
  • Kate Bush  – The Whole Story
  • Saint Paul Chamber orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman – Mozart Piano Concertos Nos 17 & 18
  • Anton Fier – Dreamspeed
  • Tougher Than Tough, The History of Jamaican Music
  • The Breeders – Pod
  • George Clinton – Hey Man, Smell My Finger
  • The Golden Palominos – This Is How It Feels
  • Grotus – Slow Motino Apocalypse

This is such fun and provides a small window into what it might’ve been like in the Wired offices. I loved that, plus they had good taste so I’d make mental notes of things I wasn’t familiar with to check out later. The most recent issue I own, December 2010, still has a Colophon, but it’s less interesting, reflecting how the magazine itself went downhill into short attention span articles and endless top [insert number here] gadget and other lists, perhaps due to its July 2006 acquisition by Condé Naste (watch out Pitchfork).

I’d like to pay homage to the music portion of Wired’s Colophon section of yore by appending a short section listing music played while writing each post, such as the very short section below.

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* Swervedriver - Mezcal Head

Blogging – Getting Started

My desk during a blog break

With the hope this may help someone, creation and maintenance of this blog will be documented from time to time. Here’s Part 1 covering how the domain name, domain registrar, and hosting company were selected.

Domain name

The hardest part about this blog so far has been the domain name. It took well over a year to settle on The obvious domains, and, are long gone. While I own, I decided to forge forward in search of a .COM domain. A college friend who has his own blog about corn futures used to refer to me as “I”, the first letter of my last name, and I liked that. “Hey ‘I’, how’s your non-existent blog going?”. “Hey ‘I’, why don’t’cha pass me that beer?” Part of the allure is it reminds me of the word “eye”. He meant the letter of course, but I liked the word. My mind thought of “third eye” and “eye on this” and “eye on that” and “I have my eye on you”. I also like “iversonic”, a play on my last name that not only sounds cool, but also pays homage to Pacific Northwest staples like Tacoma’s legendary raw garage band The Sonics, Boeing Supersonic jets, and our stolen NBA team, the Seattle Super Sonics. It’s my Twitter handle and used for other social identities, but unfortunately someone else registered the domain several years ago. Then a couple months ago it hit me. Combine the ‘eye’ and the iversonic to create “eyeversonic”. Of course the first time my wife saw the word she looked confused and said, “Is it ee-versonic or aye-versonic?” Fortunately, that was after committing to the domain with my wallet, so now it was on to selecting who to work with.

Registering the Domain name

The next step involved selecting a domain registrar. At the time I had several domains parked at Verio. Verio was referred to me by a group of friends who ran a web design company many years ago. Since then the company changed hands and its UI went from bad to really bad. To be fair, their tech support was top notch, but I couldn’t deal with the clunky interface, so I did research for a new place to park. The two that seemed best for my needs are GoDaddy and Namecheap. The demeaning Super Bowl ads from the past clouded my opinion of the former, and the word “cheap” in their name didn’t help the latter. However, good reviews and the fact that Namecheap never resorted to tasteless television advertising sealed the deal. Namecheap it would be, and so far so good.


Hosting companies are plentiful and can be difficult to choose from. I relied on Google to find current reviews of hosting options. There are several that sound like they’d meet the needs of a simple blog like mine. A few contenders were InMotion, Dreamhost, Arvixe, and Bluehost. PCMag has a good analysis of options here, as does Top10Reviews. I opted for Inmotion and so far am pleased. The interface is straightforward and the one question I had was answered via an online chat in a few minutes. My question had to do with setting the nameserver at Namecheap, where my domain is registered. Nameservers have two IP addresses and two hosts listed by InMotion. I wasn’t sure what to do with these and learned the IP addresses aren’t needed when pointing my domain to InMotion, only the host URLs.

More information about choosing WordPress, a theme, and which plugins to use will follow in Part 2.

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* Re-Mit by The Fall
* Streaming sessions from Tableau's 2015 Conference
* Bad electronic music played between said streaming sessions


Be the CEO of Your Projects

Be the CEO of Your Projects

When I worked for thePlatform as a Senior Technical Project Manager in their Consulting Services group, their CEO at the time, Jamie Miller, made his expectation of his project managers clear: You are the CEO of your projects. The concept presents project managers with a double-edged sword that grants both the luxury of freedom to manage projects as seen fit without the burden of micromanagement, and an increased accountability for projects’ success. When I first heard this I admit it sounded corny, but over time it made more and more sense. It allows project managers to embrace one of the most basic and important PMBOK concepts, which is that project managers need to assume full ownership of a project.

What does it really mean to be the CEO of your project? Consider the top hit of a Google search on “CEO responsibility.” It’s Sterling-Resources’ definition which says CEOs are “ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions and … [act] as a direct liaison between the Board and management of the Company”. These responsibilities translate well to the smaller world of a project manager and his projects. While the CEO is responsible for day-to-day management decisions for a company, the PM has the same responsibilities for her projects. Replace the words Board and Company above with Stakeholders and Project and the CEO’s liaison work adapts nicely to the communication responsibilities of a project manager to stakeholders.

The phrase “ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions of a project” is a paraphrase of how the PMBOK describes the role of a project manager. Section 1.7.1 of its fifth edition states the project manager’s role is to satisfy task, team, and individual needs using competencies in project management knowledge, effective performance, and interpersonal skills (future PMP test takers, take note). These requirements and skills are used daily by PMs. If you consider yourself the CEO of a project, then you own its success or failure and all communication. It allows you to use your skills to manage the magic triangle of scope, schedule, and cost. You get to determine what tools to use or not use. You establish a communication plan and meeting cadence. You manage change and everything else required to complete the project. You own the project, the challenge, and the fun. This is where project managers experience the joy of getting tasks done and delivering a project with a team. It enhances the end satisfaction that draws project managers to their profession.

Being dubbed the CEO of a project also poses challenges. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you need help. That’s OK. That’s what your manager or others in management are for, to council and assist when necessary. Consider them your board of advisors. As an example, I once had a team member who often dropped the ball on scheduled deploys for a high profile customer. Being in a matrix organization, this person didn’t report to me so I didn’t have authority to speak to him as a manger. I consulted with Jamie and he briefly reminded me of the “CEO of your projects” concept and encouraged me to work with the team member as if I was a CEO. This helped bolster my confidence to diplomatically meet with the problematic team member and say what I felt needed to be said. From that point forward he flawlessly carried out the remaining deploys on the project.

While I anticipate most project managers welcome being a CEO of their projects, understand it’s not a concept endorsed by everyone. During an interview with the (actual) CEO of another company I mentioned that being asked to assume the title “CEO of my projects” helped me get my job done. While I was given an offer, I also received feedback that he found the idea of being the CEO of a project unrealistic and unpractical. I suspect he is not alone and that the idea of transferring near complete ownership of projects to a project manager could be difficult for some.

I propose that all project managers should try on the CEO hat for their projects. It doesn’t need to be advertised, though having a conversation with your manager about it could express initiative, desire, and drive. It’s as simple as giving yourself a mental affirmation that you own and are responsible for as many aspects of your projects as possible. Work with your team as a CEO works with a company. Champion your project to your stakeholders and clients as a CEO does to a board. It will pay dividends in job satisfaction, growth, and confidence which will all help with the success of your projects.

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* The Clash - Sandinista
* Tim Buckley - Happy Sad

Good Leaders Help Employees Achieve Their Goals

Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll

As a Seattle Seahawks fan since 1978 I found a recent quote from head coach Pete Carroll puzzling regarding their recently departed defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Mr. Quinn transformed the Seahawks’ defense into the best in the NFL and helped bring his team to two consecutive Super Bowls. So why would Carroll publicly comment on Quinn’s decision to take on the Atlanta Falcon’s head coaching position by saying, “I want to help Dan get whatever job he wants because he’s a great coach.” Really? If he’s so good then don’t you want to keep him in Seattle?

After a little thought it became clear that coach Carroll’s quote demonstrates a valuable and difficult quality in truly good leadership: invest in your team for the greatest return. Carroll knows that the best way for him to get the most out of his staff is to help them excel, even if that means eventually losing them. Demonstrating his trust and belief in his players and coaches by injecting them with an intangible shot of confidence and freedom to move forward is rewarded by maximizing his team’s motivation and morale to achieve their ultimate goal, win the Super Bowl.

Managers in the business world can demonstrate this leadership as well. Even if you know your direct reports don’t have much room to move within your organization, it’s still important to pay attention to their requests to become better employees and grow professionally. If they request reference material or training that’s not exorbitant, grant it. They will thank you and put what they learn to work for you. Your company will benefit from employees who feel valued and who can immediately put their new talent to work. If it turns out you help launch their career to a new position elsewhere then that’s a good thing. It may be bittersweet, but think about the pros and cons:


  • You help build internal morale by paying attention to and rewarding employees who show initiative.
  • You will improve performance during your employees tenure under you. It’s better to have an employee fully invested while working on your team than to have an employee who sticks around longer while performing at a lower capacity with a compromised attitude.
  • Your company will benefit when your employee talks about what you did outside its walls.
  • When your company builds a reputation as one that allows their employees to grow, it will attract other highly motivated people who show similar initiative.


  • You lose a valuable employee after significant valuable contributions.

Managers, give your employees the benefit of the doubt and invest in them. If they eventually leave, they will leave happy. If you don’t and they stay, you will likely have the harder task of handling frustrated team members. I trust the Seahawks will weather Dan Quinn’s departure. Similarly, if you lead well, you’ll weather the loss of rock star employees who outgrow their role under you with grace and admiration.

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* Amara Touré - Amara Touré 1973 - 1980

Book Review: American Junkie by Tom Hansen

American Junkie by Tom Hansen
American Junkie by Tom Hansen

American Junkie by Tom Hansen is the powerful memoir of a Seattle addict that not only tells a harrowing, self-destructive story, but also demonstrates how Mr. Hansen found a calling to write in mid-life following years of using and selling heroin.  On the surface Mr. Hansen provides a gritty, real-life glimpse into the Seattle drug dealer underworld during the 1980’s and 90’s.  Prior to reading this book it was difficult to imagine just how much damage heroin can do to a body.  Not anymore. His story contains enough personal graphic detail of self-inflicted wounds fed by narcotic addiction that it could almost be used as a text book for young teens about why, as South Park’s Mr. Garrison would say, drugs are bad. That the story happened in my backyard makes it even more real. It confirmed my suspicion that the area around 2nd and Pike is ripe with drugs.

The book’s greatest strength is Tom’s challenge to find a place in the world.  The author tells two parallel stories: one of his recovery following a 911 call he barely managed to dial, the other his life story from the fourth grade through his downward spiral culminating in a skeletal 30-something junkie.  Mr. Hansen’s struggle and experiences are not unique and apply to most heroin addicts, dealers, and the seedy underworld in which they belong, though the depths to which he plunged are likely on the extreme side.

Mr. Hansen documents hurdles in his early years that may seem typical, but to Mr. Hansen were deeply significant.  Tom discusses two events he found traumatic: the death of his father and learning he’s adopted.  While being adopted and losing a father aren’t necessarily a recipe for a life of opiates for Mr. Hansen they proved to be stumbling blocks. There’s no point psychoanalyzing or looking for easy scapegoats to explain why, according to the author, these events fueled a young man into a disillusioned adult who self-destructed.  His use of a few select childhood and teen memories paint a picture of his timeline well enough for his readers to understand his trajectory started at a young age.  He doesn’t expect the reader to think he had a bad experience, killed the pain with a binge, and from that point was forever owned by the needle.  Rather, the reader can see his character and personality convincingly gravitate to a world dominated by others who, like him, for one reason or another never found a place in the world.

Mr. Hansen’s struggle to find meaning in 1980’s Pacific Northwest suburbia began in Edmonds where he was a quiet kid.  At one point around the age of 15 he found himself in Norway visiting his uncle Sverre on a farm.  While there he was put to work doing manual labor, spending hours collecting grain in fields and then shoveling it into a hole in a floor that drained into trailers waiting to take it away.  It’s this point in his life that Mr. Hansen remembers “a strange feeling, a sense of being in tune with the world”.  He writes it was a “feeling that this was what people were supposed to be doing in this life, surrounded by family, part of a community, just doing what they had to do, rather than being faced with a thousand meaningless choices”.  Over the course of the book he refers to this memory several times.  At one point he likens his dealer life with a similar sense of satisfaction where he’s in tune with his surroundings, performing work that doesn’t incur significant stress, and serves a need.  It’s easy to take argument with the last suggestion of a dealer’s life not being stressful. He had to contend with constantly looking over his shoulder for cops and concern that one of his customers or sources might rat him out as part of a deal with the law. However, Tom’s picture of a dealer driving around town making deliveries on his own schedule while never exceeding the speed limit is convincing and for a brief time he likely experienced relaxed job satisfaction similar to what he got out of his work as a youth in Norway. 

A big point in his autobiography is his desire to live in a world without those thousand meaningless choices.  One could say this is a burden on those who haven’t found their calling or their purpose. How do they know what to choose to do?  On the other hand, for those blessed with knowing what their passion is and who have courage, will, and support, this world is a playground. These people are fortunate to live in place  where they’re free to pursue the happiness and joy of doing what they want. Mr. Hansen’s book implicitly suggests that those who struggle with finding their calling might be happier where work choices are made for them. Perhaps North Korea? Read “Escape from Camp 14” by Blaine Harden, another Seattle-based writer, if you don’t believe such places are real.

While reading the book I found it difficult to consider that Mr. Hansen’s struggle is not isolated to those who become junkies or pimps or hookers.  There is an abundance of the same disillusionment in the white collar world filled with numb workers walking carpeted hallways in high rise buildings, doing their job in cubes cluttered with family photos day after mundane day.  Ironically, some of these people also happen to be customers of people like Mr Hansen, secretly numbing their life with heroin. Many who don’t find their way pursue other people’s dreams, rather than their own, which prevents them from finding the joy they were lead to believe would be at the end of their path.  These people allowed their parents or the world around them make their decisions for them.  Many expect happiness from their corporate job because of handsome paychecks and a false sense of purpose, but are loathe to admit their greatest reward is friends and family who smile with approval at their name on a business card. “American Junkie” posits that Mr Hansen rejected this life of subconsciously catering to others’ expectations, in favor of a path followed on his own terms, albeit one on the wrong side of the law that nearly killed him. 

However, not all who find themselves lost in this world with a thousand choices gravitate to the world from where Mr. Hansen emerged. Mr. Hansen’s book doesn’t account for those who successfully find socially acceptable work that makes them happy, fulfilled, and look forward to getting up for work.  As a writer friend, Sydney Salter, wrote to me, people in her profession “sometimes envy those blissful souls who never even consider a creative life,” though deep down she knew she had to actively decide to write because a life without a creative outlet is one in which she discovered she doesn’t fit.  Her words counter Mr. Hansen’s desire for a world without decisions where people find a zen-like sense of purpose in a life of assigned manual labor. She chose her path, Mr. Hansen longed for a path to be chosen for him. The irony is this is a review of a product of Mr. Hansen’s creative work as a writer, a pursuit actively chosen.

Despite the horrors, the cringeworthy detail of Tom’s heroin-induced wounds, and the sadness conveyed about those in the drug world, “American Junkie” has a silver lining that is apparent from the first few pages.  Tom made it.  He survived.  Not only did he survive, but he found his calling to write and put his experiences on the page.  He actively made a choice to abandon the drug underworld and pursue a creative outlet.  I don’t think it’s spoiling the book to quote the following from the its second to last page about leaving the hospital.  “I have no clue what I’m going to do once I walk out that door. … Maybe I’ll crawl into a hole and finish dying.  Maybe, I’ll write a goddamned book.”  Those who read American Junkie will be glad he opted for the latter.

Note: This review was originally published May 12, 2013 on one of a handful of blogs I started in the past.

Eastern European Trip 2007 – Suceava, Brașov, and Sighișoara


The lightning storm at the end of the most recent post took out the internet provider in Suceava (pronounced SOO-cheva). I couldn’t find the internet until locating a cafe in Sighișoara (Si-gee-shwah- rah) just now.

Our hostess, Monika at High Class Hostel, Suceava

Our hostess in Suceava is Monika, who is very sweet and giving and owns High Class Hostel. Her place is highly recommended in the guide books, and I concur. The hostel is outside the city for now – she says she is moving over summer into space closer to town. She serves breakfast with eggs and unpasteurized milk from her neighbor which is a real treat. We also ate her homemade dinner for two nights. One was a delicious chicken schnitzel, and the other night she cooked up pickled beans and sausage. Both meals were completely authentic, traditionally Romanian, and amazing.

Monika drove Allison and I through the Carpathian Mountains in the Bukovina region to see the four primary painted monasteries. They are amazingly beautiful buildings painted on the outside in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s remarkable how the paint has lasted on most of them, though their southern sides didn’t fair so well due to sun exposure. All the churches are Orthodox. Monika knows many nuns at the monasteries who are kind when we’re introduced. By chance, our tour happened on a holy day so we witnessed a portion of a Mass outdoors. Despite it being a weekday, we witnessed many country folk enjoying their neighbors’ company at the Mass because the day is considered a work holiday.

Monika tells us that in the 1980’s Ceaușescu attempted systematization of living quarters, which uprooted hordes of citizens. They were told that part of the move involved eliminating pets. Understandably, most people had a hard time putting their pets to sleep so instead let their pets, most of which were dogs, go. This is the origin of their current stray dog problem.

While at the High Class Hostel we met one of the writers for the Rough Guide book on Romania, Tim Burford. He is good chap and we thank him for the offer of a few Lei at the train station.


May 19 – We caught the train to Brașov, the Prague of Romania some say. Monika arranges a place for us with her friend Gabriel, who has a very nice and brand new hostel in the old town. In fact, the place is so new that we were all alone in one giant room, making it our first night of the vacation to not sleep in two single beds. We even had a the common bath all to ourselves. During trip planning Allison and I allowed ourselves an unplanned night between Suceava to Sighișoara, and Brașov couldn’t be a better choice.

In Romania there are two trains, the Rapid and Intercity, and contrary to their names, the latter is faster and much nicer. We rode the Rapid from Suceava to Brașov. The ride took eight hours and it felt rickety with old rusty cars and lights that completely failed to illuminate when passing through tunnels. The ride, however, went through amazing country scenes, passing village after village, each with an Orthodox church in its center. We saw countless farmers doing manual labor and nearly zero tractors or other motorized help. It was all horse-drawn carts and we felt like we were in a time warp.

This reminds me of the Roma (i.e. gypsies) who live on the road to Monika’s place. We saw them racing their carts with children who looked absolutely terrified. Roma are not well-liked here, and Roma children and adults alike are seen often begging. At first we felt badly for them, but, eventually became numbed and instead focused on keeping all our belongings safe when in their presence.

Back to Brașov. It is a lovely old town encased in an medieval Citadel. Black Church, so named because of a fire many years ago, is one of the more beautiful churches. Oddly, when traveling, one can become numb to the beauty of all the old churches, perhaps similarly to the way one is desensitized to the Roma. There are two old gates that still stand in the citadel, and one, Catherine’s Gate, looks like it came out of Disneyland. Speaking of, Castle Bran, located near Bran, Romania and falsely advertised as Dracula’s Castle, was just returned to the Germans and there is rumor of Disney purchasing it.

Romanians at a train station between Brasov and Sighisoara
Kids playing outside citadel in Sighisoara

Brașov was a brief stay. At 3:00p yesterday we caught a train to Sighișoara. It is a small town with a spectacularly well preserved citadel. We are finally at a real hotel, Casa Wagner, which is very nice and conveniently located inside the citadel. Yesterday evening we walked just outside the citadel and found several young 10-12 yr old boys playing. We took their photo and they started to pose for us. We showed them their picture with our digital cameras and they were enthralled. A minute later a woman approached us. She couldn’t speak English but we figured out she is the mother of one of the boys and she would like a photo. We found a teenager who could write for her, likely because she can’t do so for herself, and got her address in our book. We will send her photos of her boy with his friends hamming it up for us.

Yesterday we also had one drink in the house in which Vlad Tepes, also known as “Vlad the Impaler,” was born. It’s touristy and expensive, but a lovely house.


Today, May 20, is sightseeing in Sighișoara. There’s not much to write about that isn’t already in the tour books. Some highlights were sampling apple, pear, and plum brandy, the latter of which is all over the novel Dracula, in a quaint small distillery. We quickly discovered brandy can packs a wicked punch. Speaking Dracula, it should be no surprise that he is everywhere. It’s certainly touristy, but the place is beautiful so what are you going do?

Tomorrow we head back to Bucharest by Intercity Train and the next day fly to Ljubljana where our Slovenian adventure will begin.

Eastern European Trip 2007 – Amsterdam, Bucharest

I’m writing from our Suceava hostel about our trip so far. It started with a brief layover in Amsterdam and then we headed to Bucharest. Writing about Suceava will be in the next post.


Monday morning: Allison and I arrived in Amsterdam on at 7am. Checked out Leiden during a six hour layover since it is only a 1o minute train ride from Schiphol airport. We walked around canals, saw an historic windmill, and ate a spinach and cheese pancake, which is much like a pastry. Delicious. Old homes lining canal are beautifully quaint, many with a rustic boat tied to backyard dock. Hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional Dutch bikes are parked in a double-decker parking garage for bikes, of which roughly half are not locked.


Monday afternoon: We flew to Bucharest at 1pm. I could not stay awake on plane, though I managed to have brief conversation with person seated next to Allison who is Dutch and does a lot of business in Bucharest as a rep for a chicken slaughter machine manufacturer. This guy cycles a lot in Germany, though not on an old-style Dutch bike. He says many of those are community bikes, which he says explains why they’re not locked. Ride in on one, ride away on another.

Monday evening: We arrive in Bucharest at 5pm in a groggy state. We’re very leery of a taxi driver seeking our business at the baggage claim, especially when he grabs my luggage and heads to an elevator, away from other taxis. We reluctantly follow. Fortunately it turns out many taxis are on a lower level,  and he’s on the level. He swiftly threads the needle through Bucharest rush hour traffic, which is horrendous. I’ve never been in a car with a more reckless driver. He passed a cyclist at well over 100 km/h with no more than a honk and no more than a foot was between the poor biker and our taxi. Seat belts are non-existent, so it was with a sigh of relief that we arrived safely at Hotel Carpati at 6:30. He apologized that the meter ran up due to traffic. Good guy and a mad driver.

Our room in Bucharest is like a closet with two beds. It’s tiny and rickety, and the cool old elevator with a cage door used to get to our floor is also miniscule. The elevator lurches as it starts and hops when it stops. The view from room is good, and the weather hot, most likely in the upper 80’s.

We are very close to the center square where the 1989 revolution happened. We see building where Nicolae Ceaușescu gave his last speech before being helicoptered away from the roof and shot to death. We wander around this area and marvel at the camouflaged beauty in the architecture. It’s easy to see that the old buildings were once majestic, but now they are covered with a layer of black soot, bricks have fallen off, and facades are eroding. I feel like the city is a house with a messy owner who hasn’t the resources to put things back together again.

Tuesday: We’re awake at 5:30am and are outside by 6:15 to see the square before it’s awake with the city bustle. The aura is very quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, Allison forgot contacts so we find optometrist which opens at 10am. Who knew such modern conveniences could be taken care of so quickly on the other side of the world?

Meat breakfast

At 7am we enjoyed a large complimentary breakfast in our hotel of meat, meat, and more meat, including hot dogs with mustard. In the 1980’s meat was very difficult to find so they appear to be making up for lost time.




Stray dog in Romania

Before we leave the hotel the person behind the counter advises us to take a circuitous route to the square, opposite of how we went night before. I ask why, and she replied because of the dogs. I notice dogs in a parking lot the day before and was aware of their stray dog problem. She said they frequently bite, and our guide book says rabies is a real issue, so avoided that route for rest of our stay. I am highly aware of stray dogs and they tug at the heart strings. They look so sad. While I expected them in the urban cities, I am surprised they’re in Suceava, where I am now, a small town in northern Romania, as well. I saw one today with a grotesque goiter dangling from its chest and with no hair on its tail.

Inside Bucharest subway

We did a lot of walking today and learned how to use the Metro. We bought a 6am train ticket which got us to Suceava today. I ask if we can pay by Visa and get laughed at. Most prices here are in Lei, though they accept Euros, and often do not take credit cards. Unfortunately, we failed to understand how to use our metro tickets so had the pleasure of being escorted by a disgruntled guard through a security gate in order to ride the subway. Their metro was built in 1979, perhaps using United States money given to Romania for their resistance to USSR troops when we thought Ceaușescu was a pretty good fellow.

[as I type, thunderstorms are starting – very cool].

We visit the Village Museum with a multitude of old buildings from 14th century forward from all over the Romanian area. They are fascinating works that were relocated from their original locations for the museum.

Our next visit was the Peasant Museum with a huge inventory of artifacts from the common people. On display are textiles from Romanian peasants over the centuries, as well as windmills, a church, clothing, tiles from stoves, and many decorated eggs. It really is amazing stuff.

Uh oh – I’m now being asked to stop using the internet in our hostel because of the lighting. More later.

Eastern European Trip 2007 Preview

Five days, 11 hours, and 45 minutes from now we’ll be on the plane to Bucharest via Amsterdam. Almost all preparations are done – hotels, train from Ljubljana to Budapest, flights. Our biggest unknown was northern Romania in the Suceava region until we finally reserved a couple nights at the High Class Hostel. The town is supposed to be less than exciting, but just outside it are the wonderful painted monasteries.

More to come.