Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Another Kent Video

Here's another Kent video clip. (I mentioned this group in an earlier post.) This song, Kräm (Så Nära Får Ingen Gå), is off of their second album, Verkligen. I like the lyrics, which can be found in both Swedish and English.

Lägg dig ner precis
som du alltid gör när
Jag vill ha min tunga där
du är, så nära att du blir våt
men så nära får ingen gå...

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Lithuanian Drivers II

I see I'm not the only one blogging about this subject:

My previous posts on this subject can be found here and here.

And with the massive emigration from Lithuania taking place, Lithuanian drivers can be found doing their thing in all parts of the European Union, even in such far-flung places as the Shetland Islands. Check this out. Thanks for that, Phil.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Hardy Lithuanian Women

File this one under news of the weird. I found the article here: The translation is mine.

Pregnant Woman Escapes from Police in Klaipeda

LNK [TV] News reported that a woman in her sixth month of pregnancy escaped from police in Klaipeda. The woman, who has been tried 12 times before, had been apprehended for petty theft. She was taken from jail to the hospital after complaining that she did not feel well. She then escaped from the hospital after jumping out of a second floor window. The officer in charge of her did not notice that she was missing until some time later, however. The fugitive was captured four hours later.

The police are investigating the circumstances and whether the officer was properly performing her duty.

Monday, 21 April 2008

New Gravel Album

I've been waiting for the new Gravel album for some time now. (My previous posts about this group: 15 March and 31 March.) And then yesterday I saw an ad saying something about getting the album free from Delfi, a Lithuanian news website. I clicked on the ad and was taken to an article whose headline I had seen before but ignored. One reason I ignored it was that it appeared on April 1, and the news media here always feature some stories that shouldn't be taken seriously on that day. The other reason was that I didn't understand the Lithuanian word for download (atsisiųsti), which I don't remember having heard used before. I think most people just use a Lithuanianized version of download (daunlodinti--my spelling). For example, I quizzed my wife and she didn't know the word. But anyway, in my effort not to be fooled, I passed over this story. Regardless of whether the head of the band was serious or not, it is possible to download their new album free. Here's the link:

My recommendation: definitely download the album. It's worth it. If you're skeptical, first download Foreign Policy and Little Things (tracks 2 and 4)--in fact download tracks 2-4--and listen to those songs first. I think you'll end up downloading the entire album.

And here's my translation of the main part of that article:

Gravel Decides to Stop Performing and Give New Album to DELFI Readers (Download!)

Gravel is giving away its new album, Dirty Beauty, to internet users. That's not an April Fool's trick. According to Tomas Sinickis [also spelled Tomasz Sinicki since he's an ethnic Pole], the leader of the group, the decision to do this was made for the good of Lithuania. "If you try to spread certain ideas and you want to say that you're doing something for the good of Lithuania, then you shouldn't ask 30 litas [the cost of a CD] for those ideas", Sinickis, who is giving away his album on DELFI, said. The leader of Gravel said that the group's second album, Dirty Beauty, will be the group's last album. (The first--Pockets Full of Fun--was released in 2006.)

"When losers like us leave the stage, that can only be for the good of Lithuania. I don't think it's bad. We can see that it would be better for us to stop polluting the airwaves", Sinickis said.

When asked about his future plans, Sinickis said that he intends to become a politician and serve the people of Lithuania.

Names of songs in Lithuanian:
1. Where Mothers Are Looking, Where Fathers Are Looking [Sorry, maybe I'm missing something here. I can't really understand the lyrics of the song either.]
10. Oh, My Love

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Nothing Can Be Done

My wife just told me a story that happened yesterday when she was picking up our daughter from pre-school. I think it's a very good example of the way things work here in Lithuania.

While picking up our daughter, she saw an extremely drunk young man enter the grounds of the pre-school (right after throwing up on a car parked on the street right outside). The drunk was heading directly towards a group of children outside. Vaiva knows the teacher, who was earlier our daughter's teacher, and asked her whether she didn't think calling the police would be a good idea. The teacher replied that it wouldn't do any good. She said that teachers and adminstrators had called the police many times in the past because drunks like to hang out in the area where the kids play--there are benches and covered areas--but the police always told them that they had more important things to do. My wife decided to call the police herself, but she understood from the conversation that they wouldn't be sending anyone over to take care of the problem. (Mind you, precinct headquarters [or perhaps even the main headquarters for the city of Vilnius?] is only a couple of blocks away.) Apparently the head of the school has tried to tell them to leave, but they have told her to leave them alone or they'd start breaking the windows of the pre-school! So, nothing can be done.

What's wrong with this scenario? Uh, maybe I'm wrong but just about anywhere else in the 'civilized' world, the head of the pre-school would contact the chief of police and if that didn't get any response, go to the next higher step, in Lithuania the Ministry of the Interior. But no, she's called the police, there was no response, and 'that's the way things are in Lithuania'. 'Nothing can be done.' Excuse me, but that sounds like pure laziness and apathy on the part of the head of the school. She doesn't want to deal with the problem. So, the problem either remains or has to be taken care of by someone else. Well, I think it might be a good thing for me to look into. One battle at a time, and the war can be won. But the problem here is really threefold, isn't it? The drunks, the police, and the administration of the pre-school, the latter two acting as enablers for some odiously anti-social behavior. A society that allows such a thing to occur is really a sick society.

OK, that's my rant for today.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Return of a Lost Boy

Here's a nice, uplifting article that I read a few days ago: Looks like a worthy cause.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Religion vs. Science

Who says that religion and science are (or have to be) at odds? For those who are interested in this topic, I found this article written by The Reverend David A. Richardson. I just stumbled upon it while looking for something else. I like the way he point-blank labels 'intelligent design' as "neither" and calls it "fraud".

Here's an excerpt from his article:
"The God that cannot stand up to rigorous examination is no God. The God that needs to be taught in schools, emblazoned in stone in a courthouse like some idol, through legislation, is no God at all. That which is Holy and Sacred does not legislate, or bomb, or terrorize, or threaten."

He makes very good arguments and provides some serious food for thought, but the chasm is wide--to the disadvantage of both sides.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

For Language Lovers

I have always been interested in languages, which is one reason I majored in linguistics at university. For those of you who also share this fascination, here is a website that my friend Philip turned me on to (

The idea started with a folktale in a Low Saxon (Low German) dialect and the desire to translate it into various other Low Saxon dialects as a way to showcase those dialects and their orthographies. It's now expanded to include languages from all over the world. Some translations even include sound recordings so that you can here the story being told in that language.

Since Philip is from the Shetland Islands and is interested in the preservation of the dialect he speaks, he included a link to a couple of Shetlandic translations of the story.

I notice that, among other languages, there aren't any translations of the story into Lithuanian or Tamil. And there's no sound recording for Cebuano. Maybe there are people out there that could help with that? And Mike, I know this isn't exactly your neck of the woods, but what about a sound recording for this translation? I bet I could pull it off.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Suicide in Lithuania

Did you know that Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in Europe? Here's a recent article about that topic: Suicides in Lithuania Show Social Pains Persist.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Stricter Traffic Laws Yielding Results?

Over the past several days, I've found a couple of articles with statistics that allow me to be hopeful that the "war on the roads" [see my 3 March post] here in Lithuania is actually being won by the good guys. So here are my translations of the articles.

Almost 400 Offending Drivers Arrested in January–March

The stricter traffic laws [see comments from my 28 March post] that came into force in January have been personally experienced by 375 drivers who spent time in jail for especially serious offences. A new part of the traffic laws--automobile confiscation--was invoked for the owners of 45 automobiles in the first three months of this year.

The police are pleased since they feel that the stricter penalties for drinking and driving and for speeding are discouraging others from breaking the law. In the opinion of Stanislovas Liutkevicius, secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, this improvement in the situation on the roads of Lithuania may allow the country to halve the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents by 2010, something the European Commission has obligated Lithuania to do.

In the first quarter of this year, 1157 traffic accidents in which people were injured took place, 13.1 percent fewer accidents than took place in this period of the preceding year. In those accidents, 1400 were injured.

Compared to the first three months of 2007, the number of accidents caused by drunken drivers dropped 35.6 percent and the number caused by people who were driving without a licence went down 40 percent.

This year the police have apprehended an average of 600 drunken drivers every month. This figure stood at 2500 per month in the past year.

According the the number of people killed in traffic accidents, Lithuania continues to be the most dangerous place in the European Union, however.

Promising Statistics for Safe Traffic Day

As Safe Traffic Day [April 6] is being celebrated in Lithuania, officials have expressed pleasure with the improving situation on the country's roads. In the first three months of the year, the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents has dropped by a fourth. Antantas Cereska, deputy director of the safe traffic department of the Lithuanian Road Administration, told Lithuanian Radio that this improvement has been caused by the higher fines for traffic offences and the attention that this problem has received from politicians and the media.

"The statistics from the first months of this year show that the situation on the roads is improving. The law, the police, teaching, and the press are all working together to make things better. Beginning in October, we plan to bring back the highway patrol [which earlier existed but for some reason was done away with some time ago]", Cereska said.

Despite the improvement in the statistics, the situation on the roads remains the worst in the European Union. According to data supplied by the police, the most common cause of accidents is speeding.

Every year it is the cause of about 1200 traffic accidents, in which about 200 people are killed and about 1500 are injured.

And as an alumnus of Kansas University, I cannot let this pass.
Way to go Hawks!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Lithuania's Demographic Problem

Here's an article I found on Delfi: It appeared on 1 April, hence the mention of an April Fool's Day joke. The translation is mine.

According to Fertility Level, Lithuania is Fifth in World. From the End.

This is not an April Fool's Day joke; according to its fertility level [or birth rate], Lithuania really stands at 218 out of 222 countries... The demographic situation in Lithuania is truly not enviable. Lithuania's demographic problem--the decrease and aging of its population--can be called the country's number one long-term problem and strategic challenge.

The survival of the Lithuanian ethnic group, including its culture and language, as well as Lithuania's economic potential and well-being, are especially dependant on demography.

The demographic problem is also quite dangerous because it is somewhat unnoticed, since in the middle term everything looks fine: the ecomony is growing, the number of workers is increasing, and real estate prices are rising. In fact, the Lithuanian economy is experiencing a demographic golden age. The largest new generation of Lithuanians, those born in 1985–90 (only the generation born in 1955–65 was larger), is now entering the labor market, and even though the population is rapidly decreasing, the number of workers is increasing.

Problems understanding the demographic situation also arise due to the difficulty separating two completely different processes: low fertility and emigration. Many think that if massive emigration were halted, the Lithuanian demographic problem would be solved. That opinion is incorrect since the country's biggest demographic problem is not the large rate of emigration but rather the low rate of fertility.

It is true that if fewer Lithuanians emigrated, the demographic situation in the country would be better, but the fertility rate--1.3 children per woman (according to which Lithuania is third from last in Europe and in the last ten in the world)--actually only considers women living in Lithuania (those that have not emigrated). In other words, even if there was no emigration, with such a rate of fertility the number of inhabitants would quite likely be three times as low by the end of this century. This can be illustrated by a simple example: given such a birth rate, 100 people (50 women) will have an average of 65 children, 42 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren, and so on. (To keep the population from dropping, 100 people need to have 100 grandchildren and 100 great grandchildren.)

According to a forecast prepared by the United Nations, about 2.65 million people will live in Lithuania in 2050, more or less the same number as in 1950 ( [I think the current population is around 3.4 million.] This forecast is optimistic, however, in that it assumes that fertility will constantly increase from the current rate of 1.3 to 1.7 children per woman. It is also important to realize that in 2050 the average Lithuanian will be 50 years old (the average Lithuanian is now 39). For that reason, the biggest drop in the population will actually begin in 2050. Even though the number of children and young people is dropping, until that time the number of people reaching retirement age will grow, making it at least appear someone is "still living" in Lithuania.

To point out the fertility problem, it is important to look at Lithuania's demographic situation, temporarily forgetting emigration. For such a comparison, it is suitable to look at Russia since the birth rate there is quite similar to Lithuania's, but that country does not have a problem with emigration [which was news to me]. Russia can be looked at as an example of what is waiting for Lithuania, even if the emigration problem here fades away.

Those who follow the official Russian press [I assume the author means the state-controlled press] know that the demographic problem there is discussed quite frequently and seriously. They truly understand the seriousness of the problem, and it seems to truly be the number one problem for them. Russian security agencies know quite well what is being counted (and the CIA also understands very well)--that Russia is little by little beginning to be taken off the list of possible competitors in the distant future.

Russia does not have an emigration problem. Even now there is more immigration than emigration. Since 1990, 5 million more people have immigrated than emigrated; many people have returned from Latvia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, etc. The population of Russia, however, instead of going up 5 million, has gone down 8 million. What happened to those 13 million people? The mathematical answer is quite simple. That is how much a population will drop over 18 years when each year 1.4 million are born and 2.3 million people die.

Here is the UN forecast for the population of Russia until 2050:

According to the UN, by 2050 the population of Belarus (which is not having any emigration problems) will drop from 10 to 7 million, the population of Ukraine will drop from 50 to 30 million, and that of Poland will drop from 38 to 30 million. The population of Europe will drop almost only because of the decreases in Eastern Europe.

It is especially interesting to compare Lithuania with Ireland. In 1995 both countries had roughly the same number of inhabitants--around 3.6 million. But by 2050, Ireland will have a population of 6.2 million, while the population of Lithuania will drop to 2.6 million. The main reason for this is although not long ago 50,000 children were born in each country every year this figure in Lithuania will drop from its current 30,000 to about 25,000, and in Ireland this figure is expected to stay at its current level of 60,000. While the average Lithuanian woman will have 1.4 children, the average Irish woman will have 1.9. At least according to the UN forecast, the positive rate of migration that Ireland is now experiencing will only have a minimal influence on the population there, and the main factor will be the rise in the rate of birth.

Therefore, what are Lithuanians to do if they have some sort of ambition about being a majority at least in their own country? Without a doubt, it is first of all necessary to strengthen the belief that having three or four children is normal and that one or two children is a small family. Because with the spread of the German phenomenon, in which every third woman does not have any children, the average stays at 1.3 (even if the remaining women have two children each; if they have three, the average would stand at two).

In the second position, it is necessary to create a convenient and modern free pre-school system, one which would if required care for children from very early in the morning to late in the evening, on weekends, and so on. Without a doubt, it is also necessary to transform the secondary school system to allow it to provide children the possibility to take part in after school and leisure time functions [almost none of which are available to students now--after school sports programs: ha, none exist]. It is also important that a positive view of families with children be created in society and among employers.

The most important thing, however, is to change the psychological climate in Lithuania. It is not surprising that Lithuania has the highest rate of suicide in the world, the highest rates of death in the "war on the roads" [see my 3 March post], and until 2006 (when Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union), the highest rate of emigration [I assume in the EU]. Lithuania, according to the CIA, is 218 [see]
out of 222 countries by rate of fertility. (Again, this is according to woman who reside [are expected to reside] in Lithuania and is not influenced by emigration.)

Perhaps it is only possible to be "proud" that four years ago Lithuania was in a lower position--222nd place (as if the two...two...two was noted)--but at that time there were more countries on the CIA list... This is not an April Fool's joke.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Nordic Music

Once upon a time, before the advent of MTV Baltic, Nordic MTV was broadcast in Lithuania. Now, those who wish may debate which is more entertaining or which plays the best music. I wish I could watch both (in measured quantities obviously). Sure, when programs in the Swedish language came on (those not showing videos), it was time to switch channels, but I did enjoy the educational part of watching Nordic MTV--learning about music from up in that neck of the woods. As an American, my knowledge about the Scandinavian music scene was pretty much limited to Björk, A-ha, and Abba.

My main discovery from Nordic MTV was Kent. They're good. No, they're great. Listen.
The song that first got me hooked:
Here are the lyrics: There's a link to the English translation as well.
Here's another song that I liked/like:
The lyrics are great.
Du är min hjälte för du vågar vara rak
Du är min hjälte för du är precis så svag som jag
It's a great way to learn some Swedish.
Here's another song that I like, Pärlor, though there doesn't seem to be a proper video:
The lyrics are here:
Their MySpace page:

Cats on Fire: a Finnish band. I don't really know much about them, but many moons ago I found their Higher Grounds mp3 on the web and downloaded it on the recommendation of some woman that has a site on which she reviews Nordic music. I'm sad to say that I lost the link to that site last fall when my computer shot craps (or crapped out?). Anyway, as I was saying, I downloaded the song and listened to it over and over. The song can be downloaded from this site: It's also possible to listen to the song and watch a video here: Their MySpace page is here:

And a final video. I'm not really a fan of Röyksopp, a Norwegian band, but I like this video and this version of this song:

Anyone have any links to other good Scandinavian music?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Vilnius -- European Capital of Culture (?)

A couple of years ago, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was proclaimed a 2009 European capital of culture, an honor it will share with the city of Linz in Austria. At that time, I wondered how things would be organized here. Well, the problem is that Lithuanians as a whole (I know... It's not good to make generalizations) just can't seem to finish things on time or they finish them at the last second. And in this case, being a capital of culture requires an immense amount of work organizing various events to highlight the city and entertain the flood of tourists that are expected. That means that many people will have to be organized and work together to complete the necessary preparations. Another problem, however. Lithuanians can't seem to work together. Some time ago I heard the politicians in the parliament being compared to a group of quarreling children in a sandbox. I think that characterization could be expanded... And what is it about people with their hands on the dough here??? Can't anybody work honestly? Anyway, here's the article. I found it here: The translation is mine.

"Vilnius - European Capital of Culture" Project Collapsing

The ambitious project "Vilnius - European Capital of Culture 2009" is in danger of collapsing because of the conflict between the institution set up to prepare for the event [the acronym in Lithuanian (VEKS) is strangely appropriate--I'll use it for that reason] and one of its founders, the Ministry of Culture. On 31 March, the two sides invited journalists to a press conference at which they openly argued their positions. It became clear that the ministry does not trust the employees of VEKS and that VEKS, which has not received any funding for the past three months, is not doing any work.

It was earlier reported that the Ministry of Culture stopped financing the project until an internal audit is completed. The ministry had the suspicion that the money received by VEKS was not being used responsibly and that the accounts were not being kept properly.

Events might not take place

"The work of VEKS is paralysed. We haven't been able to plan further work, make any contracts, or take care of our financial responsibilities for the past three months. We've received support from the ministry for only one project, even though we're cooperating with 125 partners, none of which we can pay", VEKS Director Elona Bajoriniene said in reaction to the criticism of the ministry.

According to Bajoriniene the debts of VEKS at the present time add up to LTL 780,000 (almost EUR 226,000).

Because of this, some projects scheduled for 2008--"Lithuanian Capital of Culture 2008", the "Childrens' Creativity Festival", "Let It Be Night", and other events--might not take place.

"We're ready to complete the preparations for these national programs, but our motivation is at an end because there's a lack of constructive work", Bajoriniene said.

List of sins will grow longer

Vice Minister of Culture Gintaras Sodeika repeated that the ministry has complaints about about the transparency of the work of VEKS.

"We aren't taking back anything we said earlier. The audit still isn't finished and the list of sins isn't complete. There will be more. We can't blindly transfer the money, even though it's getting moldy sitting here waiting for you", Sodeika said.

After being pressed by journalists to reveal exactly what problems the ministry had with the work of VEKS, the vice minister said, "Activities that couldn't be called financial crimes, but activities that are not proper for an organization that receives money from the government".

The conclusion of the ministry's audit should become clear by the middle of April.

Members of VEKS board of directors leaving

"I'm ashamed to be here. In general I regret that I brought the city of culture idea here from Stockholm. We don't know how to work together. We don't trust each other. If things continue this way, I plan to give up my position on the board of directors because I'm ashamed. It seems as if we're surrounded by fools, but this is serious work", the artist Arvydas Saltenis said after listening to the argument between representatives of VEKS and the Ministry of Culture.

"It appears that there is some kind of campaign against VEKS. Somebody is always looking over their shoulder to see whether they've stolen something", Professor Irena Veisaite, a member of the VEKS board of directors, said. She encouraged the parties to stop arguing and continue the work that has been started.

"The situation seems strange; an organization is quarreling with its founder. I suspect that the situation is actually worse than it seems now", Arturas Zuokas, chairman of the board of VEKS, said.

Zuokas, a former mayor of Vilnius and leader of the Liberal and Center Union [a political party in Lithuania], must leave his seat on the city council after being found guilty. [This article doesn't explain what he was found guilty of. I'm not entirely sure, but I think it was either pressuring or trying to bribe another member of the city council--very long story.] He said that he will likely resign from his position as chairman of the board of VEKS: "I don't think I would like to be here any longer".

Yet another audit

The city of Vilnius, which is another founder of VEKS, on 31 March announced that they planned to initiate an independent audit of that organization.

"It's to be congratulated that the Ministry of Culture is actively participating in overseeing VEKS, but we don't think that an internal audit will be enough. That's why were initiating an independent audit, which will have an unbiased conclusion", Vilnius Vice Mayor Evaldas Lementauskas said.

On March 31, the city council announced that they would be accepting bids from auditing firms interested in performing such an audit. The competition is open to all domestic and foreign firms providing such services.

The government has earmarked over LTL 100 million (29 million euros) to finance the "Vilnius - European City of Culture 2009" program.