Month: September 2005

Paying Hungarian bills

phone bill

Bills here fall into the category of what seems normal now, but back when we first arrived, they seemed pretty wacky.

First of all, compared to the volume of mail we received in the U.S., usually measured in units of pounds per day, we get hardly any mail here and even fewer bills. This is a good thing.

The few bills we dispatch can be paid in one of two ways: bank transfer or the post office bank. Since we get paid in dollars, moving money into a Forint bank account to do the first option would be expensive. Therefore we pay bills at the post office, and that is whacked. Or at least it was for the first few months here. If paying bills from my desk at home was a pain, going to post office here is worse!

Only now I’m used to it, and I don’t really mind.

This amazed me: a $100 laptop for kids

This amazed me. Don’t miss the pictures of this thing either!

What struck me the most about this was not the device, although it is very cool, but the developer’s passion and sense of identity.

As a part of what he says is his life’s most important work, MIT Media Labs director, Nicholas Negroponte. is on course to deliver a $100 laptop to the people who need it most: the world’s children.

My first thought was, “Where will the data come from? How will this thing connect?”

Between WiFi, WiMax, 3G, 4G, etc, there are so many people working on the connectivity problem — regimes are changing, there’s global competition, connectivity is happening — [that problem] doesn’t need me, MIT or the Media Lab” – Negroponte, the developer

Article: Move over Microsoft, Dell. The $100 PC cometh. From MIT. | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Images: MIT’s $100 laptop | News Images on ZDNet

The customer is always right – but who is the customer?

Every day I learn something new, and today I learned that Google considers the customer always right.

I thought I was the customer from Google’s perspective, as I am involved in purchasing ads from them for our Russian language site, GodLovesRussia.com. Well, no. Actually I’m not “the customer” from Google’s perspective. Or at least I’m not always right. My customers are always right, and since Google feels confident that they have access to what my customers are thinking, via their database of most frequently searched terms, they now qualify my judgements against their own data. (“My customers” would be anyone potentially clicking on the site we are advertising on Google.)

For example, if I buy the word, “???” (God), for my ad campaign and Google finds that few people search on that word, they change their price upwards. Instead of $0.10 per click, the price might become $0.50 per click whenever someone clicks on our ad.

Such is the dilemna we are apparantly facing with our GodLovesRussia.com ad campaign. Google doesn’t like our keywords and has increased their prices.

I’m not sure whether to be grateful for their service or angry at their arrogance. Regardless, Google.com is now the 800 pound gorilla in the Internet search world, and if you don’t like how they do things it doesn’t really matter.

Confessions of a drug user

This morning I woke up feeling worse than any of the previous three days during which I have had this cold. Since keeping my plans is generally more important to me than adjusting to reality, I decided to go ahead and keep my three scheduled meetings for the day. Knowing I needed all the help available, I got hopped up on coffee and headed for the office. By the time I got there I was ready to take on the world! This was all caffeine-induced – but fun while the ride lasted.

Lunch today was a planning meeting with Tom and our boss, Dorsey. We went to the Mici Grill where I had a large Coke and a coffee. The buzz continued.

Now I am reaping the consequences of my drug use. I can’t sleep. It’s 12:30 am, I’m tired, and I’m nowhere close to drifting off.

…and I’d do it again for another day of good meetings!

Grocery store Zamboni’s

one of the 'zamboni' machines at the local supermarket
Buying groceries here in Hungary is different in many ways than grocery shopping in the U.S., but probably one of the most unique things are the Zamboni machines. They don’t condition ice, instead they clean the floors in constant, random motion. They drive around perpetually like an indoor street sweeper. At some point during any trip to the market you’ll have to dodge one, and then you’ll have to avoid slipping on the wet tiles left in their wake. But, hey, our floors are clean!

Trash Day in Budaörs

Twice a year all the houses here burp out semi-valuable refuse for anyone to pick through and cart off.

It’s a great system. If you think your unwanted stuff has any value, the scavengers will either confirm or refute that view.

After sitting out on the curb for several days, the garbage trucks come along and haul away what is left. By then if no one wanted it, it’s trash.

Yesterday I walked outside with a partially working toaster and a plastic trash bin. They never even made it onto the pavement. I just handed them to the family going through this pile.

Blog-dev is back!

Last December I started playing around with WordPress software as an alternative to using Blogger.com to produce this blog. Shortly after I began, comment spammers made it impossible to keep the blog open, so I gave up.

Inspired recently by Rob, I downloaded and installed the latest version of WordPress and found it can do what I want. I first installed a comment spam blocker, Spam Karma 2 to keep the blog-scum away. Next I downloaded a few themes which can now be swapped out with a single mouse click.

Best of all, the new version allows publishing multiple pages and multiple blogs. I’m sure the old version did, too, but I never learned how.

It won’t be long before I can switch to WordPress. In the mean time, take a look at the development blog. I’ll swap out the themes every few days to see what looks good.

Now almost everything looks like the blog

For a long time I’ve wanted to make the entire Hertzlers.com site look like the Hertzler Blog. Being limited in web design skills and time, it took me a while to get it done, and I did it a bit unconventionally. I used Blogger.com to produce most of the main pages. Many pages still have the old format, and none of the photogalleries have the new look, but hopefully this is an improvement.

The most recent version of WordPress allows publishing to multiple pages. My next step is to switch to it and re-do this site – eventually. Rob switched his blog, so I know it can be done!

Hike up K?hegy

Audrey, Kendall and I hiked up K?hegy, the hill behind our village, today. It’s one of my favorite things to do with Audrey, and we always stop on the way home for ice cream. It was fun having Kendall along today.

After two years I learned today what “K?” means: rock. “Hegy” means hill, so K?hegy would be “rock hill.”

When we got to the top we played hide and seek. I thought I won after it took them 17 minutes to find me (hiding in a bush), but they found a cave I didn’t know about and stayed hidden from me for 19 minutes.

Lots of fun!

Some geek action this week

This year our ministry budget (the part that comes from CCC-Orlando) had money to replace my laptop. While it is nice to have a new computer, making the transition is a big pain, and it takes time over the course of a couple weeks to get everything installed to my preferences. But tonight I had a geek highlight; I synchronized my Palm (handheld) computer with my laptop using the Bluetooth wireless communication protocol. Woohoo!

If this wasn’t enough, my old laptop is transitioning to Hertzler family use (requiring more configuration changes), and our other 5 year old computer is also getting an operating system upgrade, requiring complete reinstallation of everything.

Rather than focus on the drudgery, I am excited about other highlights of that process. Last night I bought an optical USB mouse for $5 (999 Forint). I was unaware that ANY piece of useful electronics could be purchased for this low price in Europe. The rule of thumb here is that anything electronic (or electronic related) costs double what it would in the US.

Never made it to Vienna

This weekend had been our planned anniversary (17) celebration in Vienna. The idea was to get out of town and spend some time together in an easy environment. Vienna had other ideas. Hotel prices doubled since our last such visit, and we finally concluded it wasn’t worth it.

But having made arrangments for Andrew and Audrey to be gone at friends all weekend we realized how much fun we could have with all the money we didn’t spend (on the hotel and train) if we stayed in Budapest.

Last night’s highlight was dinner at the Greshem CoffeeHouse (located in the Four Seasons Hotel at the east end of the Chain Bridge). It was one of the best dinners we’ve had, and it didn’t even use up what we would have spent on train tickets getting to Vienna. This morning we’re off to the Marriott’s breakfast buffet. That won’t even get us through what we saved by not spending the first night in Vienna! This is fun!

Tom and Jerry go to the hospital

Shortly after our return from Kiev, Tom’s back decided it didn’t enjoy the ride. On Friday morning he coughed then found himself on the floor with a back spasm. The back pain had begun several weeks before, but it became acute at that moment. He recovered for about a week, but after a second similar incident of severe pain decided to see a doctor. Valerie had made a commitment to substitute teach at the school, so I took him to the doctor.

The doctor’s office was beautiful. It looked more like an embassy than a doctor’s office. One of the nicest places I’ve been. Apparantly he is a world-renowned back doctor.

Doctor said Tom needed an MRI, now, followed by a series of five “infusions” – which we assumed was a Hungarian way to say “shot.” It wasn’t.

Finding the MRI machine required driving down the road to the hospital. Picture an old city VA hospital for the setting. The place worked as a hospital, but it was an amazing contrast to the doctor’s offices; at least fifty years old and still looking like when it was built. Yet World-Class Doctor ran this section of the hospital.

After finding the MRI room, no small challenge, and finishing the procedure, it was on to the infusion.

First they led Tom to a clean bed in a room with two other patients, possibly two WWII vets. One must have just had surgery judging by the bags hanging around his neck, and both were lying in their underwear. Next to Tom, on the nightstand, was the leftover meal of his neighbor, and there was no TV in the room. They hooked up an IV with his pain killing drip, and we waited for the next hour while it did its job.

When it was nearly over I realized it was my job to find a nurse since no one had checked back on Tom the whole time. The hall had become deserted, and no one had given us instructions for what to do. I hunted down a nurse and told her “done.” She came, disconnected things, then left. If she said something we didn’t understand it, so we sat there and waited to see if anything else would happen. Nothing else happened, so I found her again and asked what to do. “Nothing,” she said. “You can go.” So that was it. We went back to the car and drove home.

Shortly before the infusion another doctor gave Tom the MRI diagnosis. You’ll have to read Tom’s blog to find out what happened.

Funny Internet Debris

This was good writing:

EXCERPTS FROM THE DOG’S DAILY DIARY

8:00 am – Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9:30 am – Oh Boy! A car ride! My favorite!
9:40 am – Oh Boy! A walk! My favorite!
10:30 am – Oh Boy! A car ride! My favorite!
11:30 am – Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
12:00 noon – Oh Boy! The kids! My favorite!
1:00 pm – Oh Boy! The yard! My favorite!
4:00 pm – Oh Boy! The kids! My favorite!
5:00 pm – Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
5:30 pm – Oh Boy! Mom! My favorite!
6:00 pm – Oh Boy! Playing ball! My favorite!
6:30 pm – Oh Boy! Sleeping in master’s bed! My favorite!

EXCERPTS FROM THE CAT’S DAILY DIARY:

Day 283 Of My Captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture.

Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant. Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded; must try this at the top of the stairs.

In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair; must try this on their bed.

Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm, not working according to plan.

There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of “allergies.” Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait, it is only a matter of time…

Google test

The first step we decided to take toward a Russian language evangelistic site is a test; a Google test.

We’ll run ads on Google for two weeks pointing to this site, “GodLovesRussia.com“. We’ll see how God uses it. (And we’ll change the domain name to something more appropriate to Russian speakers in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Krgystan, etc.)

The English equivalent is here, “GodLovesTheWorld.com“.

Now, this type of approach runs counter-intuitively to how we would normally communicate with people. There is no pre-evangelism, no sensitivity to today’s post modern students’ thought, no options other than, “Yes, I’d like to accept Jesus.”

Yet, God has used this one approach to bring a higher percentage of visitors to indicate a decision for Christ than any other approach Campus Crusade has tried.

If this works, it simply means our job of producing an evangelistic site will be easier. The work of advertising the site and growing a network of email volunteers to respond to the site’s visitors is still ahead.

Kiev Soccer Match

One of the highlights of our time in Kiev was the Turkey vs. Ukraine World Cup Qualifying round soccer match. Turkey won, but Ukraine had more fun; they had already clinched their group’s bid for the World Cup, and they treated the game as a celebration.

What a blast!

New team

Kiev Team

Yesterday Tom and I formed a new team with Alex, Andrei, and Brian. The five of us committed to producing a Russian language Internet ministry that works to get a high number of visitors to an evangelistic site and mobilizes church volunteers to talk with the visitors there who want to begin a new relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a major step forward; something we have prayed about for two years!

Kiev is a great setting for starting this partnership, too.

Budapest Half Marathon

Csilla, Matt, and I ran the Budapest Half Marathon this morning. It is much more fun doing a race with friends! Csilla speaks Hungarian, too, so I wasn’t lost like last year.

If you were a fast Hungarian (finished the race in less than 90 minutes), Nike gave you a nice, red running shirt. If you were a fast foreigner you got nothing but the race shirt. I was neither, so my race shirt will have to do.

My net time this year, 1:35:46, was faster than last year, so I accomplished my goal. That’s me below, in the sunglasses, just before the finish line.

Finish Line

Tomorrow morning Tom and I are off to Kiev to meet Alex.

Jerry and Cathy; 17 years today!

Today marks the 17th year that I’ve had the privilege of being with my wonderful bride. She is my best friend and companion, and I love her more today than I did 17 years ago!

Cathy and I climbed a mountain near Ebensee, Austria* back in July of 1987. About a year later we married. Now 17 years later we live just a day’s drive from this significant spot in our history. At the time, if you told us we would be living here it would have been exactly what we expected. But life doesn’t always unfold the way we expect, and after a few years of life in the U.S. we figured Hungary was not in our future.

God has a way of keeping things together and bringing things around that amazes me.

*In doing a Google search on Ebensee, Austria today I discovered there were the ruins of a Nazi labor camp below us as we climbed this mountain together back in 1987.

New Orleans

Watching the events unfolding in New Orleans has completely disturbed me. Seeing the suffering, injustice, ingratitude, and senselessness leaves me confused. One thing seems clear, though. It only takes about three days to strip away the “goodness” in man’s soul. Put it under some pressure and all the filth comes out. In a way New Orleans is a picture of man’s relationship to God and his efforts to save us. We often lash out and attack the one trying to save us.

At least in New Orleans they know they are lost.

My brother in law found a National Geographic article, written about one year ago, that could have been a news report from this last week. UNBELIEVABLE! You have to read it!

Here is an excerpt:

“The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued.”

Click here to read the whole article.