This video describes and shows the work that we did in order to lay roof tiles and finish up some other work on a reconstructed wooden scaffold that will serve as the stairwell to the clock tower of the Saxon fortified church in the village of Magarei (Pelișor) in Southern Transilvania, Romania. This was the continuation of a woodworking project that took place this summer. That project/workshop was co-organized by Stiftung Kirchenburgen, the Saxon foundation with whom we’ve partnered for the conservation and restoration efforts there, and it was sponsored in part by the Prince of Wales Foundation and the Order of Romanian Architects.

This part of the work was done by ourselves, Asociatia P.A.T.R.U., our NGO that we set up for the specific purpose of conserving and restoring the parochial house and fortified church in that Saxon village. I invite you to visit our NGO’s website and find out more about the work we’re doing.

Merry Christmas!

Places

Laying the roof on the stair scaffold of the Magarei Kirchenburg

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As I think about the sounds and the noises we make as households, and what might or might not bother others, I can’t help thinking about loudspeakers. They’re responsible for the largest percentage of calls to police about noise violations. When we call to complain about so-and-so playing their music too loud, or having a loud party, what we’re really complaining about are the devices that enable them to produce those loud sounds, that terrible noise, the din that keeps us awake at night or drives us bonkers during the day, as we try to do our work or to relax.

I can’t help wondering what person in their right mind would invent a device that would enable morons of all shapes, sizes and ages to indiscriminately bother their neighbors or entire neighborhoods, and I also can’t help wondering what irresponsible companies would bring such products to the market, year after year after year.

Don’t misunderstand me. The speaker as a device that allows us to listen to recordings, to music, to the radio, to television, is an amazing invention. However, the speaker as a device that can be turned up to its maximum power and left like that for hours on end, is a terrible (and illegal) invention.

Every year, companies continue to develop these devices and they give them more power and (this is the really bad part) they give them more bass. Bass is the lower range of the sounds produced by a speaker, and this is what travels for long distances, through walls, through windows, through roofs, through vegetation, etc. and can drive you cuckoo in your own house. It could be the best song of the year or it could be the worst song of the year, it really doesn’t matter, because if you’re not in the room with the music, all you hear is the bass, pounding on your walls, hundreds of yards away. It’s a horrible experience.

At what point will it occur to lawmakers that it’s not just the people that need to be stopped from playing loud music, but it’s also the companies that make speakers that need to be stopped from making loud speakers? As I said before, it’s the speakers themselves that are enabling people to misbehave and to commit noise violations. At what point will there be some legislation that will force these companies to develop speakers that do not allow idiots to bother their neighbors? I see the need for truly powerful speakers at venues for public events, but what need is there for ridiculously loud speakers in an apartment or a house? Instead of focusing their R&D on pushing more power and more bass out of their speakers, these companies could focus on producing pleasant, balanced sound that does not penetrate through walls. I’d like to see speakers that can play music loudly, but do not bother the neighbors! That’d be a real achievement — not the indiscriminate increase in wattage and bass we see today.

Thoughts

On sounds and noise

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We had a beautiful night snowfall recently and even though it was after midnight, Ligia and I went out to walk through the garden. You may know these nights well if you live in a temperate climate. They tend to stick in your memory. Everything is quiet, eerily quiet. Even the sound of your own voice is muffled by the falling snow. If you’re in a town, the ambient light from houses and streetlights reflects off the blanket of white snow and shines right up to the clouds, which are near to the ground, weighed down by the water droplets that will become snow as they fall to the ground. So the whole sky typically shines a tint of yellow from the town lights, and it also reflects that light down onto the snow, lighting everything up even though there’s no moon in sight.

It was that kind of a night when we stepped out. Thick, well-defined snowflakes were slowly making their way down, stopping on branches, building up into impossible mounds on the thinnest of twigs. In the absence of a breeze, everything was frozen as if in awe, admiring the falling snow in concert. We walked through our garden, wading through the powdery white blanket, stopping to breathe the cold, refreshing winter air and to give thanks for the beauty before us.

I hope the photos reflect the atmosphere of that night. They were taken handheld with a 35mm lens at its widest aperture (f1.8) and at at a fairly high ISO (as high as 10000). That means not everything is going to be in focus and there is going to be plenty of grain. But that’s how I typically shoot: handheld, even in low light. I’m more interested in capturing the mood, the moment, than in having everything tack sharp or in setting up a tripod shot.

Events

A winter night

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Some mornings I wake up early. It’s not often that it happens. I’m a late sleeper, always have been. But when I do wake up at the crack of dawn and it’s snowing outside, I will get out of bed, put on some warm winter clothes, grab my camera and head out for a walk. Today was one of those days. 

As I write this, about three hours after taking the photos, it’s still snowing lightly. This was a good snowfall. We’ve had some other ones this year, of which one in particular sticks in my mind. It happened earlier this week, with snowflakes almost as big as my palm. That was magical — but it didn’t last. With -1 degrees Celsius outside right now, this snowfall looks like it might last longer than a few hours, so that makes it the first good snowfall of this winter. 

As always, I hope you enjoy the photos. These were taken in the historic town center of Medias — known as Mediasch in German and Medgyes in Hungarian — and known to me as my hometown. 

Places

A morning walk through the snow

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In 1938, Ed Sullivan wrote in one of his newspaper columns that “youth is wasted on the very young“. He was paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, who once said: “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world — and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”

What does this have to do with management? Several years ago, I got quite angry when an older, more experienced friend, declared to me during the course of a conversation that “people under forty are unfit for management positions“. He was over 50, wealthy and quite accomplished. I was in my early 30s and had already become a director at age 25. I had done a great job in that position — not that I was saying it; people in executive management had said it of me, repeatedly, during my appointment. So I thought my anger was justified. I asked him to clarify and he said something to the effect of, “there are certain things you can only understand, directly related to the management of people and organizations, after you pass a certain age“. Well, that didn’t make sense to me, but I chose to let it go. There was no point arguing with him and possibly ruining the friendship. 

I am now over 40 myself. And the funny thing is that as I approached and passed this age, I began to have certain realizations that collectively, allowed me to finally agree with my friend’s statement. He’d had the benefit of experience on his side when he said it. And the cumulative benefits of dealing with many more people, at all levels of employment and management, during his long career (which still continues by the way, because the fellow has an insatiable work appetite.)

Now I also see the wisdom of Shaw’s statement (which is also attributed to Oscar Wilde in some instances). Beyond the surface applicability of mere skin beauty that tends to be there in abundance when one is younger, I see a deeper meaning that has to do with the experience of age, which would certainly be very handy to the young. 

What I also see nowadays, paradoxically, is a lot of young people promoted to management positions. To further clarify, I see a lot of (mostly) inept young people promoted to management positions, making one big mistake after another, because they don’t have the life experience and the work ethic of an older person who has dedicated themselves to their career. Perhaps this is to be expected when the current mantra is that “you really should change your job every couple of years”, which is the sort of idiotic thing young HR managers say to sound smart, and it’s exactly the sort of thing that promotes superficiality in one’s work ethic and the sort of bullshit CVs you see these days. 

I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes in my job as a director at 25. I can think of several right now, off the top of my head, some of which still embarrass me. But I did a good job, as good a job as I could do. I gave it my all, earnestly. It turns out that in this modern world of ours, where youth is prized more than experience, that my performance as a young person in management was an exception, because most young people I see in management are a disappointment to say the least. They’re no good, and they’re not even trying. They’re not giving it their all. They’re bullshitting their way through their jobs and their lackluster, inadequate performances are accepted as-is, because “you can’t get better people nowadays, there’s a skilled labor shortage”. 

Really? There is one? In an ever-growing world, with 7.2 billion people (at the moment), there’s an HR shortage? What a shame… I wonder how much worse this shortage will be when we’ll be at 8 billion… And how come we didn’t have a shortage of people during the Great Depression, when there were only 2 billion people in the world? You know, back when (mostly) experienced people were promoted to management positions? 

I think we are somehow confusing youthful enthusiasm with leadership potential; energy with stamina; bright faces with optimism; intelligence with wisdom; knowledge with experience; a tailored suit and good cosmetics with a good work ethic. There’s a lot of confusion going on. I suppose it’s to be expected when so many changes are taking place in the world. Perhaps in this day and age it’s easy to look at the worn, exhausted faces of older employees and believe they can’t carry the load of a department or division or company, but it’s not about the cosmetics; it’s about the experience, the ability to look at the big picture and the small details. These are things that come with age, with dedication to one’s career and yes, with wrinkles and white hair. 

If you’re stumbling onto this post randomly and you don’t know my website, you’re probably waiting for the pitch. Well, there isn’t one. I’m not selling my services. I’m busy enough with my own work. Thanks for reading this and carry on. 

Thoughts

Management: wasted on the youth

Gallery

These were taken in November of 2010, so let’s say it was eight years ago or so. Things may look different now — hopefully better, given how much tourism this little town gets each year.

It was one of our typical jaunts through the medieval fortress, along its walls and back down the stairs toward the bottom of the hill. Still, the images show different spots from the ones you’ve seen here and here.

Should you want to know more about the town, click here and here. Enjoy the photographs!

Places

More images from Sighisoara

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Not much is known about the small medieval church in this Transylvanian village. Known in Romanian as Viișoara, it is Hundorf in German and Csatófalva in Hungarian. The clue about it not being fortified perhaps lies in its German name: “Hun-dorf” means “Hungarian village”. Since it was predominantly Hungarian with few Saxons, and it was the Saxons who fortified churches during medieval times… it didn’t happen here.

One source states the church was finished in the 15th century and then underwent modifications or restorations in 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. When we visited it in 2011, it wasn’t in the greatest of shapes. A date on one of the buttresses said “2010”, as in some repairs had been made just a year before our visit, but the place didn’t look it. Still, it wasn’t falling down either, so it was getting some care, though it wasn’t getting any good use.

Enjoy the photographs!

Places

The medieval church in Viișoara

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