Month: March 2005

6 in, 1 out, 4 to go

Two weeks ago there were 9 people waiting on Hungarian visas to attend MinistryNet. A lot of people began praying they would get their visas.

As of this morning, 6 got their visas, 1 decided to bail, and 4 are still pending.

The conference starts Sunday night. Keep praying for the remaining four. Austin traveled from Ghana to Nigeria and today he goes to London where he hopes to get it before coming to Hungary. Oumar went from Mali to Paris where he is waiting now for his visa. John should have received his in another North African city yesterday to which he traveled from his home town. And K___ we haven’t heard from at all recently.

Probably the most interesting one was someone coming from Kyrgyzstan. With all the recent unrest there (Tulip Revolution), it is surprising she was able to get a visa at all.

I’ll keep you posted on the score as it changes.

Tree thieves finish the job

what's left of the tree
Tree thieves finish the job
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

When I got home today I saw the tree thieves had returned and finished the job. Only this time we have their license plate number!

Our landlord, Peter, had already gone to the police station, and he said they weren’t too concerned. No one was hurt.

I gave him the license plate number I’d taken, and I’m curious to see if it makes any difference.

Now that there is nothing left to steal from our trees I suppose this thing is over. Since we rent, replacing these trees is happily not my job. And Peter installed a motion sensitive light for the driveway, so there is a little silver lining in it for us.

They keep coming!

When we first began planning MinistryNet we expected about 30 people to attend. Instead we are now over 60 attendees! We are still waiting on 7 people to secure visas for travel to Hungary, but 3 others who were iffy received theirs. One hopeful attendee concluded he wouldn’t get one – unless he was willing to travel to Indonesia (from the Philippines) on the possibility they would issue one there.
This week we’re doing the Week Prior Scramble. Today was all about faxing letters of invitation and hotel reservation confirmations to various Hungarian embassies around the world.

thought about Easter

Today Ronnie Stevens made an interesting observation (click here to listen to the whole thing) from John 20:9 that really struck me.

I put a lot of weight in the belief that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a historical event. Yet John, when he wrote his account of that time, referred to Scripture as the basis of his belief, not his experience of it or his later reunion with Jesus!

He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) – John 20:8,9

I take encouragement in this, given my distance in history from then – but my proximity to Scripture!

Annie sorts her food

2005-03-27 Annie sorts her food

Annie sorts her food

This may be signs of developing higher intelligence in our dog or simply another neurosis. Last night Annie began sorting her food into piles, visible in this picture. Her dog food has a mix of different flavored pieces, and we knew she liked some and left the others. Now she’s taken this to a new level, sorting the pieces into piles; like and don’t like.

While this might look like another cute doggie picture, it’s really Annie nearly having a nervous breakdown. I was far too encroached into her territory, and I was shining the flash focus light in her face. She didn’t know whether to chase the light or chase me out of her corner, so she tried doing both and kept hitting the camera with her nose.

some family business

Audrey's new hammock
Audrey’s hammock
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

One nice thing about rock-solid walls is that they can support a hammock! Today Audrey and I put up the one she bought from her teacher’s garage sale. She’s a happy camper now.

Andrew. Lately he’s sported the skater look. This is his latest cap, acquired from skater supply central, CCS.


Back from Vienna and Prague with some stories

“What impressed me was the busyness of the streets at all times of the day with people out walking.” – Jessica

“European non-smoking section: isolate you in a separate room and open the window!” – Diane

I picked them up this morning at Keleti Train Station, tired from the train ride back from Prague but happy from the adventure.

Keleti Train Station - Budapest, Hungary

In Prague they decided to take the night train back, but because of several factors weren’t able to get a sleeper car. So they rode all night in an 8-seater cabin. And to make the trip more fun, their ticket raised the hackles of two ticket checkers midway through the trip. It looked like they didn’t have a ticket for the train they were on , even though they did. Fortunately they weren’t kicked off in the middle of Slovakia in the middle of the night. THAT would have been an adventure!

Diane is a die-hard shopper. We went from the train station to the covered market (Vasarcsarnok), and she still had energy to shop!

A lead on the tree thieves

My lunch plans didn’t work out today, so I found myself at the office with nothing to eat. Good thing home is just 5 minutes away.

When I came back out my front door there was a man running across the street (from his car?) to a woman who was across the street picking up the pile of tree clippings I had thrown there a while ago. These were the tree clippings from the night when someone tried to steal them by cutting them right off the tree.

So I got their license plate number (camera was back at the office – d’oh!) and tried to stare them down. Maybe this is the beginning of the end for their tree branch smuggling operation. Hungary: DVL 275.

Off to Vienna with a cough

Jessica and Diane took the train to Vienna today. Last night Jessica acquired a cough, and this morning it got worse. By the time they got to Vienna she wasn’t feeling good at all. Hopefully it won’t affect the rest of their time in Vienna or in Prague.

St Matthews Cathedral – Budapest

This was one of the tour stops today for Jessica and Diane, our visiting guests. We topped the day off with dinner at the Adler where we also practiced our Hungarian with favorite waiter, Akos.

This picture is interesting probably only to me, as it is the first one at St. Matthew’s where I found a camera stand that allowed me to take a sharp picture (before compression) of the inside.

burning orange peels

burning orange peels
burning orange peels
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

We had our friend, Dorsey, over for dinner since his wife, Renee, is out of town. After dinner we had plowed through a pile of mandarin oranges, and someone brought up the little known fact that orange peels are flammable.

A candle and a few minutes later proved the point. You fold the orange peel over, orange side out, and squeeze. The juice that squirts out sparks in a flame.

The next question was obvious; will the whole peel burn?

You’ll have to try it yourself to find out. No spoilers here.

Hertzler Blog v 2.2

We are pleased to announce the release of Hertzler Blog v 2.2.

As always, it’s free for home, personal, or educational use. Please contact our Sales Department for enterprise licenses.

New features in this version:

* Links open in new window. No more losing your place when you click a link in THIS blog.

* Posts are funnier and more interesting. We’ve hired writers from Relevant Magazine to regularly contribute to this publication. If they don’t work out we’ll re-hire our previous staff from the ICSB Middle School newspaper.

* Photos are better. We’ve hired photographers from National Geographic, too. If they don’t return from their current international photo shoots, we’ll just start using what we can find on

If you have trouble using our blog, please contact Technical Support.

Europe is built in concrete.

another concrete-based Hungarian construction project
concrete mixer
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Watching Hungarians build houses has always puzzled me. It seems they build a house to last 100 years. They build them with concrete walls throughout, steel reinforced floors, and tile roofs. A house like this would cost a fortune in America, yet even the poorest neighborhoods here are built like this.

My friend Steve explained that concrete is simply plentiful here, and much cheaper than wood. Since then I’ve noticed how many small-scale concrete mixers there are everywhere. On my way to work this morning I noticed this new one in the neighborhood.

Bratislava on spur of the moment

This morning I came into the office expecting to make headway on the pile of things hanging over my head. Instead, Tom was there and suggested I go with him to Bratislava. We’re helping our staff there develop a new student website, but lately only Tom has been able to make the weekly meetings we scheduled with them. I decided to go because of the train factor. I knew I had better odds of getting work done on the train than in my interruption-prone office. It was true, I made good progress.

In Orlando, Florida this would have been like making a last minute decision to drive to Tampa for a meeting. Only there you wouldn’t need a passport for the trip.
waiting for the tram jam to clear
On the way home we ran into a tram jam at Blaha Lujza Tér (Square). The loudspeaker on our tram announced that everyone had to get off (we knew this because everyone got off), then our tram proceed to pull ahead and block both tram lanes for the next 10 minutes. Three tram drivers in an impromptu conference in the street couldn’t figure out what to do. If I understood more Hungarian I might have known what the problem was. Fifteen minutes later we were on our way again on the next #6 tram.
No. 6 tram platform at Nyugati Train Station

Reducing the list of things “I’ll never do”

new EUROPEAN socks
new socks
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Before dinner tonight I modeled my new socks. I got them a couple days ago at Tesco on sale; 5 pairs for 200 Forint (about 1 US Dollar). Don’t confuse them with executive socks, they are not. Rather, they are low-cut dark athletic socks, de rigueur for the European male.

Not only does this mark a transition for me toward assimilation into the local culture, but it marks a reduction on the list of things “I’ll never do.” While I’m not exactly mowing the lawn in these socks (Line #5 on The List: “Never mow the lawn in black executive socks”), it’s close enough that I’ve had to scratch that taboo from the list.

“Oh NO!” was Cathy’s reaction when I came to the dinner table.

“DAAAD” was Andrew’s. (Said with the sad resignation of a Jr. Higher who must reconcile himself to the possibility that DAAAD might enter his world in such attire).

But I was vindicated by Audrey.

“What’s wrong with sandals?” was her honest assessment. (Ok, Audrey. You can take the car out anytime when you’re old enough to drive. Maybe even before then.)

Well, this was an occasion that needed a photo.

That’s when Annie got involved. Once she saw the camera, I couldn’t keep her away. I ruined her to it a few weeks ago when I used it to run her around the back yard chasing the flash-focus light. Now whenever she sees the camera she starts looking for the light!

Hungarian National Holiday

Hungarian flag
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Today Hungary commemorates their Revolution of 1848 against the Habsburgs. Everything is closed and the day seems to mark the beginning of Spring.

It is interesting to note that Hungary celebrates two revolution days; March 15 and October 23. Three revolutions occurred on these two dates, only one of which was ultimately successful. The successful one, on which Hungary gained their current independence, was declared on October 23, 1989. The other two began on March 15, 1848 and October 23, 1956.

I demonstrated my lack of Hungarianess by going in to the office and working all day. I figure that would be like a European working on the 4th of July in America.

But we took the day off yesterday (also celebrated by most people as an add-on holiday) and went down to City Park as a family. We wanted to go to the Zoo, but the line to get in was too long, so we walked around in the nice weather for a bit then went home.

We had a visit from a Priest tonight

Campus Crusade for Christ group circa 1987
Campus Crusade group circa 1987
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Mike Priest called us yesterday and said he was in town. His church, Christ Community Church in St. Louis, Missouri, supports a few missionaries here in Budapest, and they also helped plant a church in Romania. Mike is headed to Romania after a few days here.

This picture is from the Campus Crusade for Christ group we were both in back in 1987. If you can’t figure out who is Mike (based on the picture in the post below) and who is Jerry, click the picture (which will take you to Flickr) where you can hover over it and see who is who.

Danube Sermon Podcast online

Today I setup a podcast for the sermons from Danube International Church. You can subscribe to the podcast at this URL –

You’ll need a podcasting application. Today I installed iPodder, and based on my 5 minutes of experience with it I am willing to recommend it. [Rob pointed out in the comments on this post that a regular RSS reader, like SharpReader, will also work. I tried it and confirmed this.]

I don’t have an iPod or even a different type of portable MP3 player, but there are enough people out there who do that would benefit from Ronnie Steven’s weekly teaching. In fact, if that was the only way I could hear him preach each week, I’d buy one for that reason alone.

Of course, all the sermons are still available the old fashioned way, by simply downloading them from here and playing them on your PC or Mac.

Painful memories

Andrew and his friend worked on their Science Fair experiment today and needed some help.

It brought back painful memories of my own Science Fair projects from Jr. High. Someone should stop this cruel torture to kids. I hated my experience with it more than piano lessons, and 25 years of hindsight hasn’t changed my mind.

What’s worse is having to work on another Science Fair project as an adult!

I have to hand it to Andrew, though. He made the situation work to his advantage. He’s always wanted to get his remote control car up to the office and zoom it around on the smooth floors. This time he got his wish.
Science Experiment

Rocky on the loose

Rocky and Pista Basci
Rocky on the loose
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Today I found out that Guard Dog Rocky is my friend, at least at Pista Bacsi‘s command. I had my camera in my hand today as I went outside and found Rocky running loose in the parking lot. This time I waited to see what he would do, and he came running at me with ears back and a threatening look in his eye.

“Baratom! Baratom!” yelled Pista Bacsi (“My Friend! My Friend!), and Rocky’s ears came back up and he decided not to eat me for lunch. Instead he sniffed my hand and kept running around the parking lot – much to Pista Basci’s frustration.

Ever hear that brain teazer puzzle about why the Springfield Police Department’s police dog manual is in Hungarian? (If the dog only responds to Hungarian, then criminals most likely can’t call the dog off.) Well, now I know how to call off any dog from the Springfield Police Department!