Friday, November 23, 2007


Everyone here was interested to learn about the American Thanksgiving holiday. People have political and religious holidays, but something like Thanksgiving is not so common in the world (I know Canada has one). So I told them about it. Th is my main teaching day, and even my students were curious. That, or they were trying to get professor off track from lecturing on liberal theories of international relations (morning class) or Presidential-Congressional bargaining (afternoon class).

I invited three friends to dinner for T-day. We went to a wonderful restaurant in St. Paul's Bay, Tarragon. Turned out our waiter (and manager, I think) was from the US and had fallen in love with Malta while on a visit during an Army leave. We did not have turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie or any of the traditional things, but the food was excellent. We had some very nice wine, followed by a digestif (not sure how to spell that) and then our waiter asked if we would like some cognac on the house. Sure. He brought it out slightly warmed--the bowl of the brandy glass was set in the top of a glass with hot water in it. It was an attractive presentation and released the aroma of the brandy perfectly. We had a lovely carrot soup, I had an Indonesian style chicken, others had duck and there might have been a pork dish. Tiramisu was dessert (not a half bad idea for Thanksgiving, I think). We laughed a great deal. I was and am grateful for their friendship and for the chance to be here in Malta.

I hope any American readers out there had as nice a Thanksgiving as I did.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

weather report

Here's reason to like Malta in late November. Sunshine. Wore a short sleeve shirt to walk the dog this morning.

Our high will be around 22 (72F) our low will be around 16 (65)
Houghton Michigan's high will be -1 (around 30F) and its low will be -6 C. (oops forgot to look it up, but I'll guess the lower half of the 20sF).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Switch to the Euro

One subsidiary reason I wanted to go to Malta was because it will switch its currency from Malta Liri to the Euro effective Jan. 1, 2008. My Liri account will automatically become a Euro account overnight. It will be possible to convert cash at the official price for quite some time. There are signs everywhere. All prices are put up in Liri and Euros, the final rate having been set some weeks ago. I think many Maltese are tired of hearing about it, even as they are nervous about inflation after the change and just how smoothly it will go.

I've been quite interested in how they are giving the information as the final run up to the change happens. They have in place hotlines to call if prices for products suddenly rise in advance of the change. They just passed a law limiting "rounding up" prices under certain circumstances. You can get little cards wtih equivalencies. This weekend a local market in a town is going to let people practice by only accepting and using Euros. The Bank of Valletta sent everyone a little calculator set for the conversion. You select whether you want to convert from Euros or Liri or vice versa, then you input the amount and hit the calculate. Bingo, the other currency number shows up.

Yesterday I got mail, all in Maltese, from the Central Bank of Malta. It was easy to see what they were explaining. They showed pictures of the new currency, both the folding kind and the coins. As you may know, the coin currency has one side that is all Europe and one side with scenes related to a particular country. But, in addition to that bit of information, they sent plastic cards that have holograms--on one side you shift the card back and forth and can see key prices change between Liri and Euros. On the other they illustrate how to check that the currency is real, by illustrating the security thread in the bill and the watermark. Cool. I plan to keep some of these examples to show my students back at Tech and as mementos of my stay.

I've rather lost track of the discussion, but Malta also has an opportunity to reduce its national debt and thus be able to use the saved interest for other purposes. The Euro zone Central Bank does not require the various country banks to keep as high a level of reserves as the Central Bank of Malta has. Apparently, however, some people still think they should keep the reserves anyway. Seems like a curious discussion to me. They could use a few more millions in their national budget it seems to me.

Anyway, the change is even more interesting than I thought it would be. It has even affected the decision by the governing party on when to hold elections. Everyone things they will call the election in the first quarter of the new year. The logic--in other places, the inflation that attends the switch takes a few months to appear. But, all the planning will certainly pay off for the government/ the governing party would benefit from that bit of good government. But they have to hedge their bets about the inflation and get the election done before any inflation gets going. [Note: unlike the endless campaigns in the US, elections happen quickly in most European nations. Voters are supposed to pay attention to what the party in power really has done (the Responsible Party Govt concept, unlike the American "responsive" government) and what the opposition parties say they will do if elected.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

My morning walk (November)

The main reason I chose to live in St. Paul's Bay is the view and easy access to the sea. Virtually everyday Floppy, my foster dog, and I go down to the seafront in the morning for our walk. Today was typical. The weather has cooled into the upper 60's (16-20 C) and it is simply delightful to go out, day or night.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Met Govt leaders

I was sick the week before this past week and missed class, didn't go out much.

This just past week, however, found me feeling better. It also had (and still has) fabulous fall weather--sunshine, temps in the upper 60s or low 70s (19-21 C.). It was glad to be alive weather, for sure.

I finished my lectures at IMLI and the students were so sweet. The students gave me a certificate of appreciation in a frame. I learned later that this was entirely their own initiative, so it means even more to me than it did. What a fine group of men and women--real credits to their countries.

On Wed. Prof. Attard of IMLI and his wife hosted a lecture, statue unveiling, and reception in honor of Arvid Pardo, who was the first to say that the resources of the deep seabed should be the "common heritage of mankind.' He was, at that time, Ambassador to the UN from Malta, having had years of experience in the UN. There were a number of very interesting talks, then we went out to unveil the statue and on into IMLI for the reception. The Prime Minister of Malta unveiled it, after talking about the governmental history on how Pardo became the Ambassador. Prof. Attard introduced me to him--PM Gonzi. That's the first time I ever met a PM. Other ministers were there. I had a quick chat with the chief of the Central Bank about the planned switch to the Euro on Jan 1 and a somewhat longer one with the head of the Malta Defence Forces. And, of course, I talked with the IMLI students I had just finished teaching the day before.

The week also was the start of a series of lectures in Prof Attard's International law class for the 3rd year law students (bachelors degree, not JD). They are a lively group.

Friday, November 2, 2007

ships in bay

Quite a few large ships have been in St. Paul's Bay. Here are three of them.