The things I learnt in 2020

Every year I look back – and wish I had done things differently. Better. More eco-friendly and conscious. Every year – I look back and realise I was a disappointment for someone, and that I could have acted in a totally superior way. Could have performed more consistently. So this year – I want to already look at the good things I will be doing in 2020. And brag about how well I did. Well… at least – this is what I would like to say at the end of 2020.

In 2020 I was a better husband and father

It was a year I did not think of myself, and how to be more relaxed, and how to chill at TV and get plenty of rest. No – this year was a year when I always helped my wife with the household duties, found the laundry basket and used it, made time to play with the boys and laugh with them and do sports with them. It was a year I hugged my family every day – and every day I told them how much I love them and how much they mean to me.

In 2020 I was a better listener

I am quite proud to say that this year was the year I spoke less (and evidently I said a lot less dumb things) – but rather I listened more. Not only that, but I paid attention to what the others had to say. I listened carefully, I listened good, I listened to the end. Made people feel good – as I was genuinely interested in what they said, and provided prompt and supportive feedback.

In 2020 I was a better professional

I admitted when I was wrong and I did not take credit for the things I did not achieve. I asked for help when I was not able to handle it – and always supported when my expertise was requested. I prioritised correctly, I answered mails on time, I was punctual and I did things when requested and I hit those KPI’s like there was no tomorrow!

In 2020 I ate healthier food

Not once have I skipped breakfast, not once have I touched any junk or over-processed food. I made good healthy choices, I ate a lot of veggies, fish and fruit – and kept away from sweets, shawarma and chips. (Did have a little bit of chocolate every now and then – but it was good quality, min 105% cocoa).

In 2020 I worked out more

Well basically that was an easy one because I have never, ever (at least not before this year) worked out in my life. (Unless carrying babies count as exercising – in which case I did it a lot). Oh but this was my year. I went out, I cycled, did a little bit of running, serious sweating, some Nordic walking… you know, basic stuff – but it made me feel great!

In 2020 I learnt a new skill

Since you are never too old to learn something new – this year I realised a great achievement and added somthingitivity to my already nice pool of assets. Was not easy, had to learn, suffer, put into practice – but in the end it was all worth it, look at me now!

In 2020 I was not grumpy

I did not let the little things get to me. If people frowned – I smiled. If they used bad words, I restrained from a replay. If they raised their voice – I did not respond the same way. I always pointed at the problem, never at the person. I was nice, assertive and polite. I was extremely happy and spread the love wherever I went and whenever I got the chance.

In 2020 I read a lot

It was really a good year in terms of lectures. I read a fairly good number of good books. Nooo – I am still not into personal development type, I continue to love classic and modern writers. This year I started giving into German writers. Really beautiful – I am happy about the time invested!

In 2020 I did not complain

I am quite satisfied about my self-control. I was able to restrain from complaining – especially form the situation I cannot change. I did not complain about the weather, about waiting in traffic, about holes in the asphalt about the level of today’s youth education… I managed to see the good side in thing, and find a way to praise everyone for their achievement, and forget the downsides.

And last

In 2020 I did not waste time

I used all my free time to the fullest; and enjoyed every moment I spent with my dear ones. I was productive at work and happy at home. I managed to set things straight, and was never in the position to refuse something because I did not have enough time. It was nice to see that I did not run into last-minute rush and mess up things because of it.

Indeed – looking back to 2020, it proved to be a really good year! Sounds like the year I want to have!

The 10 golden rules of office life

Have you ever tried in your life time to ever send a fax? (I hope you do know what a fax is, obviously). I don’t know about you, but back in the days when I would send out orders via fax, I feared that awful machine more than I feared traffic in late afternoon. It was a big, stubborn, horrifying creature – that had a mind of its own and never obeyed my commands! But all that changed the day a colleague made a small list of fool-proof, easy-to-follow steps, and glued it right at the top of the beast. (It was actually a great LEAN-ish kind of a job). And that day I had an epiphany – even a fax machine can be tamed if you know how to work with it!

I am person who believes in integrity at the job – but one can never go around life if the ground rules are not well-defined and dully explained. This is why I believe there is a shortage in manuals that teach us just how to behave in an office – so this post is here to fill that gap!

#1 If it’s in the fridge and it’s not yours – don’t touch it!

Did you ever had a nerve-wrecking experience such as having your food stolen right before your lunch break? You buy that low-fat yogurt the night before, you carry it home, you bring it to work, you gently place it in a small corner, you go on all through the morning thinking about it – and then, when the time has come… the thing has disappeared! Vanished! Gone! Dematerialized even! The first and most important rule to observe in the office – never, NEVER, mess with another colleague’s food. You can play with his feelings, you can scream and shout all you want, you can hurt or harm or do whatever you want – but there is a limit to everything, and that limit is food! I don’t care if you will forget all the other rules – but you must remember this one!

#2 If you borrow a stapler – you bring it back!

There are a number of items in this world that are just so small, so humble and insignificant – that we do not understand how important they are until they are forever lost. A stapler is such an item. Days (or years) can pass – and you would not even need it – until that moment, when you have to attach two papers together. You reach for the stapler (it’s always in that familiar place) but you feel nothing. You look all over the place. You open drawers you’ve never even knew you had. You clean up your desk. Nothing! And suddenly it hits you – I borrowed it to Sharon! And she never gave it back! So you have to go search for Sharon but she is in a meeting. Her colleague knows nothing of your stapler, and cannot give you hers as she just has to file a pile of documents. Before the day turns tragic – Sharon finally comes back, only to tell you she returned the stapler! But you know she didn’t – and though she swears you start rummaging her stuff – until there it is! Your precious stapler, held hostage (duct tape on his mouth, hands tied behind his back) on the back of a drawer. To avoid all of this – remember, always bring staplers back!

#3 If you buy a new pair of shoes, wear it!

Clothes and shoes are meant to be shown off! You have something new – you show it! The very next morning, make sure you come at work 10 minutes earlier than usual – and adopt a carefree pose, feet in the air, price tag barely visible, brand fully displayed – and just wait. They will notice – they have to! Practice the position, move your desk in front of the office if you have to, it doesn’t matter – all that matters is that everyone notice your new pair of shoes and that you begin your morning bragging about it. You can casually mention at coffee break, you can use it as an icebreaker in meetings and you can even bring it as an evidence for a salary increase you have any idea how much they cost!?!

#4 If the printer works don’t mess with it!

It might not come as a surprise for many, but the printer is the least faithful piece of office item that has ever been conceived since the very inception of printers. Just like a small child when lured to candy – the printer will be seduced by the first passer-by that uses the magical Ctrl+P command. You only have to print that one invoice – but that little cheating brat has already engaged in an affair with Tim from reception who just printed our 251 copies of the new visitors manual! So what do you do? Like a caring partner – you make sure it has enough paper, and you press that error button to make her feel better. So after 251 painful copies, whilst you wait for that one baby that is yours to come alive – what happens? REPLACE CARTRIGE!

#5 If it’s not your phone – let it ring!

It is most unprofessional and uncourteous to touch someone else’s calls! What you actually want to do – is choose a nice ringtone for your landline, the kind of nice sound one would hear when scratching the back of a pot with a sharp knife (if possible doubled by the lovely squeak of a cat on the verge of a nervous breakdown) – and then leave the room for at least 15 minutes. And though it is a world known fact that a phone will only ring during that window when you are away, you still have that novice of colleague that believes it is his duty to answer the phone, ask questions, leave a note and all that annoying business. Wrong, wrong, wrong! You have to let the phone ring, mind your own business, act like nothing is happening while Aerosmith are having a concert inside your head – and just casually mention I believe your phone rang when the guy enters the door! It’s as simple as that!

#6 If it requires 1 hour to do it – finish it by tomorrow!

There are sometimes in life moments when you meet a person such as Boss. Boss is a guy who cannot understand that matter and time are vast, infinite and undeniable, so you simply cannot ask certain tasks to be performed in a certain time! The pure and unequivocal art of reports cannot simply be commended I need it in one hour! You need time to perform a perfect report – just as you need time to make a work of art! Imagine someone has went to Leonardo da Vinci and requested the thing to be done in an hour! Absurd! Would we had ever had such an epic Titanic performance? I certainly don’t think so! (Worth to mention however that this rule only applies one way! If you need something done urgently – you snap and make that lazy bastard move! You are the artist indeed – he is merely an employee!)

#7 If it smells like coffee it’s time to take a break!

Do not be misled by that good for nothing colleague that never drinks coffee. He is an absolutely disastrous character, and you should never follow his example. There is only one excuse that should be enough whenever you need a break – coffee. Use it good, use it often, use it wisely! You can and you must obey the call of coffee, if there is anything holy in this world – it is everyone’s right (and obligation) for coffee! Plan your informal meetings around it (we know those are the ones that really count), plan your business strategy around it, make sur it’s included in your benefits and your pension plan – whatever you do, do not miss coffee and all the joys it brings!

#8 If she carries a clipboard, leave her alone!

Here we are entering here the field of psychology. You see – in the human interaction world there is one big thing that men understand about women (and this covers all aspects of life, not just office) and that is – we men don’t understand a thing about women! I mean yes, it’s clear, we are hunters and they are gatherers, thus we chase for food and they gather thoughts and memories and all sorts of opinions and concepts and beliefs. So when you ask a guy how are you doing he will naturally say I’m hungry and he will be off in the deep woods of the freezer to solve the situation. Situation simply changes when you ask a women the same question – as she will retort why? Is there something wrong? or it depends, what do you want to know? or  what do you want from me? or many other… So what should we, men do, lost as we are in the midst of this avalanche of questions we were definitely not prepared for? Duck, run, hide – there is no better strategy! But to come back to the clipboard – the only thing worse than asking a trick question, is asking the question to a lady with a clipboard. The clipboard is the very sign that you do not want to mess with her, and doing so much as breathing in her presence will immediately unleash the fury gods. So mark my words – a clipboard is a sign you have to avoid her, choose another way, take the stairs, turn into a plat… whatever it takes. Seriously!

#9 If your colleague did not leave an Out of Office message – it’s his business!

Never underestimate the power of patience. With enough patience you can learn how to knit. With enough patience you can actually wear the product knitted. With just enough patience you can learn how to fly (well, at least once in your lifetime)! You can do whatever you want and go wherever you wish, just have some patience! And this same is valid with your customers, suppliers, co-workers, partners, stakeholders, bartenders or any other form of ers – patience is the true key to one’s inner self! So do not bother to leave an OoO message if you are in vacation – that is the perfect time to practice patience! If you are gone for half a day or just two weeks, it does not matter – what you want to do is believe in the strength and endurance of patience. All mails that you receive will certainly wait – I mean c’mon, you do not work on the Enterprise to require warp answers!

#10 If it does not work blame it on the IT!

There are really a lot of mysteries in this great Universe: what is the origin of the word pizza?, who invented the Maya calendar?, who is Luke’s father?, was there ever a first Moon landing?, what is better – still or mineral water? who is better – Bruce Lee or Van Damme? who can run faster – Superman or Batman? which material is stronger – Kevlar or Chuck Norris? And many other strange, interesting mysteries, which most probably will never have an answer. But let’s face it, the biggest mystery in today modern life is is what exactly are IT guys doing all day? The day science will ever find an answer to that, it will also find the cure for sleep and an engineering solution for Man to land on the Sun. Until this happens though – as no one really knows what IT is doing – you have the perfect excuse for literally anything. That order not sent? IT fault! Did not hit target? It’s IT! Lost a deal? You know it – IT! Low on Sales? IT! Coffee machine not working? IT! Power out? IT! Bad weather? IT! Bad employee retention? IT! No life-work balance? It’s so IT! And finally – if Ctrl+Alt+Del doesn’t work after the fifth attempt – blame IT!

What other rules would you ad?

The Capital Fun of Reading

In an environment where the pleasure of reading has been replaced with many other, less meaningful options, I want to suggest today a number of books. Beautiful books, amazing books, unbelievably powerful books – but mind you! the non-motivational/non-business kind! I am talking about the books that made me float and fly and see beyond; books that can unwind imagination and make you wonder; books that are both enjoyable and significant, books that… well I have to stop before it turns into a Terminator commercial. Anyways – this is my 10 Titles list (not a Top 10!). I hope you enjoy it! (Aaand, don’t worry, there is no spoiler, you still need to read the books to understand what it’s about. Or go see the movie!)

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde. A beautiful book – about the dangers and hidden traps of the human mind – in sharp contrast with the external appearances. Wilde’s credo Art for Art’s Sake is detailed in the prologue of this book – and what better definition have you heard other than ‘the artist is the creator of beautiful things’? And to think this sentence comes from an Irish guy! The only wisdom pearl one would expect form Ireland is ‘Drink beer, it’s good for you!’ or… something like that! Why I recommend – it’s a book that everybody needs to read once in a lifetime. It is written in an apparently simple and unsophisticated manner; however it is filled with so many subtle symbols and parallels that one is simply stunned of the beauty and richness of the ideas presented. The alternating tone – from funny to gloom and from serious matters to totally trivial one provide an intense sensation of dreamland – and the moment you finish the book you can do nothing but stop and wish the reality would be a beautiful picture…

Voyage au bout de la nuit – Louis Ferdinand Celine. At the time this novel was written the French (and world) literature was swept away by the power of Proust, and nobody really believed a narrator of his force would appear any time soon. Still, this French guy that no one has previously heard about comes up with a piece of literature that has remained a masterpiece ever since. Written in a very ‘frenchy’ manner – the novel is stunningly beautiful; taking the reader on a journey that starts in a WWI despair and ends in an half optimistically apocalypse. Why I recommend it – it is a purely French novel, breathing French, smelling French, literally screaming out French – and it depicts such vivid images and emptions that it will make you completely forget about reality whilst you read it… It is absolutely phenomenal, you will love every page – and you will suffer when it ends. (And also it will curiously bring about the urge to eat some cheese, a baguette and a huge cup of coffee…)

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck. This is by far one of my favourite books in the world, and I could read it on and on – and every time I would discover something new and exciting. Oddly enough – it was written by an American – and it is not about McDonald Duck, Facebook, money and cowboys, but about human feelings, friendship, sacrifice and honour. It is a moving story of two friends wondering around farms in America and doing odd day-jobs; it is about standing up for your beliefs and doing the hard, right thing – and about deep, unhealed scars that mark your destiny forever. And about McDonald Duck! Why I recommend it – because it defies the classical endings of American novel – and it does not have a happy ending! It is brutal, it is honest, it shows a deep knowledge of the human soul, it is a book that depicts such an ever unconventional perspective over life that you cannot do anything but fall for this story and enjoy it to the very last page.

Shame – Salman Rushdie. If you have heard about Rushdie and the ‘fatwa’ – you should know that this Indian guy is sentenced to death because he upset some religious minds – and if you read Shame you will also understand why. Rushdie is perhaps the most modern and innovative writer in the English-speaking world, his style is absolutely unique, outrageously amazing and definitely mind-blowing. Shame is a book about the Indian spirit and the Indian mind and about the Indian life but nothing about Indian food unfortunately! Shame is the book that depicts a history of a family – but the story actually looks at the rise and fall of a post-colonial India, torn between civil war, international prejudices and national pride. But it does not mention curry anywhere – and this is a big minus! Why I recommend it – simply because it’s a greatly enjoyable book! It is perfect for an evening of relaxation; and it will take you in a world that is magical, strange, incredible and unusually exotic. Rushdie is a master of words and images, he can easily convey in a few pages a whole history of a civilisation – and you will take part on a journey you had never experienced!

Cien anos de soledad – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The term ‘magic realism’ was coined shortly after this book has been written – and once you read it you perfectly understand why. From the very first pages you succumb yourself in a fantastic game, on a whole new world, in a whole new dimension and in a completely reversed reality. You have to be prepared and accept that uncommon thinks can happen to remarkably ordinarily people; you need to completely change your way of seeing and hearing and smelling, you need to open your heart and embrace the surreal reality of common, friendly shapes that live among us and farm together with us… Every page is a delight, every chapter is a journey, every new character is a facet of your own thoughts and desires… A powerful carousel, full of mystery, introducing you in a world of fantasy – that’s what this book is all about. Why I recommend it – because we need to dream, and forget about jobs and careers. Because we need to remember the powerful tool of kindness. Because at the end of the day our most precious gift is our loved ones. And because it’s a very beautiful book…

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller. Yet another American on the list… I can’t help it. If there were an Oscar awards for books – this book would not be awarded! It is a book that goes against everything that is American. We have the hero (Yossarian) of Assyrian heritage, his plans are to flee the army and get away with it, he is always breaking the Army rules – and is the perfect architype of a son of immigrants that enjoys the American benefits – but hates the American way. The whole book is a manifesto against the war, dealing with the neuroses and psychological wounds of the enlisted men. Each character is crazy in his own way, and every new character that enters the book is just another dimension of the same absurd despair that the WWII has brought about. One special character is Milo – an absurdly popular officer who ends up making business with the enemy whilst strongly believing in the justice of the American Army actions. Why I recommend it – because it breaths with a strangely familiar sound, and it raises a tons of questions about justice and war and religion and sanity and ethics. And because it has to do with McDonald Duck!

The Master and Margarita – Michail Bulgakow. This one I will not use the original name – as I can’t even read Russian, but I read a translation of the book – and got completely blown away! You can read this book in many ways – as an allegory, as a satire, as a depiction of the incipient Russian communist society, as a religious manifesto… and all these interpretation would be right. Bulgakow is simply amazing – both in his approach as well as in the fine details of his astonishingly intricate plot. He is able to use simple, mundane events – and transform them in historical matters, dancing between different times and separate yet intertwined spaces – he can introduce you to talking cats and flying monsters and beautiful maidens and Pontius Pilatus… The whole book is perfectly made, and if you are a fan of the Dostoyevsky spirit you won’t find it here, however you will find that this book is really living up to the great heritage the Russian literature has given to the world. Why I recommend it – because it provides an unusually poetical insight to the early years of the Soviet Union, using a sharply ironic tone, but keeping that very Russian feeling, that somehow makes you all soft and mushy and warm inside… (It’s either that – or the effect of a shot of vodka, not sure…)

Morometii – Marin Preda. Interestingly enough – a Romanian writer! You wouldn’t have thought of that, now would you? I am not even sure if there was ever a translation of this book, however I cannot miss mentioning it. It is probably the most modern Romanian book – dealing with the universal themes of Time, Love and Destiny – all form the perspective of a simple, uneducated family, living somewhere in the south, in a very rural region of Romania. The challenges of living a life bearing the constant threat of Dracula, in a country that had yet to offer Ceausescu to the world; the constant fights for the family fortune (an old country house, some farming land and some sheep) the forbidden love between the daughter of a rich peasant and a poor peasant; a monumental discussion during a game of horse-shoe trying – everything happens in a steady, calm, surreal pace – until the very last pages of the book when disaster hits. The ending of the book is monumentally beautiful – it says ‘Time was running out of patience’… how awesome is that? Why I recommend it – well, let’s just face it – because I am Romanian myself. And because it’s a great book, that would teach you a lot, and contrary to the popular belief – it is a Romanian book that does not mention Dracula.

Der Process – Franz Kafka. If you have not read yet this book, you really ought to. If you are not familiarised with the term kafkian – then you never had anything to do with any state authority. If the name Josef K. doesn’t tell you anything – then waste no more time, and start reading. This novel is probably the most accurate depiction of the absurdity of the judicial system in particular – and a deep satire of the bureaucracy in general. It’s a brilliant book, very dark on some instances, grotesquely humours on other episodes – and overall a masterpiece of the absurd genre. Why I recommend it – because it is one of those books that will not let you go until you finished it – and when you do finish it you ask yourself… what happened? (As a fact – Kafka never really did finished the book, though he did find the time to write an ending…) So yes – enjoy it!

Tristram Shandy – Lawrence Sterne. This is actually the second book I am incorporating that does not belong to the 20th century literature as it was written as early as the first half of the 18th century. However, this does not mean it is not an extraordinary modern book – both in style and in the depth of the prose. And it is yet another British author – they seemed to be quite ahead of their time. Whilst reading this novel you need to be prepared to leave all that you know about the (auto)biography genre aside – and embark on a journey of non-answered questions, a surrealistic theatre of ideas in a very Rabelais manner, yet so utterly britishy humours to the very essence (or at least the way us, the rest of the European perceive it) – that it will make you burst out laughing of tragic events such as an unfortunate childbirth or an accidental circumcision. Why I recommend it – because it is a modern novel, way ahead of its time. If there is any father of the modern British novel – Sterne is for sure the father of that father, and better in any aspects!

Which one is your favourite? Which one would you add to this list?

Of Meetings and Meeting People You Have Never Met

There are some common work situation when you just have so many things to do, so many tasks to perform, so many delayed problems, so many issues to solve and so many people to please and advice – that the only reasonable way to take care of them all in one is by setting a meeting.
As it often happens, the absolute necessity of a meeting is increasingly higher if the topic is insignificant, pointless or if there is no topic to begin with. Have you ever been there? Well, to avoid having the wrong kind of meeting behavior – I drew up a series of easy to follow points to guide you. Just follow these steps and you will be a meeting superstar in no time!

Make sure you never present an agenda prior to the meeting. It is your  show,  you know perfectly what you’re going to present – and you don’t want anyone else to steal your ideas! Just send out an invitation – that’ll do it!

A serious meeting will never take place in the morning.  People need to feel involved – so try to schedule meetings during lunchtime or late in the afternoon.  It might seem strange – but for sure they will have time to sit for your meeting, after all who would choose going home after regular business hours?

Also, if you need to have a conference call with someone on a completely different time zone – don’t be afraid to challenge them! Waking up at 5 am for a confcall is always a fun way to start the day.

A meeting with anything less than 15 invitees is but a gathering. Any serious meeting needs at least 2-3 people from every existing department – it does not matter whether they should be involved or not – what it does matter is participation, just like in sports! Besides,  the more peopeople – the more ideas,  so don’t worry, invite as many people as you can, a meeting is always useful!

Keep it concise and skip introduction. Jump straight into the issue and expect resolutions – after all you did bring only subject matter experts so they should know exactly what is wrong and how to solve it.
Do not book a meeting room! It is the rookie’s mistake to do it! Meeting rooms should always be available – they are not hotel rooms or flights! Just go inside,  and if anyone happens to be in there – look them in the eyes and say I’m sorry but this has been scheduled since weeks already. I am sure you will find somewhere else.

Remember that Time is important – so limit yourself to max 3 hours. Anything more than that – and you would wear yourself out. 3 hours is however a nice timeframe – and you will most likely be able to cover all the topics. In the event you were not able to finish in time – just cut the question and answer time. Anyways you’ve done a perfect job, I’m sure noone will have anything to ask.

Do not go over your duty and never check if technically you are covered! It is IT and maintance job to make sure phones, cameras, beamers and live meeting channels work. The only thing you have to do is meet with the team!

Make sure you are not present on time. A meeting that starts at the exact timing it was planned shows you are not important within the organisation! You want to be fashionably late – and don’t bother explaining, they know you are busy and they all understand.

A meeting room is no church – you can still answer your phone if someone calls you. Just say I have to take this, it’ll just be 2 minutes and walk out. But make sure if the call is not important to let the phone ring (hip-hop tunes are particularly enjoyable) and you can maybe explain to the others ah this guy calls me usually 2-3 times a day, he just has to deal with it alone this time… I am in a meeting!
Do not let yourself fooled by the decision trap! Conclusions, solutions and decisions are for analysts – you have follow-up meetings! Never, under no circumstance close a meeting with clear take-away points! It shows you are not being dedicated to the meeting  – so make sure you will have minimum 8-10 following meeting,  to further disect the topic.

Q&A rounds are only for the amateurs. Don’t waste your precious time with that. Just close with I am sure everyone understood and there’s no need to ask anything. However,  if a dilettante does have a question – point out his mistake if you had only paid attention to the presentation you would have already found your answer.

Finally, as a closing,  point out to everyone how disappointed and dissatisfied you are with their participation – and explain meeting are also working time so you expect all other pending tasks are suppose to be duly performed, no exception!

10 Reasons why I love Romania

In my previous post I spoke about what it means to be Romanian – and what are the essential traits one must achieve to feel Romanian. Well today I  will give you just a few grounds (if  needed) on why I do love Romania.
I love the Romanian language and the truly colourful way you can express absolutely everything with just one word – and one perfect example is “noa”. It is the type of thing  that would get you out of everything at any given moment. It encompasses joy, sadness, madness, love, hatred, fear, disgust, surprise, hunger, anger, trust… Actually – there are certain places in Romania where you can get along with just this one word. You don’t need to say anything else the whole day, just master the right accent and answer with ‘noa’ in different situations – you will pass as a very agreeable, smart, educated and funny guy!

I love how you cannot leave a Romanian household feeling hungry! It’s basically impossible – it is part of our culture of hospitality. When we have someone in our house – we must feed him – sometimes even against their will! You cannot and will not leave a Romanian home and not having tried at least a dozen different light appetizers (usually bathed in pork fat and mayo) and some 5 to 6-course meal (normally it only consists of soups, stakes of different sizes but mainly pork, potatoes in different forms and shapes, sausages, pickles and probably some cabbage rolls packed with more meat and rice). And if after this you still did not have enough – well I hope you left some spare for the cakes. We do love cakes – and in the majority of the cases they are made in-house, are devilishly delicious and would add about half a pound to your waist. EVERY bite!

I love the Romanian brutal yet melancholic landscape. Should you choose to visit Romania’s beautiful mountains or quite hills – you will be struck of the purely wild, romantically untouched and simply astonishingly beautiful landscape. (You will also most probably break your car in half to get to those places, but this is a totally different story). I did not meet anyone who visited our country and did not literally fell in love with the quaint little villages, lost amidst unaltered, untamed, breath-taking mountains and idyllic valleys. You just cannot stay away from the insanely barbarian scenes – they would haunt you with their beauty, and one you had been there – you will want to come back times and again. (You will never come back though, because we have no motorways and traffic is crazy – but you wish you returned).


 I love the Romanian humour and self-irony. We like to laugh a lot – we laugh irrespective if it’s a funny situation or a highly unappropriated moment. We learnt it’s better like that, and though laughter itself does not solve issues, it does ease the way. And we do have a lot to laugh at – I guess if we didn’t we’d probably start a war or a revolution. So we make up this imaginary universe – where everything is really perfect and shiny. In this very own make-believe country of ours we have mountains made of gold and chocolate; the land is filled with oil, gas and freshly roasted sunflower seeds; the lakes are made out of a special mix of palinka, holy water from the Fountain of Youth and just a touch of Carpathians sheep milk (special kind of milk really) – and oh, to say nothing of our houses that are made from the most precious stones, adjourned with stunning patches of sunrays and all our houses are connected amongst themselves by trains that are never late and are pulled by dragons! Oh – what a laugh!

I love the Romanian markets in the morning! I love the fuss and the noise and the barganing, I love seeing people talking to other people about prices and how fresh are the goods and where the tomatoes come from (are they from the garden? Greenhouse? Imports?). I love how you can taste fruit and veggies amd cheese, I love how you can virtually try out clothes in the street (seller going round you going ‘yes – fits you peperfectly’ – while you can barely breathe, and want to get out of there); I just love the smell coming from the food street places – everything done on a grill… I just love markets, and if I could I would never trade them for any shopping mall…

I love the Romanian literature – even if it did not made international recognition.Our literature is truly remarkable, and though many Romanian writers have missed the adventurous, romantic and/or visionary life of the great world writers – they have instead tasted the intense pure Romanian spirit – which basically means that their art is completely impossible to be translated. Unfortunately – though the Romanian language is so heavily packed of different meanings, subtitle word plays and formidably sharp humour – translating means betraying the meaning to such extent that there are actually little international attempts to make our classics known to the world. And besides – even if Romanian writers were worthy of a Nobel – where would you find a Romanian that speaks Swedish? As long as there will be no telenovelas in the Swedish language – the Romanian literature is doomed to unfair omission!

I love classic Romanian rock bands! Iris, Pasarea Colibri, Phoenix (yeah!), Compact – or the newer guys like Vama Veche, Vita de Vie and (of course) Zdob si Zdub… Oh – and I love Ducu Bertzi, and Tudor Gheorghe and Nicu Alifantis and Ada Milea and… Yes – I am aware these names do not ring a bell for anyone who is not Romanian – but if you would youtube it – oh my you are in for a surprise!


I love the Romanian traditional way of approaching medicine. In the truly Romanian optic – tea is good only when you have a cold, honey cures everything, palinka cures everything that honey cannot, doctors are only good as prospective husbands and injection shots should not be used on human beings! You can find in every village an old gramma that knows 200 different herbs that are good to fix just about all illnesses known to man – from flu to broken bones, bad liver, diarrhoea, tooth aches, impotence and (more important of them all) can cure a broken heart!

I love the long Romanian autumn days, when everything and everyone is turning from hot to calm, from burning to floating from rush to serene. Autumn is always a time of joy and celebration, with little rain, school starting, insects fighting their last chance to sting and pinch, traffic jams, smell of freshly baked zakusca coming out of every decent household… it is a time of preparing for the winter with huge amounts of pickles and especially a time of preparing the king of all that is sour and savoury in the Romanian cuisine, the very delicacy that has kept us going as a nation – the mighty barrel of cabbage!


And last, but definitely not least


I love the Romanian winter traditions – I think there is nothing that brings us together more than carolling during winter time. I love the merry groups of carol singers going from house to house, I love listening to the beautiful choirs, I love seeing the busy housewives jumping from one person to another, carrying big trays of home-made cake, I love the long, cold nights and the short busy days, I love the nice feeling of belonging, I love how everyone strives to be kind and polite, I love the pounds a gain after every Christmas dinner, I love the bright light in the eyes of the other fellow Romanians and I love the supreme Romanian winter tradition – the slaughter of the pig!


 Which is s your favourite?


 

A Competent Guide on How to be a Proud Romanian!

Lately I had a lot of questions from friends and acquaintances asking me ‘Hey, Bogdan – what it really means to be a Romanian? What do you need to do to be a Romanian?’ and other questions as such; so I decided to answer in today’s post. A post about Romania, and the pride of being Romanian.

Attention – if you are easily offended and can’t take a joke – please do yourself a favour – do not to go on and read this.

However – if you decided to go and read – good for you! Here goes:

Romanians and History

First and foremost you have to understand that we, Romanians, are very proud of our Latin heritage – but we are mostly proud of our traco-dacian heritage. You probably never heard of the dacians – but know that we are quite fond of those guys and especially one of their king, namely Decebal – who was a tough guy and won a few battles against the Romans. At the end he lost the war – and had to commit suicide, but he is sort of a national hero – even now, after more than 1900 years since it happened. We also worship a good number of kings that won a number of battles mainly against the Turks and a bunch of other people. They are all kings with strange funny names – like Steven the Big (short guy really), Michael the Brave (had a beard and looked awesome), Mircea the Old (can’t translate his name – but he won a battle against Hungarians – so we pretty much look up to him), Alexander the Good (not much to say about him – he was just father of tiny Steven the Big) – and obviously Vlad the Impaler (but I will dedicate for this a whole passage). We also had a few German kings ruling over Romania – not interesting names, however they seems to have performed so well – that in our recent history we decided to elect a German President.

We also have a number of smaller heroes – who are mainly known for conduction rebellions against Hungarians. Ah – you don’t know that, but the region Transylvania was under Hungarian rule for about 400 years. (If we would just had waited a few more years Transilvania would have been in the EU for more than 15 years already – and wouldn’t have requested a visa for US and Canada). But… back to the rebellious heroes: they are George Doja (it’s almost like the Japanese Dojo) who ended up fried, then there is Dance, Hen and Crisan – nice fellows, killed a bunch of Hungarians then also got fried – and the last worth mentioning is Abraham Iancu – who is like the Abraham Lincoln for the Romanians, because he tried to free Transylvania form the Hungarians. This guy died of old age, and not shot as you might have expected. So basically – you can easily guess that we are proud of our historical heritage.

Romanians and Culture

You must know that we, Romanians, are a highly cultured people. We have many names that had made interplanetary recognition – great names such as John Branch, Camel Rockescu and the very prince of romantic poetry – Michael ‘Morning Star’ Eminescu (sounds like a professional wrestler name – but he actually was a poet). Most of the Romanian culture is built upon a series of classics that actually helped shape the modern Romanian language. By tradition – all Romanian kids boastly learn thousands of thick ‘literary comments’ in school which tell you what the poet actually meant – and it’s a good thing too, because as a boy when I read a poetry about swans floating on a river I was just too dumb to understand that the poet actually was talking about the implacable passing of time.

But don’t think we only do boring poetry! No – we can also do a good drama, and the reason you still haven’t heard about John Luke as Ragiale is because this evangelist of the Romanian comedy only appears on the Romanian RON. Had he been the face of the EUR banknote, it would’ve been different – and you would have just ask ‘Shakespeare who?’.

Wait – there is more! We are also famous in the world of culture – if not for anything, at least for the fact that Constantin Brancusi is probably the most expensive modern art sculptor in the world. We don’t really understand much of his work – it’s pretty strange actually, all sort of kissing doors and infinity stuff, and some birds and a lady… I am no expert – but if everyone says the things are brilliant they must be! And all these guys make us really proud!

Romanians and Geography

It might strike you as unusual – but our country is in fact a lot larger,  longer and bigger than it actually looks on map. Nobody really knows the size of it, because we believe that Romania lives in our heart – and that is really a huge place if you think about it. Thus – we can flee the country light-hearted as long as we take a small bag of holy dirt which will constantly remind us of the place we come from. And in terms of getting along with other people – well, this is quite delicate. You know how every nation has some sort of natural enemy that just cannot get along with? Well in our case – we hate everybody! We hate Hungarians because they are our neighbours, we hate Americans because they deserted us back in 1945, we hate Russians because their communism let us down, we hate the French because they can’t accept we are their brothers, we hate the Italians because they claim they invented pizza when in fact it’s just toast bread with ‘zacusca’ and ‘telemea’ all over it, we hate the British because they just can’t speak the proper English we learnt from Justin Bieber, we hate the Chinese because their 777 batteries wear off so fast, we hate the Portuguese because they sponsored Columbus who discovered the hatred America, we hate the Germans because they pretend their lousy cars are a match to our fearless Duster…and I can go on and on. Oh, and we hate other Romanians because they are not from our own region! Should you speak with three Romanians from three different regions – they will all tell you the other two are just nitwits – and are not even real true-blue Romanians in the first place.

But still – all in all we are really proud of Romania – whilst hating the population!

Romanians and Inventions

This is a very delicate matter for us, because there are a few vital Romanian inventions that are lost in the track of time – unjustly so, because it was actually a Romanian that invented the wheel, the chair, the bottom of the bottle, the barbecue and  (most importantly) the peeling of the potato. Can you imagine a world where you would just have to eat unpeeled fries (fish and chips if you are from England)? You cannot drive anywhere since your car has no wheels? You couldn’t drink anything because your bottle had no bottom – and you would just spill your water all over you? You would have to stand in front of the computer – because you would have no chair… Horrible, right? Well not anymore – thanks to us, the Romanians! But the unjust arm of history decided not to credit us for all those inventions – and I think it is the Illuminati who did that to us. Or someone else – belonging to some big masonic gang, unwilling to admit the greatness of the Romanian people. (Most probably Hungarians. Or Americans).

Either way – and we also had a number of less important inventions, such as the pen (well thank you Romania! – says no schoolkid from all over the word), the air-jet engine, the first monoplane (almost a plane), the eject seat (yes, in Romania we dream about flying a lot), cybernetics, biospeology  – but you can google all of that. Unfortunately we did not have any contribution to bite-coins or such, but it is a well-known fact that when Alexander Bell invented the phone – in Romania the wifi technology already existed as there were absolutely no electrical wires in Romania at that time! So you can really guess how proud we are of that!

Romanians and Sports

We are a sporty bunch – and we do have a national sport which is called ‘oina’ (very similar to baseball or cricket, only with a lot less fans). But we really made an impact in other sports, that nobody would have thought we would be capable of.

Nadia Comaneci, to start with, was the first athlete in the world to receive a full 10 at Gymnastics Olympics – back in 1976 – and we live on that performance ever since. We don’t mind 45+ years of communism – we have Nadia. Our health system is a mess, we have no doctors and no medicine – but it’s ok, we have Nadia! Most of the members of the Romanian ruling party are either behind bars or under trial – but we keep voting for them, because we have Nadia. Romanian schools are a joke, no sanitary systems, crowded classrooms and about as much illiteracy as in a 3rd world country – but we have Nadia. Our road system is a big fail, one could hardly see the asphalt from the holes – but it’s fine – we have Nadia! We have absolutely no local industry left, we do mostly imports and our currency can as well be expressed in corn bags – but boy do we have Nadia!

And if you think Nadia is the only one we have – you are so wrong! We still have the Hagi (used to play football and made Romania spectator famous for not rampaging the streets); Ilie Nastase (tennis player – mostly known for his foul language), Ivan Patzaichin (comes from the Danube Delta – so he basically only knows how to swim and sail), Gheorghe Muresan (played in the NBA but most importantly starred in a Hollywood movie) and recently we have the wonder of feminine tennis – Simona Halep (first Romanian athlete to be no 1 in the WTA ranking). Startling guys really, making us feel proud to be Romanians!

Romanians and Politics

 

We have a saying  – everyone in Romania knows football and politics. Well let me just tell you – it’s not completely wrong, except the football part, where we pretty much suck. But politics – oh dear, I can’t even begin to explain just how much we love it and how good we are at it. In fact we are so good at it, that we allow literally everyone to be a member of the Romanian Parliament. We do not care about the person’s past – was he a criminal? a crook? was he ever involved in illegal activities? did he serve time in jail? did he ever stole money form a public institution? – you see all of this does not matter to us, that’s just how democratic we are! We have a firm belief in a person’s potential – so we choose carefully when we vote a candidate and unless the guy served a minimum 3 years in a correctional institute – we do not find him worthy of being a senator and represent us! We take democracy really serious – and firmly believe in the German model (remember the German kings and our current president) but a kind of German model adapted to our needs – so we would like to become rich and have all sort of nice laws, and in order to do that we require a bunch of politicians who know a lot about laws. And what better way to know about laws unless you were convicted yourself? See where I am going? See just how smart we are? So yesss – we are proud of our politicians!

 

Romanians and Dracula

 

Kept the best for the last! I think everyone in his lifetime heard at least once the story of Dracula. The legend of Vlad the Impaler – who turned himself in a blood-thirsty vampire and co-starred in big movies together with Keanu and Peach. This horrid creature lives hidden in the steep mountains of Transylvania, eats little children, lives in a castle that has no Internet conexion, is afraid of garlic and all other vegan food and ca be tackled with a cross, a pack of chewing gum and a chopstick. Well in all honesty – if you want to make a Romanian really mad – just ask him if Dracula was real, or if he ever visited the castle. You might not learn much about Dracula – but for sure you will learn a valuable number of Romanian cuss words – amongst which ‘idiot’ would be the nicest thing you would hear – but mostly you would get some really not-so-true-yet-quite-inappropriate things about your mother. So my advice – do not use the D word.


Spoiler: Vlad the Impaler really did exist. Was sort of a hero – he killed a bunch of Turks in a very unorthodox manner: shoved a huge pole up their behind. It gave him a pretty good name around Romanians, and to this day we are mad with the UN for banning this nice way of dealing with foreign officials we do not want in our country. And of course – we are really proud of Vlad. The Impaler, not the Dracula!

I hope you made yourself a pretty accurate idea of what being a Romanian really means – and if you ever like to try it, you are most welcome, but let me tell – a Romanian is not made, he is born!

Back to basics – Material Planning

When it comes to ordering the materials in an industrial environment – I had always looked at it from a very pragmatic and matter-of-fact standpoint. One must think of it in terms of taking care of its own household – ensure that you have enough supplies to get you through the week and through a busy day, keep the kids happy and be prepared in case the butcher shuts off his business; but don’t overdo it – you don’t want to throw away all the content of your fridge.

Still, easier said than done. Let us take a look at the most common material planner types:

The Squirrel. This guy is always afraid winter will come unexpectedly – so he stuffs his burrow with everything he finds out there in the woods. Need a safety stock for two weeks? The squirrel will have it for six months! Do you need say 1000 parts/week from any given material? The squirrel will bring in 1500/week – EVERY week. You know, just in case winter comes. R&D will need a new component (strictly 1 piece) in two weeks’ time, to test a new product? This guy has it since last year on stock – when he first heard about the project. And he usually has 10 pieces available, all dusty and rusty and pretty much useless – but with a good rinse-off, they should be good as new! (Not his fault there was a drawing change in the meanwhile).The warehouse is always too small for him, forklift drivers always sigh when they have to physically count the parts he manages and a typical squirrel has at least one heart attack per every delayed truck – although production still hasn’t consumed the materials he ordered last quarter.

The Bee. Beware of this lady! She works hard to provide materials to her hive – and she will resort to absolutely nothing to prevent you to spill her precious honey! You are only allowed to consume what the BOM says, she simply cannot and will not tolerate scrap, for her waste does not exist, repairs should never happen and if production used more than needed – it will only be after she used her last sting that she will let you touch her safety stocks!

The Bear. This guy has usually no idea where and how he can balance supply – as he is an absolute omnivorous. He never seems to get it right – he is either puffy and has everything he needs (and more) – or he wakes up after a long sleep, having absolutely nothing on stock – and running desperate to find something (anything) he can eat. For him everything is useful, there is no order too big to bring it  home, no fish too small to be neglected. Still, do not undermine him – when you would think he’s at a loss – he will release a battle cry that would make even the bravest supplier give in and send out materials.

The Lion. This guy is the absolute king. The suppliers need to surrender, bow down, fear and offer absolute and irrevocable submission. The lion accepts no excuses, he is never wrong (and even if he does make a mistake, it is clearly not his fault); his directions should always be followed, his words are worth carving in stone – he has absolute rights over his supplier/subjects – and if anyone dares undermine his power he will blow them to pieces with his mighty call!

And last (but not least) The butterfly. This innocent little thing is the most cheerful and easy going creature out there. Bright, smiling, always happy, innocent and colourful – the butterfly is always dancing around, flying from one flower to another, finding here and there new supplies, making friends with everyone, trying not to upset anyone… oh, what a beautiful sight, what a quaint little creature, what a quiet presence. Most of the times the butterfly doesn’t know where the materials come or when it has to arrive, has no idea about transit times, locations and volume, knows not what is actually in charge of and has little idea of how to conduct business… still seems to know little detail about the personal life of the suppliers – and is befriended on F/b by all of them!

Stereotype aside – there are a number of clear responsibilities that fall under the competence of the material planners – and the way they conduct their accounts have a significant impact both on the overall inventory performance and on the productivity as well – as missing component or over inventory are both unsound for operations.

Although one might believe the material planner job is fairly easy (and I have heard it a million times – what’s so difficult? You just send orders to suppliers and they need to send out material), the fact is that the mission is delicate and must be carried in a profoundly responsible and professional manner to be successful. Here are the most important points that the material planner needs to manage:

Analyse production demand. The focal point of the material planner – and sadly one of the most neglected – is the analysis of the production demand in terms of request versus stock. Purely mathematic you would look at the number of materials and the specific qty/item that is requested to carry out a production plan. Whatever is missing – you must bring in. Easy enough, isn’t it? Still – there are a series of significant steps a planner needs to make to be sure of the efficiency of the analysis:

  • First and foremost – the analysis is never ever performed for the current production. If the day before (or even worse – the same day) a certain item is planned to be manufactured one would check the material requirement, then the planning is already doomed to fail. Trial in error does not exist at this stage – and though issues will always arise (such as inventory discrepancies or defect material or a Mighty Power that has chewed away all the warehouse) a good material planner will always plan his materials at least a few days ahead (or a week or a month – depending obviously on lead time).
  • Determine the ghosts in your inventory – the materials that always seem to be there and are never actually but an ectoplasmic presence. May it be a small and insecure screw or a very big and expensive PCB – there is always (at least) one nasty item, that has the bad habit of taking a day out and completely missing. A good material planner knows this happens – and will call the Warehouse asking to count that ghost.
  • Make sure you communicate with the production planner. Maybe he has some secret plans to pop out just to make your life miserable, or simply he still needs some fine adjustments to do, or some client needs something on the very last minute, or… In theory there should be made a clear difference between the day production planners launch their work and the day material planners launch orders, but often that does not happen. So if you really want to be sure you ordered all the materials – do yourself a favour, ask a simple question.

Purchase order issue. Or firm request. Or whatever your organisation calls it – this is the point where your job is becoming mathematical. You had analysed your demand – and you are sure of what you need to order and you send it out to your suppliers. As funny as it may seem, I had seen so many errors at this stage – that I cannot get tired of mentioning – do not lose your credibility in front of your suppliers by making stupid mistakes. What kind of mistakes? Well of all kind – wrong requested date, wrong quantity, wrong e-mail address of the recipient, wrong currency, wrong material requested… you see all of this is just… wrong. Do yourself a favour, do the organisation a favour and check the order before sending it out. If it’s a .pdf file, or an e-mail, or an EDI transmitted message – it is important that you sent out the correct data.

Forecast is essential. Just as important it is for your organisation – it is important for your supplier. They need to plan in advance, they need visibility, they have a production to run, a supply chain to manage – and it all comes from you – their client. So be very meticulous when you are preparing and sending out forecast – because wrong forecast (or big fluctuations) have just as much influence on your suppliers as they have on your organisation. If there are noticeable deviations from the usual numbers – spend some time and investigate. Your clients might have made a mistake, or it’s your MRP that simply decided to be smart. In either case – do not just throw out numbers. Take your time, and make sure you provide the accurate set of information. It will make the difference between a headache and a smooth process.

Smooth Transport* is key. In material planning – you can never be too accurate in terms of transportation. Save yourself the problems – and always get the right information from your suppliers – size, volume, weight, opening times, loading specific info (from the back, lateral, crane etc.) – save everything and whenever you have a new transport order you already have the details. Book trucks timely, make sure you have contacts of the dispatcher, make sure you allow enough transit time (avoid tight transit times – special transport are one thing, but never assume you can use two drivers on a lorry and it will have a high impact).

Supplier Management – I left it as to the end, but it is actually essential. Question is: what on earth does managing suppliers really mean? In many cases it can convey complex definitions, but sometimes it just implies listening to a complaint or grief. It can mean that you have to hear a list of nonsense yawning. It can mean you need to comfort and calm your suppliers. But it mainly means the following:

·         Act as a representative between your company and the supplier. Either way you want to put it – Purchasing has really little to do on day-to-day basis with the suppliers. It is actually the material planner in charge. You are the actual spokesman of the company – and every time your supplier will think of the company will think of you and say ‘Oh, bee-zee wee-zee company? I know – it’s where Best Material Planner works! Great guy! Nice company!’

·         Provider of data. Yes – that it is. Your supplier is the one that provides the material, but you are definitely the one who provides the data. There is an ever circular and dependent function. You give the right order – you get the right material. Simple as that

·         Be their production manager. Well, not literally, but almost. You are in charge with the supplier performance, you want to get the right quantity at the right time – well then better get involved. I am not telling you that you have to be involved in every little step of the supplier production, but the more you know about their processes, the better.

·         Stick to the carrot and stick rule, but remember – you will get a lot more using the carrot. Carrots are nice, carrots are healthy, carrots are desirable. You want to avoid the stick – but do use it when it’s necessary. Calling an issue anything less than an issue will not help anyone.

Is there anything left out? Well of course it is – many other things. But these are the most important, would you not agree?

*I will obviously dedicate a whole article to transport managemnt.