Monday, April 30, 2012

Details Matter, Coach


I just received this in my e-mail. Of course, there was more to the add than this, but I saw the word COACH and jumped to conclusions. I thought that if I used my American Express card to purchase an airline ticket between the dates shown, they would refund 25% of the fare. I was all set to book my ticket for the December get away, so I went to the site to register my card number. 

I had the form all filled in, with a quick stroke thanks to LastPass form filler. I couldn't understand why the picture had a woman leaning on a handbag and not a suitcase. Why not a couple boarding a plane with shitty ass grins on their faces. Finally, a discount worthy of bothering with. Then I read the eligibility rules, which in my defense were not in the original e-mail. First, one must make a purchase from any Coach store or Coach online. 

Now it is sinking in. This is not for coach seating on an airline. This is for a woman's purse. Well there goes another golden moment when I thought I was in the zone, shot to hell.

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BudaBaB Makeover


As we were doing a make-over on the Feri Flat, we realized how long it has been since this place has had a new do. Too long. We had the painters come to paint both guest rooms for now. We gave away eight pieces of furniture, including the sofa, loveseat, chair, and coffee table. The other pieces came out of the guest rooms. This is how it looks now.

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Feri's Place Now


We had to make the apartment our own by having it painted and then furnishing it with things that potential short or long term renters would find comfortable. I hope we succeeded.

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Feri's Place or Feri Flat - In the Beginning


This is our other apartment. These photos are from when we first took possession on February 5, 2012. It is on Ferenc körút, so we use the nickname for Ferenc: Feri.

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Prison Break


I didn't do it, honest. I swear I am innocent. I gave them the best years of my life and all I got in return was this crappy pillow.

They can't hold me see~ when the old lady hits the sack, I am shredding this pillow case and escaping. I am pretty sure I can squeeze through this here bars. Then I am out of here. No one is going to make a spectacle out of me, see.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

ExPat and Potential ExPat Alert


I promised to write something about I have been a member of this for years now, though not an active one, I do appreciate it when I get news from them. They sent out a request that all we expat bloggers share their information, so here it is. is a participative website dedicated to life abroad. When it was created seven years ago, the idea was to gather a unique platform containing all the expatriates’ blogs from all over the world on one website. Expatriates’ blogs are indeed a great way to get information about real life in a foreign country.

As the years went by, new features have been added to the website such as a forum, guides, albums, and a business directory. Expat blog now has more than 420 000 members and 1.8 million visitors per month.

They just launched 2 new features to help expatriates and soon-to-be expatriates in Hungary : Jobs and Housing. Finding a job and an accommodation are essentials for any expatriation project. Employment is one of the first motivators for mobility. Looking for a job abroad, while still living in your  native country is nearly impossible if you are not being transferred by your home company. With its new international job board, Expat blog gives potential ex-pats access to job offers in Hungary.

It is a similar process when looking for an accommodation. It is not easy to look for a place to live when you are quite far away. The housing section enables you to select or offer accommodations as per your needs: rental, sale, flat share, and more. There are housing offers in Hungary. One that I can personally vouch for is the Feri Flat, because we own it.

However, if you are considering a place and need someone on the ground to assist you in meeting your needs before you arrive, contact me. For a nominal fee, I will visit your potential rentals, take photos, give you an honest assessment, and send a detailed report to ensure you make an intelligent decision.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Wings Have Melted


Just last week, I was writing about airline frequent flier programs and how they supported our need for travel like an addict's enabler. I also reminisced about my schemes to collect miles any which way that was available. So I was horrified not too many years ago, when a trip to the US for Ron cost 60,000 miles when it seemed not too far in the past, it had only been 35,000.

Ignoring changes had been my downfall, but knowing we didn't have enough collected for anything in the near future, I just did my best to accumulate as much as possible. When my Delta account statement arrived showing I had 89,000 miles, I thought I had hit the jackpot. I immediately went to their site and found that Europe to Ecuador, South America is 60,000 miles. 

I wanted to cheer, scream out the window, "We did it! We finally did it once again. We are flying for free." I knew that I could transfer some of my points from my American Express card over to fill in the gap between 89,629 and 120,000. Essentially, I wouldn't even need to transfer the whole 30,371 miles. We have been spending money like rich men furnishing the new apartment. Once those miles hit the statement, the transfer would be a lot less. 

Pardon the expression, but I was flying high. I was so excited to be able to take a trip far away and not to have to pay for the flight. What a savings. With Delta on my favorites list, I started checking flights. You cannot be too early for frequent flier tickets, though the maximum is 329 days ahead of the first flight out. 

I looked at every combo to get the least amount of traveling time. Some 'stop-overs' are 20 hours long. That is not stop-over; that is a mini-vacation. I really don't want it to take a week of our four weeks just to get there. Once over the Atlantic, we could make it faster on alpacas. 

What seemed like a clue was to go from here to Amsterdam on our own, then fly from AMS to UIO (the airport code for Quito). Still, these are routed through Minneapolis to Atlanta and finally as an afterthought getting to Quito. It kind of feels like the airline is saying, "Well folks, we have run out of options, so let's continue on to Quito...just for the fun of it..whatta'ya say?

After I found what I thought was the perfect fare, I went to "price" it with and without miles. For miles, it kept coming up with 220,000 miles for 2 people. Now I know math is not my strongest subject, but even can add 60,000 + 60,000 and arrive at 120,000. I did it in my head, but I did double check my calculations on the computer. Darn if I weren't right. So why is Delta telling me 220,000 where there aren't four of us going? 

Back to Delta's frequent flier program's list or rewards, perusing the list again. Europe to Northern South America is one category and Southern South American is another. Strange that they broke up the continent in this way. This is like saying Northern North America consists of Canada and all the states with 2 exceptions. Then  Southern North American is made up of Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii. Weird!! Whoever came up with that must have failed geography. I knew Ecuador is in the Northern South America category if you are going to be picky about it. There it is right there on the chart 60,000 miles, but that is where I must have stopped reading the first time. If I had continued, the next line states. These awards are for travel in one direction only.

Icarus, I commiserate. I flew too close to the sun and Delta melted my wings. We both came crashing down to earth, but I will live to fly another day.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh, What a Week


This has been a week of sleepless nights, mostly due to positive excitement. Tuesday we had both guest rooms repainted. The colors were still nice, but no longer lively. One room is still pink, but a darker shade than it was, not quite a shocking I want to smash you in the face pink. 

The other room which was a wonderful shade of greenish-blue is now a deeper greenish-blue, but with just a tinge of green. It is hard matching colors that are nine years old and have fades over time.They have both been done in a semi-gloss, something I could not find back when they were painted originally. 

Wednesday was the day for our new living room furniture to be delivered: sofa, loveseat, and chair. The old ones looked okay if you did not lift the throw we had on the seat of the sofa. It was worn bare, even with it being leather. We replaced all of it with a cream colored leather set. The problem was coordinating getting rid of one set before the other arrived. I sent out notices that the old set was free for picking it up and carting it off. One of my former students manhandled it out the door on Tuesday, so we had to borrow one of the sofa beds from the guest room to sit on Tuesday evening. Another student took our old huge coffee table for some pub he and another friend created in their dorm. It served us well.

Wednesday, while I was at school, the new furniture arrived. I was so excited to see it, I almost wanted to leave school early. No can do! It is thesis time, so all of the students that I advise are pouring in with last minute needs. Adding salt to the wound, this is also the time of year when the specialization coordinators do interviewing for next year's program. I had three appointments set up for after teaching my five classes that afternoon. When I finally was able to see the new furniture, I just melted into its leathery embrace.

Ron had ideas for rearranging the furniture and it has made a world of difference for the better. Today, was the last of it for our apartment. We had three bedside stands delivered and a new desk for the small room. While shopping, we also bought 3 reading lamps for the bedside tables. Now I have to take photos of the rooms for publishing on our site as well as the others we advertise on. 

Tonight, I will do an oral exam for a potential doctoral student who is applying for a Fulbright Scholarship to go to the US. Tomorrow morning, I will do another at 10 am and I did one last week also. They need a native speaker who has a doctorate, so I am willing to assist.Since I am meeting them for coffee, they are treating. That is my fee, but regardless of the quality of the coffee, it will not influence my evaluation of their command of English.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Decisions, Decisions


It was not too long ago that we didn't have to make a fattening decision when we entered the subway station at Blaha Lujza. This was another case of now you see it, now you don't. One day I was admiring the cut flowers in the florist's window where everything looked copacetic not signaling any suspicions. The very next day, every spray, petal, leaf, flower, and ornament had vanished to be replaced by carpenters. 

Two days later, this pastry shop appeared. Now tell me, does anyone need side by side pastry shops? The woman with the yellow bag looks like she is in such a need of fat fix, she is considering the Princess shop where there is no line.

Demographic Marketing at its worst?

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The British Invasion


The British are coming; the British are coming! Paul Revere knew there would be a problem when he made that historic ride supposedly shouting those words, though historians do take umbrage with Longfellow's taking liberty and freedom of the press in writing his classic poem.

The US had another British invasion when the Beatles brought the new world order of music over the great pond. I thought I had seen the last of the British invasions, but alas or crikey, was I wrong. Budapest is invaded regularly with British party hooligans who have left all manners, common decency, and culture behind in jolly ole' England, if they had any originally.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite people who I admire, respect, and care about happen to be British. However, now thanks to budget airlines, the young Brits, usually men come here en-mass, in swarms, multitudes, droves, herds, mobs, assemblages, flocks, bevies, clans, gaggles, collections, hordes, coveys, crowds, packs, and throngs. Generally what entices them after the cheap flight, is the cheap booze.

Yesterday is just one example. Down three doors from us is a rather nice pub with cheap drinks. Now that the weather has warmed up enough to melt a cube of ice, they have reissued their outdoor claim to the sidewalk, making a thoroughfare barely one lane for thin people. All others need to proceed with caution so that they don’t get hooked on the corner of a table and drag it along with them. Even the anorexic waitress holds in her breath when going from table to table.

Yea, back to yesterday, we were coming back from shopping; it couldn’t have been much past noon. Every chair inside the pub was filled, their windows were open, all chairs outside were filled with butts, but now that there is no smoking indoors, the sidewalk was also crammed with flesh. To continue home, it was a toss-up between playing dodge ball with inebriated humans on the sidewalk or the racing cars coming down the street when you are the ball. The cacophony was such that there was thoughtus interruptus causing critical thinking to be on par with a cow's decision making process.

Once upstairs, three doors away, 4 floors up, windows closed, but trying to read and edit theses, the piecing sounds of the British progeny of poor taste echoed as it bounced from sandstone wall to sandstone wall, cutting through the glass of  double windows still wafting over twenty feet to assault my ears while on the computer. For 4 hours this continued. They must have years of voice training to enable their vocal cords to be abused in such a manner. I think I heard they have hooligan practice at football matches in preparation for the next stag party in another country. You know the old saying "When the queen is away, the boys will play". 

To say that their vocalizations were blatant, blustering, boisterous, booming, cacophonous, clamorous, crashing, deafening, deep, ear-piercing, ear-splitting, emphatic, forte, full-mouthed, fulminating, heavy, high-sounding, intense, loud-voiced, lusty, obstreperous, pealing, piercing, powerful, rambunctious, raucous, resonant, resounding, ringing, roaring, rowdy, stentorian, strident, strong, thundering, tumultuous, turbulent, turned up, uproarious, vehement, vociferous, and enough to wake the dead, is just putting it mildly. Pardon me if I cannot come up with the right words I want to describe such rude behaviors.

What is intriguing and generous on their part is that they share. They may stay in one place for 4 hours, but then they do roam the city like a band of wild dogs, not soaking up the culture, but the culture’s alcohol production, sharing their foreign customs with all neighborhoods, lest one should profit entirely.

Last night, we went to a birthday party at a wine pub, had a delightful time, but left for home close to 11:30 pm. We were just about 2 blocks from our apartment building when "they" appeared. We all have "they, them, or those people". How "they, them, or those people" are defined can be based on color, religion, ethnicity, appearance, sexual orientation, or a list of other things. We need "those people" so we have someone to shake a finger at. Well, our "those people" appeared like a white tornado combing the street.

The gang of forty men speaking some form of the English language, like British English mixed with Ebonics or Esperanto were all decked out in white t-shirt. They were being led by a young blonde woman. My guess was that they were on a pub tour, which confounded me. It has always seemed that stag party revelers  were able to sniff out pubs like pigs sniff out truffles. Costumed in their white shirts, there was something extraordinary about them. On the front of each had the custom printing “Ryan’s Last Party, 2012”. Ugh! Did he have to be named Ryan? Couldn’t he have been named Gauge, Tanked, or I would even have settled for Loser, but not Ryan; it besmirches my name. Does this mean Ryan can party again in 2013? Is that in his contract?

It was when we caught sight of the backs of the shirts that gave us a momentary chuckle. Each of the guys' shirts had their own special imprint on the back. Some were funny, some were downright confounding. One said “Bi-Polar Bear”. We weren't sure if this meant he is on both sides of the fence, a switch hitter who is looking for a hirsute somebody or is it in reality a warning label regarding his mental and physical condition? I had not been pumped with enough alcohol to ask. 

However, had I been tipsy in the least, what would have sobered me instantly was when the female blonde ring leader, stopped at our corner. This caused me to hesitate to see if her congregation was going to make a right turn, following us, desecrating our neighborhood yet again. They didn’t, but she made a point of announcing that this was the street that their apartment was on. Notice singular ~ apartment. If I had one last wish from a genie at that moment, I would have wished that they got group amnesia, because had they left a trail of breadcrumbs, it was too late for any bird to eat the evidence. 

Then they continued on to the next watering hole.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

MAC Attack


Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
Apple computers have now become popular enough to warrant hackers even bothering to create viruses and Trojans for them. Dare I gloat at all those who so smugly stated "MACs" are impervious to infections? That missing chunk of the apple was eaten by a virus.
"Apple has made updates available to find and remove the Flashback Trojan that infected over half a million Macs. The company suggests you run Software Update to make sure you have the fix. Or buy a PC."

Read more at Bob Rankin's newsletter from which I quoted.
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Chasing the Sapphire


I have been known for being a wild man when it comes to frequent flier miles. Back when we lived in California, I kept track of every trick, gimmick and deal for all of the most popular airlines. Ron and I have a history spanning 18 years of taking a month long vacation the second half of December and the first part of January every year. Every other year, we would fly to our destination using frequent flier awards, back then barely paying taxes. One year, we flew from CA to Tokyo, to Beijing, to Bangkok, to Singapore, and then back to CA all on one reward ticket. Those were the days, my friend. I didn't realize they would end.  

Moving to Europe is what ended the good old frequent flier days, because here, all of those wonderful frequent flier perks are as popular as hen's teeth. However, I came across this promotion and thought I hit the lottery. In one of my frequent flier travel newsletters, they announced this credit card option.

Chase Sapphire PreferredSM Card Benefits:

•    40,000 bonus points after $3,000 spend in the first 3 months
•    20% off travel when you redeem through Ultimate Rewards
•    No foreign transaction fees
•    Two points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants
•    7% annual dividend on all new points earned
•    No Annual Fee for your first year – A $95 value

I don't need another credit card. I have more than plenty.
  • A Chase United Visa Explorer card that earns 1 mile on United Airlines for every $1 spent
  • American Express Personal Gold card which I never use, but it does accrue miles at the same rate and is distributable to about ten different airlines
  • American Express Platinum Delta Airlines card directly earning miles on Delta Airlines
  • American Express Platinum Optima with the same diversity as the Gold card
  • Diners Club/Mastercard which accrues 1 mile for for every $1 spent, but the advantage with this was that you could transfer your miles to any American airline's program. The best benefit now is the access to Diner's Club lounges at airports.
  • Capital One Mastercard accrues mile points, but they are not transferable. You buy your ticket through their program to redeem your points. However, I will never get enough to use them
The advantage of the Chase Sapphire Card is, well, just look at that sign on bonus: 40,000 miles. We have spent more than $3,000 in one month furnishing the new apartment. With quarterly taxes and a plane ticket for Ron to go to the US this summer, that would be covered in no time. 

So I figured since I had a Chase card, I could just call and switch over. When I called, the woman rep said "You want to leave us at United?" Well, duh, yes I do. There are sapphires out there waiting to be collected. Well, no can do! she tells me. She cannot move me from one card to another unless it is one United card to a different one.  She did suggest I try online. 

The online form asks you to sign in if you already have an account. I do and did. What it does is pre-fill out the application form for a new account, but this didn't work. It would only accept US addresses, so it tried truncating my Hungarian address. I tried filling it out using my best friend's address in New Mexico, but I know that is not going to work. 

After a  night's sleep, I had the idea to try to find a generic Chase number, one not associated with United Airlines. After some hunting, I did find it and called. It seems that their divisions do not work well with others. This new rep told me she could not do a switch between accounts either. I would have to do it online or in a Chase branch. When I explained my predicament, she could only offer sympathy, but no oral application assistance. There are not to be any sapphires in my future, I fear.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Untied Shoes – Dante Mena


When I was cleaning out a drawer, I found this poem Ron had saved. I didn't want to lose it, so I have kept it on my desk until I had time to type it up to save. I thought it would be worthwhile to share once again. It first appeared in the Letters to the Editor of the Budapest Sun August 2007. If you have not seen the remembrance of the bronze shoes by the Danube, you should with this in hand.

Untied Shoes by Dante Mena

Sixty pairs
By twos along the flowing waters
Along the dragging currents
By the shore
Dripping to the morning dew
Daddy’s big leather,
Mommy’s perfumed arch
And don’t forget the children
By twos along the flowing waters
Along the dragging currents
By the shore

Sixty pairs
Oh, to be…to be…to be… to be
Taken off, leaving weeping
No one knew 
The moaning screaming of the 
Work shoes and heel
Undanced dances in the slipper
Play shoes stranded,
Couples alone aside the water
Falling one by one… togeth-
er…who took the shoes?
Who knows every-body
By the shore?

Had it been one shoe there
I had thought a thoughtless one
Had left behind
A man, a woman, a child, a girl,
A boy
A love, romance and flower
Why, why, why take the flower
Crushing ‘neath the power
To maim, to hurt…to kill
Beside the flowing water
Thrown in dead…for sure
Who wept, who screamed
By the shore?

Sixty pairs
By twos along the flowing waters
Sixty corpses sinking with the
Weighted stone
By the shore
Death draping in the deep

Daddy’s big leather,
Mommy’s perfumed arch
And don’t forget the children
They said the Danube’s drift
Would drain the dead
Did the current drag the bodies
By the shore? Do you weep?
Do you know?
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Looking for Palma Ann Case! Have You Seen This Woman?


Have you ever lost someone? I don't mean while at the mall or at the concert hall. I mean really lose them like for over twenty years? Well, I have lost a cousin. She and I were extremely close for a number of years, but her first husband managed to drive a wedge between us that took decades to heal for me, but I have been trying to track her down for the last few years. 

I don't know if they still do this, but there used to be missing children's photos on milk cartons to broaden a search. If you have seen this child, please notify authorities.

Since I don't have access to American milk cartons and let's face it, my cousin is not a kid any longer, this is my plan B to find her. 

I do know she has a Marriage Family Therapist license in CA. I did find her name pop up with a search of the CA Board of Behavioral Sciences, since I am there also as an LCSW. She is listed as being with a practice in Southern California. Using this information, I sent her a copy of my latest book, but used my good friend Daphnee's return address, just in case. I didn't think anyone would ever see the book again if I put Hungary down. The book was returned "Addressee Unknown". 

After using all types of people finders on the Internet, I was not getting anywhere closer to a score. Then I had a brainstorm. Googling her name, I found photos on the web. Yet, as certain as I was that I recognized the face as well as my own, I was still leery as to whether I was right or not. You see, I could have been wrong about the blonde being Palma, in this photo.
The blonde is who I am looking for

But then I found my aunt's picture. I found Aunt Lena on a site called SlowTrav where it seems my cousin, Aunt Lena's daughter, has been blogging her trips for a number of years. That was proof positive that this was indeed the Palma I was hunting for. Aunt Lena was my maternal grandfather's youngest sibling. 
Aunt Lena

If those two photos did not seal the deal, there was no doubt in my mind after I read some of the blog. My cousin, in the years that we shared, was an extraordinary cook and entertainer. When I saw pictures of intricate dishes that claimed credit for, I knew without a doubt this was my Palma. She has a flair with food that most caterers would admire and party planners would envy. She is THAT good.
Palma Ann Case

However, in order to connect with someone who may know her, who will tell her she is being sought out, I will add a couple more photos just to be sure. This one to the right is her profile picture from SlowTrav. When I read the profile, there was no longer a bit of doubt.

You know the expression "some things never change"? This applies here too. These photos brought a touch of nostalgia with them. What memories the inspire, though it seems they are not just memories for Palma. From reading, this must be her second husband. I never met him. See those shopping bags. I can guarantee you none of them are there because of Brad's shopping impulses. Palma treats shopping like an extreme sport. This is her Christmas motto, but without the reindeer names, it really applies all year round. 

So, if you see this woman, know this woman, or belong to the SlowTrav website, please tell her her long lost cousin is writing a non-fiction book and she is a major player in it. You can send her this post by using the SHARE button. 

She can send me a note through the comment section of this blog or to
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