Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three Museum Sunday

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Gaining an hour by setting the clocks back last night, put some extra energy in our step. We thought we would get in to see the Lutheran churches today thinking they would be free for services. All of the Lutheran churches charge to enter even to just view them calling it "Helping our mission"; alternatively the Catholic churches let you in for free. How is that for a turnabout? No such luck though with the Lutherans. We must have tourist pouring out of us. Even the Lutheran service in English, which we were twenty minutes late for, wanted to charge us an entry fee. God is a mercenary or hires them. 


After church checking, we went to the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts. We by-passed the special exhibition of fashion, choosing the permanent collections. On the third floor, I was in heaven. It was primarily fiber art: weavings, some leather work, some ceramics, but it is the weaving that I could spend hours looking at. I love examining the weft and warp, wondering what techniques the weaver used. 


The next stop was the Sun Museum. It all started with one  little sun necklace bought by the museum owner while in Portugal. She decided that since the sunshine is in short  supply in this country, she would collect it from other places and bring it home with her. Soon her collection of suns increased as her job took her to different countries. Friends noticing the collection added to it. Finally, she had no space left in her apartment for added pieces to her collection. This gave her the idea to open what she believes is the only Sun Museum in the world. Displaying suns in all their forms, from clocks to religious symbols, each is carefully labeled as to which country it has arrived from. What is sadly lacking are suns from any of the Latin American countries except Mexico


At the end of the tour, yes, the young docent Daina gives a thorough explanation of many of the suns, but she then sends you down to the craft room. Given a choice of three ceramic suns, you choose one and then decorate it with tempera paints; they dry quickly. For thirty minutes or more regardless of your age, you are transformed into a child once again concentrating on the work at hand. Ron wanted to leave them behind, but secretly I was afraid we would have to show Daina our work before leaving so played it safe by keeping them. 


We did this in the incorrect order. Our last museum was the Museum of the Occupation. This follows the occupation of Latvia through the years 1940-1991 when they were controlled by the Soviets and the Germans. The exhibits were enthralling, causing us to read 90% of everything the museum provided before sensory overload set in and caused us to end it. This museum runs on donations only. As we were leaving, Ron asked the young man working there what the population of Latvia was now. It is 2.2 million, with 700,000 living in Riga. During the highlighted period of the museum's mission the country lost 1/3 of their population to kidnapping, deportation, death for minor crimes, and as war victims. Imagine, this entire country has the population of Houston, Texas. Incredible!!


This called for some walking around to clear our mental palates. Once we shed some of that emotional baggage, but not forgetting the horrors man can deliver to man, we ventured back to the hotel. I blogged, Ron read. We decided on dinner. 


Strange as it may seem, we had our fill of Latvian food, so went for Japanese tempura. I know tourists to Budapest come with a gung-ho attitude of trying everything Hungarian, but fizzle out after 3-4 days. Same here. After a nice dinner in an empty restaurant, we wandered toward the hotel, but a coffee seemed in order. There is a clear tent in one of the squares that has a restaurant and live entertainment. We went there, because they had heat lamps, but the music turned out to be great also. 


Jack-o'-lantern on HalloweenImage via WikipediaAs we traipsed back, Ron was anxious to find people in costume since it is Halloween. Though we were told it is not a holiday here, some clubs may be holding parties. It is curious that we have seen so many pumpkins carved into Jack-o-Lanterns, yet they have not incorporated the other customs. Maybe that will change with time; we did see some youth with half-hearted costumes and face make-up. I miss Halloween the most of all holidays.

Tomorrow it is home again and back to my kids come Tuesday.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sigulda Anyone?

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Ron had read about these castles that were a short jaunt from Riga. Angeles assured us it was worth the trip, only an hour and a quarter from Riga. The rail tickets cost us 5 lats for 2 round trips. Quite cheap!. The Riga train station is like a city unto itself. It is like a NYC station with dozens and dozens of restaurants, candy and souvenir shops, and other types of stores offering everything from The Body Shop to practical goods for the locals. We were a bit confused about where the tracks were, but this nice workman in overalls led us to it.

Trains are modern and comfy enough for a snooze on the way; any motion puts me out like a dose of anesthesia. At the other end of the spectrum, the Sigulda train station looks tired and old worldly. Being a tourist draw, the directional signs are quite frequently spaced, though only in Latvian, if you have an idea of where you are going it works. The first stop is always the tourism office. Here there is a young, perky woman who is beside herself with the pleasure of assisting us with a map and route to take. There must have been some residual sleepiness from the train ride. I did not turn and flee when she mentioned that the planned route would take 3 hours to complete. After a second glance at us, a moment’s hesitation, she corrected herself to 4 hours.  Normally, when hearing 4 hours of exertion, I would have pointed out that we were here for the day, not a week.

She must have read my mind, the first stop she marked was her choice of a bakery and the last one we would see in daylight hours or in this lifetime if this 3-4 hour hike did me in entirely. Everything in the bakery looked worthy of a gourmet magazine spread. That is where the appeal ended; what the goods lacked was flavor. At least we were sugared up for our walk. 

We had missed the change of the color of the leaves by about a week or two. There were barely any left for the trees to shed like the last remains of dandruff. With the crispy, but not freezing air, we made our way to a historic Lutheran Church. More for warmth than decoration ideas, we wondered in. We were immediately greeted by the woman who makes sure that all visitors pay something for the privilege of entering. She was successful in talking us into going upstairs where there was a special exhibition. Two dozen pictures were formed entirely from buttons of various sizes, shapes, and colors. St. George slaying the dragon was extremely impressive, but other non-religious themes were incredible in the originality of buttons. Sew I kept trying to find the common thread that would knot them together, but not being able to kept me in stitches.   

With a little twisting, turning, and Mr. Map navigating, we found the first of two castles, appropriately named the New Sigulda Castle and the Old Sigulda Castle. Reaching the new one first is rather disappointing. It looks too modern to be named 'castle', basically because it was built in the nineteenth century for the Kropotkin family. Who are they? Heck if I know. 

Beyond the new castle across some pretty dried up river are the remains of the thirteenth century Old Sigulda Castle.  Photo, photo, snap, snap, still 3 hours to go before this trek is over. Get a move on it.

Our long walk was to take us to a cable car which would bring us in the same county at the next castle. When we finally found it, there was a marathon going on so many areas were roped off. We did see the ‘cable car’ in the distance, but it was really a chairlift. I who am so afraid of heights, stepping on my tiptoes makes me dizzy, was not looking forward to this. Ron went to buy the tickets, showed the map to the young man, but the response was directional movements. This was not the cable car. We had to follow a path to get to it. As we walked away, Ron expressed his gratitude that we did not have to ride that contraption. My relief was expressed in silence. 

With great luck the temperature was brisk, not yet freezing. Across this paddock the size of three football fields and another mile of trails, we found the cable car. We were in luck. It was scheduled to leave in 2 minutes or we would have had to wait for forty-five more. I kept imagining how gorgeous the scenery must have looked just a few weeks ago with the forest trees covered in multi-hued leaves.
 
At the end of the cable car ride, I was expecting a castle. Strangely, it was visible from the cable car, but not even close to the direction we were headed. I had hopes that the cable could do shift to the right at the last minute at least getting us to the moat, but that was not to be. Once we disembarked, there were trails to follow down, around, down some more and around a whole circuit. I always have this fear that if you go down, eventually you are going to have to go up, up, and up some more. Most of the time it is when you are the most tired, cranky, hungry, and just want to be home. The definition of the Pleasure Principle was now eluding me. 

Yes, the scenery was lovely. We passed a cave where legends formed surrounding a fair maiden and the all the horrors that befell her. You know the usual tale where the woman is victimized, but becomes a great legend for generations thereafter. Eventually, the trail ran out as we came to a two lane motorway. Thinking that this could not be right, we hoped there was a shortcut at the seasonally closed campground across the street. Luckily for us, some young people parked their car in the lot to go explore the cave and relive old legends or create new ones. They assured us the castle was indeed at the top of the hill and the only route was following the road. 

With barely a path that mountain goats could negotiate, we continued forward. Now I am not great at math, but I used to use a treadmill in California on a regular basis. When I spotted the sign that showed the road had a 12% incline to it, I knew I was in trouble. I will swear it was a ten mile hike up that hill, so when Ron says it was only 2, don’t believe him. It does not matter, because at that point, all I could focus on was that there was a public bus that would take us directly to the train station.
 
We made it to the Turaida Museum Reserve where Turaida Castle sits as one of the ancient Medieval Castles of Latvia. Building began in the early 13th century as the residence for the Archbishops of Riga. Originally on this site was a wooden castle built by the Livs. Throughout the history of this castle, it had been conquered by the Polish, Swedish and Russian warriors, but not all at one time. In 1776 fires destroyed a number of buildings of the castle. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that restoration was begun. Turaida Castle is one of the most investigated monuments in the Baltics and the most visited in Latvia. The park also houses other buildings such as a Lutheran Church, a ranch of some sort, which we did not investigate, and a fantastic stature park. Spread across acres is a humongous open air museum of sculpted modern statues. None of them have names or refer to the artist(s). 

Four hours to get here, but the bus ride was ten minutes. We went to a Latvian buffet for dinner, though Angeles had told us “they” try to avoid it because it is a chain. It was cheap, the food was delicious, and you can pick and choose exactly what you want. A day well spent and the weather held out for us.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Walk, Walk, Walk, Out of the Old City

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About the best thing going for this hotel is the breakfast. The shower is so small, I had to step out of it to readjust the water temperature. They give you liquid soap, because if you should drop bar soap, you would need the fire department to come rescue you after bending over to try to retrieve it. It is so small they had to shrink the water drops coming from the shower head in order to fit the stall. So this makes breakfast all the more special. Not only is the breakfast rooms airy with room to spread out, the buffet goes on for tables and tables of choices.
We went for breakfast early, but then we had plenty of time to waste until we met up with the tour guide for the 'free' walking tour. We putzed around going into this church and that one. Most of the churches in the old city are Lutheran. If you have ever been in a Lutheran church, you know that Luther stripped them bare. There is hardly any decor inside, so it hardly makes it worth venturing in at all. Well, yea, you could pray there, but that is not a touristy thing to do.

Finally, at noon, we were waiting at the meeting spot for the tour. Tour guides of all sorts are roaming the streets like turkey hawks looking for a carcass to chew on. Of course, they charge anywhere from 10 to 20 lats a person. Angeles, our young guide who said his name was the same as the city, but without the Los. He works for tips only, was a welcomed sight. It was only Ron and I and two recently graduated high school students who were doing volunteer work in Lithuania. Angeles immediately told us he was not touring us through the old city, but beyond, where most tours never take you. We were dubious at first, but Angeles proved himself to be smarter in this regard than we were.

He took us over the market halls; there are four of them side by side. They were built and used by the Germans during WWI, for storing zeppelins. Afterward, they converted them to the food halls of today. Each one is dedicated to one form of food: fruits and vegetables, only meat only, another for (phew!) fish, and the last is for cheese and dairy products. We went to some sleazy areas in the city where they buy and sell everything and anything. We were shown Stalin's birthday cake, an ornate building that was converted to a science university, but is now offices and underutilized.  We did a short visit to the Jewish area, where a synagogue was burned to the ground by the Nazis, but only after they had it filled with Jews. Right next to it is a memorial to all who aided the Jews in some way. 

Angeles was a disillusioned university student. He was studying navigation and journalism, but could not take the university any longer and quit. He is in the process of searching what is next for him. In the meanwhile, he pointed out interesting and fascinating sites we would never have found on our own. Nothing that Ron had read about Riga even suggested much of anything outside of the old town area. Angeles has perfect English. He told us that it is now mandatory from first grade, but when he was in school, it only started in 3rd grade. In the 6th grade, students have to take a second foreign language. 

The tour was scheduled to last 2 hours fifteen minutes, but in reality lasted an extra half hour longer. One of the highlights was the touring of the art nouveau architecture. When our time finally ran thin, Angeles pointed out pockets of the city to see more. After our good byes, we went exploring more architecture on our own. This city is abundantly rich with fabulous styles. I cannot wait to see my pictures.

Angeles had recommended a restaurant for dinner, so we went there. One Latvian specialty is peas cooked with bacon in milk. Ron tried it for an appetizer in spite of Trip Advisor reviews giving it thumbs down. I don't think they are really peas in the sense of what we know as peas, but shaped like them. These were mostly brown and chewy, though not undercooked. I had sauerkraut, which I was looking forward to, but it was served cold. That was disappointing. Walking back to the hotel, again, the streets were empty. 
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Off to Riga We Go

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For those of you who are geographically challenged, Riga is the capitol of Latvia. Latvia is in the Baltics, a former country of the Soviet Union. There was some concern last night due to the screw up with the incorrect LOT Airlines booking to Vilnius, Lithuania that when we arrived at the airport, they would say they canceled our correct flight to Riga. However, all went without a hitch. First to Warsaw, and then on to Riga after a plane change.  

There was a bit of a shock when I was preparing the currency cheat sheet. One euro is equal to .75 santīmi. There are 100 santīmi in one Latvian Lat. So the euro is not reigning king here. It takes over 1.33 euro to equal 1 Lat. That was not good news for our economic planning.  In addition, Riga was colder than expected, with weather reports showing only 2 degrees difference with Budapest. Yikes, the difference 2 degrees can make. It was raining too, making it feel even colder. 

On the bright news, they have a bus that dropped us off one block from our hotel for only 2 euros. Our hotel, the Old Riga Palace is in the old city, convenient for touring the old city, where Ron's research led him to believe we would want to stay. Others who have been here have said there is not much to see outside of the old city.
The room has a misnomer being called a 'double', usually meaning there is a double sized bed. However, the rest of the room could be called compact. There is barely room to walk past the foot of the bed to get to the other side where the desk is. Once there, room is barely sufficient for pulling out the chair to sit at it. 


Regardless of the rain, we self-toured the old city by first visiting the tourism office for orientation. I have learned to sit back and let Ron have at it. By the time he leaves, the tour person's head is spinning like in exorcist movie. He has enough questions in his parcel are enough to keep three staff members busy for hours. 

Where are all of the people? Sure, it may be cold and tourists are not flocking here, but where are the residents? The streets are empty. Yes, there are people in coffee shops, few, really few in restaurants, but on the street, no one.The architecture is amazing. The building that the tourism office is in is like something out of a fairytale. If I had remembered the cord to download pictures from my camera, I could show you now, but you will have to wait. It is worth waiting for.

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James commented on It's Nice to Be Appreciated

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  James  said...

    It is my solemn and most sincere hope that a student sends me an e-mail to me that says such nice thing. The amazing grammar is just icing on the cake.


This is based on the student note from October 25th.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Frozen Rhino Sperm Defrosted Faster Than Yours

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Every time I think something has come along to make Budapest number 1 in some area, poof, it gets taken away.
Budapest has the 2nd largest parliament building in Europe. London is number 1.

Budapest has the 2nd oldest metro in the world (1896). London is number 1. (Boston is #3 1897, but I bet you thought it was NYC).

Budapest used to have the 2nd largest working synagogue in the world after NYC's Temple Emanu-El, but Israel had to build a larger one, putting us down to #3.

I thought we had it in the bag, pardon the pun, when it was announced that Budapest had the world's first rhino born from frozen sperm and used to artificially inseminate a female rhino. So today, that has gone poof too. Budapest is once again relegated to number two, second place after of all places Cincinnati. Since there is a tremendous Hungarian population in Cincinnati, does it count? Well, it seems that the zoo there had sent a correction letter based on the Budapest zoo's announcement to defrost their flash-frozen news release. It seems all of this took place in 2007, so for a few years at least I could wallow in the joys of Budapest have the world's best rhino sperm. 

Sometimes, you just have to appreciate the little things in life while you can. You never know when they may disappear.
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Now Your Smartphone Can Get Cultured

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If you have a smart phone in your pocket, purse or backpack, just how smart is it? Now, it can be smarter by accessing some culture at the same time. The Museum of Fine Arts here in Budapest has created a free mobile guide service using their WiFi system. Found here, but of course this is not going to do you any good at all unless you are reading this blog in the museum. This link has been designed for smart phone use. The first audio presentation is the current special exhibit on Klimt and the Secessionists, but others are planned perhaps putting the docents at risk. Who knows?  

If that happens, these retired guys will have to find something else to do with their days besides listening to Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, and the others all day.

For a museum that had announced they would be closing for extensive renovations starting July 2010, they certainly need a calendar adjustment.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Hello? This Parade is for the Blackberry iPhone

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Microsoft held a funeral parade for the iPhone and the Blackberry as the new Windows 7 phone was about to debut on the market. I think they may be too optimistic, but heck, they look like they are having fun.

If you like parades, catch theirs here. If you are a subscriber, you may have to go here to see it.

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Another One Cancels Out

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It looks like I may be doing the next Creativity Group myself. The scheduled speaker just canceled today. She had forgotten her kids were on fall break. This is getting to be a greater strain than I had planned. We leave Thursday for Riga, so at least I will have a chance to 'chill' before then. We are on break this week.




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It is Nice to Be Appreciated

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I received this note from a student who I had in a number of classes for the journalism specialty. Now, I don't see him very often. This is what he wrote me. I asked his permission to place it here.

Dear Dr. James,

While wasting my time on Facebook, I stumbled upon some status updates written by members of the current generation of journalism students. After using my critical thinking skills (), I figured out that it must be close to the due date for the Race and Ethnicity essays.

This reminded me of what I had planned to tell you earlier: I somewhat miss the assignments which you gave us.

I wouldn’t say that I thoroughly miss them, for there were times when I had no idea, and I was just staring at the computer screen for hours not knowing what to write about, but it’s indisputable that they were useful. I think I won’t hurt you if I confess that I never liked Race and Ethnicity. And, quite frankly, there were times when I just hated the blogging tasks. But every writing assignment is useful in some way.

The most difficult part of writing, as you told us at the beginning of our Creative Writing classes, is to start it. Indeed, it is. In this semester I only have to submit two essays. This makes me extremely lazy. Previously, I thought I couldn’t be any lazier, but I was wrong.

Since I don’t have to write, I really rarely do it. I even questioned whether journalism and professional writing are right up my alley. (I still don’t know the answer.) I am concerned that I might forget words and how to write in English. Interestingly, seldom do I update my Hungarian blog, so I’m also concerned about that, but to a less extent because I suppose it’s impossible to forget one’s mother tongue. To make a long story short, I think the assignments were really good for keeping us in the routine.

Of course I don’t say that I was always fond of what we had to do. But I realized that those assignments had helped us a lot.

There’s a nice quote, I think from Daniel H. Pink: “Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum.”

So, to put it in a nutshell, this is what I wanted to say.

Enjoy the break (and have fun while grading the essays),

Árpád

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hungary for Google or Google for Hungary

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For all of you less fortunate who are not living/visiting Hungary today, you will most likely not have the opportunity to see how Google has given recognition to the country. 

Today is a holiday; it is commemorating the anniversary of the failed uprising attempt to gain independence from the Soviets in 1956. As a result, this public holiday on October 23rd, is now officially called Republic Day, marking the independence of the republic of Hungary from soviet control in 1989. You go Google.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

I Have Never Been Bi-Curious

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Unlike some, I have never been one to wonder how the other half lives, but perhaps because it have never been the other half. Rather it has been the less than 10%. There are those loyalists who love being the martyrs to the cause that their way is the best way, yet it never has appealed to me in the least. Even the tech writer, who I have followed for years, dipped her toe on the other side, but did not find the satisfaction she heard so many stories about. Her equipment sits in a corner collecting dust.


What? What did you think I was referring to? No, computer systems. Listen Mac, I have never been curious enough to try an Apple by any other name. There has always been something about the design of the screen, icons, and all the visuals that was just not apple-peeling to me. 


Back to Debra Littlejohn Schindler who is the editor of XPNews and Win7News and who has tried a MAC to be fair to herself and readers. As she said in one of her editorials, she tried to love it, but could not. Before some of you get your back hairs in an uproar, she goes on to say how she additionally tossed her cash over to Steve Jobs' way by additionally buying an iPad. 


The iPad she loved for a quick look at the Internet, checking e-mail and other fast fix needs. Yet again, she pointed out what many before her said is wrong the iPad that would make it superior. It does not allow for a flash player, no USB ports, no camera, no clock, and... If you need more, read this article by an Apple magazine writer. 
So this may all lead to the question then, why are they selling like crazy? Why is Apple stock over $300 a share? All new toys are popular out of the gate. This is the first tablet that has worked. Yes, there have been other tablets in the past. Both MS and Apple had failed attempts in the past. Personally, I think it is the economy that has made it most popular. The economy stinks. What do people do in a poor economy? They look for something to cheer themselves up. Hey, the credit cards are already close to being maxed out, so why not hit the wall with a fun toy?

Well, those who wait will have their patience rewarded. HP and a host of others have watched what Apple did wrong and will be making it right by Christmas. HP is putting its Slate out there next month. Then the others will follow shortly. Click here to preview some of them. Click here to see the nine other contenders.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Get Greedy With That Black Hole

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Today is my last day at school until November 2nd. Because I don't teach on Fridays or Mondays, I have some extra days. That does not mean I can lounge and take it easy. There are a number of essays needing reading, correcting, and grading. The fortunate part is that my students are so superior, this is more of a joy than a dreadful task.

Even joyful tasks are aided by a bit of humor. This morning, this video was brought to my attention. There is not dialogue making it perfect for anyone to watch. It is a no language barrier video. If you are a subscriber to this blog, it may not appear in your e-mail, hence you will have to visit the blog here or you could also go here.
video
 
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

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If you keep up on celebratory news, you will surely know that Angelina Jolie is in Budapest for an undisclosed amount of time, but not as a tourist. She is here for her directorial debut filming a movie about the war in Bosnia. There were some snafus in getting permits for Bosnia, per the last rumor spreading through the media like an new version of Asian flu
Last week, I had heard through the local press that the Hollywood couple, Angelina and Brad were roaming the streets of the 7th district, OUR district. She may have been sourcing locations for filming or just out touring the Jewish history for which this district is famous. So last Sunday, when I was coming back from an errand, I happened to notice these unusual buses and had to investigate. They were film studio food catering buses, so my heart beat a bit faster. 
The sidewalk was crowded with people, but they all had headsets on, so it was seemingly apparent they were closely associated with the buses and not the general public. I walked through the masses without anyone stopping me or yelling for me to get out of the way of the crew, so my excitement was rising. Maybe they thought I was part of the production meant to be there. 

Just to get a better view, I walked across the street to look and take pictures. Obviously, pulling out a phone to snap pictures is a clue that you are not part of the membership and should be hoisted out. 
When I did get across the street, my heart racing, thinking Angelina was seconds away from my view, I saw that they turned the restaurant we liked into a casino. It is a Hungarian movie. 
Brad, I tried, I really, really tried to get good look at part of your family. Since those six kids of yours are in the French school, I may have to hang around school yards like a pervert to get a glimpse.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Strange Maybe - Unique No

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No one responded via e-mail about my new beyond this world business venture, but there have been a number of questioning people in my every day life. Just let me say, I thought I had hit on something totally unique. A week after the launch, there was an article in one of the technology newsletters I receive. The article is here. I am crushed. When you finally decide the time is ripe, remember there are guardian angels waiting for you here.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Good Month

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For the first time ever, I looked at my stats, other than the Feedjit stats in the right column. For the month of 2010 Sep 18 – 2010 Oct 17, I had 3,285 page views. I am impressed with all of you who are reading, but have the self-control to not send a comment.
Speak up! Let yourself be heard. Look at this breakdown by operating system used. At another time, I will show a breakdown by country, but let me say that the 10 from China is quite impressive, but the 78 from Belarus knocks my socks off.


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Cancel, Cancel Give Me A Cure

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Because I am 51% Italian, I have it down to science how to play martyr. How do I calculate this? Well, in spite of my Irish sounding name, I did have a mother who happened to be 100% Italian. Since she was much heavier than than my father, I think her portion of me tossed her portion of me closer to the 51% mark. 
Anyway, I have been working really diligently at getting the creativity group off of the ground. I did the first two introductory presentations, but then lined up some speakers for diversity. Who would want to hear me twice a month? I don't even like listening to my own thoughts that often, but necessity rules. 


After wracking my brain, the invitation to be a speaker went out to a few well placed people. They accepted, but one of them heard about who the potential others were and wanted to be first. Then there is the date dance, because it is his birthday. Big whoop, but okay, fine! A little rearranging on my part, a few e-mails, the gracious others move their dates and we have it settled. 
There was hesitation on my part about actually putting names on the new advertising fliers fearing someone would bale at the last minute. Then it seemed that if their name and association were printed and plastered around the city, they would be too intimidated to pull the chicken routine. 
Today, this afternoon as a matter of fact, I received an SMS from this Tuesday's speaker. He may be coming down with strep throat, so thinks it is best to cancel. Hell, I think I may be coming down with a cold sore or worse a panic attack, but as the saying goes "The show must go on." There were times when I was teaching college in CA when I taught with laryngitis. It was inhibiting, but I did it anyway. I sincerely believe he did not think the attendance was worth his time. 

There was a time when Ron and I first met, there was something I had to do that I really dreaded. It seemed like I would have rather been mud wrestling with hippos than do what I had to do. Ron said to me "It is only one hour out of the rest of your life." That convinced me I could get through it. Afterward, I mentally thanked Ron for saying what he did. Those words have resonated repeatedly in my mind ever since, but now I think "Damn, at my age that one hour may not be part of an enormous group of others. The hell with that crap."


A student sent this video to me. When people tell me now, I am going to go Panda on their ass. FYI, some subscribers do not receive the video in their e-mail. If you want to see it, sorry, but you will have to come here to the blog to view.


video
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Disproportionately Fulfilling Afternoon

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One summer about five years ago, I had a personal mission to visit every museum in Budapest. At that time, there were forty-five. I made it to thirty-six. I have yet to make it to the Ambulance or Police Museums. I enjoy museums, but one of the inhibiting factors is the cost.

Recently, I received my new membership card from the European Press Association identifying me as a veritable journalist. Having heard that this authenticity gives free passage to sail through the doors of Budapest Museums, without once disturbing my pocket anchored wallet. Yes, I had been more than anxious to test this theory. Anxious in both senses of the word: excited, yet nervous. I hate being embarrassed in public.

The Fine Arts Museum currently has a double extended exhibition: Botero and Klimt. Being a fan of both, I the cravings were gnawing at me, so Ron and I decided we needed to go yesterday. This was my chance to test my pass.


Two ticket offices open, I chose the one with no one in line. This would reduce humiliation if there were to be any. As I walked up, she put the closed sign down while waving me across the hall. A party of five were already confusing the ticket seller in Spanish; others were lining up behind me. Stand tall, hand over the pass, ask if it provides a discount. With a cheery smile, the attendant states "For you it is free." "Yes" I mutter like an unappreciative child, "but I want to see Botero and Klimt." Again she smiled "It is all free for you. Enjoy!" Enjoy? I am already ecstatic. This has just saved me 3,500 Huf or $18.00 or 13 euros. Ron gets in free since he is a docent. What a wonderful day!

The museum is missing 120 pieces of their regular collection. They are all on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Knowing I can return any time and having been here dozens of times already, I wanted to see Botero. We 'discovered' him into our lives when we were in Portugal years ago. There was an exhibit of replicas of his paintings, but they did have some sculptures too. 

His trademark is creating out of proportion. This is his version of the Mona Lisa. Notice the facial features. We were overjoyed to be able to drink in over 3 dozen of his paintings. In addition, they had a documentary playing about his life and work. Though we intended to only watch a small portion, we stayed for the entire ninety minutes. For once I was satisfied with not having my camera. It would have been a distraction. To read more about Botero, click here.


After more than 3 hours soaking up Botero genius, we ventured to the Klimt exhibit. Vienna, of course has the largest collection of Klimt and we have been to that museum. This exhibit generously encompassed the Secessionist group of which Klimt was the first president. None of the paintings for which he is best known within popular culture were on exhibit. In fact, most were from his band of brothers, Klimt just lending his name as the ringer. Closing the museum, we went for dinner. It was an exceptionally good day.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Katie Maclean Writes

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Katie Maclean commented on your post.
Katie wrote: "Darren my husband has the HTC Hero and he loves it :-)"

I have heard many good things about HTC.


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

It Is All About i

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Personally, me is getting sick of the i, i, i. iPad, iPod, iPhone and all of the other egocentric products out there. Okay, sour grapes, Apple hit over $300. a share today. To be exact, $300.13 a share. I have such a horrendous track record with stock purchases, if I had bought it, they would have been bankrupt by now. It started with some stocks my grandmother had given me. That company went under. I had purchased stocks in a Philadelphia bank in the 80s and that went under. Every other 'sure bet' I tried investing in since has been a nightmare. Be nice to me or I WILL buy stocks in your company.

With all of the i going around, Vodafone announced that they are bringing the iPhone 4G to Hungary by the end of the year. We have been Vodafone users since our arrival in Hungary. I like the service, but after my first phone, a Nokia died after 6 years of service, I have only bought unlocked phones. This has given me the opportunity to buy a Vodafone SIM card in both South Africa and Australia allowing me to make local calls without incurring roaming charges. This was especially handy for calling a taxis in Cape Town where living through the day is an extreme sport. 

So with all of the hubbub, the iPhone could have been a strong contender on my "Things I Deserve to Have" list, but then I read some reports on the glass front of the phone. 

"iPhone 4 is so fragile and the surface area can scratch or break says SquareTrade. It's so fragile that the chances of the Apple iPhone 4 breaking has doubled....Owners of Apple's newest smartphone are 82 percent more likely to have their device damaged, according to a report by SquareTrade." SquareTrade is one of the companies that sells warranties for electronics products. Well this news is going to take the i off of my list. Me is waiting for the HTC Android phone instead.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Continential Unites the Friendly Skies

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"Work Hard and Fly Right" has now wed "Fly United". Yes, the merger is completed. Continental and United Airlines are now one company under United Continental Holdings, Inc.

According to Tourism Review.com "Delta’s brief spell on top shot in the American airline league has come to an end as the combined forces of the merging companies have an expected number of departures at 5.800, whereas Delta is slightly lagging behind with 5.715. The effect of the combination of both companies is expected to bring an extra $1.2 billion in revenue per annum. The $3.2 billion merger should begin to pay for itself in a very short time indeed."

So much for commercials like these. They will need a total makeover, including new jingles. Perhaps the dragon in this commercial is Delta Airlines



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