Monday, February 28, 2011

Yesterday, Seems So Far Away

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Some type of cold bug had the audacity to hit on me this weekend. The horny little bugger kept me in bed most of the weekend too, and let me share with you it was exhausting. I thought those bedroom marathons were certainly part of my past, but I am here to tell you it happened. That is not to say that this marathon was anywhere near as pleasant as those of yesteryear, but you get to an age when you have to lower your standards. 


Regardless, when you are lucky enough to only teach two days a week, you have to go in regardless. And so it is.


With all of that time out, I really felt like a bad boy who had been sent to bed without dinner. You never realize how disorienting it is to take six naps a day. If it weren't for my new phone, I would not have known what the day was let alone the time. 


In reality, I do believe it was a reaction to smog. We have had two high smog alerts recently. When Ron and I went to Heroes Square on Sunday, you could see the layers of smog just hanging in the air like layers of a wedding cake that was never eaten.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

What's App With You?

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One of my darling former students who had graduated to nephew status is now living in Berlin. He is working on his PhD is American History at an American university. I cannot remember which university, but if he reads this I am sure to be admonished; I will return to correct the details. 


The point of drawing attention to him is that he made me aware of a new smartphone application. Yes, he is a poor destitute university student, yet found hidden coins in the depths of his change purse to buy an iPhone. Now that I think about it strangely it was at the time he just happened to mention he did not have money for food for a week. What's an uncle to do? You think you raise them right and then...


Whatsapp messenger is compatible with the iPhone, and smartphones of the Nokia, Blackberry, and Android persuasion. They allow the user to SMS anyone anywhere in the world for free. Caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware), in this case, let the user beware, the app is free, but the receiver needs to have the same app on their phone. It takes two to tango or swap files in this case. The bonus is that you can also send unlimited images, video, and audio media. Using the same data plan as your Internet connection, the phone does not use the traditional SMS route of transfer.


At first I hesitated. How many people am I in contact with who have smartphones? Let me think! Oh, yea, one in Berlin. I told him I would install it, but he had better use it with caution. Any messages concerning his destitute finances will now require he SMS me a copy of his latest credit card and bank statement before I think about playing any soulful tune on my heartstrings. 


I easily found the app in the Android Market on my Samsung Galaxy i9000, the best phone decision I have ever made. Now we will have to see if this is the best app decision I ever made. For now, I am able to send SMS messages to and fro Berlin for free.


If you have a smartphone and download the app, send me a message to let me know. You need to use the + sign, country code, and then the mobile number. My number is
+36-70-315-8828. Happy texting. 


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Friday, February 25, 2011

Striking Gold Twice in One Week

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Sometimes being lucky in life is purely random while other times you have to work at it. This week I had the unprecedented fortune to meet two published authors for coffee within two days.


On Wednesday, I met with András Gerevich, a Hungarian poet and screenwriter. András has multiple books of poetry published in both English and Hungarian. He was a Fulbright student to Dartmouth University. He is a warm and kind soul and I hope he becomes a future friend. By coincidence, he is teachingscreen writing classes at ELTE University, so when I sent out notice for the Budapest Creativity Group, he received them and contacted me.


Thursday, I met with Phillip Done, a teacher at the American School in Budapest and the author of two books based on his experiences teaching 3rd graders. It makes me wish I had saved the antidotes I had collected during my elementary teaching tenure. 


Phillip found this blog through a search, found Gabor Pal, the massage therapist and went to him. He was highly impressed with the massage which prompted him to return to my blog. He then noticed that I was a writer too, so contacted me about 6 months ago. It took this long to coordinate schedules, but well worth the delay.


I found two golden gems in the city.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There But for the Grace of...

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It was just about 6 weeks when we were in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the time, we were devastated by the damage that the last "big one" caused in September 2010. The dozens of aftershocks afterward caused yet more damage.


We walked in the church pictured in this article. We walked the square where young girls were performing Irish dancing to raise money to attend a competition. The steeple of the Anglican church that hovered over all of us, is no longer. It transformed from formed beauty to scattered rubble. 


My heart and positive thoughts go out to those who are still trying to find loved ones and to those who know they have lost loved ones. 


What is really creepy is the fact that we hiked the glaciers. Now we read that there was a 30 million ton glacier calving. You can read more here. One never knows. 

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Ron Writes

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Ron's Adventures has left a new comment on your post "Where I Teach":
What a great celebration of student creativity and learning. A visual and musical feast of language too!
Ex Pat USA in Budapestland.

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Ron Writes

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Ron's Adventures has left a new comment on your post "Where I Teach":
What a great celebration of student creativity and learning. A visual and musical feast of language too!
Ex Pat USA in Budapestland.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Animal Quick Shots

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Just some quick snaps I took with my phone camera. The dog would not cooperate and stay still. I should have used the sports setting, but did not realize I had one on the phone.


Dog from the hood


 One picture is worth a thousand pigeons.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Where I Teach

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I was organizing some things on my computer, creating bookmarks to common university sites I use often and just happened upon this video. It looks like they made it over the fall break. The lighting needs some assistance, but it is still a great video considering the work that went into it and the student cooperation.



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Friday, February 18, 2011

Glass: The Other Technology

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As much as I love technology and everything in this video excites me more than a ten year old who has been told they can live in Disneyland for a year, I wonder/worry about sensory overload. Do we try to fit too much into our lives?




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Pro Comments on a Post

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pro has left a new comment on your post "The Marvels of Technology": 

Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. I'm doing practice GRE in masteryourgre.com . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

Pro, thanks for the post and my heartfelt sympathy to you for having to take the GRE. When I applied to the masters program at Temple University, I had the choice of the GRE or the MAT. I took the MAT. However, for the doctoral program, the University of  San Francisco required the GRE. I would rather have gone swimming in a pool of jellyfish rather than take that test. Here are some more resources for those of you unfortunates. 


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Starry Left a Comment

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I am not sure what she means by the interpretation differences. There were a number of links to the same new item at the bottom of the post. All roads lead to Rome, but they all take different routes to get there. 

On a personal note, Starry is one of my former students. She is not only radiant inside and out, but she is brilliant. Having students like her are the extra perks of teaching.

Starry has left a new comment on your post "Run for the Borders, Oh, Wait Borders Are Closing":  It seems I interpreted the news slightly differently: See this link

I think you will enjoy reading my thesis ; ) 

I don't know if you've read BOOK PUBLISHING: Past, Present, and Future by Jason Epstein, but in that book he exposed in 2001 already that the bookstore chain system was unsustainable. It's a fascinating argument, starting at the culpability of mall culture. I highly recommend it.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Run for the Borders, Oh, Wait Borders Are Closing

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Run for the Borders, while you still can. No, this is not a hysterical plea to invade Canada or Mexico, though with Republicans in power one may be tempted yet again. 


When I was in my doctoral program, one of my fellow students and still wonderful friend was an advocate for the independent bookseller. I could see her point, so I tried to  give my hard earned cash to the independent stores, keeping the conglomerates at bay for a few years. As commerce happens, the little stores started dropping in number until they became as extinct as the paper library cards with handwritten return dates. At least this is the way it was in Modesto, CA. My friend lived near San Francisco, so had wider choices.


Now the big boys are in trouble. Borders Books, the 2nd largest bookstore chain in the U.S. has filed for bankruptcy. Borders had 6,100 employees in 508 stores nationwide, but plans to close 30% of them in an attempt to get their edge back. 


What is crushing them is basically technology. Barnes and Noble, numero uno in the biz, and Amazon.com have a much heftier supply of e-titles.


As the saying goes, "What goes around, comes around." There are probably a number of former independent bookstore sellers who are not disappointed with the news. 


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

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I cannot resist passing on a little loving today, for tomorrow school starts again, the second semester of the year. Surely, my love will be faded by April; spring break is really late this year.

Valentine's is called a Hallmark Holiday in the US. Hallmark is the largest greeting card company in the states, so they are accused of blowing the holiday way out of proportion for capital gains, not heartfelt emotions. That may be so, but it does make some people happy for at least one special day a year. Those who don't have a Valentine may feel quite the opposite. 

Yes, the happy holiday has steadily crept into the Hungarian commercial>consumer realm. Florists' windows look like the Vampire Diaries with all of the dripping red hearts and other decor.

And here I am, ready to be the Valentine to all of you dear readers, whether or not you have another special someone. I wanna be your Valentine too.

I found some interesting trivia about the holiday. 
1. After Christmas, it is the holiday that sells the most greeting cards.
2. There were 3 historic Valentine's of the Catholic persuasion, so it is uncertain which Val the holiday is named for. 
3. Teachers receive more Valentines than anyone else, including children.
4. More than 650 million Valentines are shared by children ages 6-10 every year.
5. More than 9 million pet owners buy a gift for their pet for Valentine's Day.
6. The city of Verona, Italy receives over 1,000 Valentines for Juliet and none are from Romeo.

Moving on to that lov'in feeling, I gathered a few Valentine's quotes to get you in the right romantic mood. 

A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years. Rupert Brooke

Brief is life but love is long. Alfred Lord Tennyson
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks. John Donne
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. Aristotle
Love is the only gold. Alfred Lord Tennyson
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Leo Tolstoy
All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt! Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz.

Lucy had that right. Everything tastes better dipped in chocolate. 

Happy Valentine's Day to all!
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Marvels of Technology

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I have been using Google's Chrome browser since the secondary release was available. I waited for some of the kinks to be ironed out before plunging forward. For a long time afterward, I was still a dedicated FireFox user, but would switch over to Chrome at times to see how a website looked in different browsers.


It is unclear when I actually migrated over to Chrome exclusively, but I seem to think it was when FireFox was upgrading so rapidly most of my add-ins could not keep updated. They were therefore worthless to me.


Chrome had some add-ins, but not many. Honestly, I really did not pay much attention. Then just this last week, when I clicked to open a new window, I found a black page with these icons.

 For me, playing computer games is a time waster which I generally do not care to indulge in. Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back. I clicked on Pogo (Poppit). Click on the balloons in pairs or more... The last time I played a game such as this it was on my phone, but I only played when waiting at airports. Okay, I use Poppit to relax after hours of thinking.


Then I found that Chrome has come of age. There are numerous web developers creating freebies, so I went shopping and here is what I virtually carted as downloads. Google Books has free e-books waiting to be downloaded. There are others too, but hey there are so many free ones.

GRE Touch need a Gmail account log-in. It is a vocabulary development program. Not only did Ron and I find words we had never heard of, but there were plenty to use with teaching English or for students to develop entrance exam vocabulary.


Travelers will love Hipmunk, a flight searching tool with enough graphics to really narrow down a ticket purchase. Once you have the results, you can sort by different options. Though I am not sure it includes budget airlines, but it is a valuable tool.
Add caption


Fiabee is a nifty little program that allows me to drag and drop files so they can be accessed anywhere. Truth be told, I use Google Docs extensively, but something life Fiabee is convenient for things you need quick access to. There is no sign in procedure and it can be installed on my Android phone. If I know I will need something on the go, I have super reach out and grab it control.


SlideRocket is a PowerPoint for Dummies program. It is rich with resources, yet is not complicated to run. 


With Ge.tt I am told that I can turn any type of file into web content and share it instantly. And last of all is Picnik photo editor online. Fix that red-eye and add wet red lips to your parrots mouth. There are enough real photo editing options here to make it worth a look, but there are also bunches of fun things you can add for fun photos. 


If you have the time to go window shopping or rather Chrome shopping, there are hundreds more options to enhance some aspect of your life. The good news is that each highlighted program above will work in FireFox as well. They are not Chrome dependent. 
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Social Explosion

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Pluto must be in a Venus retrograde this week. Oh, wait, Pluto has been demoted from its planet status, hasn't it? Well something is afloat in the stars, because we have become social beacons this month. Three social events in the space of one week, I do believe this is our all-time record. 


Wednesday, we invited three of the Fulbright scholars over for coffee and dessert. One, Dr. Karla Kelsey will be teaching in my department this semester. She met Jeff and Allison Frawley at their orientation. Believing they would both be potential speakers for my Budapest Creativity Group, we extended the invite. 


Thursday, our other adopted nephew, Balazs invited us out to dinner. He wanted to introduce his girlfriend who he seems to be quite serious about. She brought along a friend also, a wonderful young man, who happens to be gay. We went to Crazy Dzsungel (Crazy Jungle), where the atmosphere is Disney-like and the food is incredibly good. That was two for two on fabulous evenings. 


Tonight, Karla Kelsey is hosting a wine and cheese. The invited included: "The idea is to bring something that you love about Hungary/Budapest....something culinary or drinkable along with the representation (picture? object? address?) of a place to visit or thing to do."


After thinking long and hard, I did not want to bring something that would be gobbled or swallowed only to be physically extradited, though I do borrow that word from its true meaning. I put together a little pamphlet of 'need to know' items. Yes, I do know that WAMP has dates all year, but this was only for the time they will be in the country. 


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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Something Special in the Air?

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I just read that American Airlines, who had the slogan "Something Special in the Air" has announced daily direct daily flights between New York and Budapest starting on April 6th. Malev, the Hungarian national carrier will have share coding with these flights. Don't even ask what Malev's slogan is. During winter months, the flights will be reduced to 4 times a week.


Save those frequent flier points~

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sign of My Times

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Yesterday, I was walking across the street from us on the way to the place where I buy DVDs, so I happened to pass the Old Man's Pub. This is an institution in Budapest for music. What caught my eye and made me do a retake is what was in the outside display. My review from my book. If you had not noticed, all of Frommer's books are republished in the New York Times Travel section and now in NileGuide.




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Super Bowl Super Technology

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Ron stayed up to watch the first half of the Super Bowl on Monday morning our time. It was on the Euro Sports channel, but commentated only in Hungarian. Though Ron enjoys the sport, I enjoy the technology. Sorry, I cannot get it to stop playing as soon as the blog opens and it was driving me crazy. 

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Fruzsina Benyei wrote

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Fruzsina was a student of mine who had the courage to move to Hong Kong to teach English to tiny little children. She was adored there, though I had no reason to doubt she would be. She is now living in Dubai. She is one of the students who took my "thinking out of the box" lectures seriously and prospered as a result.


I'd be more than happy to offer my family to you. One third of it lives in Budapest, Hungary, one third in Dubai, UAE, and one third in Mumbai, India. :) 


I have three adoptive siblings, one Indian, one Burmese-American, and one Chinese!!! :) Although we decided to adopt each other in recent years, they are the most wonderful brother and sisters in the world! :) 


I would be more than happy to share my parents with you Dr. James. They have made me the openminded and caring person I am today and for that I will be always grateful.


We live on three different continents and come from at least 4-5 different cultures and religions. We would love to adopt you, if you accept us! 


Ryan: I would love to. I love large families.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Up For Adoption

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When dad passed away a few weeks ago, I jokingly mentioned to my brother that we were now orphaned. As Chaucer wrote "Some truths, too painful or too likely to provoke, can be spoken only when the listener has been disarmed by laughter." 


If I have successfully disarmed you, here is the deal. I am putting myself up for adoption. Oh, I realize no one wants we older kids, let alone those that have been used and abused so often they look like the end result of a demolition derby. However, everyone needs somebody and with all of the "family values" going around, I am feeling a need to find one. The last one left me disillusioned. 


For more years than I am willing to count, I blamed myself while wearing the logo Black Sheep. I thought I was too different or radical for them to cut through the layers of surface emotionality to reach the depths of unconditional love and feeling. Hindsight as they say is 20/20 or just maybe it is the laser surgery I had on one eye that is allowing me to see clearly. It has not been all me all these years.


The last time I was with my mother's siblings and my 8 cousins, the "close knit Italian family" was in 1994. My mother passed on before her own mother, but when my grandmother passed the warm and fuzzy family portrait turned out to be a charade, perfect for a Showtime drama. Neurosis and egotistic behaviors abound with enough characters to survive a run of five seasons minimum. It is like the Sopranos without the guns. 


What prompted all of this was my brother's suggestion that I return to NJ for the burying of our father's ashes. With spinning thoughts, I shared my concerns about the family reception. My brother the optimist said it would be like the prodigal son returning. Yes, I responded, but the joys of the prodigal son's return only lasts as long as an orgasm and is not as much fun. 


My trump card was that I no longer had a driver's license, so would be held hostage without a means of transportation or of escaping once there. The end scenes of Rosemary's Baby flashed through my mind, surrounded with no escape once in the clutches of the demonic mob. 


To further try and persuade me that a Jersey shore jaunt should be on my travel plans, my brother pulled his final card. "You will have to stay in a hotel. My dog bites. But I am not working, so I could drive you around." My first reaction was if you have time on your hands, train your dog. What happened to "Blood is thicker than water"? We are so different. The dog is just a symptom of something greater, but I have yet to figure out what it is, but it does hurt. We each seem to understand what is emotionally painful to ourselves, but without any comprehension of what are thorns for others.


When I gave it more than a spark of thought, the question was why would I want to see any of these people after all of these years? I have made attempts to reach out. I have sent notes to my aunt and uncles. I have befriended relatives on Facebook hoping to open the lines of communication. All to no avail, not even a note of condolence.


With clear vision and finally coming to the realization that true family are those who you bring into your life to nurture and be nurtured by, I am setting myself free and making myself adoptable. I am already potty trained. I come with papers; they are called university degrees. I can feed and dress myself. It is fortunate that I have a few people in my life who recognize my assets. In addition to Ron, like the Velveteen Rabbit, I just want family, to make me real.

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Oodles of Moodles

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For years now, I have been wanting to teach a course online; that is me in one place and my students in another. What do distance learning and Susan Boyle both have in common? They both had undiscovered potential. Needless to say, the economics of distance learning speaks loud and clear to institutions of higher learning. Yet, back five years ago when I proposed a course to my department head at ELTE, although I received the green light, the infrastructure was not in place.


ELTE did have Moodle installed on their mainframe, but the problem was few knew how to use it, let alone guide those of us who were try-curious. With Moodle available in thirty-four languages, at the time, it was only in Hungarian on the ELTE servers. Back then the only department to use it was psychology. My plans went on the back burner, until last semester. By accident I noticed a sign on a colleague's office door that said his class was meeting via Moodle while he was on a Erasmus scholarship. Well, it seemed the time had come and ELTE had come of age.


This semester for the first time, I will be teaching a course completely online called "Portrayal of Journalism in US Films". The course is on the schedule for Wednesdays 9:30 to 11am, but during that time I will be sitting in my office while the participants may still be in bed, at a coffee shop, or in another class. The point is it really doesn't matter where they are. They all received the list of movies and ways to access them. They watch the movie at their convenience, but within a one week time frame. 


Before the next "class" they will have had to blog reactions to the film as it relates to the sociological issues of the time, the veracity of the journalists' roles, and so on. They also have to take a test, again online. Although the first three tests are multiple choice, they are difficult. I am looking at the finer points of seeing a film as well as the role of journalism within. Eventually, I will figure out how to create short answer tests and I will move on to that mode.


Moodle will turn on and turn off the tests within the time frames that I have set up. The questions are shuffled, so they will not appear in the same order for each student to cut down on the temptation to cheat. I have also set it up so that each question only receives 3 minutes to answer, with a total of thirty for the test. This eliminates taking the test with the movie running.


I did join the Moodle teaching group on LinkedIn, but that group charges for Moodle instruction classes. What I have found is that not all Moodle users are created equally; some are more equal than others. Moodle modules are dependent on the organizations willingness to load them onto their mainframe. There is no sense in paying money for a course that is only going to make me drool over the creative gadgets I cannot access.


As I become more practiced with this technology, the world is my potential classroom. Once you have the basics, the rest is like a smooth ride on the highway of higher learning education.


Check out these stats. Click on the picture to increase the size. This is from the US Department of Education: Institute of Education Sciences.




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Friday, February 04, 2011

Paul Roberts Wrote in

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Paul offered some help, so I am posting it for others too. This is on tomorrow's To Do list. Thanks Paul! I appreciate it.

Hi Ryan, 
You need to have the phone in keis mode, look for the "USB settings" option is either in settings > about phone settings > wireless and network depending on the version of android you have. you can also just copy the files from the computer to the memory/sd card of the phone.
By Paul Roberts on Expanding the Limits at 11:31 AM
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Multiple Thanks to Generous People

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When I went to the university (classes don't start for another 2 weeks), there were two packages there for me. One was from Jennifer Norcross, a former Fulbright Exchange teacher from CT to Budapest. Jennifer knows my love of office things, so sent me colored Sharpies, a calendar for my classroom and a bag or Nestle chocolate and mint chips for baking. That won't be until I lose some of my "ONE YEAR as a NON-Smoker" blubber.


The real surprise was a package from Lisa Slay of Hearne, TX. That lovely sent me two large and heavy jars of peanut butter.  Fortunately, I could not find the cost of postage or my next vacation would be on a guilt trip.


Thank you generous ladies. You are so very appreciated.

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This is a slideshow of photos I took around the city from April to July of 2010, put on the computer and then forgot they were there. There are, in my opinion, some really exceptional shots from in Kerepesi Cemetery. The photos do not always show us as wonderful in a blog, so feel free to visit the album online.  



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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Just in the Nick of Time

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Alec could not have recommended TeamViewer in a more timely manner. Just the day after he left, Outlook 2010 would not open explaining I was deficient in having the needed .pst folder. Normally, I like fixing these things myself, at least making a near nervous breakdown attempt at it, before yelling "Uncle". I Googled, followed this and that piece of advice. I looked, searched, hunted, and set traps for the missing file to no avail. I tried running the repair utility, tried to reinstall the program and then finally uninstalled it and installed it anew. Still no .pst file. I was coming close to believing the letters stood for post stress trauma and not postal storage table.


When I finally threw in the towel, I shot off an e-mail to Alec at ExPatTech. We arranged a virtual meeting through TeamViewer. Within fifteen minutes he had the program up and running again.


With that out of the way, it was now time to download and install the new version of Syncables. Mikhaill good to his word had sent the new software link. After downloading it on both computers, I started the install. Wonderful, a new message. "You have exceeded the number of computers you are licensed for with this software." Okay, I think it is time for a credit card refund now. I let out a primal and virtual scream to cover all bases.

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