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Archive for October, 2009

Having been inspired by xkcd’s The Pursuit of Laziness, I can now truly enjoy reading in bed. This is something that has haunted me for years. I remember thinking as a kid that reading in bed should be less work than it is. There is simply no way to read comfortably in bed for more than a few minutes. One system that I came up with as a child was to place the book on the floor and hang my head over the edge. This of course tires your neck almost immediately, so I used to imagine a strap hanging from the ceiling to hold my forehead. I also wanted a bed with a hole cut out for my face to look through and see the book below, possibly with arm holes to turn the pages. Perhaps it’s best that I never implemented those ideas, because the problem has been solved. I can now experience perfectly comfortable reading in bed—except for that darn arthritic shoulder of course.

I took some pictures, but they didn’t really turn out too well. Since the pictures over at xkcd are much better, I will only include one here as proof that I have indeed created an Xtraordinary Kindle Cottage-made Decumbentifier. I’m now trying to figure out how to use decumbent in casual conversation.

My Kindle on it's XKCD

My Kindle on it's XKCD

The hanger I used has a blue plastic sheathe and plastic nubbins on the ends so it won’t scratch anything. However, the wire is pretty heavy and gave me and my little leatherman some difficulty. I would have really liked a vice or at least another pair of pliers. As a result my XKCD looks like it was made by a troop of boy scouts fighting over the pliers. But the important point is that I can now be lazy in comfort even if not style.

The beauty of the design is that it not only holds the Kindle up for you, but it gives you a convenient “button to push” to change the page. The only complaint I have is that it can’t lay at an angle. Usually my head isn’t completely parallel with the bed (because of the pillow), and it would be nice if the Kindle could be held at about a 10°. However, it has to work with the Kindle in both orientations (i.e. whether I’m laying on my right side or my left), which the current design does perfectly (thanks to a “next page” button on both sides of the Kindle).

Unfortunately, I still have the glasses problem. Laying on my side squishes my glasses into my head, thereby skewing the lenses and distorting the whole world. Perhaps I can take some old rags and make a Spectacle Stem Support System…

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The grave of Gárdonyi Géza

The grave of Gárdonyi Géza

Last Saturday I went with a few fellow CEU students to Eger, a city east north east of Budapest. One cannot visit Eger without getting to know the name of Dobó István (Stephen Dobo). He was the leader of the defenders of Eger castle against the Ottoman Turks in 1552. It was quite a story. About 2000 defenders held the castle against 80,000 soldiers. I’m not sure whether this is a testament to the tenacity of the peasants defending their homeland, the value of fortications, or the difficulty of waging a long-term foreign campaign, but it’s amazing nonetheless.
The seige was made famous by Gárdonyi Géza when he wrote Egri Csillagok the most famous Hungarian novel. He is buried inside the castle, and even the little children know the words on his headstone: „Csak a teste!” which means “Only his body” implying that his spirit is gone.

Cannon and related implements

Cannon and related implements


We took a tour of the castle with a Hungarian guide, but luckily one of my companions speaks Hungarian and was able to translate for us. This picture is one of the many cannons used in the defense. I apologize for the low quality but, as you can imagine, it was very dark inside. We were told that because of the great heat created in firing the cannons they had to be cooled (hence the barrel) and could only be fired every ten minutes. It really made me wonder how useful they were, but apparently they did the job.

The castle provides a good spot for viewing the rest of the city. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the castle from outside since my camera ran out of batteries before I could take any, but here are some photos taken from the castle walls including this lovely festive looking flag.

Hungarian flag

Hungarian flag

There is something I love about churches with statues on top. I wish I had been able to take a picture close up.

A church in Eger with neat statues on top

A church in Eger with neat statues on top

In front of this church is Dobó István Square

In front of this church is Dobó István Square

For some reason this seems extremely European. And very pretty as well.

Cute stream running through Eger

Cute stream running through Eger

Outside the castle is the northernmost Turkish minaret in the world. That’s right, the Turks returned 44 years later and conquered Eger and occupied it for 91 years. You’ll notice on the top is a crescent moon, and on top of that a cross. The cross was placed there after the Turks left, though why it wasn’t destroyed outright I don’t know.

Turkish Minaret from Eger Castle

Turkish Minaret from Eger Castle

Looking up at the minaret

Looking up at the minaret

You can also climb up the spiral staircase inside the tower. If I recall correctly, there are 97 stair. They are definitely not OSHA approved. They are very steep and extremely narrow. It’s quite cramped and if I puffed out my chest I could touch the center column and the side of the tower with my elbows. I think it would be very difficult to fall down the stairs for that reason (though I did not test this hypothesis).

What Turkish pigeons must see

What Turkish pigeons must see

What else? I ate some gulyas (GOO yash a.k.a. goulash) and ice cream; saw bees hanging out at a fountain (I’m not sure what they were doing there); rode a train; looked at some paintings, torture implements and artifacts; restrained myself from going to the weaponry museum where you get to try on a helmet because nobody else wanted to go and I can go with Rachel when she gets here; and pretty much had a grand old time.

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Baby Garden

Garden BabySaturday, between conference sessions, my family and Avery and I went out to dig up the garden and do a little yard work. We got the garden all turned over with (read: in spite of) Avery’s help and about the time we were done Avery started tossing dirt on herself. It wasn’t long before her uncles were helping her with the added efficiency of shovels and soon she was totally covered in dirt. She liked it at first, but by the time we got the camera out there she was getting a little concerned. We decided she was a nice little plant anyway.

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Small World

Two coincidences today:

  • I went to the Stake Center to watch the priesthood session of conference (though it appears you can watch it online). While there, I ran into Elder/Dr. Garner who was the Math Department chair when I was at BYU. He and his wife are now the office couple in the mission.  He sort of recognized me.  It’s surprising that I haven’t seen him in the English branch.
  • The branch president gave a few people a ride home from the Stake Center and I found out that one of them started Joobili not too long ago. I signed up a few weeks ago since it seemed the perfect thing for me. I can’t even remember where I saw it, but it gives ideas of interesting things to do and see in Europe.  For example the Goulash Festival in Szolnok Hungary or the Gold Stilt Festival in Namur Belgium. And don’t forget the Great Gorilla Run in London.

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Yes, more food.  What can I say?  I know you all want to know about my trip to Eger and the House of Terror, but first I need to tie up a few loose ends gastronomically speaking.

Kalács - braided Hungarian bread

Kalács - braided Hungarian bread

I finally broke down and bought some kalács [KAH lach].  It reminded me of pulla or challah in terms of appearance so I had to see what it tasted like.  It does remind me somewhat of pulla—slightly sweet, similar texture, good with yoghurt—but at least the brand I bought didn’t seem as hearty as what I’m used to.  It’s also missing the single best part (apart perhaps from the shape): Cardamom (which, incidentally, I just learned is from the ginger family).  Sad.  It will probably be a while before I feel the urge to buy some more (not to mention finish this loaf since it’s a full kilo).

Yesterday, I bought myself some corn and boiled it. I think it’s a little late in the season since it wasn’t very tender.  Still, it was better than nothing and it was only 100 Ft (~$0.55).  On an unrelated note Tesco pretzels (the store brand) are quite good.  Several other people I know agree that they are better than American pretzels.  I’m not quite sure why that is, but it’s true.

Karamalz - non-alcoholic balt beverage

Karamalz - non-alcoholic balt beverage

Lastly, I found Karamalz–11,2 fl oz. of German imported pseudo-rebellion on sale!  And it even comes with Lemon.  In fact, as I’m writing this I’m kicking back a cold one.  At least I think that’s how I’m supposed to say it.

Oh, and one more thing. I still haven’t eaten at the first McDonald’s to open behind the iron curtain.

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