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July 3, 2009 / vibenas

Experiencing a Small Miracle

People can be split into two groups: those who are planning to experience a small miracle and those who already experiencing/-ed the miracle of parenting.

This week I have transitioned from the first group into the second, and it is an exciting feeling, much more pleasant then I (even being a hopeless optimist) ever expected.

And there are very clear reasons for this amazing and easy transition:

  1. Pregnancy preparation courses for couples lasting 4 days (over two weekends) of Dr. R. Šemeta, and follow up ability to call their professional staff to ask questions as they arise. The school gave me knowledge about birth process and set minds that birth can be easy and natural. Then it was easy to decide that my role during giving birth is to be present and support the mother and the child in emotional (encouraging), physical (giving massages) and intellectual (focusing the brain towards pleasant states) ways.
  2. forum, which has incredible rich knowledge base on any question you might have related to parenting, and serves as good will community. My wife gathered a lot of knowledge on preparation in advance as well during ongoing basis she checks the forum on the new challenges for the mother or the kid. I hope that each nation has similar communities to turn to.
  3. Our great friends – already parents, who share their experiences and positive attitudes.
  4. Hospital we decided to give birth – in peaceful city Trakai, 30 km away from Vilnius. Staff, facilities, professionalism, care, food – everything was perfect. And all – state funded. We only had to pay 17 euro per night to be able to stay overnight with my wife. That to add to the flowers and symbolic cake to the staff who made their effort for us to experience the best service.
  5. Lithuanian social system (I bet, the best in the world, I still need to check on Australia, as my ex-colleague Faraz fancied Australia as No1), which provides for the father one month of vacation paid by social system, and for mothers – up to two years. Our both employers are great supporters of parenting, and were not causing trouble (which you might expect to happened in Wild Corrupted Eastern Europe 🙂)

I wish for everyone in the first category (not yet parents) to move towards the transition into second group (already parents) without any fear, but with deep knowledge and preparation to help growing the next generation into energetic, fearless, responsible, creative and thought leaders, it seems our planet will need such people!

Lina, Arvilė, and Vilius, a proud father of one of the 300 new weekly registered babies in Vilnius area

June 3, 2009 / vibenas

Who Knows about the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004?

Last week I was flying with Air Baltic from Rome to Riga. I like Air Baltic, their staff is polite, caring, and service is good. They even SMS when delays happen.

The flight BT632 was officially delayed at first by 1:55, and later – for another 30 minutes.

After discovering about excess of 2h delay I contacted the airport staff at the gates and inquired about the procedures and obligations towards providing the meals to the passengers. The answer I got that the service will be delivered on the aircraft, as boarding will start soon.

On the airplane further delay happened due to one missing passenger and offload of the baggage, but it did not exceed 3 h in total. Delay was due to change of aircraft in Riga after noticing a malfunction in the original one.

I asked flight attendants regarding delay and passenger rights to get free beverage and meals. I got different replies. I talked with four ladies (including one senior one), trying to understand the rules.

For me the total surprise was that no one (including of course me) knew the regulations, and there was not a copy of them on the aircraft. In airport there were copies somewhere advertised, but I was not in a hunting mood during boarding time. I vaguely remembered from my experience as frequent traveler that there is a 2h threshold which provided passengers with small package of food – usually a sandwich and a small bottle of water. Air Baltic cabin attendants (Viktoria, Marija, Marta) were polite, but could not explain the rules. They argued that they do not have food, thus they are not going to provide the service; that the service should have been provided in the airport; that the airplane is fully loaded, thus there is no place for food. One flight attendant mentioned that the threshold is 3 hours, but could not explain how it relates to 2 h which I was aware of. Senior staff member acknowledged that 2 hours delay is the correct threshold, but the service cannot be provided, thus I should complain to the Air Baltic customer service. Telephone numbers printed on the form are the wrong ones in Lithuania, and for Latvia there were only for local calls. Staff provided with direct contact names in Riga office and email addresses. I really believe and feel that staff tried to do its best to service me.

Today was on the way of writing an email to Air Baltic customer service to investigate further. At first I prepared – read the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and measured the air distance between Riga and Rome. Distance was around 1600 km (more than 1500 km), thus threshold appears to be 3h, i.e. I was not supposed to get any service I was inquiring, complain dropped. I wish for Air Baltic staff to go though the rules of the regulation as well, to know what to answer to such knowledge hungry passengers like myself 🙂

The final question I still wonder about – why no other passengers were rising the questions I was asking? Did they know the rules, or they were just not interested?

April 1, 2009 / vibenas

Spring is Here!

Well, this is a useless post.

From a material perspective (Flowers, do not laugh!)

I just want to express my joy that spring is reaching Lithuania!

Sun is shining, I meet more and more happy people on the streets (when I am there).

My facial muscles are hurting for a second day already from smiling and good emotions.

Thank you to everyone and everything what makes my life so great!

And, thank you, Vox Maris radio station for nice music (Vilnius – 96.8FM, present in  Klaipeda 99FM), I am listening them frequently in the background (and I know,  it is played in the offices of companies as well 🙂

Spring is the time of changes. I wish Vox Maris website will be live again for you to see what I am talking about (they had two radio stations on internet as well).

And I wish all of you to see greatness in every change you experience – and respond back with a open and good man’s heart!

March 1, 2009 / vibenas

Užgavėnės – Mardi Gras in Lithuania

From the childhood I know that a special Tuesday comes around the time when winter is about to finish. Firstly, this day is about pancakes. You have to bake some, or at least get them from somewhere (canteen, mother, neighbors, name it)!

In Lithuanian this Tuesday carry Užgavėnės name, while internationally it is known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

There are other great reasons to celebrate Užgavėnės besides delicious pancakes.

Twofold carnival happens that day. For kids it is time to dress up in Halloween-type of outfit and go to neighbor houses, sing/dance and demand candy, pancakes, or money. Make as much noise as possible, and be first to visit people – to gather most goodies that evening!

For adults the carnival is a gathering to kick out winter from the yard – kill/burn Morė – the symbol of winter and all the bad&ugly. You get to experience a fight between Lašininis and Kanapinis, where victory of Kanapinis means approaching unavoidable spring. Often the carnival party is moved to the closest Sunday to the Užgavėnės.

Last week Lina and I celebrated Užgavėnės in Rumšiškės, Open Air Ethnographic Museum. Please enjoy the pictures of the event covering fair, pancakes, and greet together the coming spring after full white Winter!

First after Entering You Hit Fair

Wooden Pencils at Fair

Spring Flowers Greeting!

Fair Goodies

Lithuanian Encouraging and Entertaining Moto

Lithuanian Encouraging and Entertaining Moto

Celebrating Crowd in Carnival in Rumšiškės

Carnival Costumes

Bake Your Own Pancakes!

Carnival Costumes

Crowds of People Gathered to Celebrate

Riestainiai (or, Barankos) – Traditional Cookies

Medical Care for Event

A Stark – Another Symbol for Spring

Lovely Traditional Costumes

Happy Morė

Burning Morė means no more Winter!

February 16, 2009 / vibenas

The Bread

I dedicate this post to my dearest friends Simas and Audronė who run a bakery of Lithuanian bread in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Today I ate most delicious dark bread in Hotel Pušynas in Druskininkai, Lithuania. It is such a joy to have a piece of bread in own hands and appreciate its quality, fragrance and taste.

I have never baked bread myself, only cakes at most. My brother Vytenis used to bake when he was studying in USA. I remember visiting him and helping in the process and eating afterwards.

Banana Bread by Vytenis

My wife Lina in her childhood was helping grandmother shaping bread, before it was pushed in the oven.

Good friends Sarah and Gregou now in down-under Sidney are baking bread and have huuuge book of recipes I had pleasure to look though.

There is amazing quality of bread baked in Salantai town in Lithuania. Huge loafs of bread, enough for a family for a week.

Friend Jolita lived in the same dormitory as I in Denmark, and she shared her work at Danish Technical University on preventing bread to age, or to grow fungus.

Last Friday while driving for business I watched the following TED talk by Peter Reinhart from TASTE3 conference on bread baking. It made me excited, thinking and appreciating. I invite you to watch it as well and re-discover your own connection to what bread is to you and how it keeps transforming as it always did in material and spiritual way, along with technologies involved in making it tasty and healthy.

Note: Language sometimes can get too specific for non-native English speakers.

Thank you my life and the powers above for providing me with delicious bread today!

February 14, 2009 / vibenas

Dubai, Dubai

Finally I got there, Dubai. So different I feel comparing to what I expected!

Constructions are everywhere. I want to be back in 2010 and see it clean and finished.

Half of the Dubai is in development

The size of constructions is shocking. They are EVERYWHERE! And these huge buildings! New materials, designs, style!

Bike infrastructure (biking paths, parking) is missing. Sadly. Not many bicyclists either. Sad again.

Bike near Media City

Plenty of people are jogging. I wanted to reach one of the Palm Island located 4 km from my hotel during my morning run. I failed just before entering the most interesting place –entering the palm core. Construction sites allow only cars to pass.

Vilius on the way to Palm Jumeirah

I understand that Dubai has a vision where it is going to position itself in 2015. And it executes extremely well. However, who will be these rich businesses and people using entire new infrastructure? Why I would want to leave my home country and relocate there?

One could say that India and China is full of people, why not them moving? I answer – new infrastructure and local services cost more than average person from mentioned areas can afford.

Regarding businesses one scenario would be that after global economy recovers world will become even tighter place for competition. Then fully global villages like Dubai would be a attractive place for all kind of business operations.

I try to comprehend the benefits of being in Dubai vs. London. Taxes? Yes, for sure. How much advantage one would have? Operations would be 50% cheaper? What about production? Singapore lives out of trade mostly.

Saudi Arabia is doing similar activities – complete new cities from the ground, huge projects, but not many high-rise buildings. And nobody is talking about manufacturing. Maybe the focus will be on financial and intellectual products? Trade?

Advertised tourism is a good reason, just would not scale so much to cover such investments, I think. Dubai is not cheap as Egypt coast, where every second family from Lithuania visited last years. Unless all Chinese will come to visit and see two tallest buildings in the world: 600 and 1000 meter into the sky. How high is one floor by the way? Let assume – 4 meters. How many floors these buildings will have? In Singapore 72 floor seemed like close to heaven. Double that – you will feel like in the plane – I want to be back and experience it.

Burj Dubai, 600m

Right now people working in Dubai do not have pension plans as we do have here. Instead, they invest by buying shares and apartments in the buildings which are being built. Who knows, will the price of the real estate increase until people retire? How this is different from any other type of investing? Probably comparable when you think more. Dubai is full of hype and smart people. And nice fireworks in the evenings.

Some words about the Indian people whom I saw so many on the streets waiting for busses after working hours, near construction sites they work at. Local newspapers are writing about construction companies who bought 20 000 tickets for Indians to fly home or other regions for March. First thought – wow, poor people, they are sent away because of slowdown in economy. Second thought – they would need to leave anyway in 1-2 years, when construction boom finishes. Maybe there will be another development region somewhere else, where they would be in need – to work for 100 USD per month and create value for millions – thus allowing development to happen fast and cheap.

Partly finished, still in development

What would be if world would not have any more extra-cheap labor? No Chinese, Indian, African for cheap factories? Am I getting these communistic ideas again on equality? J Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury would call for full automating I bet – most production lines would be without people hands, i.e. producing a lot and cheap (per unit). Then our society would prosper.

Would it?

Coming back to Dubai and the local newspaper I read. Construction costs dropped 71% – from Dh 1200 (266 Euro) for sq. feet in Aug 2008, to Dh 350 (77 Euro) now. That should help economy.

Seaside of Dubai, as impressive as Rio

I am a believer in brains. In a good design, good planning, architecture of solutions. What I saw in Dubai impressed me. How well everything is planned, organized. How many train stations are being built at the same time – I counted 6 just by walking. Hopefully, 6 lanes one way traffic jams will finish after rail services are launched in several months.

And I almost forgot – Dubai is known for shopping! My experience was not so good. I went to a Marine Dubai mall, looks like in Norfa is Siauliai, my home city. Half of the shops are closed. Posters tell about new shops opening soon! Will they? I went to the city near creek. One guy brought me into his small shop. I liked the item he suggested. We started negotiating and his first words were – bad business, this is why I will give you best price. In my previous experiences such discussions would not talk about bad business, but rather how special I am as a friend… And the area was really not crowded.

It was a great trip. I want to be back, to visit Dubai and some time in the future – Beijing. Only by comparing we can understand the change.

Dubai Museum telling the story of the place

February 7, 2009 / vibenas

How to make sharp e-training?

Most of what I learn is self learning. Then it is either via some form of literature research or via structured training. Such organized training are university textbooks, semi-organized manuals, online courses.

The online courses are evolving in the technical form (from pure HTML into more interactive flash and videos) from the time I started using them in 1990s. However, content-wise the quality does not increase so fast with the years.

I easily differentiate online courses into the following areas:

  • Good quality courses for masses. As example, I adore Powered platform, used by HP, Sony, P&G with their portfolio of e-courses in technologies and social topics.
  • Focused technology courses leading towards Certification. An example – VMware course site.
  • Learning from recorded webcasts mostly based on Powerpoint slide decks, recorded via Webex, Livemeeting, or Adobe products.
  • Corporate learning programs with “strange” way of teaching. Often these courses are enforced by compliance, or sales programs and feels like listeners are IQ-challenged.

During my NGO trainer career along with other trainers I was focusing on challenging brains of participants in live environments, our trials to create online trainings for BEST organization was not too successful because of lacking of the platform to start from, not having resources, and mindset to make it great.

Today I found an interesting training which gives quite good framework where and how to create content for people to focus on their learning.

A new thing for me was Readability Statistics (it works for MS Word as well!)

I hope you will enjoy watching the presentation below and understanding exactly what makes us feel that these compliance/sales training are made for dumb people!

BTW, this blog text has readability score of 35 🙂