Monday, March 22, 2010

on non-hiatus

I do this thing whenever I'm home where I don't really blog because, this is mostly for people back home to see what I'm up to so why blog when I am here in front of them. But that's a half-truth since I can't see everyone and I don't actually write about everything I do and see in my travels to wherever land. That latter part became even more apparent to me when a super commenter called me out on my lack of local cultural absorption and alleged that I was a "typical American." Well, I guess the commenter never made it to the final paragraph of this post that was written shortly after my arrival in Hungary. Such is life, but it is inspiring me to collect my thoughts and write about some of the things I will remember fondly about Hungary and Szeged in particular.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

coming home (for a bit)

I am leaving Hungary tomorrow, a little too soon and too rushed for my liking, but such is how things are sometimes. There's enough good fortune in my life that this is hardly a great tragedy, simply a matter of being so close, but so far. I'll be back in the Bay Area until the 29th, more or less. Still rocking the 505 cell phone.

Now repeatedly listening to Joni Mitchell's California and 2Pac's California Love. They totally go together. And when played backwards on a loop at the same time, they harmonize with The Dark Side of the Moon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

to do in California

What should I do while in California? Leave suggestions in the comments.

Things I need to do for work:
* get documents translated to French (as it is very hard to find a certified translator for Hungarian, English, and French)
* obtain copy of my extensive criminal record
* possibly leftover medical blather

Things I plan to get:
* new socks
* jeans
* sleep

Places I plan to eat:
* In-N-Out
* good Chinese and/or Thai food
* open to suggestions

strategic packing

If you have not already done so, go read my last two posts to get up to speed. Otherwise, you'll wonder what I'm talking about here.

I'm in the midst of trying to complete a handover at work, let clients know I am leaving, and generally pack up all my stuff that I have here. The work handover is pretty self-explanatory, right? Letting clients know is also mostly self-explanatory but I should say mine is the face they normally see at meetings. And packing, well, it's something I'm fairly good at now.

I have done a good job of holding the party line and not acquiring very many things while here. It helps to be a heartless and non-sentimental robot. In fact, outside of soft goods (sheets, towels) and kitchen-ware, I have added almost nothing to my realm while here. Additionally, I have managed to wear a good number of socks and other clothing basics down to near-rag status and these items will not find their way into any of my bags or boxes. However, I have discovered that I possess way more black and brown socks than I think is necessary. Additionally, almost all the clothes I plan to wear for the next few days will be items consigned to the trash pile when I leave. Furthermore, my clothing is getting a good review and several more items will be left here for donation. Perfectly useful, maybe a little worn, but just clothes I never wear and will definitely never wear in Congo. Really now, I only wore turtlenecks in the high desert winters of Farmington. I do have some jackets/coats that will make their return/arrival to California where they can just hang out in a closet and look cool, or possibly warm. That average low of 65 degF in July (remember: southern hemisphere) is going to be awful tough to cope with.

Everything will eventually be whittled down for the plane ride into two suitcases, a carry-on (a small proper carry-on), and my personal item (a backpack which I concede is on the large side but we've all seen purses the size of Flemish rabbits that qualify as "personal items" that could resupply commando teams if air-dropped. This is even with my awesome nesting plan for a bag within a bag and I'll likely leave a bag back in California. This will make the bag heavy, but one way or another, it's either an overweight bag or a third checked bag and the fee be damned since it's getting expensed.

Of course, my suitcase mastery is only part of the equation. The other part if the crafty packing of two boxes from work with ostensibly mostly work-related materials, but there's always wiggle room. The truth is that blankets and towels are excellent for packing with books and binders of papers because they help to pad the books and also to provide lighter filler material because a box of nothing but books is heavy and will likely break. My life, somehow condensed into a Ford Fiesta's cargo space worth of stuff. Charming.

Monday, March 15, 2010

will be in California soon - most likely

If things go moderately like a plan I am trying to put together, I will be in California either Thursday or Friday of this week. I will be around for about 10 days and either leave on Monday, March 29 or Wednesday, March 31. As explained in my previous post, I have accepted a transfer at work.

moving to Pointe Noire

I have accepted a transfer at work and I am moving to Pointe Noire, Congo. See next post for travel information. I'll consider discussing it more later, but I've got a lot on my mind and a lot to do and very little time left here in Hungary. Basically, we're slow here and we're making cuts and I'm mobile so therefore locally cuttable which means globally transferable. That is all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

wtf is with Fiorina's ads?

For starters, I will admit to being severely out of touch with California's political situation, mostly by virtue of not having lived there since 2004. However, I still like to pretend that it's home of sorts, even though the train-wreck of a state budget makes me cringe. But can someone tell me what is going on with Carly Fiorina's political ads? I'm so confused by the demon sheep ad that attacks Tom Campbell but really seems to be evoking some themes about furry culture. And this latest hot air balloon ad on Barbara Boxer is like a crazy mash-up between a Terry Gilliam movie and Helena Bonham Carter's Red Queen character from the recent Alice in Wonderland movie. So strange.

Pi day, mmmm, pie

Yes, like the title says. It is very delicious. But not a traditional dessert in Hungary.

daylight savings? not exactly

For all you State-siders, while it may be the start daylight savings time this weekend, we here in Europe will twiddle our thumbs for two more weeks. But will I? Not exactly. Updates soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

epic line at work

Epic line from a colleague in Germany about a pressure test bay being constructed at that location. Very briefly, a pressure test bay is for testing high-pressure (15K+ psi) equipment and needs to be able to, um, not fall down if a piece of equipment catastrophically fails during a test. Line uttered:

Those Germans sure know how to build a good bunker.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

will likely switch back to PC one day

I'm not a Mac person. This is my conclusion after having owned one for one-and-a-half years. I suppose my issue with Quicken is part of the issue, but I'm generally not very impressed with the whole package. I see myself going back to a PC the next time I buy a computer, probably in 12-18 months since this one isn't very old and is perfectly serviceable. It's just that I'm a PC guy and while I'm not much of a computer person in the end (I use them, but I don't tinker these days), I know what I like and I like PCs.

Perhaps my biggest reservation with my laptop has nothing to do with the Macbook itself, but rather the incredibly twatty commercials and the pretentious air that they constantly project. Yes, you make beautiful hardware and "user-friendly" software, but you don't need to be such wankers about it. (I'm not sure about the goofy references, perhaps it's some British comedy bender that I'm on.) Hey, Justin Long, no one likes you and your wretched romantic comedies.

I dislike how often Safari crashes, the weak software options (Quicken, MATLAB, CAD programs, etc), the one-button mouse, browsing through Finder and general folder searching/sorting/moving about, the non-games (even though I don't have time to play), and the overall anti-Flash stance Apple has taken. I'm still torn on iPhoto since it's a bit of a black hole. It's great for sorting photos, but I like to modify copies, move them about and deliberately save them in different places. Also, while every laptop is going this direction, Apple has fully embraced the widescreen trend that is sort of annoying. Most of my work flow is vertical, not horizontal.

It's not all bad. iTunes is better on a Mac, VLC is not too shabby, and after all, it is a nice looking computer. I'll also admit I have never invested the time to really get to know the Mac system and appreciate the benefits (whatever they are) of OS X. But in the end, I'm a PC guy and while that may change, it just doesn't seem likely.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

quicken for mac = disappointment

I bought Quicken Essentials for Mac recently. Actually, I bought it a couple months ago and the release date was a week ago. I am deeply disappointed with, well, almost everything. It's just so incapable. No foreign currency support? Where do I live? What money do I spend? Even if I lived Stateside, I still travel and incur expenses in foreign currencies. Do Mac users not travel overseas? I am also unable to manually create a brokerage account related to my company stock program. Well, that's not strictly true. I was able to create an account, but cannot seem to add anything to it so it leaves me with a name and nothing else. I'm having a similar issue related to my 401(k). I do not expect to be able to download transactions since they are in closed systems, but at least let me set things manually. Hey, it might be possible, but it sure isn't obvious and the help function is less than useless.

I suppose I'm most upset by reviews that call the program more Mac-like and tout how it was built specifically for Mac and easy to use. Um, ok. See, the problem with that is that I actually don't like most Mac programs. I realize this is the result of years of PC use, but frankly, well, this is for a later date. The program is so thoroughly dumbed down as to be nearly useless. And the parts that are usable are frustrating and not intuitive.

Monday, March 08, 2010

epic sea monster

If only I could buy this painting. Hey, I might not know great art, but I know what I like.

Friday, March 05, 2010

natty gas storage again

Again, like so often, it's time to take a look at what's happening with natural gas storage this week. Looking good, though perhaps it depends on who you are. Storage levels are back in the vicintity of three of the last four years. Only 2008 in recent history was significantly lower than the current level at this time of the year.

What does this really mean? Well, it means an okay year for the oil and gas industry in the US, but nothing phenomenal. I expect the general economy to stay weak since pretty much every meaningful metric shows softness. More on that later? Probably.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

mergers and movements

I suppose the moderately big corporate news is last week's announcement of a merger between Schlumberger and Smith International. And in a not unrealted move, that announcement came shortly after a new COO was named along with some interal restructuring.

They can call it a merger instead of a Borg-like acquisition, but that seems like semantics to me. Impact to me is essentially zero for now though I can envision a bit of a trickle down as a result of the joint venture Schlumberger and Smith had called MI-SWACO.

As for movements, everything in motion, but for discussion later. For now, let's just see a show of hands of people in California who I need to visit.