Monday, November 29, 2010

Playing Safe in Budapest


For years now, Budapest has rated as one of the safest cities in Europe. If you happen to be here on December 1st, you can be privy to a whole new level of safety.

You may be familiar with the Gödör Klub at Erzsébet tér as a venue of choice for the WAMP Designer Fair. However, on December 1st, which happens to be World AIDS Day, from 3-4pm, a significant event will be unwrapped. This is the where and when of the unwinding of the world's largest condom measuring 25 meters (82 feet) long and 4 meters (13.12 feet) in diameter. Appropriately, it will be set up as a party venue for people to unwind also to the musical beats with dancing. 

There was no announcement banning oil based products. They eat through latex like flesh eating bacteria consumes skin. Just in case, let your hair be au natural for an hour. 

The target message is for promoting safe sex education. It is chilly outside, so let's hope this love glove keeps everyone toasty warm while sending a message. 

Yet, the Paris of the East may have to take the glove off to duke it out with the Paris of the... well, Paris. They are claiming to have the biggest one of them all.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday - Old Memories


Traditionally in the US, the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. The term originated as this was the day that retailers turned their red ink or losses during the year into the black profit margins.

When we lived in CA, this was our tradition. We headed out early in the morning and drove to a gigantic Christmas Fair in the foothills of Sonora. Entry was $3, but if you brought a can of food for the homeless shelters, you only had to pay $2. 

After spending hours at that fair making sure we covered every single merchant, we drove on to historic Jamestown, a former gold rush town. Jamestown combines history with holiday making it magical at Christmas time. Depending on our time, we may or may not have stopped at Columbia, another gold rush era historic village. 

On the way home, we stopped at an uneventful strip mall, because they had a wonderful, non-chain bookstore. I was not looking for books per se, but they had wonderful bookends that were never in other stores. They also had an unusual array of gift items. We did our best to make it a Black Friday.

Living in Budapest, the only way we could supplement the day is to go to the Christmas Fair here. We trudged out into the cold black night at 5:15 pm just to visit the same old-same old. After ten years, you can map out each and every booth and vendor. Surprise! There were three new booths this year, throwing off the schematic for all of the rest. 

Even here, they opened the fair non-traditionally early, on November 19th. In years past, the first day of Advent found the booths uncovering their goods. It was packed with people, but the hot wine could have been the main attraction in the cold. 

Later this evening, we had our first snow. Earlier than years past, the snowflakes looked barely formed they were so diminutive. It stuck to car tops, but the streets are just wet. My hopes are for no more snow until after the 19th of December when we skip town.
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Stuffed Like the Turkey


Appropriately giving thanks to a number of contributors, our Thanksgiving meal was a success. We had a fresh turkey that Ron had to hunt down in the markets. Fresh whole turkeys are an anomaly here, except for Christmas.

As tradition dictates, I prepared my hot artichoke dip and pumpkin soup. Tom or Tillie turkey shared the dinner table with sweet potatoes (from Melissa and Scott), green beans (Shana), rolls (Laszlo), and my stuffed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. 

Never, leaving the dinner table, we reminisced years past recalling all of the different guests we have shared Thanksgivings with since living here. We have never celebrated alone and we always give thanks for that. 

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Thursday, November 25, 2010



Well, today is Thanksgiving and today, just like the last eight Thanksgivings, I have to go to work. I am always in awe when I see how many others are at work today too. You would think more of them would take off for the holidays, but if I happen to have to run to the grocery store, it is not shocking to have to wait in a long line to check out. I know they must be getting last minute holiday preparations just as I am. 

This Thanksgiving, we will have the most traditional feasts of our ex-pat life thanks to generous guests who brought us some food items and a grateful thanks to a student Barbara Pap who carted a bunch of things on my wish list back with her on her last US excursion. 

We were successful in ordering a whole turkey, but the size was like winning the lottery. We had no idea how much of it we would get. They said it would be between 4-16 kilos. Another words, a super size me chicken or a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float. 

Ron made the pumpkin pies last night. I prepared the artichoke dip, pumpkin soup, and stuffed mushrooms. When I get home from work, we can stuff the bird and pop it in the oven, peel the potatoes and set the table. The only thing missing is getting to watch the parade on TV.

Our dinner guests Melissa and her husband Scott, plus a friend of theirs and our friend Laszlo will be here to share the meal. 

My student Arpad sent this holiday greeting, so I am sharing it with you. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it wherever you are.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Technology


An article appeared in my mailbox explaining how social media can aid one in planning their perfect Thanksgiving holiday festivities. For the non-American readers, tomorrow is the US holiday of Thanksgiving. The traditional day when we share with loved ones the things that we are thankful for that we seldom think of verbalizing the rest of the year. It is kind of a national day of atonement.

The historical events were really rather grizzly, but we are taught that everyone "just got along swell and dressed up in their best native costumes". Few of us break from the reality since we, unlike other countries do not have a culture of fables and fairy tales, so we have to take what we can get.  This story is as pasteurized as the milk we drink, but we do rejoice in  celebrating this holiday. 

Within modern history, it is the busiest day of the year for air travel, causing many turkeys who did not escape the clever to have the electric carving knife held at bay until Uncle Bobo's late departing plane arrives.

How the Pilgrims managed to get the feast ready without technology is beyond me. Without GPS, how did the Native Americans find their way to the table? Without Facebook, how could Pilgrim Annie inform Pilgrim Sarah there was a bushel of corn waiting in Farmville? What drudgery they slaved through. Oh, right. Slaves came later. My bad.

Well for we modern folk who need the tools to plan, let's start with a holiday menu planner that spits out recipe ideas after you fill in the blanks. This comes in handy if you are shooting blanks when trying to think on your own. If you have fussy eaters or special diets to cater to, this site may be your salvation.

Are you sick of doing it all yourself? When you want help in the kitchen, get others involved with SignUpGenius for potluck contributions. If you really want to have fun, send it out to total strangers and see who/what appears at your door. Add a note that it is BYOC - bring your own chair and please shower first.

Feeling lazy or stressed? Perhaps the local market or restaurant has prepared meals to go. Try a site I have written for at Gayot to find an eatery near you.

Don't forget holiday decor. You can do a fast Google search for Thanksgiving crafts. These will keep the kids out of your hair while you baste the turkey.

Don't forget the smart phone to check on airline delays, get directions, send SMS messages, all without leaving the kitchen to run to the computer. 

When all is done and everyone but the turkey is stuffed, relax to a game of turkey trivia.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Shoulda, Oughta, Coulda


After spending the weekend reading theses, editing them, guiding the students along the way, then throwing in some essays along the way, I am not going to should all over myself by repeating "You should be reading more essays now." Bah Humbug! My blue eyes look very patriotically American: red, white, and blue. Time for a diversion.

Okay, Dell has just announced what looks to be a fun toy, the Dell Inspiron Duo convertible notebook. Looking at the specs, it is a 10.1 inch screen on a netbook, but the catch is that the lid rotates the screen making it a tablet. Way cool! Excuse me now while I write my letter to Santa.

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Melissa and Jennifer Write in


Melissa has left a new comment on your post "What a Load of Crocs":

Hi Ryan,
Glad I read till the end of this post! You got me. 
At any rate, I've noticed that Hungarians will wear socks when it is 70 or 80 outside, and they think it's ostentatious that we don't. More than once someone has addressed this "issue" with me in concern for my health. 

Jennifer wrote me an e-mail saying she had to read the post twice to make sure I was not seriously assaulted. 

People often give me strange and strained looks because I shun socks until the snow falls and sticks to the ground. Frequently, those comfortable enough to confront me will ask why I don't mind getting my feet wet when it rains; my Crocs have holes in them. Well, the answer is simple. My feet get wet when I shower and they dry eventually. When I wear Crocs in the rain, they get wet and dry eventually. Everything is just a matter of time.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

HP Slate Sold Out


Some were leery that a Windows based operating system would take off after the overwhelming success of the iPad. Many did not think there would be the interest in another tablet. This is what HP thought when their Windows 7 Slate came on the market this last week. Wrong!

The Slate sold out. HP is now wiping the shame from their faces, but it is not so much the average consumer who has been waiting patiently for it, but corporations. It seems that a vast number of big businesses use Microsoft products, hence they want phones and tablet computers that are compatible with the security realm. According to an article in Conceivably Tech, no other product including the iPad meets the security standards they have in place.

I am still holding out for a Win7 format with a larger screen. For some things, size does matter.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Cleaning Day


We already have a housekeeper, but I need a computer cleaner. Sure I can do the usual maintenance on our computers, but what gets out of hand are the address books in the various e-mail programs. 

For a sense of security to battle forgetfulness, I have all of my e-mail accounts set so that anyone I write to is automatically entered into the address book, so I never lose important contact information. 

The problem is that people write to me via different accounts and I write back from different accounts. I have six different Gmail accounts for different reasons, our business accounts, and then some miscellaneous stragglers. All of the mail is downloaded into my IncrediMail program, but sometimes I am cleaning spam out of a Gmail account, I see new mail and write back. Now that address is in that Gmail account, but not in my IncrediMail program. 

Yesterday, I exported all of my IM contact list and then imported it into my primary Gmail account. Then I exported that and imported it into my school Gmail account. Once more, an export of that list went into my mobile phone Gmail account. Now I had a total of 2,269 contacts.

I spent half the day yesterday going through and deleting contacts I know longer need. Gmail has a wonderful feature that gives the option of looking for duplicates and merging them. That worked what looked like wonders at first, but only brought me down to 2,013 contacts. It was the multiple first names that threw it off. When you have 22 Balazses, most with different e-mail addresses, Gmail is stymied. Nineteen Enikos or twelve Viktors will do it in too. This meant opening each contact to see if it needed editing or deleting.

With a lot of time and patience, I whittled the list down to 835. If you were expecting to hear from me again, I may have deleted your address, so you had better drop me a line.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

C is for Courtesy and P is for Pariah


I am a bit bedazzled that people today seemed to have lost a good portion of their common sense along with a large chuck of their manners. Case in point - every year we invite the incoming Fulbright scholars for a social. For a number of years, our place was the hub of socialization. 

This year, I was invited to speak at their orientation about cultural differences. A few of the group came up afterward and greeted us with introductions. At the time, we extended an open invitation to visit or contact us if needed.

Fulbrighters are spread throughout the country, so the main time that the majority may be in Budapest is for the monthly cultural trip the commission provides. For November, it was put off until tomorrow. Over three weeks ago, we sent out an invitation for a wine and munchies get-together. We offered to supply some of each, but they were welcome to supplement with their beverage of choice. The invites went to over twenty people with explicit mention that families were welcome as well. 

As days passed we waited for some signs of recognition, so acknowledgment that we had written. Nothing came our way. Finally, one of the group had graciously offered to replace a canceled speaker for the Budapest Creativity Group. I had asked if he were coming with his family, but he was not sure he had received the e-mail. Later, he did respond with the original e-mail as well as a note that he would be in Sweden that weekend.

Ron wants to believe that the reason no one responded was because I did not include RSVP in the note. From years of entertaining in CA, I knew that RSVP was a social custom often ignored by those appearing at the door who never provided a warning there was another mouth to feed.

Statistically, one would presume that whether or not directions were included to RSVP, amongst twenty plus professional people there would be a few at least. Nary a one. 
What was even more shocking was that at the appointed hour of 7:30 pm, not a single tinkle of our doorbell was heard. In fact, the entire night was quiet. Ron and I drank wine and had munchies while we watched TV, wondering if this is how a pariah feels.
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Quick Survey - Responses Needed


I am doing a quick survey of peoples' reactions to different web site names. This is simplistic overview, but...Imagine a website of videos where a person told stories about overcoming conflicts in life while creating substantial life adjustments. The site also has a photo gallery, an area for downloading documents, and finally it combines life coaching services. 

Here are some ideas, but I am curious what the reaction is to them. Please e-mail me at unless you want to stay anonymous, then just comment on the post.

Carpe Diem n' go -
Carpe Diem now go - 
Carpe Diem now -
Ready 2 move on -
Ru ready to move on -
Hungary 4 a change -
Hungary 4 change -
Hungary for change -
Renovation of a life -

I need any responses by November 30th. Thanks!
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mrs. Claus's Cookbook


Through my special connections, I have been given privy to 
Mrs. Claus' Cookbook. If you want a preview of what is happening up at the North Pole, check this out or click on any picture below to bring you to a whole list of Mrs. Claus' recipes. With the Christmas Faire starting historically early here in Budapest, on November 19th, I thought we probably should start getting in the spirit around here too.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Brain Orgasms


What do you get if you cross a juggler, acrobat, trapeze artist, gymnast, and contortionist? What you get is a performance by an Australian group in a show named Circa the Minimalist Circus at the Trafo Theater. Imagine trying to concentrate when your head is threatening like it is going to pop off of your shoulders from pure unadulterated pleasure.  

Last night the performance of Circa was so incredible, my brain kept having orgasms. There are times when the capacity to indulge in pleasure borders on pain, but this show was only pleasure overload to the tenth power. Joyous, exuberant pleasure overload. Rarely do I have this much excitement with my clothes on doing something legal. My body was getting involved with shakes, rattles, and rocking to and fro. But even when I was fifteen, could I even consider trying any of their moves.

This five minute video is not even a good teaser for the way this show pushes the performance envelope. The real show is 80 minutes. The twists, turns, jumps, somersaults, and other witty movements that they managed, boggled the belief system of the majority of the audience who would have denied the human body was even capable of doing such things. When performers get as many stage calls as last night, you know they have soared beyond excellence. If it had been 10 minutes longer, my brain would have exploded, but what a way to go.
CIRCA (5 minute version) from Circa on Vimeo.
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It's a Small World After All


I would suggest we all burst into song, but then again, I am fearful of being sued by Disney for copyright infringement. Do they still have that gosh awful song playing on one of their rides?

Each week, I blog a question or statement in each of  three different blogs for my journalism students. They are just finishing the book The Color of Water, which always produces engaging conversations and discussions in class. For this week's blog entry, I searched for and found a wonderful video that I thought was perfect timed and

placed it in the Race and Ethnicity blog this last week. The assignment was to watch and then write which person they could identify emotionally with even though they were not biracial. Because I was so impressed with the video I added a comment on YouTube stating that I was going to use it for my R and E class in Budapest, Hungary. Today, I received this e-mail from the director of the video.

Dr.  James,
My name is Sterling Hudson, the director of the documentary, Mulatto: Mixed Race In America.  I want to thank you for the positive response to the clip posted on YouTube! Your comment could not have been any more timely!  I am currently in Paris, I will go to Budapest soon while I'm there I want to organize a screening at several universities including ELTE and CEU.  I would love your help in making this a reality!  The proposed dates are December 14th and 16th! 

I feel that is a very important topic not only for Americans but also for a Hungarian audience also as they are in the process of forming a national identity of their own.  In the last 300 years the country has been under rule by many powers and the Hungarians are also a very "mixed race" group of people all in themselves! Now is the time for the country to form it's own liberated sense of "self".  Also, more directly, with a African community, soon Hungary will have it's own "mulattoes". 

I would like to organize a event out of these evenings complete with musical entertainment to start program.  I would like lecturers, such as yourself to speak on the topic and it's revelence in today's world.  I would also speak about current situation in America about race and identity.  I would like to close the evening with a reception to further the discussion!

Your help would be greatly beneficial to the success of the program!  Also, I would be greatly appreciative!  A little about me,  I am a student from New York City.  I am originally from Flint, Michigan but I have been living and studying in New York from last seven years.    I took a break from school this semester, when I return to New York in January I will finish my B.A at City University. 

Any questions or thoughts, please feel free to ask!
Thank you!
Sterling Hudson

This guy is an undergraduate!! I was blown away by this. What an incredible piece of work he has produced and he has yet to get a degree. This is one career to follow for sure. Of course, I wrote him back and offered to assist. As it happens, December 14th is our last meeting of 2010 for the Creativity Group.

Aside from that, my dad was born and raised near Flint, Michigan and that is near where I finished high school. It is a small world.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

What a Load of Crocs


Immediately after school on Thursdays, I run off to teach my one and only private lesson. It takes two metro rides to reach my student, but after 3 years, I still enjoy him. 

Today, as I was waiting for the metro for the first leg of my return home, a gang of young punk type teens entered and gathered on the platform. They looked so cute in their little leather jackets with Mohawk haircuts, I had to smile inwardly. As it was a small gang of seven who barely witnessed their fifteenth  birthday, I made the decision not to avoid their company by moving up the platform. When the metro arrived, we all boarded the same car and found seats both next to each other, but with some across the aisle. I, never without a book, it had already been whipped it out before leaving the platform. There have been times when I have lost consciousness in whatever volume is in hand, missing conversation, metro stops, and flirtations. Okay, so maybe not flirtations, allow me my flights of fancy. I was engrossed in this book, as these youngsters clamored like bullfrogs at a prom at the pond, it only registered on a theta level.

However, intruding on my peripheral vision on my right side was a young man bending over his knees in order to get up and under the cover of the tome in my hands. Unfettered and in high density ignore mode, he did not succeed in garnering any of my attention, but this caused my instincts to sharpen immediately. 

The next infringement on my space, time, and attention soon followed the book interloper when those accomplices across the aisle started pointing at my Crocs in simulated wood design. Perhaps it was the fact that I was not wearing socks, a habit I maintain until the temperature drops to freezing, but a balmy 48F. 

All this time they were making sounds that would have confounded an oscilloscope, had we had one handy. The pointing fingers that invaded my space did indeed make me cognizant of my surroundings, but still I felt the less attention the better. 

One stop before mine they were preparing to exit giving me a sense of relief until the metro doors opened and in one fell swoop, they relieved me of my Crocs and were out the door faster than Santa Claus when he hears encroaching footsteps. There I sat barefooted or barefeeted or just wishing for socks at last. As my mind projected a call to Ron to come meet me with spare footwear, again I was left in the cold to bear the cold when Ron did not answer his mobile.

When the elderly, but pleasingly plump lady flopped down on the seat next to me, I snapped out of my reverie only to realize the youth were gone, but my Crocs were still comfortably places on my feet. One of these days, these day dreams are going to get me in trouble.
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Elephant or Jackass?


It is a good thing I don't put much credence in polls, but this one really has me flummoxed. How could I be on one side my entire life and just find out now what life is like on the other side of the fence. 
Who could possibly imagination even with the aid of opiates that Republicans have more votes for liking Modern Family than the Democrats would? 
Modern Family, The Mentalist, and Desperate Housewives are all on my top 10 list of favorites, but it looks like they are putting me in the red zone. Alternatively, Mad Men, Dexter, Brothers and Sisters, The Good Wife, Damages, and Parks and Recreation still to clearly root me in with the blues. With the polls now closing, the final tally is 3-6.

If you are curious enough to read the original article, you can find it here.
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Monday, November 08, 2010

Pass on the Pass


If you travel where you are bombarded with enticements to purchase a city pass with promises of great things like free transport, free or reduced entry to museums, and faboo discounts at restaurants, think 2 or 3 times before jumping the gun. I am very leery.

For years now, when asked, I have been steering those who want to know, not to buy the pass for this great city that I live in. I cannot be more expressive. The tourism office has a deal with journalists to aid them in getting access for free to some places, in exchange for a plug on the city pass. The only success they produced was entry to one of the baths, so my loyalty is tainted.

Apparently, I am not a black sheep in the pass up the pass when you travel field. Budget Travel magazine had a cost comparison for the Paris card for a grandmother and her 12 y.o. grandchild. In a nutshell, the Paris card does not give senior or child discounts, but student discounts could be had at every museum. Sure, you get to cut in line, but as it turned out, granny would be spending an additional 48 Euros for the 3 day card just for herself. For the youngster, there was a difference of 12 euros.

If you think about it, you really need to hustle to get your monies worth. There were only 2 cities where I calculated a savings after risking the purchase. Stockholm has incredibly expensive public transportation so with the card affording us free admission to the museums, it turned into a no brainer. Major savings! Oh, and the city is tre-faboo! It should be on everyones' wish list.

Our other adventure was in Edinburgh. The card did award us with cash best kept in our pockets, but with an exception. We ran our butts off to get from place to place to fill a day in order to maximize the card. Though I must say, we did see and do things we normally would not have spent the money on, like the Scotch Museum or the Optical Illusion Museum. We totally enjoyed both after gaining access with pass rooting us on. You go guys! You can do it. Get over to that Scotch Museum, it is free entry.  When we return to Edinburgh, forget it. Been there, done that, bought the bottle of scotch.
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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Visual Delights


After getting all of the "Have to Do" things off of our list that we could not procrastinate on, Ron decided he wanted to go to the WAMP Designer Fair. Each month, there is a fair, but closer to Christmas, it increases to two times for December.
Christmas in the post-War United StatesImage via Wikipedia
After a weekend of grading papers, I had forgotten what fresher outdoor air felt like; the lungs needing adapting. How very good to be out and about. Strangely, the square of the fair was quiet as a church mouse, not a creature was stirring. Oh, how I exaggerate, there were, but not for the fair. Wrong weekend. 

What we did spot was a designer fair of another sort. In the old bus terminal there is a temporary display of the work of graphic artists. Free admission lured us in, but the phenomenal work kept us there.

In this age of technology, one could argue that with a computer you can create outstanding pieces of art and graphic design. However, the computer and software is only as good as the one giving the directions. There was nary a piece that did not capture my attention, appreciation, and admiration for the artist. 

These events stimulate my bi-polar tendencies. While inspiring me to be creative, they are reminding me that I lack creativity. Perhaps I don't lack creativity in all areas of life, but certainly in these. 

As a temporary exhibit, it will only last until November 28th and they are open from 10am to 6pm. If you have a chance, do yourself a favor let these creations envelope you. You will breathe deeper after these breathes of fresh air.
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bank of America Reaches New Low


If you are a regular reader, you will know I have a long history with hating Bank of America. Before someone shouts out the usual U.S. response "Love It or Leave It", let me say I have tried. It is impossible to try to open a bank account with a concrete bank, not a virtual one without doing it in person. 

This is my latest B of A ragtime blues. I wanted to switch our savings account from regular savings to a Certificate of Deposit. We had a CD before buying the Florida condo, but I closed it then not knowing how much access we would need to quick cash. Now they don't have that type of CD any longer. That CD only had a 3 month roll around. Every 3 months you had 7 days to add or withdraw. Options now are relegated to 12 months, however, they do have a savings maximizer. 

Here are the clinchers. B of A now owns half of America, but when I call, I can only speak to a California representative, because that is where my account was opened originally. Californians must be so haughty or naughty they need their own representatives to handle their accounts. However, California offices do not open until 3 hours later than the general call center for the rest of the country, which means "don't even dare think about calling until after 6pm Budapest time."

Well, I called to switch over the savings from one to the other. Forty-five minutes on the phone and presumably it was done according to Karen who helped me. Two weeks later, I receive a letter stating it was not possible. Karen is a dirty rotten liar and should not have told me it would be that easy. Tough patoots on you mister. But in all fairness, we did give Karen a promotion, because she really has great phone skills.

Call number 2 - Well, the reason they could not open the account is because a MAXIMIZER savings is linked to a checking account, so to open an account of that type, they need to create an entirely new checking/savings account combo. Okay, fine. Do it. They are so sorry, but even if I have been a client (no longer do they use customer) since the early days of evolution, they still need me to stand on my head and spit nickels while clapping both feet to the tune of Yankee Doodle. Well, God knows I am really out of practice, but I managed, had it videotaped for their archives, but not YouTube and we culminated the call close to an hour later. Again, it was collect, so they paid the phone bill. The new account was to appear online when I signed in after an anticipation period of 3 business days. Computers can do things instantly, but people need three days to make you really appreciative.

A week later, call number 3 was to Justin, a California rep right from the start when our online account looked the same as usual. I hate the shade of blue they use on their site. I wish I could decorate it myself, just enough to give it more appeal. Justin had me feeling like 3 IS the charm. Justin confides in me that our record is clean. There are no records of my having called in the past and is wondering if I am delusional or just called a wrong international collect number only to have provided all of my financial information to a stranger. 

Justin was so empathetic, I knew he had my welfare both financial and mental in his best interest, because he shared that if he had not gone into banking, he assuredly had a secondary option of having sex reassignment surgery specifically so he could join Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Just one more week of waiting and we would see the difference in our online account.

A week plus has passed. Nothing has changed with the account. If I ever run into Justin, he will be able to join the good sisters of the Missionaries of Charity without worrying about surgery.

Though I have a box of checks we will never need, every deposit slip has been used. Originally, I had asked someone at the bank if I could just scan and print out the last slips I had, but was told it was impossible. A package arrived; it was a box of deposit slips.  

Today, the paper statement is in the mail. I am rather compulsive about balancing the checkbook and more so living abroad. Damn if B of A did not add salt to a festering wound. Those %##$)(& charged us $61.84 for the printing, shipping, and taxes for one lousy box of deposit slips. There oughta be a law...Enhanced by Zemanta

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Art is in the Eyes of the Beholder


Somehow and for some reason, I happened to mention in one of my classes last week the foreigners' first lasting impression of Budapest that I hear repeatedly. 
"I have never seen so much graffiti anywhere as there is here." 

One student volunteered the fact that they allowed graffiti artists to decorate one of the metro stops, Moszkva tér. I had to investigate this outdoor gallery of post-modernism expression. Expecting murals to some titillation to a square that looks like post-modern devastation, disappointment was sure to be engraved in my expectations. 

There are only trinkets to brighten ones’ outlook if one has the imagination of a circus contortionist. Amongst the objects described as décor are six painted rock like structures that are meant to function as seats. Yet they are so low to the ground, the average robust person will need a crane to help them return to a full-length vertical status. 

In the distance, now visible are decorated boxes that look like they fell from a carnival trailer as it was passing through town. If they existed prior to painting, they were invisible in their surroundings. That is how they should have remained.

Ron’s friend Martha sent him a blog post from an Iowa writer who is here visiting for two months. One of her posts just happened to be about graffiti, so I mention it to my students via e-mail. As I was typing I went blank on how to spell Moszkva tér, it is so entirely different from English you can see (wink, wink). Being rooted to my chair and knowing if I try to stand, my legs will protest for the next two hours. I just looked it up on the web.

I went to, the official site for Budapest public transportation. The site immediately translates to English. Thank you Google! When I reached metro line schedules, I was thankful I didn't have a mouthful of tea, water, wine, or a healthy mouthful of saliva. They list the last red metro station translated into English as “South Station - Leader of Criminality Square”. Wow, talk about truth in advertising, perfect. Moszkva tér is shown as Moscow Space. The next time I am around there, I will have to take better notice to see if Moscow space feels any different from Hungarian space. Could there be any relationship to SPUTNIK? 
One of the students did a follow up with these links to 

Budapest graffiti art. Again, some may use the term art more loosely than others.
Art Gallery - Click here and then on the arrow on the page to move forward.
Wall Art - Click here.
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Friday, November 05, 2010

Does This App to You?


I was sent an intriguing e-mail from Guide Gecko, a travel book guide seller. I linked to them because they have an affiliate program, so if people buy their travel book through the link on my site, I will make a commission great enough to buy a spool of thread at the 100 forints store. There were no expectations to get rich, because after all, the Amazon store has been on our website for five years; our total earning has come to $7.00. Those profits were meant to go the university department that I teach in, but apparently no one cared to enter Amazon through my portal. I had kept it so clean too.

Well, anyway if you have ever had the fantasy of being a travel writer or an Apple apps writer, here is your green opportunity. Why green? You'll see when you visit the Guide Gecko website.
After I had put their logos on our site, I had a number of suggestions to make life easier for those of us who wanted to rake in the cash. The owner wrote me to say they implemented a number of my ideas, but it has not followed with a fat check for referred sales. He added that they are now authorized to provide travel guide apps for the iPhone so if I wanted to be the first kid on my block to write for them, I should throw my hands in the air waving my excitement before throwing myself on the keyboard to produce. Warned that there would be throngs passing through the gates once they are flung open, if I want to be amongst the first, I should not let a moment pass me by.

Interestingly, while in Riga, we happened to be watching BBC one evening when it was so frigid out everyone who wanted to whoop it up had frozen whoops floating in the air. Strange sight, but anyway BBC travel report just happened to have a segment on smart-phone travel apps. They renounced them like the pope renounces condoms and those of other religions. 

Two primary reasons were pointed out: 
A.) In order to use them, you need to have Internet access, which is primarily while in your hotel where you download the info
B.) Once on the street only the less than savvy traveler with an excellent travel insurance policy is going to pull out their expensive phone on the street to fiddle with, while at the same time becoming a beacon alerting muggers and thieves.
A secondary reason does not take my critical thinking course to hammer out. What credibility stands behind some schmuck who has just written one app or a dozen apps for a smart-phone? If you have a smart-phone + WiFi access + excellent insurance + a taste for extreme sports if mugged, then there are plenty of websites that have garnered a reputation for a positive track record. 

Besides, though I was told I could start producing apps immediately, there was no mention of what I get out of it nor a contract of any kind. Caveat emptor. On the other hand, Permissum exigo caveo or probamus auctrix emus. I need a Latin teacher to check these out. I barely passed Latin in high school.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wasted Time Never to Receive Again


I like the fact that credit card companies are being stringent with their security, but it can get so aggravating when they block my card every other month. In the last six weeks, I have had to call MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. The strangest thing with some of the cards is that I did not even use them, but no one else tried to either. 

"Hey, let's play around and block this guy's card for the fun of it. He have been a member for twenty-one years, but we work here and cannot get credit."

Tonight, it was a call to Chase Visa. This was prompted by a message from Bank of America stating they could no longer access my account; hence, they would not make automatic payments until I fixed the problem. I tried logging on the Chase website; "Sorry, we cannot find your account." Well you certainly can find it when I send you money. After four attempts, I gave up and called. They answered right away with NO phone tree to go through. I spoke immediately with a live person. 

When she heard the problem, it meant being transferred to the technical issues department. Oh, boy! Surprise, the call was answered immediately. BUT wait, we cannot help you, because your card has been blocked for fraud. Transfer over to security. 

Security answers just as quickly. I go through the problem yet again. She said to me "I cannot access your account." I said neither could I which is why I am calling you. If you can't access it, who do we call?

Then she is muttering that her computer is stuck, but what she verbalizes is "I can't move! I can't move! Nothing is moving." I wanted to ask if she wanted me to call 911 in her area code, but I was certain she meant the computer. 

Finally, it was fixed, but it will take 5 business days to be able to troll around the account online, though I can use the card immediately. 

Tomorrow night will be my 4th call to Bank of America about a savings account that was supposed to be transferred over a month ago. Each time the rep tells me the last one did not do it correctly. 

All wasted time that will never be retrievable.

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