Monday, November 30, 2009

Window Shopping


Isn't English fun? Window shopping can mean:
1. Browsing shop windows with lust in your eyes drooling over all of the goodies we cannot afford.
2. Looking for windows to replace the windows that are not as energy efficient and need replacing
3. In the age of technology, software.

Today, I was looking behind door number 3. After spending part of Sunday going to two different malls, one with a Saturn store and the other with an Electro World, I was on the prowl for Windows 7 Professional in English. The best I could do was get a Home Premium version. If you read this blog regularly, you may recall that a couple of our guests gave me the Windows 7 Home Premium as a gift. I was and still am most appreciative and in awe over their generosity. However, we have five computers total, so one copy of the software is not enough to go around, at least not legally.  

What I decided to do was to put Windows 7 Professional on the main computer and the Home Premium upgrade on the kitchen computer. I am still reading reviews on what to do with the netbook, one laptop we only use for watching videos powered through the TV, and I just may need another copy for my school laptop. It seems that the Pro version will work better with my Windows Home Server, which feeds into the other computers, thus making a Home Group an even better option, thus sharing everything on the network that I want to share.

I have asked my students to check repeatedly, but they did not come up with anything. Well, necessity is the mother of digging deeper. I had a student who needed his thesis papers signed. I told him which malls I would be checking today if he wanted to find me. Today was the deadline for this paperwork. Amazingly, within an hour, he had a store's link where I could get any version of Windows I wanted. After signing his paper in good faith, I headed off of the beaten path to find this store in one of the outer districts. Eureka! It was true, but they do not stock anything. After placing the order today, it will be available for pick-up by Wednesday. No money was transacted until delivery. The kicker is that it is $100.00 cheaper here than what I could find on the Internet for online stores in the States. I did ask more than once is this was the full package, not just an upgrade. Their English was superlative, but I will examine the box carefully before handing over the money.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Reader to Reader


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Kim Writes in...":

Coincidentally, another friend told me that he is interested in this same camera. I have owned Pentax (film) cameras in the past and been very happy with them.


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Friday, November 27, 2009

To Market, To Market or Here Comes Santa Claus


Interestingly, the Christmas market opened a week earlier this year. Their normal date for spreading good cheer is the first weekend of Advent, but hey, some of us wait all year for that hot mulled wine. Why not stoke the fires early? 

We did our first trip to the Christmas market today, but the drizzle did not warm me to the idea of Christmas shopping. Each year, this is like a déjà vu experience. After the first couple of years, you can predict which booth is selling what and its exact placement on the square. With that thought in mind, I immediately headed to the lady who sells ceramics. I have bought parts of a set from her: sugar bowl, creamer, butter dish, small plates, jam jars and spoons for the jam. This last August, when a guest broke the handle to the butter dish cover, I started dreaming of sugar plums, Santa, and the ceramics lady. I am so sorry, but my OCD does not allow for a piece of brokenware. 

When I reached her booth, I was ready to buy, buy, buy. Instead, I was only able to bye, bye, bye. She was not there. I thought this was an evil trick, so covered the territory looking for her. She was not there.  Call me compulsive, but if she doesn't show here later in the next month, I will just have to start looking for another complete set to use. I hope Santa brings her coal for her stocking.

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Black Friday


US Americans know this day as Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year with 'bargains' galore and extended store hours. Just to feel like I am in the swing of things, I just may go to the stores to feel like part of a crowd, any crowd.

But what about last night's dinner? Marriott delivered our dinner at 3:30, thirty minutes ahead of schedule. Since we could not eat until the others finished work, we had to refrigerate it until later. The menu, which was described as serving 4-6, left out the word children. Yes, this would have fed 4-6 children with leftovers besides, but for hungry adults it was a stretch. They did not bring the 'glazed carrots' or the 'creamed vegetables' as was listed on the order form. The 'walnut' pie that was an extra 1,200 Huf was delightfully a pecan pie instead. Fortunately, we had made extra sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and other fixings to supplement. The turkey looked fabulous when wrapped in plastic wrap, but once it was uncovered and speared with a knife, I thought it was going to deflate. It did turn out to be sufficiently meaty, tender, and moist.

We were honored to have Balazs and Sylvia, both former students as well as Hunter, Sally, and Deb join us to celebrate. As planned we started with the hot artichoke dip, which received rave reviews, followed by pumpkin soup. Everyone seemed impressed with the spread. I was in my glory having a group of wonderful people to join us in the celebration, reminding me of great times past.

Now, I am off to shop.

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Kim Writes in...


Kim has left a new comment on your post "LIghts, Action, Ah, Where is the Camera?":

I would say NOPE... this is Hungary after all. And I am Hungarian. :-S I would go and get the camera from somewhere else where they physically give it to you. Hope you like your stay here though, I have had enough, moving straight back to the UK. 

Thanks Kim. Normally, I would follow that advice, but my US contacts have warned me that the camera is not available in stores in there either. It is only available online in most places, so this seems to be standard operating procedure. The other options for purchasing here, are also online stores only, but without the extra lens for the same cost. The extra lens is another 72,000 Huf, making the wait a real bargain. I have not put any money down on it and will not until the camera arrives, so I have nothing to lose except maybe exceptional photography for our upcoming trip.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Video


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Happy Thanksgiving


First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans. I know our Canadian friends celebrated it last month and I missed it. Sorry!

Our holiday meal is supposed to be delivered today, courtesy of the Marriott Hotel. Well not really courtesy, since we paid dearly for the dinner. To make it holiday-ish, I had to supplement it with some of my traditional touches. I made artichoke dip, which is served hot, but is so much better the next day that I made it last night. Then we will start with pumpkin soup thanks to the guests who have read on our website that canned pumpkin would make our holiday more special. I also make mushrooms, the way my Italian grandmother prepared them; after slicing them, they are coated in bread crumbs, Italian seasonings, and grated Romano cheese and baked.

I don't know how I had managed to do the whole dinner in the past for a table full of guests. Just those three things last night wore me out. Of course, when I was in the States, I had more time to prepare, because I could leave work early on Wednesday and had all Thursday morning. Here, I had to return to the university for a doctoral dissertation qualifying exam and did not get home until 5 pm. I also have to teach this morning. Although, this is the American Studies department, we do not get the holiday off. Pity!

What I will give thanks for is too long to list, so I will short-list it. Ron, friends, students, and the ability to live in Hungary and travel the world. There are numerous sub-categories under each and other major categories left out, but you get the idea.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

LIghts, Action, Ah, Where is the Camera?


The day before yesterday, I received an e-mail from the company where I ordered my camera acknowledging my order, thanking me for my business , yada, yada. Of course, it was in Hungarian, so it may have actually been yádá, yádá. Either way, I needed a student to translate it. The camera was promised in 1 1/2 weeks, both at the store when I ordered it and by this e-mail.

Yesterday, I received another e-mail, student translated of course. This one states, it has been 48 hours since your ordered this camera. Unfortunately, we are out of stock, but we will do our best to fill this order as soon as possible. 

My hope is that when the salesman was typing the camera into his computer, he or at least the computer knew they were out of stock at the time. When he quoted it would be 1 1/2 weeks, this was because the computer knew "Hey, we are out of stock of this camera, so it will take us 1.4 weeks to get another one in."

Will I or won't I have a new camera for vacation? Anyone work for the psychic hotline?

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Aye, I, Eye


I went for my month post surgery check-up today. Not only was I able to read the first screen of four lines, but I continued through the next three screens of progressively smaller letters. The doctor said I was at 100%, but in four weeks, I would be at 120% . It is astonishing to be able to see such distances that in the past I could not even imagine. The only issue is lights. Lights, especially indoors, have halos or at night look like star filters. She said that would clear also, it was normal. I have one more appointment before we leave on our trip and then not again for four months. 

One the way home, I ordered a new camera. I decided on the Pentax K-X after reading dozens of reviews. My current camera was top notch when I bought it, but now my mobile phone camera has more megapixels than the camera does. After contacting some former guests, who had great photos, the Pentax was the winner. After some hunting around, completely done by one of my students, I found a great deal. The camera body, an 18-55mm lens and an additional 50-200mm lens. Originally, I thought I wanted it in red to make it distinguishable, but later, I had second thoughts about a distinguishable camera when traveling. It is on order and will be in in under two weeks. Just enough time to play with it before leaving.

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Don't Let Holiday Shopping Frequent Flyer Miles Slip Through Your Fingers |


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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tiptoe Sunday


Ron and I joined by other Americans, Sally and Debbie, went to the Opera House for an early performance of the ballet based on Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. You can find the rather complicated story here. For less than $8.00 per person, we had amazing ringside seats, along the ringed balcony. For a performance like this, these seats are perfect, giving a perfect view of both the orchestra and the stage.

This particular ballet was unusual in that the major roles were men. There were only two women characters, who had less consequential, yet vital parts. What was fascinating were the movements. I do love ballet, but this was a real treat in that the male dancers had to vastly extend the standard repertoire of movements they are relegated to, many times performing intricate movements that women perform.

Ron had read that this performance is so physically demanding, there are three casts of primary roles, who will perform the six performances. It was apparent that the cast we had the pleasure of viewing were in top form, getting it their all, making for a splendid performance.

Afterward, we went to the Caledonia Scottish Pub, where Time Out magazine proclaimed one could find the best hamburger in Budapest. Ron and I had to test that theory; however, it occurred to me that I have never eaten a restaurant hamburger in the eight years I have been here. For me, yes, this is the best restaurant hamburger I have eaten. However, I can say the competition is not that stiff, if this is the prime standard.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Such a Geek


The MS Office 2010 beta download was released today. Rumor has it, it will not be available for long. If you want to try it, there is an option to keep your old version as well. I grabbed it since, well, I am a bit of a geek. You can get it here.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Author, Author and No, Not Me


Funzine magazine, the every two week magazine in English had a book signing party featuring Joanne Harris. You may recognize her name by her now most famous book Chocolat, but my favorite is Gentlemen and Players, but I have read all of her books with the exception of Runemarks. She was scheduled for 6pm, but we arrived at the new Allee Mall at 4:10pm to get a good seat. By 5:15, there was still no one there, so I was beginning to wonder. They only had three of her books in English, all three that I already have, so there was nothing to buy to have her sign. Ron had wanted to bring some of our copies, but I had concerns about being accused of shoplifting. 

She came out very casual, in rolled up jeans and a sweatshirt, her curly hairy bouncing around without the aid of a mousse to tame it into place. She delightfully answered questions, read a small piece from two of her books, the English version and by 6:45 was signing books for those lined up. There must have been over 75 people by that point. 

At first it was quite exciting to see a 'real' novelist in the flesh, but then I realized our dear friend Patrica Schonstein has just as many novels out on the market in addition to ten children's books and I am quite excited to see her each and every time I do.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Forgotten Costs of Travel


Besides those pesky hidden costs that the airlines are now sucking our blood for, there are other not so insignificant chunks of change that are required to travel far and wide. Today, Ron and I went for our Yellow Fever vaccines. The ones we had years ago expired last year when we were safely in Australia. This years is Kenya and Tanzania, so we needed to get shot up once again.

Budapest has quite an efficient, if not inexpensive World Health Travel Clinic. Doctors are trained in communicable diseases in every part of the globe. With our immunizations records in hand, we entered the waiting room with twenty people who already beat to the door and took a number. With thoughts that we should have packed our next meal, shock is not superlative enough to describe the fact that we were in the doctor's office within fifteen minutes. After looking over our records, Ron needed more shots than I did. How did that happen? Anyway, we received our Yellow Fever, Tetanus booster, and Typhoid or was it Jungle Fever? I am not sure, but it was one mama of a needle that took a good long time to empty out into my bloodstream.

She discussed Malaria treatment options. The last time we were here, the doctor was more than willing to share homeopathic ideas and we have gone that route more than once. This doctor insisted on telling us of a new medication that has less side effects, but costs 20,000 Huf a box and we would each need three boxes. Let me see, 20,000 x 3 for each of us equals 120,000 Huf total at today's exchange rate is $668.00 or 448.80 Euros or 49,582.83 in Kenyan shillings. No, we will go the homeopathic route, thank you very much for the information.

This little outing to the doctor is not of course covered by the health insurance, because once you leave the country and the EU, they are not going to cover you anyway. Our hour of in and out set us back 43,355 Huf or $241.30 or 162.16 Euros or 17,911.19 Kenyan shillings. 

The next set-back is the travel insurance. 

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving by Marriott


Ron used to have a connection through the museum docent program who could get us a turkey at the US Embassy commissary. Her husband was transferred and along with it, our turkey connection. For US readers who can find a freezer case stocked with Butterball or no name turkeys year round in the grocer's meat department, it may seem strange. Here in Hungary, getting a whole turkey is similar to the proverbial hen's teeth. 

One of my journalism students is doing her internship covering food news for an English language portal, so I put her on the scent for a whole turkey to roast for Thanksgiving. A week later, she responded with the fact that all of the poultry butchers in the Great Market receive their turkeys whole and cut them themselves before putting them out for sale. This may have been a no brainer for a Hungarian speaker, but I was not satisfied with the response, so pushed her further. I think the tears were the persuading factor.

She e-mailed me last week. She was by the Great Market, so stopped at a butcher. They are only getting 15-20 kilo turkeys in right now. If you don't know the math, there are 2.2 pounds to a kilo. Those turkeys could be Thanksgiving Day floats in the Macy's parade. Even after she promised to try to find us a reasonable turkey, I thanked her, but no thanks at the same time. 

Thanksgiving is the holiday I miss the most not living in the US. I am a traditionalist when it comes to this holiday and want it to be as 'authentic' as possible in my terms of authenticity. In the US, after appetizers, the dinner started with cream of pumpkin soup, turkey, homemade chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, glazed yams with mini-marshmallows, stuffed mushrooms, a green vegetable, lots of gravy, and other fixings, followed by pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake (I loved making this), and another type of pie. 

Our tradition was to always invite those who did not have family or friends close by to celebrate with and would otherwise be alone.

Each year here, it has been a hit or miss trying to find the ingredients needed. Pumpkin is the toughest. However, after posting it on our website, we now have three cans of pumpkin and two cans of evaporated milk. Pumpkin pie anyone?

For the rest, we broke down and ordered from the Marriott. On Thursday, they will deliver a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, glazed carrots, a bottle of wine, plus a pumpkin and walnut pie serving four to six, for $125.

Just to make it a holiday, I will supplement it with my baked artichoke dip for an appetizer, make my stuffed mushrooms, and another pie. It is not a holiday if you cannot smell it walking in the door.

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Counting Cash


How do you count your cash? My pile of cash is so small, I barely need to count it at all. However, this is an interesting thought and I will pay more attention when we travel.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Busy or Lazy?


When I don't get on here for some time, this antsy feeling comes over me. The problem is scheduling. Each semester, I try, I really try to space out my essay assignments, so that I am not piled under with papers to read at one time. If most Hungarian students understood the meaning of "Deadline" this would probably work out better than it does. Just as I think I am at the end of one classes group of essays, an e-mail comes in with a pleading note about why this paper is late. I would rather read the late paper than fail them, so I accept the paper. Then just as I finish one pile, it is time for the next class to dump another pile in my lap. From the middle of the semester to the end, it is one non-stop cycle. 

The difference this semester is having had the eye surgery. My one eye, the operated one can now see distance almost perfectly, but it is expected to continue to improve in the next few weeks. The other eye is great for short distances. What I need is a third eye for those in-between distances, like from seat to the computer monitor. I have had to correct papers by increasing the size to 150% or hunch over the computer table. I alternate between the two, because I really love my massage therapist and want him to feel needed when my back has had it from the hunch mode.

Other things have distracted me also. I decided that we, my Journalism students and I needed a web site. In a couple of hours, I created this one ELTE Journals. It was easy and fast, so I became carried away and created one for myself too, called what else, Dr. Ryan James. I did not have any special purpose for it, but thought it could not hurt to get my name out there more often. One never knows. With Goolge analytics in mind, I thought I should create a mirror site for the B and B. It is actually more than a mirror, since I can add content to it that there really is no room for on our regular site. Like our regular site, this is also called BudaBaB.

Speaking of Google, I was able to get us listed on Google maps. After registering, I had to wait for the confirmation postcard with the pin ID to arrive in the mail. It came to the day that they promised. Now, if someone types in BudaBaB into Google, they will get this map location. In addition, the list goes on for days, showing where we have been listed, guest reviews we were not even aware of, and other surprises. I love technology!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Andy Said...


I checked this link out. There is nothing to download and it is free to use. Looks interesting. Ryan

andy said...
Hey everyone , I wanted to recommend you on a program I use with my students. I tried all kinds of conferencing tools, and so far this was the easiest to use: Show Document - Its Great for teaching and studying together online. Students can use it themselves to complete homework and projects from home. - Andy

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Google Wave


I just was invited to accept a Google Wave invitation. If you don't know what the Wave is, click here. If you will use it with me, I will give you an invite. I have 6 left, but don't comment here for an invite. Write me at

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Culture Happens


Here is Jim's other comment, "Culture is happening. CULTURE IS HAPPENING! (you must share THAT funny story.. how funny)".

Now to put it into context. When Jim and Peggy arrived, they spoke a great deal about wanting to experience the culture here as they do whenever they travel.

One night while they were here, there was a fire on our street. The street was filled with fire trucks and although Jim, Peggy, and our other guests were milling around the window watching the goings on, I was grading papers and never left my computer. However, I said to Jim "Culture is happening." and we chuckled.

The next morning at 7:30 am, the buzzer rings for the downstairs door. Everyone was still sleeping and we ignored it. People wanting to get in to leave flyers always choose our buzzer. This time, the buzzer was insistent to the point that I answered it and let whomever into the building and went back to bed. 

Not five minutes later, our own door bell was ringing. I threw on my bathrobe and went to answer it. There was a man in a uniform, the likes of which I had never seen before. He bla, bla, bla'ed to me in Hungarian, but when I said I did not understand, he said "We need to check your chimney. There was a fire here last night. The 'chimney' is for the hot water heater and is inspected annually. The last time was only a month ago, but I let him in. He came in followed by three other men all in the same uniform. Being wider awake, I saw the logo was a fireman running with a ladder. 

The four men went into the bathroom, where we pointed out the heater and chimney. They did massive investigations and were chattering like a bunch of old women at a gossip convention. I was concerned they were going to wake the guests in both rooms, but especially the large bedroom. Without our knowing it, they went into the bedroom, saw people in there and zipped out again. Then they sheepishly opened the door and said they needed to check the thermostat as well, which is in the large bedroom. There was enough noise to raise the dead and we still had a few days before Halloween. After they declared us fully in compliance a clean chmney and with no fire hazards , they thanked us and left. 

Thirty minutes later, Jim emerged from the small bedroom. I apologized for all of the noise, but he had not heard a thing. I said I should have been shouting "Culture is happening, culture is happening". So culture happened and he missed it.

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Jim and Peggy from Austin Comment


;) Hey Ryan, just saw your posts below.. THANKS for the shout-out. Indeed, you found a fellow geek here friend on this side of the Atlantic. Also glad that your eye surgery went well. Peggy did that a number of years ago, and she is soooo happy she did. We also wanted to say thanks for the wonderful hospitality! We love your place and it's location in the middle of Budapest. THAT was like hitting the lottery for us too! We travelled for 24 hours straight and are glad to be home and NOT to be sitting on a plane or airport. Thanks again for you and Ron for opening your home to us. Going to miss not being there and esp the wonderful public transportation Hungary has. Wish we had that in Austin!

Jim and Peggy Kipping
Austin TX.

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