Sunday, September 29, 2013

€69 The Price of Being a Boob


Yesterday, I plugged in my external hard drive into the computer. The drive is E:
The intent was to format it, so I started the process. I hit format. It took a great deal of time to start, which is abnormal, so I clicked it again.

I received the usual message that the drive was busy with another operation. Did I want to stop the operation that was in process and continue?
I clicked “Yes”.
It formatted.
Then I realized, to my complete and utter horror, I had just formatted my F: drive. The F: drive had all of my documents and over 600 movies along with 7,000 + photos.

Having had computers crash multiple times in the past, I knew having a nervous breakdown would just take up more precious time. Using my critical thinking skills, I stopped to assess how much of this has been backed up on other drives. Quite a bit, but as it generally happens, I had that nagging feeling that I was due for another back-up, but I never really wanted to take the time when the thoughts occurred.

I bought a disk recovery software program. It took 26 hours to collect what was close to 2 TB of data; TB mind you, not GB.

It finally finished, so I am restoring it part by part. The worst part is that the program gives you up to twenty copies of one document or graphic and you have to sort through to find which one is a good copy. For some, it was number 2, while others held out until number eighteen. The graphic and PDF files are the easiest as they show a preview, but there is a still a great proportion of deleting the extraneous copies. The problem with Word is that you have to try opening each and every copy until you find a good one. They are not showing in the preview section. 

The software has been fairly impressive so far, but it is not looking great for video files and it is ultra time-consuming.

I did want to do some housecleaning in this drive, but this is not the way I had intended to do it.

€69 that could have been spent on better causes. My only excuse is lack of sleep. Ron and I went to a bar Friday night to do a review for the Frommer’s nightlife section. We didn’t get home until 2:30 am and then had to get up to see a guest off at 7:30 am. Sleep after she left was elusive, so I didn’t bother. I paid the price.

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Monday, September 16, 2013 Wins Seal of Approval


This is how I define excellent customer service. While having become inexplicably obsessed with wedding planning, some people have asked if we have created gift registries. Well, actually I had not thought of that because we certainly don’t want to drag things back from the US to Hungary and then possibly from Hungary to whereabouts unknown in the future.

Just to appease some and because this is unquestionably going to break our bank, I decided perhaps a money registry would be suitable for those who were feeling generous. After much hunting, I found that Our Wishing met our needs not only for a registry, but to disseminate information about the upcoming events with different pages of tidbits here and there.

Ryan and Ron's Wedding
A Brief History
Booking a Hotel Room (Not complete yet.)
What to Do in Des Moines (More than I thought actually)
Share a Room
Gift Registry

After working for an hour one day, I saved the work and left the site. Later, I returned and decided I had better pay the subscription fee which would keep the site listed until after April 19, 2014 and not have it expire prematurely. I paid the fee through PayPal and all was well.

Then I spent close to 2 hours working on our pages filling in information for “What to Do in Des Moines” but I was having a heck of a time getting the line spacing to look its best. Then problems with the hyperlinks were driving me crazy. A great disaster hit when after 2 hours of work, the site froze like an Antarctic winter. I could do nothing. I could not save the work. I could not close the site. I could not navigate elsewhere. I tried reopening the site in a different browser, but still nothing. To say I was angry was to devalue the word extensively.

I started again. Still on the second go, when I put in hyperlinks under the Des Moines things to do, they would not appear when the page was published. Then it occurred to me that they were there, but had changed to a white font. Making certain the font was black, it did not change a thing. I changed it to each dark color with no changes at all. Nothing! Trying bold, italics or underlining was useless. What I discovered needed doing was to create a colored background for the white font. This is not what I wanted, but it was the only solution. Saving the work every 2 minutes, it was finally close to being finished, albeit not the way I would have liked.

An hour later, an e-mail appeared in my inbox. It was from Joseph Renzi who is the Support Manager of It read:

“We pride ourselves in providing excellent customer support and we are always looking for feedback from our customers.

I see that you have used our system recently and I am very interested in hearing about your experience on our website. It will take less than one minute, and you will automatically go into the draw to win $100! To provide us with some feedback, simply reply to this email.

If you think that our system could be improved, then please let us know your ideas and we will try to incorporate your feedback. Also, if you like our system, then please do let us know what you like so we can keep doing those things well.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Taking this opportunity to test his promise, I sent an e-mail containing the issues I had encountered.

An hour later, I received a response stating they tested one of the pages I mentioned, but could not find fault with it. Would I please test it again? So I am thinking that they honestly did not read my e-mail at all; there was nothing alluding to the other snafus, but decided to write again to clarify the matters which were not thoroughly addressed.

After another hour had passed, there was another e-mail from the company. It would not have surprised me if their response was that they don’t normally deal with same sex couples, so after really looking over the site, tough breaks and go elsewhere. It was not even close to my imaginative negatives.

What they did say was that they found the problems described, tried to correct them, but were not able to either. They explained that the program they use for building the individual sites is licensed from another company, not their own product. They agreed these issues were not satisfactory and would be certain to report it to the company licensing the program. As a token of their appreciation they were refunding my full payment and giving me the year service as a complimentary gesture. I was flabbergasted; pleased as punch as the saying goes, but still flabbergasted. 

I told them I would have to blog this story. This is one company that has my seal of approval for certain.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Paraskevidekatriaphobia Anyone?


Friday the 13th has safely passed for me at least one day ago, so now it is safe to share this information. This little blurb comes to you from USA Today.

"The last Friday the 13th was July 13, 2012, about 14 months ago. It's average occurrence is once every 212 days. If you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia — the fear of Friday the 13th — all is not lost. Today is, ironically, Defy Superstition Day, where you can choose to break those superstitions that you have been living with most, or all, of your life."

If you just have a general fear of the number 13, this is a phobia with a difference. That is called Triskaidekaphobia.
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PeaceGarret from Eric


From: Eric Timar
Sent: Saturday, September 14, 2013 7:22 PM
Subject: Mention of your Budapest guidebook

Dr. James,

I've used your Frommer's guidebook twice now on visits to Hungary, thanks for it.  I mention your book in my blog entry about the Aztek cafe:

Eric Timar
Falls Church Va.

Dear Eric,
It is always heartwarming to hear from readers whether it is with praise or suggestions for the next time around. However, it is truly an elevated form of praise when someone quotes you into their own work.

I am honored and thank you for doing so. I will have to put this in my own blog as a remembrance.


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Semester Begins with a Bang


Well if that is not a misleading title if there ever was one. It is a typical bait and switch for sure. Summer was about ten weeks too short. I really don't even care about summer, but the vacation could have been extended. 

School started Tuesday. After they dismantled our e-learning system in November, we had no means of giving online tests during the spring semester. They finally instituted a new e-learning system in August, but of course the instructions were only in Hungarian. A memo sent to me stated that the program can translate into US English, British English, and Universal English, as well as Universal Spanish, German and Urdu. Okay, maybe not Urdu. Regardless, someone forgot to flip the switch somewhere. The damn thing would not translate into any flavor of English nor would it hablar español. 

After consoling me with the fact that they had saved all of my previous quizzes over 100 of them for 18 different courses, it was assuring to know they could upload them for me, since there was no option for DIY. When push came to shove to get them to show their true colors, they only uploaded quizzes for 2 classes of the 7 classes I needed quizzes for this semester. Repeated e-mails went unanswered.

Finally, I had a former student who works as a computer tech to come over to guide me through so I could manually enter the quizzes yet again. While he was working, the page would suddenly refresh, appear in English giving a false sense of security. Moments later we were back to staring at Hungarian. The final solution: get a teaching assistant to put the quizzes in for me after having him sign a non-disclosure statement. 

Having to teach 4 classes on Tuesday and 5 on Wednesday, I try to arrange the classes so that I can use the same room each day. I have my own projector, laptop, speakers, and extension cord. Staying in one room saves time from having to breakdown the equipment and set it up again repeatedly. Up until Tuesday, the registration showed my room assignments as I had requested. After my second class, though, another instructor was at my side waiting to get into the room. One last minute check with the registration online, my room assignments had been changed. 

On the bright side, the student numbers are minimal. Really so much so, it just may be a good semester in the long run. Just as I get totally disgusted and ready to throw in the proverbial towel, I receive these comment, which gives me an opportunity to smile. 

Anna wrote "I'm teaching English in a high school and I have to tell you that you always inspire me in my work with your patience and with the way you helped us develop our own ideas about topics (to think "out of the box" :) ) My lessons are much simpler than our classes at university, but the way you were always consistent in your expectations but still let us have our own ideas is something that I particularly liked, and try to "copy" as a teacher."

Árpád "On a different note, I found myself reminiscing about the Writing Program on Tuesday. This semester I am taking Stanley’s Media and Communication in the US class as an elective, and it is in Room 439, which reminded me of the Race and Ethnicity classes. I had completely forgotten what that room looked like, but the moment I entered, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia.

I was also reminded of the Gilded Undergraduate Years today, when some people wanted to “have questions” in class. I said nothing out loud, but sub-vocally I murmured, “You can have as many as you wish, but you need to ASK a question if you want an answer to it.” Our teacher must have approved of the phrase because he used it himself."
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Friday, September 06, 2013

No Room at the Inn, or Zoo, or Science Center, or...


Who would have thought booking a place for a reception would be so difficult? We wanted something different, but it appears it is not to be. Something in Des Moines is working against us.

We tried the Botanical Gardens and the Science Center. Sorry, we are booked up for Earth Day! Well we promise to recycle if you let us have a reception there. We only want something from 1 to 6pm.

Hoyt Sherman Theater is booked with another wedding reception. Jasper Winery only commits to receptions from 6pm onward. Too much lag time between the service and the reception.

The zoo has their large indoor room booked already, but offered the outdoor space. We thought this may have been a viable option, though the weather in April is unpredictable. Ron wrote the catering manager back, but she immediately wrote with an apology. That is their big Easter event, so the outer room is ‘outer’ our reach too.

Matty at suggested West End Salvage as a funky, popular place. We checked it out, but they too are booked up for the 19th. People keep asking if we can change the date to the week before or the week after. UH! We waited twenty years and now I am dealing with a school holiday. Can’t Earth Day wait a week? It has lasted this long. Another week won’t hurt.

I have combed the city for suggestions with both Matty, who has been a tremendous help and DMSBride. Yes, I registered just to get ideas. It looks like we will book the Embassy Suites where they are discounting a block of room for our guests.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Act in Haste, Repent in Leisure


As the saying goes "Act in Haste, Repent in Leisure", today our friend Jennifer Norcross sent me an e-mail stating she was surprised I had so much time off in the spring semester to spend it in the US. She wrote they only had a week off for spring break. She is a high school teacher in Connecticut.

I responded with the fact that "our break is just a week too, but broken up differently. It starts on Wednesday and ends the following Wednesday. I am taking the Tuesday before break off. We will get home on the following Tuesday, recover from jet lag and teach Wednesday.

OH, the difference is that I only have classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, not 5 days a week, so it may seem longer to you, because of that."

She then wrote again and said she must have misread the flight details. She thought she saw that we were returning May 21st. I laughed and then as my skin started to tingle and the hair on the back of my neck started to lift into the air, I checked the flight arrangements again.

Gosh darn it (I really said worse, but cannot write it here) if she was not correct. I immediately went to the site I bought the tickets from and there was an airline ticket angel looking out for me. I could cancel the tickets up to September 3, 2013 at 11:29 EST. I was saved! I cancelled the tickets without any penalty or service fees. I even took a snapshot of it in case of problems with the credit card in the future.

Then I started all over again looking for good deals on flights. It is uncertain whether or not it is a marketing ploy or not, but some of the flights show "only 3 seats left". This has to be only 3 seats left in their block, because I have seen this often, but the plane is then half empty.

After looking at five different sites, three of which check multiple sites at once, I found yet again the best deal on Not only was their airfare the cheapest, but the flight time were better and there was a code for $10 discount per person. It all worked out well in the end.

Thank you Jennifer!!!

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