Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Residency Permit Renewal


Today was the day we had to return to receive our new 5 year "Permanent Residency". Our appointment was for 11am, but when we arrived at 10:39, the gate was closed. The sign showed they do not open until 1pm. There was one other person waiting, so when we met up with Laszlo, we found they do open the gate at 11am for those who have the appointment. 

It was quick and simple, but all they did was put the new sticker in our passport. They did not give us our new cards, so when Laszlo asked about it, he was told we would have to go to the district for these. This was new information to all of us. It had not worked this way our last go around. 

We went straight to the district office, but missed them by 3 minutes when they closed for lunch. We went for lunch too and then returned. I had to pay another 1,5oo Ft for the card, but Ron is a senior, which meant a waiver of the fee. After having our photos taken yet again, we filled in forms and now have to wait two weeks to pick them up. Each time we have some governmental issue with our living here, I have renewed empathy for those who try doing the same thing in the US. I cannot imagine we are any more efficient.
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Photo Blog Update


The following photo albums are now available for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - A short video of the spring carnival on Dam Square.

Friday, April 22, 2011 - Photos of Haarlem

Saturday, April 23, 2011 - Photos of Kuekenhof Flower Festival

Sunday, April 24, 2011 - Photos of the Amsterdam Zoo 

Monday, April 25, 2011 - A composite of Amsterdam photos taken from Thursday April 21st to Monday April 25th.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

There is Something to Be Said for Murphy's Law


Murphy Law states "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". As we were walking to the train station, we passed this young man who had a t-shirt that stated "Murphy was a damn cynic," which really made me chuckle until Murphy proved himself correct twice today.

In the Amsterdam train station there are innumerable lockers to store your goods while enjoying the last remnants of a vacation before moving closer to the world of reality once again. With hours to spare, we found a locker ready to be filled on a lower level while a German family found one near us, but up higher. They are asking me questions about the locker in German. Other than "is this the large or small locker", they lost me. The directions for operating these lockers are in Dutch and English. However, the English directions are severely lacking as are the computer generated flashcard directions that appear where you have to pay. Each section of lockers is controlled by one computerized payment center and it only takes credit cards.

I put our luggage in the locker and closed the door. It immediately locked. When I went to pay and pressed the button marked LANGUAGE, the door popped open from where the Germans stored their things. Opps! When I tried closing it again, it would not snap shut. Apparently now, they had the claim ticket for our locker since I slammed our door shut while they were busy paying. 

There is one attendant there for emergency use only. This qualified. The Germans had exposed luggage and although the Germans are known for exposing many things, the luggage that they usually let all hang out is of a different sort entirely. They had a claim to our luggage and theirs was left unprotected. After explaining this mess to the man in charge, after he swallowed a few aspirin, mopped the sweat from his brow, he had us fill in forms. He wanted to see our passports. Sure, but they are locked in the locker. Well, give a description of what is in the luggage in detail. Suddenly, I felt relief in not getting those sex toy joke items for friends. Twenty-five minutes later, he had everything under control except for my blood pressure.

Hours to kill, we had thought of taking a canal cruise, not for the sightseeing, but to spend the time. I had been on so many of these cruises, they awarded me an honorary captain's position. Instead, we walked the streets, looked into stores and found one of my old time favorite coffee shops that has gone from independent to chain; that was a major disappointment. The last stop was to look for a book to read on the plane. I had just finished The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch and want Ron to read it, so I would not leave it behind. I picked up a copy of Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. Strangely, both have similarities, yet are different enough to be captivating. The latter is so good, I read half of it on the plane during an hour and fifty minute flight.

To backtrack a bit, we took the train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven without a hitch, though it was a longer ride than we had remembered. I started clock watching since Wizz can be a stickler with the 2 hours rule for being at the airport. Soon after the train was pulling into the station, we were running for the bus to the airport. We were told we could buy tickets on the bus, but the driver said "Not today, you can't" without an explanation. We had 6 minutes to run inside to get tickets before the bus left the station. I ran, Ron waited; I made it back with 3 minutes to spare. We make it on the bus, found seats; the bus takes off the minute it was scheduled. Being a local bus, we make stops along the way, I continue to monitor my watch like I am timing a sporting event. Actually, I was, it was the race to the airport.

We are driving along when all of a sudden, the bus makes noises like we have just run over a Volkswagen Beetle. Our immediate thought was a blown tire, but since it was one of those extended buses, there should have been enough tires to get us to the airport. Regardless, the driver stopped to check, came back with the same blank look he left with and attempted to drive off, but we were not moving a centimeter. It was either the transmission or crankshaft that skipped out along the way, not leaving a parting gift when it deserted us. The bus was full of people and luggage. It was not like we were the only people flying today. No one seemed concerned but me. Even the driver looked like he only needed to finish his shift and then his worries were over. After 3 false starts of letting the engine rest and try again, he called for a rescue, but never said a word to anyone. Finally, Ron went up to ask him the plan, while once being enlightened, it was Ron who had to announce it to the bus crowd. No one applauded, which disappointed Ron, and he will probably never intervene again on public behalf unless accolades are assured.

A second bus finally arrived and we passed all scheduled stops until the airport. No one seemed to complain if they had a different agenda. We were 2nd in line for WizzAir's check-in only because they were late opening their counter. 

The flight home was uneventful; our one suitcase was the 2nd piece of luggage off of our flight. So there Murphy!

All photos will be posted in our photo blog. The link is to the right. However, I will alert you here when they are ready.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Zoo Do


At breakfast at the hotel, we each found a chocolate Easter bunny by our plates. They also served hard boiled eggs, but since they were all brown, I think they were dyed by the chicken and not the Easter Bunny.

Our American friends who have lived in the Netherlands for as long as we have lived in Hungary, came to Amsterdam to spend the day with us. Audrey, Mike and Oskar were our playmates for Easter Sunday. Ron had to do his religious thing, Easter duty, going to church, so we met them at 11:30. What to do, what to do? What do you do when you have a chronological child and three adults who have inner children who all need entertaining? You do the zoo. Do the zoo; a zoo do was in order. 

After watching a BBC three part series on the London Zoo, I no longer complain about the cost of zoo admissions: Ron's was €17.50 and mine was €18.95. When you really consider the full day's enjoyment, it really is not bad at all. The animals are well cared for and there were a few I had not seen before. Others were familiar, but so robust and hearty, it was a pleasure to view them again. 

We said our goodbyes around 5:30 seeing off the family group at the train station and went back to the hotel. Ron rested, I wrote. We went exploring for a dinner place. I had remembered a number restaurants off a popular square where here by myself, but never tried any. We walked over there and found quite a few, but they were pricey, which was interesting considering the tram line that ran on that street is no longer. The restaurant that spoke bi-locationally to our stomach and wallet was a Mexican place. Alfonso's fed us well with Mexican food that was as good as what we ate in California. Who would have guessed it?

Tomorrow, we leave. There were things I would have liked to have done, but did not have time for, but you always need to save something for next time. 

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kuekenhof - When Your Tulips Meet Mine Eyes


One of the main reasons for this trip was to visit Kuekenhof again. We have both been here before, but the magnificence of the flowers draw us back yet again. We purchased our tickets online to avoid the hassles once there. Being Easter weekend, we knew there the crowds would be tremendous, but the fields are so extensive, it barely feels crowded. To get there, one option is to get to Leiden first and then take a bus, but there are also buses from the airport that go directly. We bought the combo ticket including round-trip bus fare and entrance into the gardens. My ticket was 21 Euros and Ron's was 18.50, really quite a bargain. Our train tickets round-trip from Amsterdam to Leiden were 16.50 Euros each.

A little bit of history of the event: In the 15th century, Jacoba van Beieren had a castle in this area, which was also a popular hunting area. Herbs were collected in the area for preparing food for castle kitchen; hence the name Keukenhof. Keuken means kitchen and hof can be translated as garden in Dutch.

Over time, the land passed through many hands, but eventually Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt engaged the services of the famous landscape architects of the time, J.D. and L.P. Zocher to design a garden around the castle. The two designers were already famous for their creation of the Amsterdam Vondelpark. Their inspiration was the English landscape style of the time and has remained the style of Keukenhof.

The estate is currently owned by a foundation. By the initiative of the Lisse mayor in 1949 and a number of leading flower bulb growers and exporters, an open air flower exhibition was organized here for the first time. Each year, this increased in size drawing worldwide attention and tourists to admire the vast beauty of the flower displays.

Here are some facts and figures to give you an idea of why this is so incredibly exciting.
  • As.one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands, it has had more than 44 million visitors in the last 60 years.
  • It is the largest bulb flower park in the world.
  • It covers an area of 32 hectares 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties.
  • It is the most photographed place in the world.
  • There are 15 kilometers of footpaths. 
  • It is the largest sculpture park in the Netherlands.
  • The bulbs are supplied by 91 Royal Warrant Holders; 7 million flower bulbs are planted by hand.
  • There are more than 2,500 trees in 87 varieties.
  • There is a Walk of Fame with tulips named after famous people.
This year was dedicated to Germany with the theme "Land of Thinkers and Poets", and a replication of the Brandenburg Gate was recreated with over 100,000 flower bulbs. They also had created the famous Van Gogh self portrait in flower petals.

We arrived at 11:45am brimming with energy and full camera batteries. After 5 hours and camera cards bursting with photos, we were starting to feel a bit punk. We just about covered every square inch of the place. The only major disappointment was my favorite pavillion where they usually have thousands of bulbs and other plants in bloom like tablecloths of color that have been spread out for a visual feast. However, due to the heat, most of the tulips and daffodils had already perished, leaving the space looking like a bad case of alopecia. 

By 5:50 pm, I started getting nervous about the bus schedule to return us to the train station. No one seemed to know for sure if the buses were continuing after the park closed at 7:30. The line for the bus was out on an open field, but roped off like the lines at the airport, causing us to walk up one line and down another until we reached the butts of those who made it there before us. There were two lines actually: one for those going to the airport and one for those of us going to the train station. Keukenhof depends on the city bus line to provide the services, but the city service was not servicing us expediently. We had to wait a hour and forty-five minutes for our bus. It was almost forty minutes from the time we arrived in line until the first bus arrived to haul off people. The park employees were great about distributing water to everyone.

Once back in Leiden, we walked to the main canal and had dinner there, before getting our train back to the city. Although the day was exhausting, it was fulfilling at the same time. All photos will be in my photo blog in the next couple of days.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Haarlem, Not Harlem


It is always a strain to write while away. Time has to be divided between actually doing things and writing about them. The more we do, the more there is to write about, but then again the more we do the less time there is to write about it. What a cycle of indecision. Some day, I will just sit in a hotel room and write only about the experience for 20 hours to live the difference. 

With that said, Ron wanted to investigate outside of Amsterdam and had Haarlem in his bag of alternatives, so we took the train there. Tickets are only €7.50 each for a round-trip, quite the bargain. As with many cities and towns, when you arrive at the station, you wonder why you bothered coming at all. It took about three blocks walk to discover this city was charming. If one is into architecture, than Haarlem is a delight. I took dozens of photos of buildings that captivated my imagination. If only I could use a ruler and draw, I would have been an architect. Superior imagination would have helped too, so I guess I missed out all around.

We explored for about an hour, just wandering aimlessly, but that was only because we couldn't find the VVV, which is what the tourism office is called throughout The Netherlands. It is situated very deeply in the downtown area, so much so you can cover a good deal of territory before getting inside the door. I had thought there would not be a need at all, since the city is small and only 14km from Amsterdam. What could possibly be to do here? After the tourism woman gave us the brochures and the list and a pile of brochures, for which we were charge 1 euro, we would have needed to stay for 3-4 days to cover it all. Ron did a typical Ron thing. He loves tourism offices and getting the nitty-gritty details on everything under the sun, but then does not want to be bothered carrying any of it with him. She did give us a coupon for a complementary cup of coffee for 2 people at the V and D department store across the street and said they had a rooftop that overlooked the city. That was our first official post tourism office visit stop. 

The food hall is typical of many large department stores in Western Europe. They are really multiethnic restaurants catering to many tastes and cuisines. This keeps shoppers in the store longer too, with a better chance they will buy more merchandise. The prices are comparable with restaurants, so it is really convenience and not bargains that make the masses flock here. 

With the tourism guide in hand, we did a self-guided walking tour. One of the highlights strangely enough was visiting the almshouses. The oldest, non-religiously associated was built by Wouterus van Oorshot, a wealthy man who felt compelled to help those less fortunate after he passed on in 1769. There was no mention of his generosity toward the poor before he died. The almshouse consists of a courtyard where there is a central building and two wings, one on either side of it. Each of these wings have small apartments for those who are financially impaired, generally women over 60 years old who are not married. Visiting 5-6 of these almshouses took up a good part of the day. I felt a little creepy playing voyeur at almshouses. They are open to the public, at least the courtyards are, but the Dutch are so open with their living space. Large windows are common, yet they do not cover them with shades or curtains that are not sheer. They dare you to look in because they are never doing a thing in public view that they are ashamed of, so it is like a game. Peek in why dont'cha?

Haarlem: Teylers MuseumImage by harry_nl via Flickr
The Teylers Museum
For lunch, we sat in the central square at the old meat packers' plant to eat the sandwiches that we brought with us. Aside from the almshouses, we went to the old druggists where the yawning facial figure is gape mouthed; this is a traditional sign. They sell Haarlemmerolie or Haarlem Oil here which dates back centuries as a cure all for anything that ails you. This chemist shop dates back to 1849. Ron was overwhelmed with the Haarlem Oil and bought a small bottle, but when I asked him why he wanted it, he said "It cures gout." My response was simply, "Neither of us have gout.". He then proceeded to ask the woman if they shipped to various countries. Maybe he knows someone with gout who I have yet to meet.

The counts of Holland once occupied the building that is now city hall. Count Floris V stayed here when in the area to collect taxes. It was almost completely destroyed in a fire in the 14th century and when rebuilt was used as the city hall. The Teylers Museum is the oldest museum in the Netherlands. It is home to much of the collection of cloth merchant and silk producer Pieter Teyler van der Hulst. Past here is the Gravestenenbrug, a white draw bridge. Across the street from here are two monumental stepped gables dating from 1630. The building behind these gables was the De Olyphant brewery that dates back to 1550. A famous Haarlem beer called Jopenbier was recreated starting from 1994 using an archival recipe from the old brewery.

We didn't go into any museums as there was too much to see on the outside. After five hours of walking around the city, we had about had it. We stopped for a piece of 'pie', which actually was like a cake with raspberries, but delicious nevertheless. Had we known the city was so delightful, we would have planned our time better. As it was, we were just planning a half day visit, but the city's spell drew us in for longer than anticipated. This is a definite place to add to any trip to Amsterdam.

Then it was back to Amsterdam in what seemed like minutes on the train. We had no plans for dinner, but every restaurant's outside seating was filled to the brim. I cannot imagine Budapest filling so many restaurants seats so consistently. We walked blocks trying to find an outdoor table because the temperature really warranted sitting outdoors. Like in Budapest, most places do not have air conditioning. The weather has been spectacularly warm, so sitting indoors would be stuffy and uncomfortable. 

Finally, at one of the pancake houses, we found seating. Then it occurred to us why. It was run by Muslims, so no liquor, which meant no beer with dinner. Well, we could forsake beer with dinner, but the selection was limited. The chicken casserole was made with chicken wings. Wings in a casserole? I could not imagine. Then something else was prepared really out of sync with anything we could imagine, so Ron went for the fish platter and I had a 'gourmet' Dutch pancake with tomato and Gorgonzola cheese on it. It was tasty and different at the same time. 
A couple of blocks away, we stopped for a beer before doing our mandatory walk through the Red Light district. I had wanted to stop for a beer at some of my old haunts to see how they have changed, but they don't open until 10pm and would not start to fill until after midnight, long after we were tucked into bed. The memories will have to last me.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wizz We Go


There is something about getting up at 2:45am that takes the thrill out of flying, but we did it and the thrill returned. Standing in line at Wizz Airlines check-in desk at 4am waiting for them to open, was an ordeal. We checked in online, but with US passports, we still need a boarding pass.

Security was more extensive than it has ever been in Budapest. Not only did I get a full body search, but I had to remove my Crocs, and the young inspector massaged my feet. I offered him a tip, but he said the pleasure was all his.

Wizz is not a bad airline overall. We could have paid for advanced boarding, but all that meant was getting on the bus first that would be taking us to the plane. Big whoop! We could have paid for extra leg room, but we were fine and the seats are all leather. The flight is 1 hour and 50 minutes; anyone could suffer for that amount of time. 

When we reached Eindhoven, our friend Mike met us at the airport to lead us to the bus, which would take us to the train, which would take us to Amsterdam. Although we thought it would be a change, it was not a change of trains at the airport like we thought, but at Utrecht. Train tickets one way from Eindhoven to Amsterdam were 34.40 Euros for both of us. This gave us time for a coffee and pastry, after all, it was still only a little past 9am. When we arrived in Amsterdam, we took our time getting transportation tickets to last our four days here. Tickets ran us 19.50 Euros each; 5 Euros a day is not bad at all. 

I have been here so many times, I knew to take the 1, 2, or 5 tram to get to our hotel. Of course, we could not check in until 2pm giving us hours to kill. Leaving our back and backpack we went to explore places I knew really well and places Ron was more than familiar with. The Rembrandt Museum is STILL under reconstruction and the offerings are limited, but the entrance is still 12.50 Euros. We passed it by. We have both been here when it was full and complete, so we can wait. I went once when it was in this condition and that was 5 years ago at least. The offering are really scant in comparison. The Van Gogh Museum had a line that extended two blocks. We went two trips ago, so did not feel a need to stand in line.

We explored a number of places, playing the "Remember when" game. Remember when we ate here? Remember the statues that were once here? Remember this store where we bought...? By 2pm, we asked "Do you remember when it is time to check in to the room?". It was time, we did, and fell into a coma-like sleep for 2 hours. 

Refreshed, we hunted for a dinner spot all over the next 6 canals. We finally landed at a place I had eaten at when here alone. Los Amigos has wonderful food and an all you can eat rib special that cannot be beat. For 13.50, you get a slab of ribs, a salad and potato. The ribs keep coming until you say stop. Ron had salmon, which was not all you can eat, but he was satisfied.

Tomorrow, we will venture to Haarlem for the day.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shop - Drop - Get Up and Shop Some More


If you speak to any Hungarian or even most ex-pats who live here on a quasi-Hungarian salary, you will hear tales of woe regarding the cost of everything and how they cannot afford anything. Well someone should tell that to the corporations who are continuing to build malls in the city and country.

Just this last week, a new "mall" opened a block and a half from our place. We can see it from our living room window. Set in the same building as the new Marriott Courtyard hotel;  they call it the Europeaum since all of the six or so stores are imports. The difference being that the anchor shops are mega-stores. There is some German sounding variety store that occupies the entire lower level in addition to about one quarter of the street entrance level. Such is the same with another primary clothing store where they have a large quantity of the street level, but are extended up to the second floor.

Just for the fun of it, I went into each store. The German named store has three registers open and long lines of people waiting to slap down their cash in exchange for the goods. Observing this makes me wonder if it is the new store smell that is causing the frenzy or if the scent of the price tags is euphoric. Once the interest dies down in a few weeks, I will venture in to see for myself why those claiming being poverty stricken are on the brink of needing riot control squads on hand.

Alternatively, on the higher end of the consumer scale, Andrássy, the street of high fashion and price tags is not well at all. The feverish pitch that prompted designer shops to dot the avenue with haute couture are realizing there is not enough haute forints to keep them in business. The latest report claims that the fashion avenue is getting a little thread bare with 1/3 of all retail spaces running on empty; this is the highest vacancy rate in 8 years.

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Deer Me


If you did not know there was a small, yet, lovely little petting zoo on Margaret Island, you won't miss it once it is gone. However, if you cherished those moments passing by the Bambi clones thinking "I really should go in there one of these days," the days are numbered. 

The deer have left the zoo and they will soon be followed by the rest of the twenty-five other species of animals that co-habitated in their little furry and feathery commune. Due to a lack of funding, the mini-zoo will be closed for good in the near future. Under the auspices of the Budapest Zoo, this little faction is not holding its own financially, when the official city funding for it was cut 4 years ago. If someone had packaged the zoo pooh like other major zoos do, they may have been able to survive a little longer. 

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are


One of my readers sent this note:
"You haven't blogged for days which makes me concerned. One of the (Hungarian) blogs that I had read for years has recently stopped being written...I'm sure that you'll continue writing it. It's just a matter of having topics to write about." 

Well that is partially true, but the other reason is obsessions. A few weeks back I embarked on learning Joomla! a program for creating websites. I have a new website is development for professional reasons, but wanted to do a major overhaul of our B and B website as well. Learning from a book and YouTube videos is not the most efficient way to create exactly what you want. While a tutorial book is having me create a website for a fictitious ice cream company, with 3 different flavors in 3 different types of cones and sandwiches, it is stealing my precious time from the final creation. 

After advertising for a Joomla! tutor locally, I did receive a number of offers. One such was from a retired British man who is living in the far reaches of Hungary in a small village I had never heard of before. With the power of the Internet, we have been able to collaborate successfully. 

Nigel not only has the Joomla! technology down to a science, but he has a great eye for design. As  hesitant as I am to admit it, web design is not my forte, though I do have an inherent sense for what design is appealing and which are total turn-offs. Nigel's suggestions have been top-notch. Using Skype, we have been able to create the site that I would have wanted, but would not have been able to accomplish without expert advice. I cannot wait to have the official "unveiling", but it won't happen until it is complete.

This, therefore, has been a primary reason for my absence. When I have free time to coordinate with Nigel's schedule, I am playing student. Nigel is quick and professorial in giving me plenty of homework. He has created two identical sites using different names on his own server, allowing us to work simultaneously as he leads me through the process.  

When I am not co-constructing, I have an obsession and feeling of obligation to create as much content as possible to ensure Nigel that I am serious about my commitment to this endeavor. This does take time away from blogging, but I will try not to be neglectful in the future for fear of readers' concerns expressed and unexpressed. Oh, right! There are the  teaching obligations too. Lest we forget, that is my primary responsibility.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Feeling Like an Underachiever?


If you have suffered from feeling like an underachiever, this will really put you over the edge. Take a look at this.

I wonder if she bought them a wedding gift too or just gave them a certificate for the next life event they share. God, I hope they both say "I do" after all that work.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Informational Overload


While I am slaving over a hot computer recreating our website and tossing in a student's papers here and there, Ron is in the kitchen playing on his computer. Just because I have told the students, I really don't care what you thought of the movie, the essay is supposed to be a sociological analysis of the time that surrounds the plot. Their dribble is causing me to dribble onto to the keyboard as the glazed look spreads from my forehead down to my chin. 

Salvation came when my e-mail notifier showed I've Got Mail, but no I don't use AOL. Ron, who is forty feet away sent me a link to a video he is getting hooked on. Apparently, his "To Do" list has been corrupted, leading him to believe he has too much time on his hands. 

Well, the video he sent is below, but after I laughed, it did make me think. How much information do we take in, but yet never use it for meaningful communication? This of course with my love for flow of conscientiousness brought my thoughts to information overload. Years ago, I remember the 'experts' stating that the information generated in one day is more than we could read in a lifetime. That was before FaceBook and Twitter, even.

After a search, I found an interesting article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education called Information Overload, Then and Now dated November 28, 2010. It is linked here.

Here is the video responsible for all of this.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

An Example of American Inefficiency


In regard to the last post where I pointed out the inefficiency of Hungary, this time it is America's turn.
The State of California is in a horrendous economic situation. It seems as a cost cutting measure, they have decided to hire the under-educated and perhaps illiterate populace where they can offer lower wages, while putting a little shine on their unemployment stats.

Our of fear of retribution, I will not detail the situation, but to say that I  still hold a professional license int the State of California. My license is up for renewal in August, but in January I received a notice stating that the new law requires that I be fingerprinted before my renewal date. Included with this notice was a form:
Request for Exemption from Mandatory Electronic Fingerprint Submission Requirement

The accompanying letter states that if you have a reasonable request for not being fingerprinted, you can submit the form for an exclusion. I filled out the form with the following reason I thought I should be exempt from this requirement.
1. When I was hired to be a college instructor in CA, I had to be fingerprinted. That was in 1987.
2. When I applied for my Hungarian residency, I had to be fingerprinted and cleared by the FBI first. I did that in 2006.
3. The US Embassy will not do fingerprinting of US citizens, only foreigners. (How is that for logic?)
4. Finding a law enforcement agency here willing to fingerprint non-criminals is like finding a polar bear in the South Pole.
5. Certainly, my prints could not have changed since number 1 or 2 above. 

Yesterday, I received my request back with a standard form from probably someone who has yet learned to operate a computer independently, but has mastered the use of a yellow highlighter marker.

These were the reasons I was denied an exemption from being fingerprinted again.
No fingerprints were included with your request. Please refer to the attached instructions and have your fingerprints taken on the enclosed card. Duh, please look up exemption in your CA dictionary. I think the definition is the same as in English.

Second item:
The $32 fee for Visa/Immigration clearance was not included with your request. Yoohoo, did you miss the part that my license shows I am a citizen?

The third item was 'other' for those miscellaneous bits of stupidity not covered in any of the other pre-printed lines that just needed to be checked off. 
Other: Cannot process without fingerprints. Here is a print card.
What is really unnerving is that all other items on this rejection form are related to foreign adoptions. I have this grave fear that I comply and send in my fingerprints, they just may send me a baby in return.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Where is the logic here?


It doesn't matter where you live, good efficiency experts could turn around a city, county, country if it were not for politicians. 

Look at these for example:
Budapest's Museum of Applied Arts in "catastrophic" condition 
Read more here
Funding woes push Liszt Academy of Music to brink of bankruptcy
Read more here
Public area maintenance workers now inspecting BKV tickets
Read more here
BKV Ticket Inspectors Get Discounted Pass for Tourist Extortion
Read more here
BKV, the company that runs all of the Budapest transportation has been bankrupt for some time, yet
Metro, railway workers get raises while teachers get pink slips
Read more here

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Google Doodles


Last month Google had a few of their innovative doodles displaying their logo in commemoration of particular people or events. The doodles differ depending on the country or region, but some are global. Here in March, there was the Houdini doodle celebrating the anniversary of his birth. I let that one disappear without notice. Next still in March was a doodle celebrating Robert Bunsen, the inventor of the Bunsen burner. Each time I opened Google, my computer overheated, so that one was ignored.

Today, however, Google has outdone themselves with the ultimate doodle that unravels memories that have been tangled in the deep dark spiderwebs of my subconscious. You will see it at the bottom, but to avoid the suspense, it is the 119th anniversary of the ice cream sundae.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Speaking of That


I had mentioned the cost of luggage check-in at the airlines. I found this chart by Hipmunk, a flight search engine that seems to be appearing everywhere all of a sudden. The reason is apparent once you try it. The searches are incredibly visual aiding excellent decision making. They now have apps for smart phones too. Clicking on the picture will make it larger. I wish that worked with other things. ;  ) If you want it even BIGGER, go here.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

The Money Comes and the Money Goes


We saved about five hundred Euros by going to Immigration with Laszlo, thus avoiding using a service. This necessitated our spending the money elsewhere. 

We bought tickets to The Netherlands for a quick spring break holiday on WizzAir. Not the bargain it once was, the tickets were 220 Euros for both of us round trip. Yet, there is an added fee for if you want to check in at the airport (7.50 Euros) as opposed to online, which is free

Then you need to decide ahead of time how many bags you will check and pay for them in advance or pay a higher fee at the airport. There is no such thing as a free lunch and the airlines want you to know there is no such thing as a free baggage check-in either. We chose one suitcase to be handed over for ten Euros additional, added to the ticket cost. I know that I have yet to read the fine print on the carry-on regulations, so my backpack is going to cost us more, I can just feel it.

Regardless, we will fly into Eindhoven on a Thursday morning, and then take the train to Amsterdam. Saturday plans are to train to Leiden and take the bus to Keukenhof  for the day. We were able to get our tickets online. This will be my third time to Keukenhof and Ron's second. My camera cannot wait to go. 

On Monday, our flight is not until early evening, so we'll return to Eindhoven to spend the day with American friends who are living there. 

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The Days of Our Lives


If you read the last post, you know we had phone issues. Being telecommuicatingly challenged, reinforcements needed to be called in. Ron called the cable company again. They sent out a technician with equitable terms for service. If it were the cable company's problem, no charge. If it were our phone and not within the lines, then it would cost 4,500 Huf. Before leaving CA, I had a private contractor telephone repair man that charged $25/hour to step through the door. That was a bargain compared to the $45/hour the phone company wanted. Hence, 4,500 Huf is Monopoly money in comparison. Oh, right, my salary here is Monopoly money in comparison too. I forget that at times.

It was our phone. Add that to the shopping list. Shop for a phone. According to the box, the phone menu is available in 16 languages. Great! Get it home, open the box. The only instructions are in Hungarian. Apparently, the phone will communicate with you in English, if you know just how to push its buttons (therapist humor). 

After an hour of searching online, the only manual I could find was through a company that sold manual. This manual would be $32.95 plus tax. The phone was only $45. Keep searching. 

I checked Panasonic's website. This model is not a US model, so forget that. Trying the UK list of models, there was nothing there either. Hunt, hunt, hunt and bingo, I found the model number and the manual. Cripes, it is only available in Hungarian. What is this conspiracy? 

After rooting through the Panasonic Global site, peeling off layer after layer of sub-topics like an Internet onion, I found an e-mail address. I shot off an e-mail with a pathetic note to warm the coldest corporate hearts. 

"I have trusted in your products for years, so I invested in one of your phones. However, I was disappointed to find that though the box shows English and the phone can be programmed in sixteen languages, I have no instruction manual to learn how to operate it. Until I get one, all I can appreciate about the phone is the dial tone. Please help me with this matter."

Within minutes, my inbox has a response. 
Thank you for contacting us concerning your recent phone purchase. You can receive a manual in English for $32.95 plus tax. If you would like to proceed, click here. 

Some real Panasonic person heard my pleas, because I did receive an English manual later in the day. The time wasters in life are just incredible and that ain't no April Fools Day joke either.

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