Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yes, Virgina There is Freedom of Speech, Now Shut Up and Keep Your Views to Yourself


A tantalizing article arrived in my e-mail from of all places Congress.org, the newsletter that gives us a little view of what our representatives are up to and what mischief they are causing. This particular article is about a teacher, who was fired for expressing his views about the teabaggers. 

Interestingly, the article it points to is Fox News, so you can read the first paragraph "An Oregon teacher who announced his intention to "dismantle and demolish the Tea Party" has been placed on administrative leave until his school district finishes its investigation into whether his political activity crossed the line." To continue reading, click on dismantle and demolish.

So let me understand this, teachers are supposed to teach about freedom of speech, but when they express it on their own time, they can be sanctioned? "The First Amendment requires the government to protect free speech, but state laws determine how private employers can treat their workers." What a wonderful example of democracy we are modeling for all children. Why bother with the amendment then, if we are all watching our Ps and Qs at work. It does give positive credence for self-employment.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Week in Review


This week has sped by, so here is a review of the highlights. Our property manager notified me that the real estate agent they work with found tenants for our condo. The only hurdle is that they have to pass the credit inspection of the HOA (Home Owner's Association). The property management company has already cleared them. If the HOA is satisfied, they will move in on June 1st. Like Rumpelstiltskin, we had to promise our first born, ah, rent check to the property manager, so we do not receive anything until July. Keep those fingers crossed.

The thesis grading nightmare has not ended. I had four BA theses to read and grade, but I just finished them today. The first round of State Exams will be this Wednesday. Hopefully, that "I really am on summer break" feeling will kick in before July 1st. Though with almost weekly State Exams on Wednesdays, through June 23 and extras on the 25th, it just may be at bay. 

What I intend to do on my summer vacation, by Ryan James. 

I plan to sort through my photos and find the best the best from the last 17 years. I have found print on demand companies on the Internet where one can create a "store" to sell merchandise from greeting cards to sweatshirts with everything in between on a per order basis. 

Another goal, or as my students love to say, an aim is to create a new website. I have bought the domains www.ryanjames.org, www.drryanjames.com, and drryanjames.net because I am going to get serious about starting a Life Coaching business with specific specializations. Don't waste your time  checking the domains now, there is nothing there. When they are up and running, you will be informed. I really wanted ryanjames.com, or ryanjames.net, but some singer has the .com domain, while some strange little characters that look like they have been kidnapped from South Park are on the .net domain.

In the meanwhile, to keep myself off of the streets, I have been playing around with freebie websites. Here are the ones I have created. 

Dr James Thesis Advising - This has all of the MLA and writing tips. I was tired of repeating it a million times. 

ElTE Journals - Spotlighting my budding writers, they have some of their work here. Good, bad, and indifferent, that is what writing is about, the process. 

Dr James Writing Program - Being the coordinator of this program, having all of my class information and program requirements in one place made sense to me. One stop shopping for students. 

Social Problems MA Class - This is for new class I will be teaching in the MA program come fall. I have not done much more with this site other than create it. The text books I ordered are sitting in Texas, waiting to come here. 

Dr Ryan James - In my travel writer's group, one of the organizers claims there is no such thing as having your name all over the Internet. This is really just a place for me to store things that I will reflect on when I retire. But, it draws attention, so be it.  

BudaBaB - Using the wisdom of more is better for page ranking, I created this supplementary site just to send more people our way. 

BudaBaB Wish Lists - As the name infers, this is where I just humble myself and say, "Hey, if I have helped you with my website and you did not stay with us, here are things I would love to have as a token of your appreciation." I think I did it in a genteel manner.

I have these websites down cold now. I should offer to design websites for people in exchange for books. Any takers?

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Launch South Africa


It thrills me to forward to all of you the invitation we received by our very dear friend Patricia Schonstein, a magnificently talented writer. We had the pleasure of meeting Patricia and her equally talented author husband, Don Pinnock in 2005 when we rented their self-catering apartment in Cape Town. It was friendship at first site and we have been friends since both here and there again.

Thursday 27 May 2010
The Book Lounge Roeland Street Cape Town

Patricia Schonstein: Banquet at Brabazan

We are delighted to be launching the new novel from local novelist, Patricia Schonstein.

In Banquet at Brabazan, she takes us to the heart of Cape Town’s violent inner city, creating a cornucopia of events featuring superb food, romance, a cappella, an angel, Shakespearean drama, reflections on South Africa’s war in Angola, drug-money, a multi murder, visions of the Afterlife and various works of fine art with flashbacks to the wondrous A Time of Angels.

The novel is rich with her characteristic use of fabric, fine-art, poetry and magic as well as her deep and philosophical questioning of the human condition.

At core, Banquet at Brabazan is the story of an enduring, secret love affair between a boss and his secretary who create a fantastical, magical, theatrical, costumed, Italianate life for themselves within the confines of her apartment.

Outside of that contrived space, exists the real world of loneliness, xenophobia and crime that have come to mark post-apartheid South Africa.

Patricia Schonstein deftly leads us through both worlds, allowing the lives of a small group of people, who have not met before, to intersect over a period of ten days at Brabazan Bar & Lodge, in Long Street, Cape Town. Here she reveals a poignant and beautiful patina of hope and love. 

With this, her sixth novel, Patricia affirms herself as one of South Africa’s leading authors and a master of magic-realism.
Patricia will be in discussion with Hugh Hodge, the editor of New Contrast .

RSVP  The Book Lounge, booklounge@gmail.com,
 021 462 2425.

Also by Patricia and available through Amazon:
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting to the Root of the Matter


Getting to the root of the matter really has  multiple meanings today. For the last week, we have had rain on a daily basis. A few days, the rain would fall for a few hours, while other days, the entire day was a drencher. The day before yesterday and yesterday as well, the winds have been particularly fierce feeling closer to hurricane weather than spring. 

Reports stated that the unusually stormy winds were gusting at 100-110 km per hour (62-68 miles per hr) in many parts of the country, including Budapest. Although it has not hindered take offs and landings at the Ferihegy airport thus far, but the volcanic ash from Iceland has been the root cause of many flights being canceled in the UK, Germany, and France.

Today was a dental appointment on Margaret Island, where all of those ahead of my 10am appointment were late due tot the weather, though I who needed to take the tram, a metro, and then a bus to get there due to bridge construction, made it on time. When dentist finally made it to me, she rooted around in my mouth. Afterward, we discussed the ill fate of my roots.

When I returned to the bus stop to come home, this poor tree was dealing with its own root of the matter.

Related articles by Zemanta
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Nephew Graduates


It seems that my nephew graduated yesterday. The only reason I know this is because I happened to sign into FaceBook to shamelessly promote my book. I don't receive royalties, but I do like to know it is being sold and purchased. Oh, yea, my nephew.

He graduated Cum Laude with a degree is ? I think it was psychology, but I am not certain. During his four years of college, I think we may have communicated maybe 6 times, but I could be exaggerating the number. When he graduated high school, no one had told me, so this was no surprise. To be fair, I have to say that my brother did mention it would be this May back at the beginning of April in a FaceBook note to me personally. Since my nephew, Kevin was in high school, we have offered to fly he and his younger brother, Paul over for a visit. They never took us up on the offer. I guess we are not what you would call close.

That horny gene comes from my father's side of the family. We had hoped my brother would have had them clipped while Kevin was still a baby, but he didn't. What can you do other than suggest and hope?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

My Book is Out If You Can Find It


It looks like Amazon.com is sinking on my list of favorite sites. First my editor told me that the publisher had to manually enter the release date into Amazon.com for my book, because it defaulted to the UK release date. Now, when I search Amazon for either Frommer's Budapest and the Best of Hungary or the title without Frommer's, the page with the 7th edition appears. To find the current 8th edition, you either have to be intuitive enough to click "other editions" or specifically type in 8th in the search box. If you want to find it, click here.

If you go to Barnes and Noble online here, and type in Ryan James in the search box, you will find Frommer's Europe and Frommer's Eastern Europe, two books for which I wrote the Hungary chapters followed by a boxed set of Tales from the Crypt, but nary a fully authored Budapest book. Why the Tales...is there, I have no idea, but it would make a great title for my memoirs. To find my most current book, you have to type in Frommer's Budapest, but they too are showing the UK publication date as you can see here

Of course, you can order it directly from Frommer's. Click here. Getting it locally will save you shipping charges, but if they don't have it on the shelves yet, here is the ISBN number: ISBN-13: 9780470551264
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Árpád had this comment and question:
"This is interesting, but I am curious how Google Docs deals with MS Word’s headers. When I upload a file that contains the standard MLA page numbers in the header, Google Docs only displays the last number (at the very beginning of the document) because a Docs document is one continuous page. Have you found a solution for this problem?"

Google has been aware of this issue being a problem, but since there is no license between Google and Microsoft, the choices are limited. If you want to save a document that no longer needs editing, you can save it in Word as a PDF file and upload it to Docs that way. It will keep all of its formatting. When I edit student work where I want them to see the changes, but I don't want them to be able to click on "Accept all changes", I put it in PDF format before e-mailing it back to them.

If you want to collaborate on a document, it has to be in Google Docs format. In this way, collaborate on the document, complete it, download it, and then format it as needed. Save one copy as a PDF and upload it for safe storage. There are programs that will convert from PDF back to Word.

If you are not planning on collaborating on a document, supposedly, by not converting it to Google Docs format it is supposed to keep its Word style. You have to uncheck the box shown here where is states "Convert documents...to the corresponding Google Docs formats".

According to their website, OffiSync Premium for a $30 Lifetime license for 1-50 computers, does keep Office formating for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. I have not purchased a license, so I cannot tell you if it works. This morning, I did try to download a Google Doc directly into Word, but received an error message. I sent a bug report to OffiSync to see why. I am also have trouble installing the program on a different computer with Win 7 Home Premium on it. We will see what they have to say.

Side note: I have been using the pre-release Beta MS Office 2010 and am loving it. I do miss the start up icon where there is now just "File", but otherwise I cannot wait to get the full real program coming out this summer.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sharing and Caring Through Docs


For the last few years, I have been using Google Docs and have tons of things stored there. Recently I have been really promoting it to my students. They all need to have a Google account for some coursework, so this is just another extension. This semester, I have been editing my thesis students' work, uploading  it to my Docs account, and then sharing their file with them. I am able to share only their file, so they are not privy to my other files or the work of other students. There are choices as to whether you convert the format to Docs format or leave it in MS Word format. They are then able to download the portion I have edited. If the need arose, we could collaborate on the same document in real time via the Internet, but within Google Docs. If I made comments, they could question the comment immediately and not wait for a face to face, an e-mail or Internet chat where we don't have the document in front of us.

Today, I found this article and I installed the free version of OffiSync. I started to play around with it using Office 2010. It works as well as the demo video shows. I will download it onto my computers with Office  2007 and see how it does with that version. It is supposed to work with Office 2003 as well. In the fall, I will push students to consider installing it. Besides saving to Google Docs, you can save to Google Sites too, the location where they create their web sites for one of my classes. Perfecto!

For a well written easy to understand article of getting the best from Word and Google Docs, read this Lifehacker article.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Karen wrote:


Karen has left a new comment on my post "This came in the e-mail this morning. Just a stone...":

I just love thoughtful people, don't you?

Ryan's reply: Yes, I do. Makes me think I should have a more visible wish list and shipping address :  )

Pin It Now!

This came in the e-mail this morning. Just a stones throw from my birthplace of Long Branch, NJ. I also found out that my book came out in the US; however, Amazon.com is still showing the UK release date. Wiley Publications has manually edited the information, but it keeps rolling back to the old date. If you are in the US, the book is out, but you may have to have it ordered. It in only weeks old, so handle with care.

Dr. James,
     I just want to let you know that I enjoyed the Budapest guide. Although I was born in Hungary, I left in 1956 and had much to learn.
     The reason I'm writing to you is that I live on the Jersey Shore, in Bradley Beach, and I will be in Budapest the beginning of June. I just thought I'd ask if you would like me to bring you something from home. If yes, please let me know. In any case, your book is a success.
Thank you,

Suzanne Beck
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Florida Condo Updated


The property manager just sent me photos of the condo now that it has been painted, the appliances are all in place (with power cords), and the bathroom light has been replaced. He said the Realtor who they work with was very impressed believes it will rent quickly.

Pin It Now!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It Has Finally Arrived


I was beginning to believe this day was never going to arrive, but it has and it is today. This is my last day of classes, which for the most part means that my obligations at the university are over until September. There are a few snags along the way, but minor ones. Throughout my 25 years of teaching, I have never failed to have all of my grades completed and ready to turn in by the last day of school. This year, I stumbled somehow. For my Creative Writing class, I put the last class date as the due date for their last and lengthy 12 page short story. Students being who and what they are, nothing arrives earlier than the due date and a handful ask for an extension on top of that. 
Not only do I have to hold off on end-of-term celebrations, but I have to read all of these stories this weekend to polish off the grades. 

The other minor hiccup in my spreadsheet of empty days are a few complications called May 26th, June 2nd, 16th, 23rd, and 25th I have to put in a half day's appearance for what they call State Exams. We call them thesis defenses and oral comprehensives.

So I have this whole great canvas of time to fill up with things to do. It is like New Years all over again. I make a list of resolutions about what I am going to accomplish that summer and then never get to a fraction of that wish list. Last summer, I was researching and writing my book, making any other project impossible. Three summers ago, it was the same story: research and write.

This summer, I hope to write and read, read and write and there were some other things that floated through my mind like dust mites travel past our eyesight, but for now they are gone. If they return, they will be duly evaluated and triaged by order of importance, perhaps to also be acted upon. After all, when I return in September, I need to fill an essay of "What I did on my summer vacation".
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

All Washed Up, But Not Going to Dish It Out


Yesterday was the day our appliances were going to be delivered to our place in Florida. The property manager was planning on being there for the delivery and promised to e-mail a progress report. There was no reason for us to hang around, being six hours ahead and 3,000 miles away, so we went out for the evening.

When we returned home, I found this e-mail from our property manager. "I am at the unit with Brandsmart and it seems like you ordered 2 washing machines instead of a dishwasher, I have them taking one back to replace but I'm sure the dishwasher is cheaper so you will have to get a credit from them. I will verify the prices when I get back to the office but in the meantime please double check the order."

I start spinning like a top. I knew I did not order a dishwasher, but I was also positive I did not order 2 washing machines either. I found the receipts that I had already sent to the property manager, wondering where he even came up with the idea of a dishwasher. By gosh, I have to hand wash my dishes, the tenants should have to also. But 2 washing machines? Where was he getting this. 

I had multiple copies of receipts. I forwarded each one to Alain, our property manager, stuffing up his Blackberry with data. I envision his Blackberry becoming so engorged,  blackberry juice squirts in all directions drenching him. Well fine then. That will teach him to read the invoices properly and see there was never a dishwasher on the list. The 2 washing machines were the screw up of BrandsMart. What can I say?

For the 47th time, I look over the receipts for the appliances I had ordered. Refrigerator, microwave, stove, washing machine, dryer. Quantity: 1, 1, 1, 2, 1. Whoa! Back up there. Where did that 2 come from. As it turns out, with all of the order numbers, sku numbers, dimensions, prices, and capacities listed on the paperwork, the quantities did not pop out at me. I admit that I have a mild form of dyscalculia, the numbers version of dyslexia. My mild version results in number reversal. If I need to use 21, I have make sure I do not put 12 instead. This takes a great deal of time checking and rechecking, especially with all of the districts, building numbers, prices, and phone numbers included in my books.

Calling Florida to get this straightened out again is going to be another joy ride, but life is one adventure after another. 

The icing on the cake is that the appliances did not come with power cords. You have to buy them separately. When the hell did that happen? Every washer and dryer I have ever bought had an electric cord permanently attached to the back. When did this stop, but the better question is why did it? To gouge more money from the buyer? These cords are $15-30. each. God bless capitalism, consumerism, corporations, and God help the working poor, the destitute, the disadvantaged.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Security or Obsession?


BrandsMart, the store where I ordered the appliances from online, were to send me a second e-mail with delivery information. Originally scheduled for today, when I did not hear from them by late Monday, I was getting concerned that there may have been a glitch in the system. 
I received an e-mail from my best friend in the states, the one I call my sister. We go back to undergraduate days in college. I use her address for some of my credit cards.A Paul Dearman from BrandsMart called there about my order, which would make sense. I used her phone number. She only had a toll free number, so I could not call him back and asked her to do it.

Sometimes I give too much information. I also supplied her with our property manager's name and number. so she called his office by mistake, they did not know a Paul Dearman, so she did the surrogate panic on my behalf. 
After calling a couple of BrandsMart stores in FL, I tracked down Paul Dearman, but was disconnected twice. My connection, not their fault. When I finally made it all the way through the phone tree for the fourth time, I reached the voice mail of Paul Garcia. Hang up, try again. Speak with a person who tells me Paul Dearman and Paul Garcia share an office, but neither are in yet; it is only 9am there. 

Called Daphnee, e-mailed the property manager, getting additionally stubborn by the second especially since the p.m. said I would not be able to do this online from here. There was an overwhelming need for his not being correct. 

Finally, Alain, the p.m. gets through to Paul and sends me a note. They wanted the authorization number from AMEX.  I was looking all over the form BrandsMart sent me, the only thing  I could find was the order number. Then it hit me, the AMEX authorization number would not be there. I had to call AMEX last night. 
The AMEX rep immediately responded with there has been an authorization request for a purchase you made for $1,911.72 to ???, but it was not the BrandsMart. I said yes, I did make that purchase. "Well", she said "we already spoke with a Paul Dearman and gave him the authorization code verbally, though it was automatically authorized when you did the online purchase. He has called on 4/29 to verify the purchase then too." With a groan, I shared that they wanted it yet again. She asked if I wanted her to e-mail him or give it to me. Both, I said, so after I had it, I e-mailed and called Alain to gave it to him. Was this extra security and I should be grateful that my credit card is safe from people stocking their kitchens with appliances at my expense?
The receptionist informed me he was on the other line, so I left a message. She could not wrap her head around the fact that I was calling from Europe, trying to figure out which of the 50 States it was. When I said "Just tell him Ryan from Budapest called. He will know." I could hear her B-u-d-a-p-e-s-t.
This morning, I received a note from Alain, they will deliver, but it is put off until Friday. Stubbornness comes with a price to pay, but now I have 1911 frequent flier miles that I did not have before.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Redefining "Budget"


Budget: A financial plan to manage the spending and saving of money. 
Achieved with a relatively small financial outlay. 

It seems that a segment of the airline industry has taken it upon themselves to rewrite dictionary definitions, because the once Budget airlines no longer fit into the definition of budget. Only a few years ago, we were able to fly from Budapest to Geneva for 35 Euros each way per person, inclusive of all fees. We went to Milan for 29 Euros. Those were the days my friend, we thought they would never end...  But they did end. **Side note below.

Budapest went from a heyday of over twenty budget airlines  making cities throughout Europe as appealing as choosing chocolates in a truffle shop and almost as inexpensive. Europe was our playground and we savored the moments.

I was hoping for a new adventure this summer, especially since the last summer I spent researching my book, not getting me beyond the Hungarian borders. We have been wanting to visit Riga, Latvia and Vilnius, Lithuania for some time. We have been to Tallinn and found it delightful.

Hunting through, there is only one "budget" airline that flies from Budapest to either Riga or Vilnius: Air Baltic.
No matter how far in advance I tried, this was the result.

Budapest to Riga
Fare - 386 euros (Not forints or dollars mind you)
Taxes - 389.86 euros
Transaction fee - 40 euros (what is this?)
Total for 2 people - 815.86 euros or $1076.94 or 219,938 forints

Budapest to Vilnius was a bargain after Riga.
Fare - 352 euros
Taxes - 313.54 euros
Transaction fee - 40 euros (what is this?)
Total for 2 people - 705.54 euros or $931.02 or 190,196 forints

These fees do not take into consideration that starting this summer, most including transcontinental airlines are going to charge for all checked baggage as well as carry-on. They should be paying us baggage handler's salary for doing the work ourselves.

Let's see, a train ticket to Eger is 15 Euros for me and Ron rides free. Hmmm...perhaps staying within the borders is not a bad idea after all.

**I would have sworn this was song was popularized by Judy Collins, but when I looked it up, it was actually a group called the Limeliters and their vocalist Mary Hopkin
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

How Much Do You Invest in an Old Workhorse?


If you have an old workhorse that has put in a number of good years and has been productive, how much more do you invest in him? I subscribe to a educational newsletter called Edutopia. This last week's issue was a bit different as it had an advertisement from Drexel University in Philadelphia. What piqued my interest from this where the online certification programs they were offering for teachers or would-be teachers. The hook was in, now they were reeling me in; I read further. 

Taking a step back, let me say that many, many years ago, in a land far from here, in a section of a city that was not real pleasant, I taught elementary school. I did not have a certification at the time, just my BA degree. After three years, I decided to start on my MA in Education from what was then La Salle College, but is now La Salle University. After one semester, the funds ran out. There were some funds though for the MSW program at Temple University, so switching gears, that is where I headed.

As it turned out, I eventually taught social work, psychology, and sociology amongst other topics before coming to Hungary. California awarded me a Lifetime Credential for college and university teaching. My teaching record now spans 20++ years. However, I still do not have that desired credential for K-12. 

Looking at the Drexel site, there was one program that I could lust over. Technology Teaching Specialist! When I was an undergraduate, this field did not exist. Breathing heavy and adrenaline pumping, I look over the program. Due to an agreement with Drexel and the State of PA, this certification is accepted in a number of states. The whole thing is done online, so no community, getting more excited, then the kicker, crash landing. The tuition...$686 PER CREDIT. The program is 29 credits, which let me save you from running to grab a calculator; it is $19,894. This is just a certification mind you, not a full and complete degree. Applicants have to have their degree already. 

With an outstanding student loan of $70,000 and rising due to interest compounded, there is no way this is possible. As it is, if I return to the States before I go on Social Security, I am looking at a $524 a month student loan payment now. So this old horse is not getting any upgrades before being put out to pasture.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pin It Now!