Saturday, June 30, 2012

Budapest Wanderings II


This album is from last Saturday's wanderings around the city, but shortly after, I was so busy with guests that I never got around to doing anything with the photos. Yes, there are more lampposts here, but so much more too.

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Welcome Sunshine


Anyone for sunscreen?

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh Dad, Poor Dad..


Today's post title reminds me of a play I read as a teenager called Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad. The father in the play is dead, but the wife/mother and son takes him on vacation by dragging his casket along. 

Whenever I have to deal with something father related, it pops into my mind. My dad is dead too and I had to drag his memory around with me yesterday. About every six months, my brother seems to uncover another death benefit that we are beneficiaries to. Each of them is a piddly amount, none that would even cover a month's mortgage payment if we were living in the US still, but heck it does reimburse some of our expenses that were not all that willingly shelled out.

For his last few years, dad had cried poverty. The fact of the matter is that this was true since he housed leech for 8 years that stole his credit cards more than once. He went from a triple A credit rating to one that makes Greece look bountiful. My brother brought him food on a regular basis. Ron and I sent checks monthly. It was only close to his demise that we found that all of the money was gong to Jamaica for some scheme he had been hooked into. 

When I received a notice that I was going to get yet another trickle from the French fountain, I was excited, but not overjoyed. The authorization had to be notarized. Dread! That meant a trip to the US Embassy, but before that making an appointment, jumping through hoop A, flying through hoop B and shelling over $50 for the service. People who think a US Embassy is there for American citizens' needs only learn the truth when they need one. 

Looking on their site, they list alternatives. I opted to test a different route. Time will tell if it works. I was going to use a Hungarian notary. After all, a notary is a notary. I chose the first on on the embassy website, went to the notary's website. Mind you, this notary had a website many would give their teeth for, it was beautifully set out with all the info needed readily at hand. He was also a lawyer, but this was his notary page. It stated he is on the US Embassy's authorized list of professionals for US citizens. I struck gold and called him for an appointment. It was 1:20pm. He answered the phone with a drugged sounding "Hello" with greeted my ear more like Meow. I asked if he were Balint Dadada and he said he was. At first I wanted to apologize for disturbing his nap, but I trudged forward with the purpose for my call. Maybe after we finished, he could fall back to sleep again. 

He said "I am not a notary." 
I respond with an apology. "I am sorry, I was trying to reach Balint ..., but I must have called the wrong number.
"This is Balint ..." he claims.
"Oh, but I found you through the US Embassy website as an authorized notary for Americans."
"That is a mistake."
 However, your very own website clearly shows the same thing with an American flag, your picture, you are quite handsome by the way. It is clearly written that you have provided numerous notary services for US citizens in the past. 
"That is a mistake." 
So you don't offer any of these services and both the US Embassy and your own website are providing erroneous information. 
"That is not a mistake; that is correct. You should call Zsolt ..."

I called the other notary for an appointment hours later that day. When I reached the office, I had realized Ron and I had papers notarized here in the past. After a half hour of waiting, I was called in to produce my John Hancock. There was a lovely ribbon on the side of the document with the apostille attached. The form that I presented, based on American notary law had a place for the notary stamp, but this notary put it on the apostille.

Just to be safe, I asked if he would bang his rubber stamp on the front page where it is labeled "Notary Stamp Goes Here". Why he asked, it is on the next page. Yes, I said, but I want it to be obvious. He had to concur with this staff. I had already been invoiced for the 3,000 Huf. Their being in a huddle made me wonder if they were discussing how much more to charge me for the extra rubber stamp ink needed for this second imprint. Finally, with great hesitation, he did it. Reluctantly he also signed the line that said "Notary Sign Here".

Here is hoping this does the trick, because I really resent having to give the US Embassy $50.00. I would rather give it to Balint to update his website.
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Anonymous Writes In


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "What Bike?":

In terms of biking, you are a bit mistaken, Budapest has been improving its facilities greatly, and is currently rated by the people who invented urban biking as 10th best city in the world, being by far the best in central europe.

There are still a few places that are tricky (Szent Kalman tér e.g.) and of course Buda side is more challenging for your fitness.

Countryside, except around Balaton and Matra are also still work in progress.

Incidentally i use bike in Budapest daily to commute (ca 15km) trip back and worth to work as well going around the city center.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Anna is Playing Dangerously


Anna has left a new comment on your post "No Money From You, You Cheeky Monkey":

"Oh no, what should I do to hinder the fact that I've been paying my sister's bills for years.."

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Willis Your Clean Up Crew When You Leave


If you happen by Kálvin tér one day, chances are you will find a wide open space for walking or skateboarding. Suddenly, without warning, the next day when you are there, you find a giant Russian monument, which let's face it,  it can be disconcerting. What is even more brain bending is when you see the litter on the ground is in Russian. Three steps later, you come across a little stand that looks like it should be selling sno-cones, but all of the signs of the side are in Cyrillic lettering, so there are still no clues. 

I had an idea what this was all about, but for the unsuspecting, it was really funny to see the looks on their faces as they stared at these invaders through the chain link fence. Yes, boys and girls or should I say fellow comrades, Bruce Willis is in town filming Die Hard 5.

If you want to see where they have been shooting around the city, click here. If I had know Bruce was going to be here, I would have sent him a copy of my book. :   )
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Been Here, Done These


I love the Museum of Fine Arts, though not as much as Ron does. He is a docent there and has been for years now.

Yesterday, I went to these two exhibits. It was horrendously hot out, but cool inside, even the parts that were not climate controlled.

I am a real fan of all of the Bruegel/Brueghel's works of art: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Elder  and Jan Brueghel the Younger, so I was really anticipating great things from this exhibit. I was partially disappointed in the fact that the Bruegel's were minimal participants with only five pieces of over one hundred. Nevertheless, the display was phenomenal and well worth my time.

The other exhibit that I went to was this one.

Of course being a photographer, I loved this exhibit. Everything at both showings were translated into English, which was wonderful. What I would have liked for the photography exhibit is some explanation about the early processes that they label the different photos. I have take photography classes as an undergraduate student, but there were some types of the early photography applications that I had never heard of. Either way, both exhibits were super, but by the time I finished, I was on sensory overload for certain.
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Friday, June 22, 2012

No Money From You, You Cheeky Monkey


This is an exercise in patience Hungarian style. I received a notice from the electric company stating that we have not paid our full bill and if we did not pay the 1,629 Huf by June 30th, they would shut off our electric by July 6th. Strange that there was the time lapse. Would it take this long finding the switch assigned to us to throw? Honestly, I was not sure which apartment the bill was for, but the envelope clearly had the remnants of a "Return Receipt Request", yet I had not signed a thing. The note did say they have sent previous notices. I paid the bill and told our tenant Jeff he should perhaps pay it also, just in case.

Last night, I went for beers with a former student. I happened to show him this insane note when the conversation topic transitioned into a news article about how Hungarians are 1.6 billion HUF behind in their utility payments. Balazs turned the bill over, which clearly showed it to be assigned to the Feri Flat. I called Jeff our tenant to warn him it was indeed his responsibility.

This morning Jeff came to claim the notice showing he was a deliquescent as he attempted to pay the bill. We joked about how they may not take his money at the electric company office, while wanting him to go to the post office to fill out a blank check. Ha, ha!! He left.

A half hour later he calls again, his voice immediately raises alarms before the words spill from his tongue; they are laced with a special blend of humor and anxiety. "I was kicked out of the electric company office" he shares. I am incredulous at first, thinking this is an exercise in hyperbole. Then the story unfolds.

Jeff: I found a woman at the electric office customer service desk who spoke English. I told her I wanted to pay this bill and showed it to her. She said the letter should never have been sent; the computer generated it by mistake and it should be ignored. 

It should have stopped there as would seem reasonable, but it did not. She asked me if I had a power of attorney to pay the bill since it was not in my name and I was not associated with the company. I inform her that I didn't know I needed a power of attorney to pay a bill. I continue to share the fact that I have been paying the bills all along. She insisted that I did need a legal authority to pay the bill since the bill was not in my name; I was not associated with the company being billed. Therefore, I had no right to pay any company money owed on anyone else's behalf. At this, I started to laugh out loud, which turned the tide of her demeanor like flipping a light switch (assuming the electric bill had been paid). "You are being rude by laughing at me" she quipped. The office was becoming more crowded by the minute like customers storming the Bastille waving their yellow payments checks over their head. I knew in my heart that some must have been there to pay a bill on someone else's behalf. Oh how my sympathy pored out to them at that moment.

Trying to look seriously at the customer service lady, I apologetically mumbled "I am not laughing at you, but at the ridiculousness of the situation. See these?" at which point I pulled out previous receipts for bills paid at the post office. With greater command, she reiterated that I was NOT allowed to pay these bills without a legal power of attorney. When I started laughing, she became furious stating that if my behavior continued, she would have me removed by the guard. The mental movie of that statement alone forced the laughter from the depths of my diaphragm and it continued until the security guard had his arm entwined with mine as he escorted me out the door of the office building. As the unwanted escort was assisting my exit, the once helpful customer service rep was telling "You are being cheeky. I told you to stop laughing."

Now, I have a grave fear for entering a post office to pay other bills or mail a letter. It is almost certain that my face will be on a WANTED poster sooner or later. 

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Irony Thy Name is Family


I think it is really ironic that the nephew I never hear from is busying himself with tracing the family roots. He is going to Iceland for a MA program in Viking Studies. As a result, he discovered a piece of our family trivia that I had not known. My brother and I have been communicating over an insurance policy of my father's. I suggested that the interest in Vikings must have come from his Irish mother's side. Our father was only a bit Irish from what we knew. This was his response.

Well oddly enough her side and ours trace back to similar roots. But we descend from someone named Theopholus who was a cousin to William the Conqueror and it's documented that he fought with William at the Battle of Hastings. Kevin was able to trace it back even further to a guy called 'Rolf the walker' a.k.a. Rollo the viking.

Theopholus descends from Rollo. Supposedly he was dubbed 'the walker' because he was such a big man, perhaps a giant, no horse could carry him. More likely he had ailments that made riding horseback uncomfortable, but he was a big guy and leader of his band of men.

He was originally from Norway and had dealings with the King, who eventually saw their relationship as a threat to his growing empire. Therefore the King of Norway chased Rollo down and out. Rollo traveled across the North Sea to Denmark and then eventually moving down to France, where he made a deal with the French King, perhaps a violent deal but a deal none the less, to settle his people in the area now known as Normandy.

BTW the French name has two lines. An Irish line and an English line. We descend from the English line with Theopholus. I think daddy thought we came from the Irish line and I always thought that too. That doesn't change the fact that we are still of Irish descent as well. So that's the story in a nutshell.

Ryan's note: My last name was originally "French", the word, not the language. I legally changed my entire name when I was in my early 20s. James, my current last name was my original middle name.

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Bigger is Better and Will Cost More


The computer store called me this morning to say that my new desktop computer would be ready today, BUT. Of course there had to be a BUT. My personalized technological vocabulary has been re-framed from computer to comBUTer. Okay, what is the but? Well it seems that since this is so high powered, the that will not reach the other thing, so they will need to do an upgrade

Upgrade is a welcomed word. I associate it with the last upgrade we received on one of our long flights from Germany to Malaysia. Yet, now we are speaking comBUTerize, not airlines, so it does not flow as smoothly. This upgrade will cost 4,000 Huf more than anticipated because the cord is bigger. And they say that bigger is not better? Well in this case it is. The bigger power supply is more indestructible than the original one planned. Anyone who knows me knows I need indestructible. 

While I have the guy on the phone, I tell him I have my own Windows 7 Professional disc. Can they install it for me? Yes, they can, so I agree to drop it off this afternoon. I have all day Friday set aside for downloading programs, and transferring terabytes of files, from the old to the new.

I did my private lesson, ran for a coffee with a friend whose mother is visiting, ran home to check on the guests breakfast dishes, and then dropped off the Windows 7 disk. BUT, the young man says, this will not work on this new machine. This is only a 32 bit disk, BUT this machine will require a 64 bit software. He threw some other numbers at me about megabytes. Up to that point I was following, but once those numbers really started to fly, my math dyslexia combined with my "your out of your depth" technology phobia really kicked in. All I could do was hold tightly to the counter while my equilibrium settled forcing me to rely on his honesty.

Can they get the Windows 7 64 bit? Yes, BUT it has to be ordered. It will be in on Tuesday. Strangely, it was not more expensive than if it were bought in the US; hip, hip, hooray for one thing. Clear Tuesday's calender it is comBUTer day.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mapplethorpe's Penises


Self Portrait, 1980
Self Portrait, 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With any good luck that title caught your attention. With any bad luck, it turned you off and you have not even read this far before turning away.

The Ludwig Museum of Modern Art is hosting a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition. I have been a Mapplethorpe fan for decades. He only used black and white, but the compositions are so amazing in their simplicity that you have to stare for some time to get the true appreciation of his art form. I went to see the exhibit today.

Mapplethorpe started his photography with a Polaroid camera creating collages. Some of these collages were on display in association with Patti Smith, his lifelong friend. Having the Polaroids intact was an amazing feat considering the technology of the time and the emulsion of Polaroid prints. Throughout the exhibit the commentary is in both Hungarian and English. There are enough references to his enjoyment of photographing deviant sexual acts that it makes it extra curious there are none of this work on display, nor are there any Mapplethorpe books other than the exhibit and a biography. There are however, a flock penis photos adorning the walls. That said, once the "Oh my gosh, that is a penis" moment has passed, you realize the symmetry involved in the pose of the model, the positioning, the flow. 

When you move on to the photos of flowers, you will see the same themes emerging to capture your attention, replacing a body with a penis with a vase of tulips. The man was genius. We have seen a smaller exhibition of his work in Dresden or Berlin, I cannot remember. Here they have 200 of his works on display. 

Aside from the wall displays, something else caught my eye. There were two young men, if I had to guess, I would say not older than 25 years old. They were walking hand in hand throughout the exhibit. When I heard them speaking, it was Spanish, not Hungarian. What a delightful, joyful addition to the show.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Budapest Wanderings


Two days ago, I wandered around with my camera just for the fun of it. One thing that I have realized is that there is incredible artwork in lamp posts, but most of the time they go unnoticed. Not only is this sad for the designer and creator, but it is a tiny bit of beauty we are missing out on appreciating.

This collection has a few lamp posts and other things that caught my eye.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

How Big is Your Hard Drive? Talk Dirty Computer to Me


After picking up my dysfunctional laptop from the computer store for the third time since it was purchased, I realized that I need one that is more reliable. This was a store brand, which at the time was economical. I needed it for the university as the shared computer in my office not only has a Hungarian keyboard, but Windows and MS Office are all in Hungarian too. Sometimes, I need to take a breath, look at the sign outside my office door and repeat to myself, "Yes, you really do teach in the American Studies Department regardless of the signs and signals trying to confuse you." Two of the three of us in the office are Americans. They have all of the software in English, they just refuse to put it on our computer. Regardless, I need a laptop to cart around from classroom to classroom, then to connect to my projector for showing presentations on the wall, watching videos, keeping track of grades, attendance, and all of the other mundane things that instructors do in the course of a teaching day. 

When I picked up the laptop, I asked if they could order one with an English keyboard. The only brand was Dell where this was possible and only one model. Though the price was good, it would be another 25,000 Huf for a switcheroo of the keyboards. Come to think of it, Dell has kind of lost its excellent reputation, so I was not ready to jump on it. 

I went around the corner where I ordered the desktop computer. They don't have laptops with English keyboards and cannot order them. Nincs! 

One of  my students sent me the names of 2 other stores where they supposedly were able to do the ordering. When I went to Extreme Digital, the only brand they could get in English was a MAC Powerbook. Sorry, not in this lifetime. 

In store number 4 at first, the salesperson looked at me like we were in Ottumwa, Iowa and was asking for a Swahili keyboard. After a number of sighs, he exasperatedly explained that they could only order certain brands, but he kept trying to convince me there was no difference between an English and Hungarian keyboard except for a few extra letters. We have a Hungarian keyboard on our kitchen computer and it is a psycho trap. I cannot even type as fast and I don't look at my fingers when I type. My sense of touch just knows that I hit a key with diacritic marks sending crazy signals to my brain which causes the synapses to misfire causing all hell to break loose. They want an extra 25,000 Huf too for the change. I would have an easier time having a sex change for crying out loud.

Finally at store number 5, they wanted 200,000 Huf for an HP laptop with an English keyboard and English Windows already installed. That is only 92,000 Huf more than I had originally thought of spending. 

So, I wrote to Ron after checking out Best Buy in the Denver area. There are a number of them. I found a few makes and models that meet my needs, each running under $400. I suggested he buy one and bring it home with him. However, he has already been huffing and puffing about the 10 books I have ordered, the two bottles of sleeping aids, the four shirts, 100 photos of our kitchen mural to give out to guests, and a box of business cards. What are my chances he will lug another 5.8 pounds too?
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dog Show


Recently, there has been a dog show here. They combine all breeds into one massive category, not like the US, where there are different classes like sporting group, herding group and so on. 

Also differently from most places, these dogs compete like a   beauty contest for people, except for the swimsuit modeling, they do have a talent component. This dog did not win Best of Show, but he did win the talent competition.  :  0

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What Bike?


Potential visitors often write me asking about biking in Budapest. They want to know if it is bike friendly? Are there bike lanes everywhere? Can they easily buy a bike and sell it before they leave? Can they safely chain it up and leave it on the street while they are in a shop or museum?  I go through great pains to outline the pros and cons of bike riding here, trying with all of my might to be fair. All of the bike rental places need to earn a living too. However if I were to shorthand the answers, it would be No!, Hell, no! Are you joking with me? and for the fourth answer, I will just forward this picture below.  Let me just say that I don't have a bike, but there was a bike chained outside the grocery store when I walked in to buy lettuce. It took me all of 8 minutes. When I returned this was what was where the bike once was.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Land of Eagles


This is where I went this evening. The photographer was our photography teacher when we took lessons. Who knew Albania had royalty still? Not I. It was better attended than I would have every expected. The Hungarian-Albanian Friendship Society is not something you often hear about. 

Both the photos and the commentary were wonderful, but the journalist commentator was rather soft spoken even with a mike. To make matters worse, there was a feisty 3 year old behind me producing his own commentary until his dad had the good sense to remove him. Shame he didn't have the good sense not to bring him in the first place.

This really made me want to visit the country. There are some spectacular views.

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