Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting Creative


Last week or so I posted a flier for a creativity group I had created. Last night was the first meeting. With limited resources and manpower, ie. my wallet and my manpower, the advertising was limited. I did manage to get it out to the Xpat Community via XPat Loop, but other than that it was hundreds of e-mails and signs around the university

It was debatable which outcome would make me more content: a cast of thousands or no one at all. I spent hours working on a presentation, actually, my first ever in PowerPoint. Hard to believe with my decades of teaching, but I never found a need before, so there was that learning curve added on. 

We went to the university way too early, but I had to get my projector, laptop, and speakers from my office. When we arrived at the room, there was a class going on, so there was no chance of an early set-up. Grand total, including Ron, there were 7 people. It was just enough to satisfy me without making me break out into a panic attack. I think the presentation went well; I had a hands-on activity at the end to get them engaged. The creative juices were flowing for sure. I have hopes it will turn into something great. The next session is in October. In the meanwhile, I have been active.

Budapest Creativity Group
We have an e-mail address:
We have a website: Still a work in progress
A Facebook Page: Budapest Creative Group (Be a friend)
Twitter: BudapestCreate (Follow us, we may lead you to new and exciting places
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slam, Bang, 2,500 Euros Please the Dentist Says


In this land of world renown dentistry, it is so much less expensive then anywhere else (Read here the USA or the UK). I have been told by a dozen dentists that I have the worst dental genes they have come across. What is irksome is that I have flossed long before it was fashionable and brush more than most people. It has not helped. 

The total bill for my oral reconstruction is a small down payment on a new home. I have the peace of mind knowing though that if I were to have the work done in the US, it would have been double the cost. 

The next step involved excavation. I wasn't sure if it were a dentist or archeologist working on my mouth, but it did take 2 hours under sterile conditions. There was not a moment of pain either during the procedure or after. I was provided with pain pills, but I only took one of them. I haven't needed more. 

What I did need was a stabilizer when I found that this step in the process was a cool 2,500 euros. Smelling salts please...
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh Canada, Oh Canadians


I was still at school, but when I finally arrived home, Ron told me I missed my fan base. Huh? I respond. Well it seems that a trio of Canadians found their way to our door and came in with the guests who were due to arrive. They appeared at the door asking for me. They had a copy of my book in hand and wanted it autographed. 

Good soul Ron had them come in, gave them tea, and chatted for an hour hoping I may return in the meantime. Needless to say I didn't. The elder of the group was an 81 year old who left Hungary as a youngster, but had never been back. He was here with his son and grandson. In my absence, they had Ron sign my name in the book. That alone made me weepy. Our handwriting is as different as our nature. Oh Canada! Call next time. You may find me at home.
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Andrea K Comments


Andrea K has left a new comment on your post "Letting Go Of What You Don't Know": 

Really funny. Maybe these people handle the region as a solid block. I think even Hungarians don't have a clue of the language, public transport, etc. of neighboring countries. 

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letting Go Of What You Don't Know


Dear readers: If you should identify yourself here, believe me, I am not poking fun at you. This is a teaching moment for others.

Getting questions from readers is really a joy for me. I love the interaction. Some readers have more questions than others, which is fine. Some readers ask questions totally unrelated to Hungary. I am not sure where they gathered some grain of information that lead them to believe I could be of assistance in the matter.

For example, I had a reader write asking me questions about Budapest which were followed by questions that transitioned into real specifics like "What type of oil do restaurants use in their cooking?" My response was that is probably depended on the cuisine, the chef, and the dish being prepared. When I cook and I am far from being a chef, I use corn, olive, sunflower, and rarely peanut oils for cooking, depending on the recipe. The list of questions continued from there, which again was fine until they started include Prague.

How do you say "What oil are you using in the cooking?" in Hungarian and Czech? Beats me, I don't speak either language. 

This Q and A went back and forth for a number of e-mails until she finally decided she needed to reward my efforts. She arranged to meet me to award me two boxes of Bisquick. This is like white gold for us, so I was thrilled. As it turned out, the two boxes we had stored were both severely out of date, though recently provided. With the flour mold alert, we tossed them, leaving our cupboard bare.

The very next day, I received an e-mail from another reader who asked questions about Budapest, but broke the happy spell when they were followed by "Will the weather in October be suitable to go to the beaches in Croatia?" "If I am taking the trains around Croatia and Slovenia, should I get a railpass or point to point tickets?"

Then there was the guy who was living here for 3 months before  needing an ACE bandage. I had told him I looked for them for months, but had not been able to find one until I described it. We happened to go into a pharmacy where he proceeded to ask for an ACE bandage. The clerk had no clue what he was asking since she did not speak English, yet additionally would not have known ACE. "A compression bandage is what he needs" I tried. No go. Persisting, this guy kept repeating ACE bandage like a mantra that would educate the clerk through osmosis. When it did not work, he walked out and called the clerk stupid. Needless to say, I was horrified, reminded Dorothy that he was not in Kansas anymore. Regardless, these  incidents do help keep my own ethnocentrism in Czech.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blue or Red


Blue or Red come November?

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There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch


There may not be any free lunches these days, but there are a few free dinners. 

Frommer's always sends out these stickers long after I have researched a book, making it a difficult to backtrack to all of the places that will be in the book and deserving of a sticker. I think it is helpful for those who read the book to have the reassurance of seeing the sticker in the window, especially of restaurants.

I photocopied the cover of the book along with the inside page with my name. Then I photocopied each of the reviews from the highest 3 stars to the no stars. I sent each restaurant a copy of their review, the sticker for their window (only the 3 and 2 star places), and a letter stating that two of us dined there for the review. As such, I was pleased to offer them this sticker to further their advertising

Two restaurants e-mailed me to invite us for dinner on the house. Not only that, but a Frommer's reader wanted to meet us for dinner. Normally, I don't accept these types of invitations. Eating out is a luxury for us, so spending that money causes me to think twice. After a number of e-mails, I felt we would like this couple. Good instincts. We had an early dinner before they went to the opera. They were a wonderful couple. We could have spent days with them. Mike and Rich picked up the tab besides, totally unexpectedly, but a doubly pleasant surprise. 
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Something Else to Worry About


It is a pain when you have to repeat yourself a thousand times a year for various people. Now when someone asks me "Why don't you return to the US, I will just point them in the direction of this post. All they need to do is click on the title above to read the article.

Those innocents who think that because I have a doctorate, it makes a difference, it doesn't. Most employed professors in the US will tell you that their university is eliminating all full-time staff that does not have tenure only to rehire them as adjuncts. No benefits: no health insurance, no vacation time, no sick time, no nothing. They cancel a class, you don't get paid because you are not working. Someone sent me a YouTube video of students having to suffer a lottery system to get into classes due to increasing demand, but lack of instructors. You would think that $50,000 a year would guarantee you the availability of the courses you needed to graduate. Guess again.

You think my fear is exaggerated? Read the articles below. When someone offers me a long term binding contract that includes a decent salary with benefits, then I will rethink this. In the meantime, I still love my students here.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Florence Was Not a City in Italy


Quite some time ago, I received an e-mail from a woman named Florence. She was coming to Budapest and a friend of hers told her she should contact me. It seemed like the distant future to bother thinking about at the time. Some people have good intentions on meeting, but the tourist bug sucks all of their time. I suggested she call me when she arrived providing her with my mobile number. 

She arrived, she called, we arranged to meet she and her friend Mark for a drink. After the initial greetings, it was like the old routine "Who is on first?" I admitted to them that I could not place a face with the referring friend's name to save my life. The fact that I did multiple searches in all of my e-mail accounts, turned up nothing. Meeting so many people, more so in the last few years with the books, I had to start keeping notes on people as I met them to have memory pegs for later if we should again be in contact. Florence's friends was not in any contact list in any e-mail account. This was driving me crazy, but insatiably curious at the same time.  

Florence said "You know each other from Facebook." 
Ryan said "How did we connect?"
Florence said "You connected through Facebook."
Ryan said "Yes, but how did we find each other initially to connect on Facebook? My general rule is not to accept friend requests unless I know the person."
Florence said "I don't know, but you two have never met."

Initial frustrations were not going to be satiated, so we went for coffee spending about 2 hours chatting. They are both from my old stomping grounds: NJ and Phila. My parting comment was that I was going to message the referring friend to say "Who the hell are you anyway?" and I did while also pointing out that I was smiling when I typed it, but begged for enlightenment. There is a serious lack of photos facial photos in his profile making it extra maddening.

Yes, he did write me back. He had written me more than a year ago regarding my Frommer's book and we has a brief correspondence before moving on to FB. Mystery solved, but for the future, if you are sending people to meet me, photo IDs are required. :  )
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unleash Your Creativity


If you happen to be in Budapest for any of these dates, I would love to see you here.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tis Better to Try Than Never Try at All


“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” — Edward de Bono

This is an idea that awakened in my for some time, but a former Fulbrighter brought it to the surface. Bruce Holland Rogers was a Fulbright scholar at my university. He taught creative writing and I did con him into teaching Ethics in Journalism. This was out of his repertoire, but he withstood the challenge successfully for all concerned. One other thing that Bruce did aside from the university was hold "parlors", a social space at his apartment. It was attending and listening to students, other instructors, and friends of friends at these groups that I realized it needed to continue in some form.

What I have become aware of over the years of living here is that my own creativity is like the stock market in uncertain times. There are frequent highs and lows that shift quickly and significantly. What I realized is I need some support group to balance myself, yet at the same time, realizing how creativity is lacking in the educational system. Just as I decided I needed to do something pro-active, I had read an article that admonished the US educational system for no longer teaching creative skills. How can they when they have to teach to the test?

Well, I am doing something for me and hopefully for others as well. I am planning on starting a "Creativity Group". This is not a class, it is not something for credit. What it IS as I envision it is...
  • A safe place for ANYONE who speaks English to come to develop, share, or support each others' creativity.
My thoughts are that eventually it will split into other groups such as a prose writers support group and a poetry support group. Any other groups are waiting to be born.

Do I have this clearly organized in my own mind? NO! If I did, I would be limiting the creativity of the group. Flexibility is the key to creativity. Are others welcome to contribute? I am counting on it. I know some people including former students who have done some really creative things or are doing them now. I want them to come speak to us about how they develop ideas. 

Is this open only to students at ELTE? NO, see "ANYONE" above. Past students, current students, future student, you sister, your father, your boss, ANYONE is welcome to attend. The only requirement is a working knowledge of English.

Today, I received permission to use one of our large classrooms as I have high hopes of a good turnout. Now, I have to figure out days and times. My thoughts are one Tuesday and one Thursday a month. Those that cannot make it on Tuesday, have another opportunity on Thursday. At the moment, I am thinking something like the 2nd Thursday and the 4th Tuesday, at least until the winter break. We have to be out of the building completely by 7:45 pm, so my thought was starting at 6:00 pm to 7:00, which gives us some wiggle room if we run over.

If anyone has ideas, feedback, please send them in. 
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Andrea K Writes in


Andrea K has left a new comment on your post "ARC the Billboard Angels Sing": 

It is nice to see that you visit the exhibition on a regular basis because I also like it very much. The word "arc" means face in Hungarian. Other than that I don't know what the letters stand for. By the way, the note is 10,000 HUF not 1,000. 

Ryan replies  Just goes to show I so rarely have 10,000 notes, I did not even notice. I will change it. Thanks!

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

ARC the Billboard Angels Sing


I have no idea what ARC stands for, but honestly I really don't care. (Reader Andrea K. told me it means 'face'). What I do know about them is that they sponsor an annual public and free event in the parking lot near Heroes Square. Anyone with imagination and sponsorship money can exhibit a billboard with whatever the artist(s) would like on it. Some are funny, some serious, some are social admonitions, others are just rank. 

One such of the latter, which will not be shown here is a large map of Budapest with an inset of Europe in the corner. Like many traveler's maps, these have push pin markers in various places. Next to the numbered pins you can find places where the artist feels at home. So far, so good, but then comes the clincher. The difference starts with the title: Shitty. The caption goes a bit further in explanation. (Don't kill the messenger here, I am only reporting). "Anywhere I have taken a shit, I already feel at home." 

I went today to view all. Fortunately, Funzine magazine had a list of the whole lot by number with translations and explanations in English. Years past when we have gone, we were lost in lack of translation. Here are some of my favorites. The captions and titles are from Fuzine, so if you disagree with them, I am sure THEY would love to hear from you.
Reader Andrea K. informed me the note is 10,000 Huf, not 1,000, but the caption is embedded, so I cannot change it below.

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I Thank You A LOT Polish Airline You Part 2


Note: if you arrived here first, you may want to read Part 1 below first.

First having two airline tickets on LOT going to two different cities, but both from Budapest with overlapping dates, one was cancelled by the credit card company or so I thought. Using, yesterday there is a financial update in my e-mail. It shows my MasterCard has a new charge of $573.60. Funny, but that is the exact amount of the airline ticket that was supposed to be blocked. Another call to the credit card people, tell them this was to be blocked, but it came through anyway, what are they doing to me? Play the martyr role. This fee is over 1/2 of my monthly university salary.

Transfer to the dispute department. It seems that they did deny it once, but then 2 hours later the charge came through again, so they said "What the hell! Let's green light it this time." 

Yak, yak, yak, with the dispute guy. Sorry, we have to send a form to the US address and then you will have until October 2nd to get it back to us before our misguided thinking believes you no longer have an issue. Wait. This has to go to the US where it has to be redirected to me in Europe? Can't you send it e-mail, fax, carrier pigeon? Nope, we don't have those capabilities. Just because we are a multi million dollar company doesn't mean we stay abreast with technology. Notice your card does not have the chip the European cards have? Look, I say, "I have a been a good customer for over ten years. I have never asked for one favor or caused any problems. There has never been a late payment and my credit limit is high enough to buy a small business. Can't you do something to make this process easier?" Guess the answer. 

Now there is a charge on the MasterCard for a flight I don't want, one on the American Express card for a flight I do want and a credit card company working in the 19th century. Things like this torture me. I would rather have someone hold my head in a hive of bees rather than have financial difficulties.

This morning I Googled LOT Airlines looking through dozens of their websites until I found a UK number. Twenty minutes of waiting, I finally was able to speak to a live person. After explaining the situation, she put me on hold for 3 minutes, but returned to say that she cancelled the flight I did not want and we have the flight we do. There will be a charge of $50 for the cancellation so they will credit the $573.60, but charge the fees for the change. I thanked her, I praised her, I wished her prosperity for the rest of her life. 

Next was to call the credit card company to tell them to forget the dispute; all is well. Miraculously, since my last call, the charge was taken off of my account. However, because I resolved it on my own, I have to call during business hours US EST from 8am-8pm to ask them to reinstate the fee for LOT to credit and give my permission for the cancellation fees to be applied. 

From now on, we will think hard about traveling only within walking distances. 

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I Thank You A LOT Polish Airline You Part 1


The trip to Ireland made me realize that one of the joys of living here, beside loving my students, is the easy access to other countries. We have been wanting to see Vilnius, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia for years now. With half of my fall break booked with guests, I took the matter in hand to book us tickets for the rest of that week.

On September 2nd, I was hunting down tickets on the various sites with numerous options. This is like venturing into extreme sports.You know you have to be ready for battle; there may be scarring in the process. Little did I realize that the scarring was going to be more like a branding iron.

I found a fare, not so budget, but those choices from here are fewer than ever before. LOT Polish Airlines had flights for $573. to Vilnius for both of us. Most of the other choices involved an overnight stay in Frankfurt, Prague, or Warsaw. Connections between these two capital cities really bites. I was about to book the tickets, feeling some sense of relief that I would have a short escape from reading papers and theses during October, but company arrived. 

We moved into the kitchen for coffee. I was telling them what we were up to, but had not finished the deal. We discussed Vilnius vs Riga and by the end of the discussion, changed our minds to visiting Riga on the sea instead. While we were chatting their child was in the living room after having over heard half of the discussion. With a proud smile, he returned to the kitchen to tell us he completed the airline transaction for us, since I had left my credit card and frequent flier cards on the desk. I wanted to kill the kid, but for the sake of harmony, I and his family sternly admonished him for using someone's  credit card, especially without permission. The deal was done, the choice made, end of the story. Not quite.

Step 2 was finding a place to stay. I found a place for 50 Euros a night, centrally located, lovely looking, so I put in the dates from the plane reservation. In the right column where it tallies up your total cost for the stay, it showed 400+ Euros. Now I am thinking hey, I am not great at math, but even I know 4 nights times 50 does not equal 400 Euros. Taking a closer look at the dates, it did not ring any bells that the first date was October 21st, not October 28th. What came out of my mouth at that point cannot be repeated here. Not only did we have guests from the 21st to the 28th, but I had a whole week of school to teach. Hmmm...the latter was tempting, but no, couldn't do it. 

I immediately called LOT in Budapest. No help at all. If you book it online, you have to call the online numbers. Back to the Internet. LOT has a great set-up for the FAQ. There is a real woman standing there waiting for you to click on the preset questions and then she dramatically answers them. If it takes you too long to decide, she makes paper airplanes, files her nails, and so on until you require her services. What she does not do is give out phone numbers for help. "Contact us" was basically useless. I did find a number for Poland. Ron called, waiting on hold for twenty minutes before trying both the British and the US numbers. Different numbers, same results.

Plan B: Call my credit card and explain what happened. Within 3 hours of the reservation being made, I called the dispute line, explained the situation and the gentleman pleasantly stated that they would deny the charge when it came through. Thanking him, I also share that he saved the life of a young boy who otherwise may have ended up on death row.

One last problem, we still wanted airline tickets, but to Riga. Search, search, search. LOT Polish Airlines still has the best connections with the best rates. Book the tickets with my AMEX card this time. The Mastercard has a US address, but the AMEX has my Budapest address. It takes 3 days before the airlines will put through charges even though they send confirmations stating that the ticket is solid. For three days, I monitored both of these, but each was showing confirmed reservations with confirmed seat selections. One more day, one more day...but then I forgot about it.
To be continued...
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Random Act of Kindness by Ray Ruiz


One of my readers, Ray Ruiz, from New Orleans, LA took me seriously with the Random Acts of Kindness in the right hand column. I was serious when I put it there, so finally someone paid attention. Ray sent me Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney. Now this was not a book on my wish list, but Ray and I have this on-going debate about Apple vs PC.

I started reading the book, Ray. I enjoy any books about those who think out of the norm. This one is quite the attention grabber and difficult to have to put down at times.

For those visiting New Orleans, you may want to check out La Dauphine Residence des Artistes.
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Technology, Where Nothing Can Go Wrong, Go Wrong, Go Wrong


When someone sends me one of those annoying please delete my comments and fill in your own choice lists to "Get to Know You Better" one is always "What is your favorite movie?" I hate that question. I am always at a loss unless I have seen one in the last 36 hours, and then that is it. However, when a movie is a metaphor for living, the title, actors, and story line spring to the forefront of my brain.

That happened just yesterday.My common practice is to scan all of the readings for my classes and put them on CDs. Also on the CD are the syllabus, class schedule and any other pertinent information I want the class to be privy to from the first day of classes. The readings are scanned into a PDF format. Although all of the other documents are in Word. This can create a problem since not all students have Word. If I don't remember to make the files Word 2003 format, if they are using OpenOffice or other tools, they sometimes have difficulty opening them. 

I am teaching a new Social Problems class this semester. I scanned for hours and hours on multiple days. It is a cumbersome project when a book is too large to fit two pages on the scanner at one time. Besides using a textbook, I am using a study guide, making me a scanner prisoner for another 8 hours. 

After it was all completed, I meticulously put each chapter in its own folder along with the chapter study guide. Each was labeled with the chapter title, the book title and authors' names. Opps! File names were too long for the PDF program. Shorten them or the program will kill off the files. Okay. Done!

Now it is time to burn baby, burn...Burn all of this course work onto CDs. Twenty CDs later, I am feeling good. I had all of this done at the beginning of August, so there was no pressure at the beginning of the semester. 

Now a movie flashback to 1973; the movie is Westworld. Westworld was an adventure park for adults where you could live out your fantasy as human-like robots were the actors. As the advertising proclaimed Westworld where nothing could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong..

Tuesday, students started arriving in my office for their CD for the Social Problems class. Eight were distributed that day. Friday morning, I was up early; there was an e-mail from one of the students. "Dear Dr. James, I hate to bother you with this, but I cannot open chapters 2, 3, 5, 7, 8..." basically the whole book. Strangely, the study guide opened fine. 

I tried it on my computer. No problem. I burned a new disc, tried it on the kitchen computer. ERROR message. I thought perhaps the chapters were too large, so I used PDFSAM to break them up into bite sized chunks, burned a CD. No go! ERROR again. What to do, what to do? I have Google sites for different classes, but the maximum size for an upload is 20MB. I would have upload each chapter in 3-5 files one by one. After getting chapter 2 uploaded and starting on chapter 3, Google announced I had reached my quota. What the... I had paid for extra storage where according to my settings, I still had 101GB of storage. After trying different browsers, cleaning the cache, cookies, cupboards, closets, and the bathroom while was at it, still nothing.

If I had to get twenty plus students to bring in a USB stick, it would take forever and they would never catch up on the readings. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. I use Google Docs for tons of my own things, but have yet been successful with getting it to share. It does not play nicely with others. After a Google search, reading some reviews, I found Dropbox. It took me about twenty-five minutes to upload all of the chapters into individual folders. Students have a choice of downloading the chapter in parts or the whole chapter, depending on their Internet connection. Another nightmare averted thanks to my having taught critical thinking classes.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Yes, We Offer Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia


The only guarantees in life are death and taxes, but consumers hold out for a less limited supply than that. In Hungary, hope does not run eternal. Making a purchase here can be like playing the Lotto, you could have an instant win or an instant loss. Most items have a three day return policy, but after that you may be the proud owner of a lemon. I am not certain there are any lemon laws here; the economic climate does not seem suitable for their planting and nurturing.

Here is an example of my trials and tribulations of ex-pat life. School is starting next week. I decided that the jar of instant coffee I had hanging around my office had to go, so I looked around for a French press coffee pot. We had one, but lent it to someone one day never to see it again. I know now we should have insisted on a DNA sample from the borrower, but hindsight is 20/20.

The obvious place to shop for a new one, (any excuse to go), was Starbucks. Ah, yes, just as in the US, they have French press pots for sale at a whopping 6,530 Huf, well over $30. Too much money for a two cup model, there has to be better deals elsewhere. The hunt was on, but not aggressively, if I found one, I found one.

On my way to school is a store, part of a housewares chain. It is at one of these stores that I found my citrus reamer. When I popped in, there they were, gleaming stainless steel and glass French press pots, two or four cup sizes. Two cups - 6,500 Huf. Do they have a pact with Starbucks or what is the deal here? No way am spending that kind of money for one of those. As I was headed out of the store, I spotted more, these were plastic and glass. A two cup size - 950 Huf. Now that is something I could live with and bought it. Stopping in at another store, I bought ground coffee and then headed to my office ready for my caffeine mojo to bring it on.

As I unpack the pot, I hear little clinking sounds as I feel something pass by me on the way to the floor. The entire top of the pot where the plunger is is broken to ragged bits. Overwhelmed with caffeine withdrawal disappointment, I have to decide whether 950 Huf ($4.25) are worth my returning it or just buying a new one. Here is the dilemma. If I were in the US, I would do it in a heartbeat. Here, there is the culture thing, the language thing, both combined create the inhibition thing. After rehearsing the question "Are you a man or a mouse?" repeatedly, I stopped when 'man' received more votes than 'mouse' and headed out the door before I morphed again.

Thankfully, there was no one in the store when I returned. The same cashier was still in her position speaking to another employee. Armed with my receipt in hand, I said "törött". Well, in truth I said "broken" because I had no idea what to say. Either way, I barely uttered a vowel when the woman said "Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia!" I was not asking for any guarantee that this was going to produce award winning cups of coffee, I just wanted a product that was not broken. Acting like I did not understand, I pressed forward in English of course, saying this was only purchased two hours ago. She repeated Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia! so many times, I thought the mantra would put her in a trance like state. Stubbornly, I stood there waving the receipt. It was a stand-off. Finally, the other clerk, took my receipt, shook her head positively and motioned for me to get another pot. After we all examined it, they called in the Good Housekeeping Seal to give it a once over too. After it passed muster, I cradled it for fear of dropping it as I left the store.

It is now sitting on my desk like a trophy "First Place goes to Ryan James for standing up to the mean lady at the housewares store". I may never use it. There is nem garancia that it will not break to bits after the first use.

For the young or uninitiated, the title of today's post is a play on an old song title "Yes, We Have No Bananas". 

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Marisa and Orsi Write in


Marisa has left a new comment on your post "Surprise, Surprise":
That's a great story, Ryan! i am going to retweet :-)

Orsolya Bizouarn commented on your post.

Orsolya wrote:
"I love these kind of coincidences! :)"

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Surprise, Surprise


When a new little establishment opens, I try to give them my business if I can to help them get off to a good start. Directly across from one of my favorite cafes, Aztek Chocolat  at V. Károly krt. 22 is a new little copy shop. After just finishing creating guest brochures for the rooms, I laminated a color copy for each room, plus one for reference. Then I thought it would be a good idea to have copies made so guests can take it with them when they are out and about. I have things like which tram, metro or bus stops are within 2 blocks of us, plus other little tips. Off I went to the copy shop where I had 30 copies made to start.

As I left, Aztek Chocolat was calling to me saying "Are you sure you don't want an espresso?" I started to resist and continue on to the bus, when I stopped to call Ron to see if he would join me. Nope, he was not interested, but the rest of the news was that a major water main broke directly in front of our building. They were in the process of ripping up the street and there would not be any water for ? hours. Well, there was no chance of getting coffee at home, so Aztek Chocolat, I am yours.

While ordering my coffee, I overheard a couple speaking NY English; being from NJ, I can pick up that accent in a whisper. Curious how they happened to come across the cafe, I did not want to disturb them to ask. Seating myself outside, waiting for my brew delivery, I turned to see the woman with a book in her hand. The book looked like it went to a Post-A-Note convention and barely survived the give-aways. It was littered in yellow sheets popping out of the binding like spiked hair on a teenager. The cover looked familiar, but I had been wrong in the past, so I proceeded with caution. Taking one of my new Frommer's business cards out of my wallet, I stalked back in to get a closer look. Eureka! I found it. My book, or rather her book that I had authored. Without saying a word, I handed her the card. She looked at it and thanked me.

Atypical New Yorker. I gave her a few seconds to connect the dots, but the synapses were not firing, so I filled in the gaps for her. "That book you are using is the one that I authored. If you have any questions, I will be outside."

They must have then taken time to match the name of the card with the name on the book. The husband vaulted out of the cafe, introduced himself followed by "This book has been the best investment we have made. We went to all of the places you highly recommended and you have been right on target. You have the best job going." I was not sure whether I should blush, bow, curtsy? What is the protocol in these situations? I should have had the game plan ready when I presented them with the card. The wife then made her appearance, so we could the praises could be shared yet again. I never said "Stop you are embarrassing me." Hey, who am I to inhibit free speech? Well they are NY'ers from Staten Island. We had a nice chat, but they are leaving tomorrow for Prague.

Walking on a cloud, I didn't care if there was no water at home. Ron took advantage of the situation by declaring we had to have dinner out or pick up dinner out and bring it in. Our neighbors were uncharacteristically helpful. They came to tell us we could get water from down the street. Of course this was shared in a mix of Hungarian and charades. We were uncertain if they were telling us something or just rehearsing for some public performance they had in the works. Very strange as highly unusual, their being nice to us. Water was indeed being pumped out from a water truck, but B.Y.O.B. Bring Your Own Bucket. We filled a pail for emergency use. The jack hammering is still happening at 10pm. We were so thankful that the four guests we had had all left earlier in the day. No other guests are coming until tomorrow. Hopefully, we will be able to shower before greeting them.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us


Happy anniversary to us! Today is our 17 year anniversary. 
For those who in 1993 said "You two will never last" we have proved you wrong by yet another year.
What are we doing to celebrate? We are going to Riga, Latvia for five days in October during my fall break.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010



Sila ʻo Tonga — Coat of arms of the Kingdom of...Image via WikipediaSome readers questioned the link posted earlier about wondering where the domain originates from. Initially, my curiosity was peaked, but I have to admit, I had not planned on doing anything about it until some readers questioned me. This gave me the nudge to investigate.

The domain extension is for the country of Tonga, hence .to, but the company Cheap-Flights is registered in San Antonio, TX.Clever way of getting a good name cheap flight to...
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Jason Writes


Jason Mandrix has left a new comment on your post "Airline With Humor":
Love the color of the plane at first I thought that it was owned by MILO hahaha. Honestly that plane is cool never seen that before. Appreciate the designer and the poster of this article :) but hey I wonder how the air conditioning of this plane was it similar the one that used in the hotels, malls or in the household? 
Regards, Jason
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