Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Dozy Bulgarian brown bear

Dozy Bulgarian brown bear

The Oxford Dictionary of English definition:

hibernate |ˈhʌɪbəneɪt|

verb [ no obj. ]

• (of an animal or plant)
spend the winter in a dormant state.

• (of a person)
remain inactive or indoors for an extended period.


hibernation |ˌhībərˈnāSHən|noun,

hibernator |-ˌnātər|noun

So, concerning this blog, I’ve “remained inactive” for 3 months and “indoors for an extended period”. Spot on!

Well, with the clocks having changed, and spring well established, there’s probably no further excuse I can make. Thanks to those readers who wondered what was going on (nothing, is the short answer).

The simple truth is that I just took a break – why, I don’t really know; it’s not as though there’s been nothing of interest going on in Bulgaria and elsewhere.

By the way, if you happen to see adverts on the blog pages – it’s nothing directly to do with me. I was surprised to find some on checking a couple of older entries. It’s all down to WordPress – they are inserting ads on free sites such as this one.

They state:

  1. The site is part of the WordAds program and has elected to show ads to earn money from their site.
  2. The site is one of the sites hosted on that has not purchased the No Ads upgrade, and we are running ads to cover the costs of operating the site for the user.

Option 1 is not applicable to this site, as I have no intention of trying to earn money from it. Option 2 does apply; I have to pursue this, to eliminate the ads for the future. Basically, they want $99 per year out of my pocket (sigh).

Apologies, meanwhile, if unexpected adverts suddenly appear, and annoy you.

Huh! I just realised – it’s April Fool’s Day! How appropriate…



Sorrowful tribute

Vlado Sakaliskyi – R.I.P.

Vlado Sakaliyski – R.I.P.

I’m not happy to begin writing in 2013 in this vein.

Why? I don’t like writing purely personal items on this blog as a rule, and certainly don’t like passing on this kind of news, which has significantly affected my wife and me.

One of our friends (my wife has known him and his wife for 30 years) succumbed to a heart attack this week. He was 56.


Why am I writing this, then? Two reasons: one, he was a good friend of ours; two, he was one of those almost invisible entrepreneurs and innovators that Bulgaria possesses and should cherish and applaud.

On the purely personal front: Vladimir Sakaliyski and his wife, Elena (Eli), were guests in our home just before the new year, and we had a most enjoyable evening in their company. Vlado, in my opinion, was a great, but understated character. He was serious, professional, practical, precise, well-informed about everything, and had a quiet, droll sense of humour.

A practical, helpful man

Last year, I had a problem in restoring an old but favourite, classic bike. A vital component had snapped. The local bike shop couldn’t help. Going on eBay would have cost a fortune for a replacement, with no guarantee any item would be in better condition. Vlado fixed the problem within a couple of days, machining a new part that (of course) fitted perfectly. I’m glad I recently had the opportunity to thank him in person for that service. His fee? A ‘small bottle of whisky’.

But, more

Within a larger perspective: I admired him for his achievements. He was the CEO of a successful and growing production company, specialising in precision measurement and calibration hardware (at the simplest level – temperature probes; at the more elevated – RPM controllers and interface adapters). Along with 3 partners, he built the Plovdiv-based company from nothing, starting as early as February, 1989. Revenue that year; $3,500: employees: 0. In 2012, the corresponding figures were: revenue: $1.66 mn: 57 employees.  His precision products sold across Europe and in Bulgaria.

We once visited his business premises, and were totally impressed by the organisation, the layout, the clinical cleanliness (far superior to a Sofia hospital we recently visited), the extreme efficiency that the premises and employees emanated. It was a great example of what an honest and motivated Bulgarian could achieve, by hard work, discipline, and innovative ideas and goals. His ‘factory’ stands as a superb example of what an SME can achieve in this country.

Imaginative innovator

Yet, I’ll bet, hardly anyone outside the business, whether within or outside Bulgaria, knows of this company [1]. It’s part of that ‘invisible’ imagination and innovation that hugely supports Bulgaria’s trade and specialist reputation worldwide.

So, this was the Vlado I met some years ago, and grew to know and appreciate: a quiet, realistic and determined businessman.

But, to end on a purely personal level: Vlado was a true family man, a caring person,  modest – self-deprecating, almost; not the flashy type he could have been, with a grand SUV, a mansion, and all that claptrap. No, a normal, lovely man – who cared.

We’ll miss him.

My wife and I express our heartfelt condolences to Eli, Veneta and Ivelina, and all their family members.

[1]: comeco

12.12.12, 12.12.12

All the 12s!

All the 12s!

Here’s our magical moment in Sofia!

The next time this happens, apparently, is on 1st. January, 2101. I just can’t wait for that moment!

And, of course, the world will end in 9 days’ time…

Holy water, privatisation, deprivation

israel sells palestinian water back to the owners - or does it?

Taxing non-existent water.

Here’s a weird story.

“Priests at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is held to be the site of the Crucifixion and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, are threatening to close one of Christendom’s holiest sites after a water company froze the bank account of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate over millions of pounds in unpaid water bills.”[1]

Holy places in Jerusalem have traditionally been exempt of taxes and municipal charges, even following the forcible annexation of the Old City by the Israelis in 1969.

Until 1996

Traditionally and historically, holy places in Jerusalem were exempt from local taxes and other charges – a  policy that was confirmed in 1969, even after Israel “annexed”, i.e., captured, the Old City that year.

Within the continued agreement of the so-called “Status Quo”, Christian places of worship were allowed to operate with near autonomy – as observed and respected by the Ottomans, the British Mandate, Jordanian and Israeli governments.


Even when Israel captured the Old City, it continued that tradition of exemption until 1996, when a privatisation of Jerusalem’s water supply and its transfer from the Israeli municipality to Hagihon Inc., followed. Eight years later…


“In 2004, Hagihon sent the church a bill for 3.7 million shekels – the equivalent of nearly £500,000 at the time. The church, thinking it was a mistake, ignored it. Earlier this year, Hagihon returned with a revised  demand for nine million shekels – about £1.5m – that included water supplies for the past seven years, plus interest on the unpaid debt.”


The two sides began protracted negotiations, but, according to reports, even though they had seemed to be nearing agreement, Hagihon suddenly enforced a court order last week to freeze the patriarchate’s central bank account.

“We were in the middle of negotiations and we committed to start to pay from now on,” the Greek* [Aristarchos of Constantina, the general-secretary of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate] archbishop said. “We said we were willing to pay but it was very difficult for us to meet previous debts for which there was no agreement. We asked that the nine million shekels of old debts be deleted.”

“But despite the fact that we were in negotiations, Hagihon applied to freeze the account of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. This was an arbitrary measure since we were negotiating. They should have waited to come to an agreement,” he added.

Meanwhile, what about all the Palestinians and water?

While the Church may, justifiably,  complain about tax-exemption on water and broken agreements, what about ordinary Palestinians living in the West Bank?

I have worked in Palestine (in this specific case, it was in 1995) and, while conducting a journalism course with the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), I was shocked to discover – in a TV interview I supervised, with the then-Mayor of Ramallah – that their municipal sources of water (natural springs) had been unilaterally piped-off by the Israelis. Some of that water was then directed back to the city, at a huge surcharge to local (i.e., local, Palestinian) consumers. As far as I’m aware, that sort of situation continues, a tale that seems to be vindicated, even today.[2]

The peace process? – ho, ho! This is only one of the myriad ways the Israeli state continues to harass, molest, denigrate and subjugate Palestinian nationals (and its own Palestinian citizens) – all supported through the ‘blind eye’ of the miserably myopic West, which concerns itself with the “only democratic state in the middle East” and profitable armament sales. Ho, ho, once again!

PS: I’ll return, one day, to some other, personal reminiscences about that period – and the way absolutely nothing has changed since the 90s… except for some recent gems, like the eventual admission that Israel assassinated Arafat’s deputy, back in 1988…[2]

[1]: The Independent

[2]: BBC Online

Image source (and current water story)

[1]: The Independent

[2]: The

Image source: Berthold Werner/Wikipedia

Amber ambush

spider and wasp fixed in amber

Caught in time – 100 million years

The image is of the only fossil discovered that shows a spider attacking prey in its web. Estimated to be about 100 million years old, the dramatic scene is preserved in amber.

And, as someone points out on Flickr, what’s the extra, larger limb at the bottom right of the picture?

For more on the story, go to[1]


Image: Flickr/Oregon State University

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