Thursday, April 30, 2009

haha and jaja

We have this chat program at work that's ostensibly for work. Of course, it helps facilitate getting in touch with certian people in other parts of the world or maybe just other parts of the office. However, there's always room for some humor and when I want to indicate amusement, I'll usually type 'haha' mostly because I have an irrational disliek of 'lol'. However, the Latin Americans at the office type 'jaja' which seemed strange at first but of course makes perfect sense.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

taxes! and visas (not credit cards)

Don't worry, I paid them months ago. Well, I got a refund months ago and it was glorious. I used it to help stimulate the American economy by saving it and then moving out of the country. The fact that April 15th came and went was so essentially meaningless to me. In other news, I'm finally on my new cost center for work so now I technically work here even though I've had a visa for more than a month.

Speaking of visas, I had a moderately amusing experience at the border of another country last week which will remain nameless to protect something, perhaps our top secret business plans. I was with my manager who is not from a European country. I, being the intrepid and beloved American, was allowed easy entry into this country where I do not need a visa (where I actually went over a month ago on an initial client visit). My visa-less manager was not so fortunate and so we turned around, went back to the Hungarian border controls, and dropped him off. (Don't worry, transportation for him to get back to Szeged was arranged. It's not like I left him there all day.) In all fairness, he didn't think he needed a visa for two basic reasons. The first is that he was pretty sure he didn't need one based on past experience. The second was that he called our travel agency just to make sure and they said he didn't need a visa. But times change. Well, they changed on Janauary 1, 2009 when his country and/or this country decided that a visa was now required for people from his country to enter into that country.

This actually reminds me of the multiple visas in the passport of one of our engineer trainees. He's from Turkey and has five different pages in his passport given up to visa pages. And they're not even close to being in chronological order. I'm not sure what it is about people who get to put stuff in passports, but there must be some enormous practical joke where they deliberately use stamps with barely any ink and never put them in order. Or if it is in order, they've skipped several pages.

because we all need resource infoporn

See here for a ginormous chart of the world's remaining metal resources, courtesy of the fine folk at The Big Picture and one of the commenters posted this link about water supplies. Now, take all this with a really big grain of salt as the chart makes no reference to improved/increased recycling rates, better recovery technology, alternate materials, etc. According to some, we should have hit peak oil years ago, but technological advancements keep staving that off. That and economic downturns.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

dissed on Twitter

I cannot believe I got dissed on Twitter. By my own brother no less. But I suppose it's better than getting dissed by some moron who thinks pranking people is high art.

As for my own feelings on Twitter, I think this amusing video sums them up quite well. The best lines come early on:
"What are you doing"
"I'm twittering. Didn't you get my tweets? I just twotted (or twoted?) all over the place."
"What's twitter?"
"The latest social networking, micro-bloggy thingy."
"Not interested."
"Damnit Derek! You are young, hip, tech-savvy twenty-something and I will not let you turn into my father."

That and the very final line of the video. Well, I guess it's actually the second to last line if you count an exasperated sigh as a line. Epic.

I am somewhat amused because my father is arguably more tech-savvy than myself. He of the ebay account and more computers assembled than I will likely ever own. (I'm hoping the computers I own last a long time.) Of course, I have this blog that goes off into the intertubes so I cannot be too critical of Twitter, which is just blogging on a small scale.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

driving up slopes

Still needs work. I had a moderately terrifying experience trying to get out of a parking garage in Budapest a couple days ago. From now on, only above-ground parking for me!

Friday, April 10, 2009

slick floors and shopping carts

The big Tesco in town where I exchange currency for goods and services has slick floors and shopping carts which makes for an entertaining combination. I think I subconciously go only on days where I am wearing my brown shoes which have very little traction. This makes for a lot of running and sliding around the store with the shopping cart, like the overgrown kid that I am.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

my feet are enormous, maybe

I recently purchased a new pair of sneakers. For those of you who never noticed, and I'd be surprised if you did, my footwear of choice is size 12 (US) adidas running/cross-training sneakers. I like their fit, especially the width of adidas shoes which are generally wider than Nike models. A size 12 in the US is 11.5 in the UK and 46 2/3 in Europe. (Handy link) They do not sell fractional numbers here so it's either a 46 or a 47. Or just a 46. I was in a sporting goods store which had a good selection of shoes and found some shoes I liked in size 46 and didn't find any 47s so I tried what them on and they fit well enough. I looked around at other shoes and other boxes and didn't see any larger than a 46. Maybe people here have generally smaller feet or maybe the larger sizes are kept in the back. I'm not sure, but I have been looking at more peoples' shoes.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

implicit right turns and non-fat milk, or lack thereof

Evidently, I have been making some right turns that are not strictly legal. I haven't been turning on red lights or not yielding to traffic. I had a green light to go straight, so I assumed it was perfectly fine to also turn right. No, not true. There was no sign or marker that indicated a right turn was illegal. Apparently, the standard is that you can only turn right at an intersection with a stop light when you have a green signal light that points to the right. There are no implicit right turns allowed.

I have been slowly figuring out where everything is kept in the Tesco I shop at for my needed food stuffs. One thing I have not found is non-fat milk. Of course, the standard in the States is 2%, 1% and 0% and you can find all three in most grocery stores and even some convenience stores. Here, it seems to be a choice between 1.5%, 2.8% and the very enticing 3.5%. As someone who grew up drinking 0% and finds 1% to be distinctly creamy tasting, it is a little strange. I will keep looking for 0% but I do not expect to find any.

They also sell this milk that is good for six months and is not refrigerated. Now, I'm not sure if it needs to be refirgerated after you open it or it will still keep for six months after you open it, but the date on the carton is six months from now. Why someone needs milk like this and why it is the dominant form of milk sold is not clear to me. Perhaps milk drinking is less common here or refrigerators are just really small. I haven't gone into random peoples' homes to find out.

Monday, April 06, 2009

my washing machine has no instructions

My washing machine has no instructions. I'm sure it came with some. The first tenant in this apartment may have even recieved those instructions. But alas, I do no thave them. And even if I did, I'm not so sure they would be in English. However, thanks to the awesome power of the internet, I have found a copy of the instruction manual for the Zanussi ZWF 185W washing machine. In Russian.

All is not lost. Thanks again to the awesome power of the internet, I have managed to translate the critical parts of the manual, you know, about the warranty and so forth. Or what each of the little pictures on the control dial mean. And I didn't do too badly. I sort of guessed at 'cotton' (with a range of temperature choices) and 'delicates', though I didn't guess 'synthetics' proeprly. I'm not so sure the translation that gave me 'fur' is correct as the picture looks like a bundle of yarn so I think it might mean yarn or knit items. The 'gargling' seems to be a rinse-only cycle and the 'squeezing' looks like a spin-only cycle based on the little spiral picture. Though I'm less certain because 'discharge' follows next and who knows what happens if I try that setting. I suppose I could just try it, but that's a bit daring for my tastes.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

the blog, the location

In case it wasn't clear, I am no longer living in the States. I am now living in Hungary after accepting a transfer for work.

Unrelated to that, I've got some pretty strange commenters on this blog. Though I am pretty sure I know who they are. More specifically, I'm pretty sure who the one person with many pseudonyms is. Also, the spell checker in Blogger seems to think that because I appear to be blogging from Hungary, I must want a Hungarian spell check run. Not exactly. I'm trying to figure out how to change that setting along with a couple other items I'm not so thrilled with.

Friday, April 03, 2009

these windows are pretty good too

A couple days ago, I raved about the ATMs here. I'm also digging the windows that we've got in the office. While the building is sort of old, the windows are moderately new with double-paned glass. Their best feature is their dual-opening mechanism. You can turn the handle to the side and swing the window open like a door or turn the handle all the way up and the window tips open like a garbage chute. Yes, I know these windows have been around for a while. But I have never spent any significant time around windows like this. Remember, this is about me.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I grew up driving an automatic transmission vehicle. In the States, every vehicle I ever drove for work was also an automatic. That included many different pick-ups along with the awesomeness that was the Ford Crown Victoria. Here, automatics are not so common. After some chagrinning practice in the yard, I have been driving around for the last couple weeks in a manual transmission vehicle. I kind of put it off since I was still living in the hotel and my predecessor was still here so I didn't have a regular vehicle anyway so I just sort of side-stepped the matter. But, now that it's just me, living by myself in this apartment, I need to drive. Last week, it was a Skoda Octavio. This week, and in the future, a VW Passat. (Both are diesel station wagons. It's very hip, especially the pale blue color.) I'm getting better, though I suppose I really couldn't get worse than my first day in the yard. Apparently the key is being smooth and steady off the clutch. Hollywood has lied to me once again. Dan you Transporter movies!

I'd say there are two basic metrics to concern myself with. The first is the first gear success percentage. Coming off of a dead stop, how often am I successfully getting into first gear without stalling the vehicle. The Skoda was very sensitive in this respect, more so than most vehicles according to my colleagues. This number is steadily rising, though every once in a while I lose focus. Hopefully, driving the Passat full time will allow me to smooth out my technique. The second metric is smooth shift percentage, meaning how often am I moving from gear to gear with little to no jerkiness, basically an indicator of two things: my smoothness coming off the clutch and my ability to match the RPMs with some reasonable accuracy.

Starting from a dead stop while facing uphill is still a work in progress. Thankfully, this half of the country is pretty flat.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

these ATMs are awesome

The standard ATM in the States only doles out $20 bills. It's adequate, but sometimes you just need small bills. Small, non-sequential, unmarked bills. Because throwing rolls of pennies onto the stage upsets some people. But at least a $20 is small enough that you're hard-pressed to find an establishment that doesn't take a $20 or would even hesitate to take one. My first few times using an ATM here (no transaction fees!), I took out 50,000 HUF and it came in five 10,000 HUF bills. Each bill is about $45 and many places seem to struggle to make change for such bills and/or balk at taking them. I noticed the ATMs listed 25,000 HUF as one of the default options so I figured hey, it does bills other than 10K so let's see if I can get five 5,000 HUF bills. Um, no. I get one 5,000 bill and one 20,000 HUF bill. I shared this tale of woe with one of my colleagues and he clued me in an a secret. You can get 1,000 HUF bills out of an ATM and you can get them by requesting something like 19,000 HUF from the ATM and you end up with one 10K, one 5K, and 4 1K bills. Success!