Category Archives: Social Media

From Samurai House to Moroccan Roof Terrace-all possible in today’s Shared Economy


There are many creative ways to tailor your vacation nowadays. The yellow phone book or travel booklet are just a sweet reminder of the squared little world that earlier generations were living in. Search engines or hundreds of websites like booking.com, Expedia, etc can offer instantly countless hotel options sorted by price, availability, or you name it. While mainstream search options provide fast and safe response to someone’s holiday getaway, millions of internet users are turning their heads to alternative solution like Airbnb, or Couchsurfing.

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Are you young, broke and AWESOME willing to explore the world while in need of a couch to crash at night? Or you’re a lonely settled man with a home and couple of dogs willing to explore the world from the comfort of your own living room? Then you go and join Couchsurfing community – a mega network of 100,000 cities that connects travelers and hosts worldwide. It’s there for you, the options are countless either if you choose to be an open-minded host or a passionate traveller. And if couchsurfing is too much driving in the fast lane for you then try to rent a room or an apartment at Airbnb. All choices available from filthy cheap holes to royal apartments with luxury toiletry.

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Surfing through Airbnb rental options from most common cities to exotic ones worldwide reminded me that proverb: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” – some place that one person considers worthless may be valuable to someone else. But that’s not important here. What’s quite striking to me is that worldwide booking of so-called sharing economy has broken not only the national borders, but literally has opened the doors to someone else living space.

Through couple of clicks in my i-Pad, at the comfort of my own couch, I made it to traditional Moroccan-styled living room, Brazilian love labeled-bedroom, charming pine room in New Delhi, India, and ended up the virtual evening trip at Samurai’s house in Hokkaido-Japan. How small and connected can the world suddenly come into sight? That’s just a great feeling. Options like Airbnb that defines itself as “a social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay” are more than just an uprise trend. With over 50,000 renters per night and over 4 million bookings worldwide, Airbnb apparently works for many people out there. In addition to offering choices to travelers on budget and hosts willing to make an extra income, this business model is radically transforming the hotel market scene toward a peer to peer approach. How about you? Have you considered Airbnb or Couchsurfing as vacationing option?

 

 

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Open Letter to President Obama


Dear President Obama,

I am a deeply concerned citizen of Albania, who like millions of Albanians is shocked by the news that deadly toxic chemical arsenal of Assad’s regime is landing to Albanian shores. For a small country of 28,000 km2, over-populated, with poor infrastructure, with countless problems in every sector of the economy, health, education, environment, agriculture, tourism, struggling for over two decades to fight corruption and organized crime plagued in every cell of our society, the decision of demolition chemical weapons in Albania is TOXIC. The lethal impact that this potential decision will have in the lives of Albanians and the generations to come is unquestionable.

I am addressing to you this letter for a couple of reasons. Our historic ties to US date back to 1919, when US President Woodrow Wilson intervened to block the Paris Peace Conference agreement, which divided Albania among former Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece. US support followed until these days with President Clinton’s decision to halt the Serbian genocide in Kosovo, for which we as Albanians are deeply grateful.  But as dark days have captured the skyline of the Albanian people, our eyes are turned to you as a world leader in a desperate attempt to change the tragic fate of our nation. From a nightmarish dream we woke up few days ago to the horrible news that our government has volunteered to host the Assad’s arsenal of +1,000 MT of highly dangerous chemical weapons and materials, infringing our constitutional rights, without any transparency, public consent, REFERENDUM, or even any hearings from the interest groups. Our government is selling this issue of hosting Assad’s weapons as a request of NATO to our country as a member of NATO alliance, while there is no evidence that neither NATO itself is involved in the process of disarming Syria nor that NATO officially has submitted a request to Albania to host it. Plus in 1993 the U.S. supported Germany and Europe by shipping out of our continent the very dangerous German chemical weapons stockpile. How can one in good conscience suggest to bring now, in 2013, in the heart of Europe, Assad’s stockpile?

But what should ring the ALARM bells to the international community is the wrong evaluation of capacities of our country for handling an operation of this magnitude.

How can the poorest country in Europe deal with a potential accident of this nature? How can a country like ours deal with waste management of Sarin and Mustard gas if DID NOT yet manage the waste from its own symbolic destruction of chemical materials inherited from communism? The lives of those innocent people and children killed in Gerdec (army depot explosion) by the incompetence of public authorities do not signal any concern? What about the image of Albania worldwide pinned as the toxic ground of Europe? What about potential poisoned water resources, land, shores?  Who will pay the consequences of this irrational act? – The Albanian people!!! And the future generations to come will be condemned without being guilty for a crime that they did not commit.

In this dark moment of desperation, but also proud of being a citizen of a peaceful nation that embraces democratic values, seeking to join EU, we ask you President Obama to stop this move.

To end this heartfelt letter, I am going to quote our famous patriot and former Minister and Extraordinary Envoy of Albania to the U.S Faik Konitza. “If Albania will die, it will die because of its politicians” 

The Affair of Destroying Syrian Weapons Arsenal in Albania


These days of heated debate for destroying Assad’s weapon arsenal, I can’t stop thinking of the same question. Why on earth Albania, I mean Albania is targeted as the backyard of destroying these mass destruction weapons? Our country does not have the capacity, any plant for weapon destruction, or real experience (what they call experience is destroying 16 mt chemicals inherited from communism). So, I start doing a little homework in order to better comprehend this operation.

Here is a view of the distribution of global stockpile of chemical weapons: two main stockpile owners are US and Russia which have destroyed about 90% and 74% of their own arsenal. Obviously it makes them experienced and resourcefully of handling such operations, but yet reluctant to host such operation. Patricia Lewis, from the London-Based think tank Chatham House, favors shipping the bulk agent out of Syria to a country like Russia. “Because Russia has taken the initiative here, they have that responsibility now to make sure it works.”Plus Russia has a naval base at Tartus in Syria”. But it is obvious that reluctance comes from a price tag associated with it, moving deadly chemicals is a risky business plus what you do with the waste coming out of Incineration or Neutralisation.

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On the other hand US is offering to bring this mobile unit developed by the US military called the Explosive Destruction System (EDS), which can handle up to six weapons at a time. The reason this mobile unit was invented is to avoid moving the highly dangerous arsenal from the initial storage, since transportation of chemical weapons can cause terrible accidents. So why Albania? Why bringing the EDS mobile unit to Albania if the weapon arsenal is in Syria and yet needs to be transported? Doesn’t it make sense to do this operation in Syria or near by where the arsenal is stored? Did our government volunteered to host the toxic stockpile or was asked by big powers? How big is the price tag to justify lives of Albanians? For these questions the Albanian citizens demand an answer. Not to mention here how is our government going to handle such accidents, potentially speaking? As we are talking about toxic chemicals like sarin and mustard gas that takes hundred of thousands of life’s in a blink of an eye.

So the risk of this potential operation is very serious and present. And if you are living in Albania and yet not convinced just look at YouTube videos of Syrian victims of chemical weapons. This could be you or your child.

Assad’s Chemical Weapons in Albanian Soil? No Thank You…


The breaking news that Syrian chemical weapons are most likely to be shipped for destruction to Albania has created an unanimous public reaction. Civil society, environmental groups, young activists, intellectuals, public figures, and citizens started a Ghandi-style marathon of protests in Tirana. Every day by staying in silence in front of government offices, protesters will gather to oppose the decision of bringing Syrian chemical weapons for destruction to Albania. Today, we all gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s (MP) office to protest. A Syrian woman, mother of two kids gave a strong message in the name of Syrians, victims of chemical weapons. “Albanian kids should not have the same fate as Syrian ones” added the Syrian woman bursting into tears. Other activists and prominent figures also issued strong messages addressed to the government.

Pics from the today’s protest in front of PM office:

Ironically, the first action of Rama’s government when took the office two months ago was to stop the importation of waste as a measure to ensure environment protection. This was one of the key promises in its electoral agenda. Now it’s being challenged by the decision of diluting 1,000 MT stocks of sarin nerve agent and mustard gas, which implies officiating the image of Albania as Europe’s toxic landfill. The silence of PM’s office on this issue is not only concerning and unacceptable, but raises further questions. Strangely the opposition, DP party is silent too. Meanwhile “the virtual war” has started. Online petitions are being signed, calls for referendum have initiated, daily protests are being organized. I doubt this will go easy and unnoticed. Albanians are irritated that on top of economic hardships and everyday struggles, they are being served a new threat to their health, environment, country image and most importantly the future of generations to come. I am sure that if Syrian weapons will make it to Albanian shores, Rama government will be nailed by the public opinion. It’s “New Born” reputation will fall off the cliff, it will earn the hatred of its own voters, it will face serious grassroots opposition, and will be viewed if not as evil, definitely as a weak bootlicker that puts in jeopardy the life of its own constituents.

Instead our government should work on promoting the country as a tourist destination not as the toxic dumping ground of Europe, as it is clear our country is lacking capacity, infrastructure, and experience in undertaking tasks of this magnitude with such high degree of hazard. Our neighboring countries should worry too. Are they really comfortable with storing tons of weapons of mass destruction in their neighbors’ backyard? 

Congratulations, President Obama!


It’s history in the making! In the wee small hours of the morning Barack Obama won his second term and stays the 44th President of the USA. What great news to wake up to: Four more years! My Facebook Timeline was totally flooded with hyper news on Obama’s victory. Facebook and Twitter users were excited about the well deserved victory which did not surprise me. While most of us were celebrating, someone else like Mr. ‘McDonald’ Trump was calling for a revolution in US or marches in Washington. Man, that’s so desperate and ironic to call for such Marxist approach to Obama’s win.

I followed all three Presidential Debates without being an American citizen, living in US or planning to move to US. Nor am I working for some US development agency overseas, neither I’m involved in politics. Plus: Living in Albania, it doesn’t matter if the new elected US President is left or right wing. The core direction of US foreign policy toward my country is not affected by the orientation of US political leadership. Both Republicans and Democrats historically have been supportive to the Albanian cause. So someone might wonder where all this interest comes from.

It‘s very emotional to see videos and photos of people cheering worldwide about Obama (click here) – and very understandable after the epic acceptance speech this morning. Certainly people around the globe see Obama’s re-election as the better choice and as an unique opportunity to keep the superpower on the right track. I am sure this image doesn’t apply to Mitt Romney. To his misfortune, he is viewed as less charismatic, less smart, trust-worthless, a greedy rich Wall Streeter, and he’s rather seen as a Bush follower. He failed to convince American voters to give him the benefit of doubt and win this presidential race.


But living in a globalized world, it isn’t possible to be indifferent to such a crucial event. Is it going to affect my life from one day to another? Probably not, since I’m not domestically target of Obama’s policies. But one thing is for sure, the average person out there wants a world leader to trigger hope, inspiration, positivism,  humanism, peace and handle well and sound economic policies to avoid the next Lehman-like meltdown, especially in light of heated Euro-zone crisis.

Today, Barack Obama stand in front of the world as winner and challenger. The very first attack on the newly elected President starts with the so-called “fiscal cliff” which effectively would throw the US economy back into a severe recession in January. It’s gonna be a rocky start for Obama with so many pissed republicans by the side – just look at the market slaughter today. But that’s certainly something familiar to Obama. On the day of his election in 2008 the Dow Jones tanked by 486 points. Four years later, the Dow Jones only sold off by 313 points. Yes, Mr. President, you can do it!

Wired in Wireless Memories


The bonds to my past memories are not just those happy little ones sticking profoundly forever in mind. Nor are those sad reminiscences of loss beyond control. They can be found in every little object, early youth notes, photography and souvenirs of this kind. My memories are fragmented in life cycles. A black and white photo as a child, a classmate book note with funky eternal friendship quotes, handwritten lectures, a 2002 laptop lying in some forgotten shelf, a bulk of handwritten letters and postcards in a grimy corner, old pictures of my grandparents… Pretty much this crafts my past archaic collection. 

Going through these tiny bits and pieces can wake up nothing but sentimental feelings.  As well a little regretful sentiment since the tools of capturing those moments seemed quite limited. I can rely on parents’ story telling about my childhood experience since video footages were inexistent back then. It makes me smile when I think how big of a deal was to own a simple camera, or to recall the countless times us kids were brought by parents at the Skanderbeg square for photo shooting session. That’s the place where “paparazzi” were staying until late 90s. 

Now life snapshots are floating in digital clouds. Last time I remember stepping into a store and developing pictures was when I needed a photo for my biometric passport. I don’t even know how these shops manage to stay in business any longer. In digital age we have grown to be immense consumers. Springtime in Sicily resulted in 1,000 pictures taken in 5 days, 100+ for the perfect shot and yet not fully satisfied. My hard copy photo albums have been smoothly substituted by the irresistible power of photo sharing of Facebook or simple files in computer.

Technology is such a blessing and a curse at the same time. My worst nightmare is waking up and loosing those vivid life cycle collection due to some bug, hardware failure, topped by the horrendous thought of being victim of hacking.  Therefore, I can understand the fear or the reluctance that some people have toward technological advances and social networks.

How much my life changed in the last decade in framework to the technological discoveries?  A lot, unthinkable actually! Looking back it feels like I have been living in the stone age where time was ticking down much slowly. And now I’m always connected virtually at least. I only need my iPhone to access via currents all my favorite magazine and newsletters. To be in touch with friends and professional contacts it takes one click, so it does to scroll through my photo and video archive. There is an App for everything, even when mosquitoes disrupt my reading outdoors in these hot summer nights; some speedy Airbnb research to find apartments in destinations of choice or use GPS navigator or Google maps to get there with my iTunes music library on.

Things that now are taken for granted like the 3G or soon 4G networks were quite unimaginable back in 2008. I thought it was not possible to upload a picture with a status update on FB while canoeing around Alster Lake or posting a blog entry via WordPress app until I saw it actually works that simple. Just a click.

How future advances in technology will reshape our lives and trigger social change is yet to be seen. So far we live in revolutionary times of astonishing advances that have found their own fast speed track. It remains nothing but to follow.

With a nostalgic feeling of the past and impressions on the future, here’s my favorite Oscar Wilde approach: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.